Rebooting Electronic Literature: Documenting Pre-Web Born Digital Media

Sarah Smith's "King of Space"

Sarah Smith's Biography

Sarah Smith, the author of King of Space, is a writer from Brookline, Massachusetts and a member of the Cambridge Speculative Fiction Workshop. Her series of mystery novels includes New York Times/London Times Notable Book The Vanished ChildNew York Times Notable Book The Knowledge of Water, and Entertainment Weekly Editor’s Choice A Citizen of the Country. Samuel Delany has called her novel about the Shakespeare authorship, Chasing Shakespeares “the best novel about the Bard since Nothing like the Sun,” and her young adult paranormal thriller, The Other Side of Dark, won both the Agatha for best YA mystery and the Massachusetts Book Award for best YA book of the year. She also authored a historical thriller set on Titanic and among the survivors in New York, and has written a guest episode of SerialBox’s Whitehall, a feminist historical about the women of Charles II’s court. She has also published several ebooks including an e-edition of The Paine of Pleasure, the real possibly-Shakespearean poem from Chasing Shakespeares. Other works include a fantasy set in an alternate 19th C South America, a YA thriller about a high-school medium involved in a gang war, and a project about the Election of 1912. For the Chicago Tribune she also wrote two Web-based serials, the fantasy Doll Street  and the near-future SF.

Smith wrote King of Space after meeting the owner and publisher of Eastgate Systems, Inc., Mark Bernstein, at MacWorld, just after finishing her first novel. ”Want to write me something?” Mark asked, and she did. The work was published in 1991 and remains, along with John McDaid's Uncle Buddy's Phantom Funhouse, one of a handful of e-lit that tackles the science fiction genre.

Eastgate Systems, Inc. said about the work that it is:

“. . . [a] dark science-fictional ritual of fertility and regeneration, King of Space takes place in an abandoned starship, circling the edges of a plague-ridden and collapsing solar system, where an escaped terrorist meets the last star-captain and his ship’s Priestess. Old man and young, young woman and ageless starship meet and meet again as enemies, allies, rapists, and lovers. The story has elements of gaming; an unwise move can send a character to the kitchen (“hundreds of tiny sandwiches, all alike”) or into the rocky caverns of the intelligent and unpleasant starship, where a very persistent elevator is waiting to have a conversation; you can meet the Lady Nii’s ancient, dreadful lover, King Brady, or become him; you can fall into a maze of love, or find the dance at the center of the world that regenerates the ship. Contains games and animations.” ("King of Space")

Versions of King of Space

✭ Version 1.0: Published in 1991 on two 3.5-inch floppy disks. This remains the only published version of the work.

Critical References
Easton, Lee and Randy Schroeder, Eds. The Influence of Imagination: Essays on Science Fiction and Fantasy as Agents of Social Change. Jefferson, NC: McFarland Press, 205.

Montfort, Nick. “Riddle Machines.” A Companion to Digital Literary Studies. Ed. Ray Siemens and Susan Schreibman. NY, NY: Routledge Press.

Rau, Anja. “Wreader’s Digest––How To Appreciate Hyperfiction.” Journal of Digital Information V1 No. 7 (2001).

Stierstorfer, Klaus. Beyond Postmodernism: Reassessment in Literature, Theory, and Culture. Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter. 114.

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