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Essay about Richard Holeton's "Figurski at Findhorn on Acid"
A scholarly essay about Richard Holeton's "Figurski at Findhorn on Acid"
Streleski: Whoa. . . Wow . . .. Hmmmp.
Clerk/Community member: Hey man, are those wing tips?—Richard Holeton, “Streleski at Findhorn on Acid”
These 13 words lay out impending conflict found in Richard Holeton’s “Streleski at Findhorn on Acid,” a postcard story awarded 1st Prize by Grain Magazine in 1996. Preceding this dialogue are three short paragraphs introducing readers to Theodore Streleski, a graduate student who murdered his faculty advisor with a hammer for making fun of his shoes; the peaceful Findhorn New Age community whose motto is “[w]ork is love in action; and LSD, the hallucinogenic drug known for both its spiritual highs––and state of paranoia. Taken together, the 1½ pages that make up this narrative hint at a dark comedy that becomes fully realized in Holeton's absurdist hypertext novel, Figurski at Findhorn on Acid, published by Eastgate Systems, Inc. in 2001. As the story developed from this first print iteration to the 2008 2nd edition created for Storyspace 3.0, it went through five different versions.  Along with its satirical treatment of contemporary culture, a hallmark of the novel is its structure: It is a massive work of 147 text spaces built around clearly-defined combinations of three characters, locations, and artifacts, with an additional 147 Notes help to further contextualize the narrative for readers, and 2001 links connecting spaces and Notes together. 
After the work loads, readers encounter the Introduction, which offers directions for accessing the work on both Mac and Windows computers. It also includes the dedication to Carol H. Collins, Holeton’s sister and fellow writer, and the list of acknowledgements thanking Michael Tratner, the professor who taught a novels course at Bryn Mawr in spring 1998 for whom Holeton produced Version 1.4 of the work; Diane Greco, his editor at Eastgate Systems, Inc.; and his family. From the Introduction readers can click the forward arrow on the Toolbar to access the Navigator containing the Table of Contents. The items are color-coded and include:
INTRODUCTION (The title is written in light blue text)
CHARACTERS OPTIONS: (The items on the list are written in dark blue text)
- The No-Hands Cup Flipper
- Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger
PLACE OPTIONS: (The items on the list are written in green text)
- The Holodeck
ARTIFACT OPTIONS: (The items on the list are written in red text)
- Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
TIME OPTIONS: (The title is written in pink text)
While no timelines appear in the Table of Contents, readers can find 13 different ones once they click on the hyperlink.
NOTES (The title is written in light blue) 
A look at the Map view found behind the Table of Contents shows the Introduction leading to the Navigator, which then links to the three different Options: Characters, Places, and Artifacts. The Options are linked to the combinations 1.x, 2.x, and 3.x, which themselves are linked text spaces related to “1.1,” “1.2,” and “1.3,” as well as to the Notes.
Holeton has written extensively about his work. In "Don't Eat the Yellow Hypertext," he explains the structure of Figurski:
Introductory and navigational nodes include a main Navigator space. Twelve narrative threads/chronological sequences run "vertically" through the 147 scenarios; the overall chronology or "plot" extends from the Pleistocene Epoch to the distant future but is concentrated in the years 1993 to 2001. There are three iterations, evolving over time, of each character, place, and artifact description (only the first iteration is represented in the sample screens).
An additional 147 nodes grouped in a thematically-organized Notes directory offer metacommentary in the form of quotes from real and imaginary sources, pictures, and diagrams. "Hidden links" in the main scenarios lead to these nodes. (In Storyspace, unlike on the Web, some text links may be visible only if the reader holds down special keyboard keys.) For example, in 1.1.01 there's a "hidden" link from Background music to Note 054. Or in 1.2.03, a "hidden" link from digestive process leads to the table of contents for the Notes directory "digestions/cannibalism," where the reader must choose the next link to follow. (Holeton)
Starting with the first character on the list, Figurski, readers find a brief biography of him and the three combinations––that is, 1.x, 2.x, and 3.x, representing 1, 2 or 3 characters, respectively. Figurski, readers learn, is the last name of Francis, AKA “Frank Many-Pens,” a 48-year-old man paroled after serving six years in prison for murdering his math professor at Harvard in a crime much like that of the real-life murderer Theodore Streleski, who was found guilty for murdering his professor at Stanford years before. Known for his pocket protector and the “many pens” it held, Figurski also committed his crime as a response for feeling ridiculed for his shoes. Once out of prison, Figurski, who had not completed his PhD after 21 years in graduate school, had difficulty finding a job.
The No-Hands Cup Flipper is the moniker given to Nguyen Van Tho, a Vietnamese immigrant who lost his hands as a child in the Vietnam War and later in life gained fame by imitating Eugene Zanger, a California man who mastered the art of flipping cups and appeared on The David Letterman Show in 1987. Tho’s technique, however, involved the use of both his arm stubs and his feet, a talent he was able to take on the road to audiences. It is also noted in Tho’s bio that both entertainers resembled Texas billionaire Ross Perot.
Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger is the French-Moroccan journalist who participated in assassination attempts of Sadam Hussein during the First Gulf War and whose heroic deeds are recounted in her biography. Disguising herself as a man to join a commando squad leading the hunt for Hussein, she then found it useful for gaining intelligence about the target to pretend to be a woman. At one point she dressed her entire squad as peasant women in order to pass easily in the market. To hide her deception, she urinated with her comrades by squeezing liquid from a plastic bag through a straw.
Readers can begin an exploration of the place options with the titular Findhorn. This is the New Age community founded in Northern Scotland whose followers equated being close to the land with spiritual well-being. Founded in 1962 by Peter and Eileen Caddy, the community, which still exists today, embraces sustainability and renewable energy.
The Holodeck, readers may recognize, is the simulator popularized in various iterations of Star Trek, including The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. The 3D hologram projection system makes it possible for users on those TV shows to simulate what feels like real-world experiences in virtual space.
Shower-Lourdes is a shrine erected for the daily apparition of Jesus Christ in the glue pattern in the shower stall at a double-wide trailer in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The recipient of the monthly messages was Adnarim Lorac, a cashier at Wal-Mart. The fame of her communiqués led to the creation by Adnarim’s husband Vladimir of the Shower-Lourdes Society that “promoted the transformative power of [her] drain water.”
Acid, also highlighted in the title, refers to lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, the hallucinogenic drug created by Albert Hoffman in 1938 for therapeutic purposes but popularized in the psychedelic 1960s for its mind-enhancing experiences. The effects of this drug varied depending on the dosage but had the potential of heightening sensory perception and creating the feeling of euphoria among its users. On the downside, its use could result in paranoia.
Spam in this story is indeed the canned pork (and not as has come to be termed more recently as the misuse of email messages). The drive for modernity and convenience in the 1930s led Hormel Foods to produce this product. The long shelf life made it useful as rations from World War II to the Vietnam War. From the 1970s onward Spam lost popularity and became the object of ridicule, particularly by the British comedy troupe, “Monty Python Flying Circus,” which poked fun at the food in a 1970 skit called “Spam.”
Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig is the automaton of “147 moving parts” created by Guillermo of Venice that functioned like a real pig, going so far as “even defecating through an anatomically-correct . . . anus.” Though believed to have been destroyed in a fire, the pig may have actually survived and held in a private collection, a rumor that appeared to be substantiated when a similar device was shown as the 1889 Paris Exhibition. Upon further examination, it was determined that the pig was a forgery.
In sum, the elements included as Options allude to and poke fun at people, places, and things found in popular culture or are used as the basis of skewering popular beliefs or customs. Taken together in their varying combinations, they charge the work with a sense of zaniness much like the wild hijinks of a Marx Brothers movie. There was really a Theodore Streleski, for example, who killed his professor at Stanford for seemingly insulting his shoes––but no Figurski who copied his crime though many other instances of graduate students killing their professors can be cited. Conversely, there was no Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger––but there was a Michel Vieuchange, the adventurer who spent his life exploring North Africa, some of it disguised as a woman. There was a Findhorn in Scotland founded to provide an alternative lifestyle of peace and harmony with the world––but no Shower-Lourdes in Florida where the face of Jesus Christ appears in the glue though a quick online search reveals Christ has been reported to appear in a grilled cheese sandwich prepared for a 10-year old girl in Florida once, among many other odd places across the U.S. (“See Jesus in toast?”). On the other hand, there was no mechanical pig created by Rosellini in 1737––but there was indeed a “Digesting Duck” created by Jacques de Vaucanson in 1739 purported to eat and defecate kernels of grain. And most wacky, there was indeed a cup flipper named Eugene Zanger who did his tricks at a California restaurant called Casa de Fruta Restaurant and appeared on The David Letterman Show in 1987––but no Tho, the No-Hands Cup Flipper. Noted scholar Astrid Ensslin claims Holeton’s storytelling technique results in Ilinx––or vertigo––a feature of video games that has the effect of inducing “physical or metaphysical forms of dizziness, confusion, or bemusement” (Literary Gaming, 61). The novel is successful because, as Michael Tratner claims, “Holeton has managed to integrate the mechanical structure, absurd philosophical ruminations, characters defined entirely by eccentricities, and intellectual metafictional commentary into a seamless whole.” He goes on to point out that “the process of mechanically chopping up his stories which became Holeton's method in writing this hypertext is mocked by Holeton as his way of producing "processed literature"—Spamfiction” (Tratner). Tratner’s insight is spot on, for Holeton’s humor extended to collecting tins of Spam while developing the novel, a collection he has now donated along with other materials to the Electronic Literature Organization for its archives.
Navigating the Structure
To read the story, readers can opt to follow the items sequentially as they are listed in the Table of Contents, or they can read the items non-sequentially by clicking on any of the links. Intrepid readers, however, can explore the work by following the nodes and paths via the Map, Chart, or Tree view also available for exploring the work. The default reading path also available to readers. As Holeton explains:
[It] follows the timelines and the “actual” chronology of the plot, such as it is, from 1993 to 2000, rather than the numerical order of the numbered nodes. It reads more logically or coherently insofar as one doesn't jump around from character to character or across time and location in as jarring a way — you follow one character at a time in a location in a time period (e.g. 1993), then the next character in that time period; etc. Later, as the characters begin interacting, it’s organized by chronology. (Holeton, 6 Dec. 2019)
Avoiding the default reading path––that is, the sequential telling of the story––and choosing, instead, to read Figurski via the Options found in the Table of Contents emphasizes its madcap quality built into not only the plot but also the structure. It also introduces readers to the characters, places, and artifacts nonchronologically through the lens of the particular item and combinations selected. For example, following the Character Option “Figurski” listed first in the Navigator, readers are offered some background on the character and three Options:
Figurski 1.x Options
Choosing “Figurski 1.x,” readers find a dialogue box that offers them three combinations from which to choose:
1.1 One character, one place, one artifact
1.2 One character, one place, two artifacts
1.3 One character, one place, three artifacts
“Figurski 2.x” takes readers to a dialogue box where they can choose among the following combinations:
2.1 Two characters, one place, one artifact
2.2 Two characters, one place, two artifacts
2.3 Two characters, one place, three artifacts
“Figurski 3.x” takes readers to a dialogue box where they can choose among the following combinations:
3.1 Three characters, one place, one artifact
3.2 Three characters, one place, two artifacts
3.3 Three characters, one place, three artifacts
Thus, there are nine possible combinations for reading the work based on any of the nine possible Options, none of which resulting in a sequential telling of the story. They do instead take readers on a wild ride across multiple possible realities that intersect. What's more, while the structure allows for multiple character and artifact combinations, it seems to provide only one “place” amid the various combinations. But this is not really the case. The fact of the matter is that the mysticism surrounding the Findhorn community, the mind-blowing acid experiences that the characters have in the novel, and simulations the characters encounter on the Holodeck push against any notion of a unity of place in the narrative. Inevitably readers find characters inhabiting more than one mental space in various parts of the novel. Yet, despite the many options and combinations that await readers of Figurski at Findhorn on Acid, at the heart of the narrative remains the core story Holeton introduced in his first version: a man encounters a clerk who comments about his shoes.
This core story is found in the first text space ("1.1.01") readers find if they click on FIGURSKI 1.x OPTIONS. The event takes place in December 1993 at the Phoenix Shop at The Park, Findhorn, where the music of Peter, Paul, and Mary’s version of the freedom song of the Civil Rights Movement, “If I Had a Hammer,” wafts ironically in the background. It is Frank Figurski with a duffel bag slung over his shoulder and not Theodore Streleski of Holeton’s early tale who has drifted to this peaceful location where seashells, natural food, and books populate the shelves. The conflict, however, remains the same: The clerk asks Figurski about his shoes, the exact trigger that drove the man to kill his professor six years before.
Readers wondering at this point what the Holodeck or Spam, much less a sanctified shower stall and a mechanical pig, have to do with Frank and the clerk need only to follow the next 146 text spaces to find out. Clicking on 1.x, for example, offers readers a version of the story involving one character, one place, one artifact, which contains 27 text spaces. They include:
1.1.01 Figurski at Findhorn on Acid
1.1.02 Figurski at Findhorn with Spam
1.1.03 Figurski at Findhorn with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.1.04 Figurski on the Holodeck on Acid
1.1.05 Figurski on the Holodeck with Spam
1.1.06 Figurski on the Holodeck with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.1.07 Figurski at Shower-Lourdes on Acid
1.1.08 Figurski at Shower-Lourdes with Spam
1.1.09 Figurski at Shower-Lourdes with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.1.10 The No-Hands Cup Flipper on the Holodeck with Spam
1.1.11 The No-Hands Cup Flipper on the Holodeck on Acid
1.1.12 The No-Hands Cup Flipper on the Holodeck with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.1.13 The No-Hands Cup Flipper at Findhorn on Acid
1.1.14 The No-Hands Cup Flipper at Findhorn with Spam
1.1.15 The No-Hands Cup Flipper at Findhorn with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.1.16 The No-Hands Cup Flipper at Shower-Lourdes on Acid
1.1.17 The No-Hands Cup Flipper at Shower-Lourdes with Spam
1.1.18 The No-Hands Cup Flipper at Shower-Lourdes with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.1.19 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger at Shower-Lourdes with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.1.20 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger at Shower-Lourdes on Acid
1.1.21 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger at Shower-Lourdes with Spam
1.1.22 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger at Findhorn on Acid
1.1.23 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger at Findhorn with Spam
1.1.24 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger at Findhorn with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.1.25 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger on the Holodeck on Acid
1.1.26 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger on the Holodeck with Spam
1.1.27 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger on the Holodeck with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
If readers opt for one character, one place, two artifacts, which contains 27 text spaces, they will find:
1.2.01 Figurski at Findhorn on Acid with Spam
1.2.02 Figurski at Findhorn on Acid with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.2.03 Figurski at Findhorn with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.2.04 Figurski on the Holodeck on Acid with Spam
1.2.05 Figurski on the Holodeck on Acid with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.2.06 Figurski on the Holodeck with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.2.07 Figurski at Shower-Lourdes on Acid with Spam
1.2.08 Figurski at Shower-Lourdes on Acid with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.2.09 Figurski at Shower-Lourdes with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.2.10 The No-Hands Cup Flipper on the Holodeck on Acid with Spam
1.2.11 The No-Hands Cup Flipper on the Holodeck on Acid with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.2.12 The No-Hands Cup Flipper on the Holodeck with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.2.13 The No-Hands Cup Flipper at Findhorn on Acid with Spam
1.2.14 The No-Hands Cup Flipper at Findhorn on Acid with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.2.15 The No-Hands Cup Flipper at Findhorn with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.2.16 The No-Hands Cup Flipper at Shower-Lourdes on Acid with Spam
1.2.17 The No-Hands Cup Flipper at Shower-Lourdes on Acid with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.2.18 The No-Hands Cup Flipper at Shower-Lourdes with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.2.19 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger at Shower-Lourdes on Acid with Spam
1.2.20 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger at Shower-Lourdes on Acid with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.2.21 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger at Shower-Lourdes with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.2.22 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger at Findhorn on Acid with Spam
1.2.23 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger at Findhorn on Acid with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.2.24 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger at Findhorn with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.2.25 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger on the Holodeck on Acid with Spam
1.2.26 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger on the Holodeck on Acid with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.2.27 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger on the Holodeck with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
If readers opt for one character, one place, three artifacts, which contains nine text spaces, they will find:
1.3.01 Figurski at Findhorn on Acid with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.3.02 Figurski on the Holodeck on Acid with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.3.03 Figurski at Shower-Lourdes on Acid with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.3.04 The No-Hands Cup Flipper on the Holodeck on Acid with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.3.05 The No-Hands Cup Flipper at Findhorn on Acid with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.3.06 The No-Hands Cup Flipper at Shower-Lourdes on Acid with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.3.07 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger at Shower-Lourdes on Acid with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.3.08 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger at Findhorn on Acid with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
1.3.09 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger on the Holodeck on Acid with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig
In other words, the complexity of the story grows with each additional Option over the course of 354 text spaces. If readers opt for the “Place Options” or “Artifact Options,” they will be taken to a dialogue box featuring background on that location and the options for it that, then, gives way to the same 1.x dialogue box encountered for the “Character Option.”
A Bit about the Story
Considering that there are 147 combinations and 147 notes associated with this novel, it would take a book rather than an essay to outline the entirety of it. However, a close look at the 63 combinations for "Figurski 1.x Options" provides insights into its overall complexity. Holeton summarizes the plot as:
[T]he three characters follow each other across the three global and virtual locations competing for possession of Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig and/or its exact duplicate, the alleged Gelderschott forgery; they begin to intersect more and more at these locations, each hoarding (and hiding, and stealing and re-stealing etc.) separate pieces of the pigs, circling in on one another as it were, until they all come together (in the 3.x sections) and reconstruct both pigs — differently since they have mixed up the parts. (Holeton, 6 Dec. 2019)
Starting with Character Options 1.1, readers enter the conflict between Figurski and the clerk when the clerk comments on Figurski’s shoes. The conflict mounts in the next text space, “1.1.02 Figurski at Findhorn with Spam,” where the TV in the shop blares the Monty Python skit about Spam, disturbing the already edgy Figurski. “Shut that damn thing off!,” he shouts at the clerk. “1.1.03 Figurski at Findhorn with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig” takes place a little later that same month when Figurski, who is obviously now staying at Findhorn, discovers a crate “half-buried . . . in the sand.” In “1.1.04 Figurski on the Holodeck on Acid,” finds Figurski exactly where the title says he is––in the “parallel universe” of the Holodeck. Readers may imagine Holeton slyly winking at William Gibson’s notion of cyberspace as “consensual hallucination” or even channelling one of Douglas Rushkoff’s “cyberian psychedelic explorers” (34) when they access this text space where acid meets virtual reality. The next text space, “1.1.05,” adds Spam to the Holodeck where a simulation of a graduate student doing high-level mathematical equations uses the production of Spam as the subject. The shift to Shower-Lourdes in February 1994 in “1.1.07 Figurski at Shower-Lourdes on Acid” takes readers to a 10-line poem recounting Figurski’s experience of being on acid while “disembark[ing] the van” at the shrine. In the next text space he describes the crowd around him: the [h]ithchhiking hippies” subsisting on Spam and “Yoo-Hoo Chocolate Drink” (“1.1.08 Figurski at Shower-Lourdes with Spam”).  This bit of narrative is followed by “1.1.09 Figurski at Shower-Lourdes with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig” where the apparition Figurski and the crowd sees is the “Metal Porker / With Fat Woman Reading the New Yorker.”
The next nine text spaces feature the No-Hands Cup Flipper, Tho. Readers first encounter him in “1.1.10 The No-Hands Cup Flipper on the Holodeck with Spam” where he is traveling in a simulation with his idol Eugene Zanger, who engages, much to Tho’s horror, in sexual fantasies with Asian women. When Tho complains to Zanger about the mistreatment of these women, the Holodeck crashes, raining foam rubber simulations of Spam cans on them both. When Tho shows up at Findhorn in February 1994, the same time that Figurski is at Shower-Lourdes, he is given a dose of acid by Findhorn residents Shana and Zed and gains insights about the community’s New Age spiritual beliefs. “Yes, it’s all true,” he learns, “Even the human characters all seem connected by luminous threads to the Earth and the Sky” (“1.1.13 The No-Hands Cup Flipper at Findhorn on Acid”). Later Tho, whose acid trip has turned bad, revisits his childhood during the Vietnam War when the “booby-trapped can of Spam” that exploded in his village blew off both his hands, a memory that calls out, not-so-subtly, the destructiveness of American popular culture upon other peoples. In “1.1.15” Tho sees the crate and asks Shana and Zed if “animal robots” have been spotted at Findhorn. He learns that “a strange American” performed with one and “an Algerian freedom fighter named Tanya” planned to return “the mechanical pig to its rightful owners.” In the next three text spaces readers find medical reports relating to Tho’s mental breakdown following his acid trip.
The scene shifts to Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger who is at the Shower Lourdes shrine with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechnical Pig. Readers catch her as she prepares to write her memoirs thinly veiled as a novel. “Chapter the First” recounts that she has tracked the pig to Florida (“1.1.19”). In the next text space, “1.1.20,” she has dropped acid. In this condition the detailed novelistic style found in the previous chapter now gives way to simple “[n]otes” and [f]ragments.” “Chapter the Third” reveals that she has disguised herself as Mr. Goldberg, “a non-kosher Spam-eating retired Miami Jew,” in order to infiltrate the trailer park to catch the daily appearance of Jesus Christ. Next, like any pop culture international spy––think James Bond, for example––Vieuchanger globetrots to Findhorn, though on acid, to find the mechanical pig (“1.1.22”). While at Findhorn, Vieuchanger, now going by the name “Michel,” emails the Hormel Food Company to order some Spamwear––that is, “100% Cotton Twill Boxer Shorts” (“1.1.23”). In “Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger at Findhorn with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig,” she reveals to Zed and Shana her true identity and mission to “return the mechanical pig to is rightful owners” (“1.1.24”). For the next three text spaces she is on the Holodeck. In "1.1.25" she is on acid and accessing special directions for opening a package. Readers learn in the next text space that it is Spam that she is trying to open and cook in the simulator, which she is told "[m]ay stain" the desktop. In the last combination, "Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger on the Holodeck with Rosellini's 1737 Mechanical Pig" she experiments with the digestive features of the mechanical pig. She is warned that if the "robot comes to life" to "expect distortion and pettifoggery if data forks have erupted or become flatulent." She also learns that it "[m]ay stain."
To move to the second set of combinations involving one character, one location and two artifacts, readers need to click the right arrow on the Navigator. “1.2.01” takes readers back to Figurski's travel to Findhorn. When the cab driver hears where he is to take Figurski, he comments about the free-wheeling lifestyle of its inhabitants. He is also delighted to hear that Figurski’s duffel bag is full of Spam, which the driver admits his wife "likes." “1.2.02” finds Figurski at the “Friday Night Sharing” event at Findhorn’s “Universal Hall.” It is the very event that Zed and Shana previously referred to when they described to Tho the “strange American” performing with a mechanical pig. Readers learn that the remarkable Frances the Pig, as it is called at the event, actually “dances a jig.” “1.2.03” shifts to 1st person narrative with Figurski writing in a stream of consciousness style about his performance in the Hall with the pig. After having fed it Spam in front of the audience, the “grand finale” was the pig defecating on the “newspaper” Figurski had put down on the “polished wood” floor and then dancing a jig with it. The next two text spaces place Figurski on the Holodeck. On the Holodeck Figurski is reliving his graduate student days working in the lab. It is a bad acid trip he is having with Spam. His disjointed lab report reveals frustration and anger: "[I]f the results of americans fucking repeatedly his harmonic manifold at harvard exhaust your handling of dramatization then ta's each can see those 3-D registration equations so what?" ("1.2.04").  Next, he is simulating Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig irritating a crowd reminiscent of the Findhorn community. The pig "knock[s] over glasses and begins masticating the red maple leaf symbol on the backpack belonging to a young woman" ("1.2.05"). In “1.2.06” Figurski's paranoia mounts with the pig "chewing on" his leg and the music of "nine inch toes" (obviously a poke at the band Nine Inch Nails), blaring on the CD player. He moves to the Shower-Lourdes shrine in “1.2.07” where he is still on acid and still has his can of Spam with him. His acid trip has become momentarily pleasant, and he is able to enjoy a “canned-goods picnic under mango trees” and a "play[ful]" food fight with Spam. The local newspaper sensationalizes the incident, claiming “Hormel Hippies Stage Spam Fight at Christ Shrine.” In “1.2.08 Figurski at Shower-Lourdes on Acid with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig,” Figurski has visions of “palm” “fronds” “melt[ing]” in the “sky,” reminiscent of fantasies described in the Beatles’ 1967 song, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, which itself was inspired by Lewis Carroll's well-known stories about Alice. But the Florida trailer park is no Wonderland though upon seeing the mechanical pig, Figurski “snatch[es]” it, “seek[ing] shelter, refuge, or asylum.” He heads straight into the double-wide in “1.2.09 Figurski at Shower-Lourdes with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig” to clean up the Spam soiling the pig. Tripping into a another state of paranoia, Figurski sees the face of Streleski and not Christ in the shower stall.
In “1.2.10” the focus moves to the No-Hands Cup Flipper who is on the Holodeck on Acid with Spam. Having been relegated previously to practicing his craft with video tapes of Zanger flipping his cups, Tho now follows a virtual Eugene Zanger in a “simulated” Casa de Coffee. “1.2.11” continues with Tho on the Holodeck on acid, but now he is also with Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig. In this simulated space, he is at the Vatican and has replaced the original pig with a “forgery.” The Swiss Guards, thinking it is a bomb, quickly jump in and remove the pig from the site. Still on the Holodeck, but with both Spam and the pig, Tho hides the real pig in a “recycling bin” and follows his hero Zanger (though a virtual version of him) to the Vatican security area. Tho’s story continues in “1.2.13 The No-Hands Cup Flipper at Findhorn on Acid with Spam” where readers hear more about the tragic circumstances under which Tho lost his hands: His father had been killed in the war; thereafter Tho was responsible for scavenging for food among the rubble for his family. Spying a tin of Spam, he “went for it.” In the next text space he tries to figure out what to do about the pig. The acid trip obfuscates his mental faculties and his ability to “beat” Shana and Zed back to the trailer. In “1.2.15 The No-Hands Cup Flipper at Findhorn with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig” Tho gets back to the trailer to get the pig and accidentally bumps up against something. Fearing it is Spam, he realizes it is a British knock off called “Sham.” He manages to package the pig in the crate and cover it with a “metallic-silver Space Blanket,” “duct-tap[ing] the flaps down.” In "1.2.16-18” Tho’s mental breakdown under the influence of drugs is described. Readers learn he suffers from “phantom paresthesia," an issue resulting in “time displacement,” “painful memories” relating to his experience with losing his hands to the tin of Spam, and “delusional thinking,” particularly relating to the mechanical pig.
In “1.2.19” readers return to Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger who is still working on her book. The acid she has dropped interferes with her ability to write in more than "fragments" and has heightened her stress-level caused by her frequent identity shifts. Blaming Spam for her frustration, she “[p]itch[es] the empty can of Spam out the automatic window, looking for an angle, a way to pitch the story.” Still on acid she continues with her musings (“1.2.20”). She admits to not being “coherent” with “ideas, words drifting off like thought balloons inflated with helium.” Coming back to her senses after the acid trip in “1.2.21,” Vieuchanger returns to her writing. She has reached Chapter the Sixth wherein she recounts how the "Heroine" sowed discontent between the Loracs and their neighbors, the Smidleys, with the mechanical pig and came in contact with an unnamed “shadowy figure” in the crowd. In “1.2.22 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger at Findhorn on Acid with Spam,” Vieuchanger switches back to Tanya, the “undercover revolutionary Algerian freedom fighter,” and devises a strategy to find out if Figurski had fed the pig Spam or Sham and to travel to Casablanca “where no questions [would] be asked about [her] baggage or final destination.” Considering whether or not to take the mechanical pig from Findhorn, Vieuchanger determines that even though the pig may be the “Gelderschott” forgery (or even the one she found and subsequently lost at Shower-Lourdes), it would still be valuable, nonetheless, “financially and in terms of her writing career.” “1.2.24 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger at Findhorn with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechnical Pig” continues story as a news article. Readers learn that Vieuchanger was picked up by the police while traveling by train through Scotland with the pig dressed in the “Spam 100% Cotton Twill Boxer Shorts” she had purchased earlier in the story. While she is identified as a "terrorist," what seems more galling was that she was trying to pass off Spam underpants as a "Sham" product, viewed both as a "publicity stunt on the part of the Sham company" and a “potentially subversive act” of "terrorism." in “1.2.25" Vieuchanger drops acid again and visits the Holodeck where she is preparing Spam for feeding the virtual pig. She undertakes the experiment in "1.2.26." The directions she receives warn her that "[e]xcremental devices may cause interference," and there is "some danger of schlock." Feeding the Spam to the pig in "1.2.27" Vieuchanger is warned that the "[a]larm will sound when digestion is complete," and that it “[m]ay stain.” A final reminder that she should practice “[d]uck and cover” reminds the reader of Tho’s dangerous Spam bomb.
At this point readers arrive at the last nine text spaces of this series of combinations where each of the three characters show up at each of the three places with all three artifacts. This section is treated as a series of study questions as one would find, ready-made, at the end of a section of a literature textbook to test the reading comprehension and analytical acumen of an undergraduate. All are unique. All are dated, with those occurring on the Holodeck aligning with Star Trek's Stardate calendar.
1.3.01 Figurski at Findhorn on Acid with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig: December 1993, Questions for Discussion
1.3.02 Figurski on the Holodeck on Acid with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig: Stardate 9401.07, Testing Your Comprehension
1.3.03 Figurski at Shower-Lourdes on Acid with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig: February 1994, Study Activities with Extra Credit
1.3.04 The No-Hands Cup Flipper on the Holodeck on Acid with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig: Stardate 9312.07, Thinking Critically about the Text
1.3.05 The No-Hands Cup Flipper at Findhorn on Acid with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig: February 1994, Fun Activities for Learning
1.3.06 The No-Hands Cup Flipper at Shower-Lourdes on Acid with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig: January 1994, Questions for Further Research
1.3.07 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger at Shower-Lourdes on Acid with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig: December 1993, Chapter the Seventh, in which Questions are posed to the Reader
1.3.08 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger at Findhorn on Acid with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig: January 1994, Talking about the Ideas and Things to Do
1.3.09 Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger on the Holodeck on Acid with Spam and Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig: Stardate 9402.07, Search Request
Method in the Madness
Arriving at the end of the novel, readers have completed all of 63 one-character combinations. Holeton describe the 1.x section "as a set-up for the rest of the novel, when those intersections ensue" (Holeton, 6 Dec. 2019). While 147 different combinations for reading the novel may seem at first overwhelming, Holeton structures Figurski methodically and economically in that each Option o