A Remote Residency for Generative Digital Composition

In On Writing, Stephen King declares, “At the end of my adventures I was drinking a case of sixteen-ounce tallboys a night, and there’s one novel, Cujo, that I barely remember writing at all… I like that book. I wish I could remember enjoying the good parts as I put them down on the page.” For those who are counting, that’s three gallons of beer a day. A human consciousness did not write Cujo.

We understand a book as a collection of words that manifests–in our mediated perceptions of words–a scenario or continuum tangent to ours as readers, a representation of a time and place necessarily separate from our own. In light of King’s admission that his consciousness did not write Cujo, what should be our conscious relationship to the words? Is there truly value in the human contribution to the “book”? If at all, it lies in the intuitive smoothness of narrative and its dedication to manipulating the readerly consciousness with illusions of familiar reality. Productivity in this realm requires empathy, life. But we at Inside the Castle strive for books that can only be books, such that their consciousness is yours, not the writer’s. They exist as extensions of the real world, not as narrative tangents. They are windows, not mirrors. They affect the reader’s context. They change the way your hands look. They are not contraptions. They are solid-state.

The volume of human efforts to disabuse themselves of the creative act are copious. The idea of systematizing a process–whether it be by machine, as in the computational design methods of architecture, or by the myth of the zeitgeist found in writerly manifestos from Hemingway to Robbe-Grillet–is never without allure to the egotistical. Is individual human experience useless? Of course not. We will continue to love traditional compositions that meet our specifications. But there is no denying that humans are fascinated by the uncanny analogs of their behaviors, often more than they are by their own sad efforts. Or, at the very least, they are of a different, mute, sort of sadness.

Our local interest in this began in 2005 with the initial generation of Thy Decay Thou Seest By Thy Desire (free e-book here), a handmade, syntactic internet-mined collage, eventually published by Inside the Castle in 2015. Thy Decay was an effort in manual labor with the vision of automation, the vision of inhuman parataxis, the delight of the incongruous. But in reality the project is far older, is as old as human culture, as the errant or evolving passage of stories via the oral tradition, as the copying of manuscripts and the inclusion of apocrypha as canon, as the truthfulness of truthiness. It has taken on many forms in modern literature, from Burroughs to our beloved Butor. We are fascinated by where it is headed. You may argue that the pen is mightier than the algorithm, but who, in the encrypted future of your lonely grave, will hear you?

So, hear ye! Inside the Castle is initiating–what we lovingly, avoidantly call–a remote residency program, heretofore known as the CASTLE FREAK series.

Parameters: The CASTLE FREAK remote residency is a new project from Inside the Castle aimed at publishing one volume a year of innovative, generative literature. Please be familiar with our literary interests. The CASTLE FREAK series will not deviate from them. There are no more guidelines for the text beyond the following three:

  1. It must be exactly 100,000 words.
  2. It must not violate any copyrights.
  3. It must be “written” in five days.

Please submit a proposal and credentials (illustrating that you have the technical know-how to enact your proposal). The submission period is 17 July through 2 October, 2017. Send dossiers to press at insidethecastle dot org with the subject line CASTLE FREAK 2017. One proposal will be selected (by hand), and their book will be written in the final week of November and published by Inside the Castle in 2018. The premiated proposal will be subject to the standard–not financially lucrative, though very authorcentric–Inside the Castle business arrangements. As always, there is no fee to participate.