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Photos of the Folio and CD and Their Contents of Bill Bly's We Descend
A series of nine photos of the folio and CD and their contents of Bly's We Descend
This section of Pathfinders contains 15 images of Bly's folio and CD of We Descend, published by Eastgate in 1997. The photos detail the material aspect of the work and show the information that readers glean from its presentation. Thus, many of the characteristics of the packaging carries a similar aesthetic as Shelley Jackson's folio and CD for Patchwork Girl, but unlike McDaid's Funhouse, which was presented, instead, as a box containing floppy disks or a CD. The commentary was written by Grigar.
1. Floppy disk, 3 1/2"
2. Booklet, 16-pages total with information printed on 13 of its pages
3. CD, .047" thick and 3.150" in diameter
4. Registration card
General Comments about the Packaging of Bill Bly's We DescendBill Bly's We Descend, Volume One was packaged in a 9-inch by 6-inch folio made of heavy card stock. When opened, the folio reveals a pocket on each side. The pocket on the left hand side contains the floppy disk of the work. The pocket on the right hand side is where the back page of the 14-page booklet that gives directions for "Getting Started" is slipped. The look of the folio with its front and back cover and inside paper contents resembles a book environment and, so, provided a breadcrumb leading readers from the world of print from where they had come to the world of the digital where they were headed with electronic literature. According to Bernstein, the owner of Eastgate, the folio was designed by Eric A. Cohen, who, served for several years as the company's staff designer. The original floppy disks had labels printed in PMS 194 (a Pantone color used for print graphic art). The CDs were originally custom-printed, but now they are labeled with a standard Eastgate design.
The front of the folio shows the title, We Descend, in orange and geometric designs in white against a light mauve background. Arcing around one part of the circle of the design and just beneath the title are the words: "Archives Pertaining to Egderus Scriptor Volume One." On the rest of the circle are two lines with the words in all caps. Line one says, "RENDERED INTO HYPERTEXT FORM", and the second says, "AND WITH FORWARD AND AFTERWORD BY". The second line leads to the name "Bill Bly" printed at the bottom of the folio.
The back of the folio repeats the title in orange and continues the design seen in the front of the folio. Below the title are the words printed in bold type, "An archive from the distant future, unearthed by a scholar of the even more distant future, when the world we know is less than the shadow of a myth." A longer section of text, comprised of three paragraphs, serves as a teaser about the story and follows in regular typeface. Paragraph one reads: "For Egderus, a young boy at the isolated Mountain House, this darkening future is a world of mystery and questions. What––or who––lives in the rocky hills around him? What can emerge, undetected, to drive a man made, or tear him limb to limb?". Paragraph two: "Why must Egderus leave the Mountain House as secretary to the Good Doctor, interrogator and torturer? What intrigue surrounds one prisoner, the Historian, and what does he know that makes the Good Doctor so relentless in his attack? Why, ultimately, is this Historian the one victim that Egderus attempts to rescue?". Paragraph three: "Years later, as an old man at the Mountain House, Egderus uncovers only more mysteries. What did the Historian learn that drove him to his death? Does something live, still, in the rocks around him? And how shall Egderus pursue this disturbing legacy that could shake the foundations of their world?". Below this section is information about the floppy disk's format. A circle is found by each "Windows" and "Macintosh." A white dot is placed next to the version the reader had purchased. The one shown is created for the Mac environment. Also located in this section are the words, "Requires 1 MB free RAM and a hard disk drive." The contact information for Eastgate Systems, including the company's toll free and MA phone numbers, fax number, email address, URL, and street address are also included. The ISBN sticker is situated next to the contact information showing the numbers, ISBN: 1-884511-35X; ISBN: 978-1884511356.
The opened folio reveals a slot, or pocket, on the left hand side where the floppy disk is kept. The inside, left-hand side of the folio's cover advertises Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl and provides the copyright information for We Descend. On the right hand side is the 16-page booklet that gives the directions for "Getting Started with We Descend" for both Windows and Mac. Also included in the booklet is a brief bio of Bill Bly and information about where to get answers to technical problems one may have with the work.
Folio, Opened, Booklet Removed
The folio with the booklet removed reveals a layout similar to a book cover. Both sides of the folio's inside cover are used to announce other works published by Eastgate Systems. On the left hand side is information about Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl; on the right hand side is information about Storyspace and important works published by Eastgate Systems created with the software, information set apart from the rest of the information in a box. Mentioned are Bly's We Descend; Michael Joyce's Twilight, A Symphony; David Kolb's Socrates in the Labyrinth: Hypertext, Argument, Philosophy; Edward Falco's A Dream with Demons; Diane Greco's Cyborg: Engineering the Body Electric; and Jackson's Patchwork Girl.
Booklet, Front Cover
The booklet is printed on paper stock in black and white. The booklet's front cover design matches that of the front of the folio.
Inside of the booklet on the left hand page is the "Software License Agreement," "Limited Warranty and Disclaimer,"copyright and trademark information, and contact information for Eastgate Systems, Inc. The right hand side of the booklet contains the Table of Contents. There are four items listed: "Getting Started with We Descend for Macintosh," "Getting Started with We Descend for Windows," "About the Author," and "Questions?".
Booklet, Back Cover
The back cover contains information needed for getting technical help. The word, "Questions?," is centered on the page, followed by "If you have any technical problems reading We Descend please call us here at Eastgate so we can help." The full contact information found on the inside cover of the folio is repeated, here, on the back of the booklet.
Floppy Disk, Front
The 3 1/2" floppy disk, containing Bly's hypertext novel, is a high density disk marked by HD in the black plastic casing. The front of the disk has a white label covering both sides of the disk, 2 1/4" of the front and 1/2" of the back. The front part of the label shows the title, printed in two lines left-justified, and author's name directly below it. Underneath Bly's name is a red line with the words in all caps "SERIOUS HYPERTEXT" followed by "from." Beneath this line is "Eastgate Systems,"with "Inc." appearing next to the name slanted vertically, with each letter descending toward the next line. This information is followed by the company's street address and phone numbers. The Eastgate Systems, Inc. logo is situated next to the contact information. All lettering found in the white section of the label matches the red burgundy color of the line and red in the logo.
Floppy Disk, Back
The label on the back side of the floppy disk reads, "Copyright ©;1997 by Bill Bly. Software copyright © 1992-97 by Eastgate Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized distribution or sale of this material is expressly prohibited."
CD in Envelope, Front
The CD is packaged in a white envelope, 5" x 5" in size, with a round, clear plastic window that allows for the title, "We Descend," to be visible to the reader. At the top of the envelope, 3/4" of the Eastgate Company label measuring a total of 2 3/4" x 2 3/4" can be seen. The label reads: "©Copyright 1994 by Eastgate Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Storyspace is a trademark, and CIVILIZED SOFTWARE is a service mark of Eastgate Systems, Inc." The date refers to the software rather than the work, which was published in 1997. The label functions also as a sticker that, when folded, adheres the flap to the back of the envelope. The label is split into two colors: 1 1/4" is burgundy and 1 1/4" is a yellowish beige color. The portion of the label visible on the front of the envelop is burgundy with white type. No other markings are found on the envelope.
CD in Envelope, Back
The back of the envelope features the label that had begun on the front of the envelope. The first portion is 3/4" and burgundy in color with the service make and company name rendered in two lines. Line one reads: "CIVILIZED SOFTWARE". Line two is centered within Line one and reads: "from Eastgate Systems, Inc." Below this section is the yellowish beige portion of the label. Most of this section is covered by a white label with rounded edged, 2 5/8" x 1" in size. Centered in the white label is the title, "We Descend," in a typeface that is italicized. Through the white label the company's address and phone numbers are slightly visible.
The CD's design follows that of others, like Stephanie Strickland's True North, used by Eastgate Systems during the same period. It is screen printed, burgundy in color, with 11 white circles arranged so that the center spindle hole is highlighted. The overall look provides an optical illusion of a 3D space where the hole serves as the entry point. Above the line of the 4th white circle are the words "commodity-firmness-delight," referring to Vitruvius' "architectural virtues" that Mark Bernstein, the owner of Eastgate Systems, Inc., saw printed on a t-shirt he saw in the 1970s. The name, "Eastgate", appears to the left of the circles and is also printed in white. At the top of the CD, the title of the work is hand-written in black lettering by Estha Blachman of Eastgate with a Sharpie pen.
On the back of the CD we see the shiny layer that reflects the laser.
Registration Card, Front
The registration card, included in the packaging, allowed the user to register the product, receive information about Eastgate Systems, Inc., and make comments to the company about the user's experience with the product. Once filled out, the registration card was intended to be mailed back to the company. By 1997 email was becoming more prevalent and, so, Eastgate Systems, Inc. also provided users with the opportunity to email as well as call by phone. Thus, the front of the registration card is a traditional postcard, postage paid, and already addressed to the company. At the top left hand side is the company name, phone numbers, email address, and website. In the middle was the information needed for mailing highlighted in a box: "BUSINESS RELY MAIL" appeared on the first line. "FIRST CLASS MAIL PERMIT NO. 5666 BOSTON, MA". Below this section we see the words, "POSTAGE WILL BE PAID BY ADDRESSEE". This information is followed by the company's mailing information in three lines: "EASTGATE SYSTEMS INC", "PO BOX 1307", "CAMBRIDGE MA 02238-9818". On the right hand side of the card, we see "NO POSTAGE NECESSARY IF MAILED IN THE UNITED STATES" in the space where a stamp would have been placed. Bar code markings are found at the top, right hand side and bottom of the card.
Registration Card, Back
The back of the Registration Card provides the place for the user to write in information to register the product. It is divided into four sections. The first, located at the top of the card, are the words, "Please Register". On each side we see a hand with a finger pointing at the words. Below this section are the directions for filling out the card. It reads: "Please fill in and return this card to register your Eastgate product. We'll make sure you get updates and hear about important new developments." The third section makes up one half of the left hand side of the bottom section and consists of seven lines in a row equally spaced. Here is where one would write the 1) "PRODUCT" 2) [user's] "NAME" 3) user's "ORGANIZATION" 4) [user's] "ADDRESS" 5) "CITY" [and] "STATE" 6) "ZIP/POSTAL CODE" [and] "COUNTRY" 7) "E-MAIL". The fourth section is the right hand side of the bottom part of the card. The words, "Talk to us! We love to hear how you use our products, and what you think. Call or e-mail us, too (address on obverse)." Below are five lines that run next to the ones on the left.
Bill Bly's Artist Statement for We Descend
Bill Bly's Artist Statement for We Descend
Three decades ago, while I was doing something else, five words dropped unbidden into my mind: “If this document is authentic…” I tried to keep at what I was working on, but the phrase kept repeating, until I finally turned my attention to it.
Who’s saying this? I wondered. What document? Why wouldn’t it be authentic? How would it be authenticated? Where did it come from in the first place? As I pondered these questions over a period of time, a clutch of fragmentary writings began to appear under my hands.
Almost from the beginning it was clear that each of these texts bore a double significance: each told a story, but each had a story as well. Further, their transmission as a group formed yet another story: their possible origin in some personal collection that was passed on, lost, found again, added to, broken up and scattered, all but destroyed, then miraculously pulled together again. Eventually, what came to be called We Descend took the shape of an archive of archives, an anthology of writings by numerous authors, which had been gathered and repeatedly reorganized, passing through the hands of many generations.
Every time a new Writing turned up, those five first questions crowded in along with it, followed by a cloud of proposals, conjectures, romantic imaginings — each provisional solution embodied in yet another Writing, whose own provenance had to be established or at least guessed at. Successive curators of the archives must have tried to organize and present them in whatever way seemed best, given the circumstances and the tools each had at hand. And so I tried to do the same.
I was unaware that, while this was happening at home, another community of authors and scholars, all engaged in writing and theorizing literature that somehow exceeded the bounds of printed text, had begun to gather in the world outside the window over my writing desk. At the time I did not own a personal computer — if I even knew about such a hopeful monster: my gear consisted of a pad of paper, a fountain pen, and a clipboard to keep everything together, as well a typewriter for later making what I scrawled in ink decipherable for anyone else to read. (This rustic mise en scène was all too soon to be savagely disrupted — a wrenching operation that still cycles madly.)
When, in a fit of intrepidity, my wife and I bought our first Macintosh SE (talk about quaint: a family computer!), I became intrigued by a freebie program called Hypercard, and started working up ways to employ it to help me keep track of the various resources every teacher needs in order to ply the trade. Not long afterwards, Robert Coover’s revolutionary essay, “The End of Books“, appeared in the New York Times Book Review, in which he told of a new way of creating literature, something called hypertext — which “provides multiple paths between text segments… [and] webs of linked lexias, [with] networks of alternate routes (as opposed to print’s fixed unidirectional page-turning). [Hypertext] presents a radically divergent technology, interactive and polyvocal….”
Spellbound as I was by terms like “multiple paths”, “lexias”, and “polyvocal”, I only vaguely understood what he was talking about, though somehow I was absolutely certain it was important. And as I found out more about hypertext, it didn’t take long for me to realize that my work in what I was still calling just “the archives” — with its many voices, criss-crossing plotlines, and multiple bands of time — could only fully tell its story if it were rendered into hypertext form. This meant that the time had come to completely overhaul my modus scribendi, which, until then, had been conducted in the conventional way, by rummaging in piles of scribbled-on pieces of paper, then scribbling some more.
To render what might be called handtext into hypertext entails a lot of pondering: of text, now that it’s hyper; of writing in the first place; and of the reader an author addresses when writing, and by addressing conjures. I’ve come to think that this person, the reader, is as real as any person I hold in my memory. It’s no use insisting there’s a distinction between real and imaginary here: every person is imaginary who is not right there in front of us (and even that person is a hybrid of real and imaginary attributes).
Writing of course means encoding: it packs up and jams our experience of life into little suitcases made of words, to cite one especially fractious Author in the archives. It generates text, a magical… — well, what kind of a thing is text? Is it real or imaginary? is it matter or mindstuff? meat or ghost? It just won’t do to blow off these essential questions by saying, “It’s both.” That doesn’t answer the question: it deepens the mystery.
There are pleasures in life that simply cannot be had by solving a puzzle or triumphing over an adversary, and for me, this is one of them: using text to ponder text. And I find hypertext to be the most rewarding vehicle for carrying on that meditation. (My other vehicle is the Mahayana.)
The archives — for which I invented the name We Descend in order to publish the first volume (Eastgate 1997) — constitute an ongoing reflection, not only upon text, writing, and the reader, but upon the scholarly life altogether, a reflection which studies, among other things, what it means to study. To some, the scholarly life, being focused on the past and not the present, is less important than the active life; but the scholar often regards the active life as little more than “fighting one’s way through the pack of others fighting their way”, as another wry Author in the archives puts it.
I sense you, Dear myReader, nodding in sage agreement, for, I believe, you are (are you not? whatever your official job title?) a scholar as well. That being the case, the past is often more present to you than the present itself, which is too full of violence and anxiety to be capable of study, or even deep attention, and that is precisely the pleasure you seek, as you ponder over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore: raptness.
I cannot hope to fully satisfy that longing, if it even can be satisfied, for that would only be another victory, and winning isn’t what we love the most, at least not when we’re a-pondering. For me, the archives have proved rich in the enchantment of scholarly absorption — which may in part account for the absurd delay in getting this stuff out there.
The other part is that new material keeps turning up, at all levels of critication, with the result that a second volume of We Descend — New Selected Writings from the Archives Pertaining to Egderus Scriptor — is only now nearing completion. Every time a new Writing “appears on the doorstep” (as it seems to do repeatedly for the unnamed Scholar in We Descend), BBly Renderor must engage in yet another bout of head-scratching and tinkering with the controls, as he labors to incorporate these new Writings into an ever-developing system of hypertext arrangement for the archives as a whole.
And then there’s the tech, which won’t stand still. One would like to think oneself progressive, the type of person who is capable of calmly regarding all developments in digital life and practice as evolution (and not just blooming chaos). But it’s hard to keep up, especially when one takes as long as I do to painstakingly work out a method that — well, that works — and suddenly it can’t be used anymore because the new OS won’t support it. (Yeah, yeah — shut up, Senex, and quit interrupting the music.)
But let us finish this manifesto (O Ludd, another one!) and get back to work. Come the TechnoRapture, all this tsuris will be Left Behind. It’s possible there will be scholars among the entities who enjoy that unfathomable afterlife, and it may further be that instead of gnawing on meat and vegetables, these supernal beings will draw sustenance from the ambrosia of mental life-forms that we preserve and thus transmit to them — by means of text, hypertext, peradventure even utterance. If so, what better offering can we make, whilst awaiting the awesomeness of that Very Last Day, than to render our thoughts, hopes, dreams, jokes, stories, theories, and best intentions into every potent medium we can contrive, so that Dear ourReader may have a richer life, and that abundantly?
[Sorry, gotta go update the OS on all my devices…]