Rebooting Electronic Literature Volume 3: Documenting Pre-Web Born Digital Media

M. D. Coverley's "Califia"

M. D. Coverley's Biography

Adapted from entry by Amber Strother for Wikipedia

Marjorie Coverley Luesebrink is an American writer, scholar, and teacher. Writing hypermedia fiction under the pen name M.D. Coverley, she is best known for her epic hypertext novels Califia and Egypt: The Book of Going Forth by Day. Her works incorporate text, image, animation, sound, and structure to create spatial, visual story worlds. A pioneer born-digital writer, she is part of the first generation of electronic literature authors that arose in the 1987–1997 period.[1] Her career includes novels and short stories, scholarship, curating, editing, teaching, and publishing. She is a founding board member and past president of the Electronic Literature Organization[2] and the first winner of the Electronic Literature Organization Career Achievement Award, which was named in her honor.

Coverley has published two multimedia hypertext novels, Califia (Eastgate Systems, 2000) and Egypt: The Book of Going Forth by Day (Artist’s Book, Horizon Insight, 2006), a collection of short stories, Fingerprints on Digital Glass (2002), as well as other short fiction, poetry, interviews, and articles on electronic literature and born-digital writing.

Califia is a multimedia, interactive, hypertext fiction for CD-ROM. Califia allows the reader to wander and play in the landscape of historic/magic California. It is a computer-only creation of interactive stories, photos, graphics, maps, music, and movement. It has Three Narrating Characters, Four Directions of the Compass, Star Charts, Map Case, Archives Files, 500 Megabytes, 800 Screens, 2400 Images, 30 Songs, and 500 Words.[4]

One scholar has written of Califia that it is designed to lead the reader "to discover the lost cache of California through her wanderings within the story space".[5] Another writer calls it "a metaphysical quest rather than a conventional mystery", noting that the central question of the treasure remains unresolved.[4] It has been termed a classic of hypermedia,[6] and literary critic and hypertext scholar Katherine Hayles has cited it as one of the establishing texts for electronic literature.[7]

Egypt: The Book of Going Forth by Day is an artist’s book published by Horizon Insight. The “first edition” consists of 100 individualized copies – each one bearing a named “spell” for the owner. Thereafter, “reader” versions have been available on flash drives. Egypt is a story of death and rebirth set in both contemporary and ancient Egypt. It explores the ways in which narrative can be distributed between both text and other media, including images, music, animations, and the navigational structure and interface. Katherine Hayles writes of Egypt: The Book of Going Forth by Day (2006) that its layers "are instrumental in creating a visual/verbal/sonic narrative in which the deep past and the present, modern skepticism and ancient rituals, hieroglyphs and electronic writing merge and blend with one another.[8]

Fingerprints on Digital Glass is a collection of short web pieces published between 1999 and 2002. It includes Afterimage, Default Lives, Tide-Land, Universal Resource Locator, Eclipse Louisiana, Endless Suburbs, Life in the Chocolate Mountains, and Fibonacci's Daughter. Fibonacci's Daughter is a complexly plotted hypertext centered on protagonist Annabelle Thompson, who runs a business called Bet Your Life out of a California mall. The daughter of gamblers, Thompson sells insurance policies that allow people to bet on their own future prospects. Bet Your Life is both successful and controversial, leading Thompson to be accused of witchcraft (among other things), especially after two teenage clients disappear and are later found dead. The narrative of Fibonacci's Daughter is told through a number of different voices, including excerpts from news stories. Coverley originally created Fibonacci's Daughter with the trAce Archive of online writing at Nottingham Trent University in the U.K. Jane Yellowlees Douglas has suggested that Fibonacci's Daughter owes a debt to Nathanial Hawthorne's story "Rappaccini's Daughter" in that both are meditations on all the ways that attempting to make the world more orderly can go wrong.[9]

Coverley’s recent work includes Pacific Surfliner: San Juan Capistrano (2017), Hours of the Night (with Stephanie Strickland, 2016), and The 2015 Fukushima Pinup Calendar (2014).


Versions of Califia

✭ Version 1.0 Author’s Beta Version. CD-ROM. Uses Toolbook II and runs on Windows 3.0, 3.1, and Windows 95 
1.1a Dated September 1, 1997
1.1b Dated April 14, 1998, “Demo Disk” 

✭ Version 2.0 Publisher’s Beta Version. CD-ROM. Uses Toolbook II and runs on Windows 3.0, 3.1, Windows 95, and Windows 98
2.1 Not available for review
2.2 With updated music used with permission from the artists

✭ Version 3.0 The Eastgate Version. CD-ROM. Uses Toolbook II and runs on Windows, Windows NT, and Windows 2000
3.1 Dated April 2000
3.2 Dated April 2000. Virtual Machine Version Emulating Windows 98 for Contemporary Computers

References and Resources

Greco, Diane. "Eastgate Systems Publishes Califia by M. D. Coverley." Humanist Listserv. 16 Oct. 2000.

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