irk: William’s writing methodology often produces transcendent moments such as the one we’ve just read. Here, in a—without a doubt—classic scene from The Unknown, classic despite its recent appearance, recent despite the fact that it was actually written 18 months ago and only just resurfaced while preparing for this event. Fundamentally, then, as William graphically demonstrates, Hard_Code comes down to the hard, cold facts of economic slavery: how much is your writing worth? The examples above contain an implicit answer: worth a laugh or two, which makes them invaluable.
To pursue these matters further, let’s retire to my kitchen and begin a round-table discussion with my collaborators, William Gillespie and Scott Rettberg.
Camera follows Dirk out into the kitchen where, indeed, William and Scott are sitting at the kitchen table. They appear to be flickering, however.
Scott: Hey, Dirk, got any beer in this joint?
Dirk: No, afraid not.
Dirk opens refrigerator. It is empty except for a cabbage and a jar of oyster sauce.
William: Great! How are we supposed to get any work done without beer?
Dirk: No problem. You see, in truth, you couldn’t drink beer if I had it. Both you and Scott are holograms.
Dirk faces camera.
Dirk: That’s right, folks. These aren’t the real William and Scott. Both were way too busy to make it tonight so, instead, I quickly borrowed some technology from Star Trek and quickly programmed these life-like holographic versions of my co-authors. In other words, I did some pretty nifty coding. Get it? That’s right. It’s all coming together now, don’t you think? Particularly, in light of the fact, that I’ve just told you a complete and utter bald-faced lie. I don’t know jack about programming diddly. I don’t even know how to use all the features in my ancient word-processing program. And if it weren’t for bbEdit, I couldn’t make an HTML link to save my blessed skin. But I do know how to write a scenario in which I’m well-versed in such things, where I have the powers to employ fictional future technology. Writing is the best code of all: in what other medium could I be holding the camera, be in front of the camera, be the narrator, the scriptwriter, and the main character all at the same time? Hmmm, this was all leading up to something significant, but I seem to have forgotten what that was. But, hey, the holograms are cool, don’t you think? Cutting edge and all that, right? Right, Scott? William?
Scott: Sure, Dirk, whatever you say. Sure wish you had some beer, though.
Dirk: Incredibly life-like, don’t you think? Sometimes, I amaze myself. But enough of this blather. Let’s get down to cases, whaddaya say?
William: Good plan. You’ve already frittered away six pages, and Eugene told us he preferred shorter items for the book.
Dirk: Right you are. Let’s begin. It’s no accident, you know, that I asked Hard_Code Theater to my home on Halloween night. As I mentioned above, the “Halloween scenes” in The Unknown were written here and I think those scenes are particularly relevant to this whole Hard_Code project.
Scott: In what way, Dirk?
Dirk: Well, Scott, you’ve mentioned, in some of the preliminary work you’ve done for this project, Tom LeClair’s idea of the “monster” and you’ve begun riffing a bit about “mutation” and “genetic codes” and the like. Speaking of monstrosities, do you recall, Scott, that fine piece of prose William sent to Tom LeClair, the professor at University of Cincinnati who honored the Unknown by including a reference to The Unknown in a paper about the monstrous in literature, that he delivered at Illinois State University? Yes, that Tom LeClair. He knows Krass-Meuller just like William and Scott do. And has written about him.
FORGIVE THE BALD EXPOSITION BADLY DISGUISED AS DIALOGUE. PLEASE ACCEPT OUR APOLOGIES. THIS HAS BEEN A MESSAGE FROM THE BUREAU OF UNKNOWN QUALITY CONTROL, DEDICATED SINCE 1998, TO KEEPING YOUR CYBERSPACE FREE FROM THE BANALITY OF LIFE.
Dirk: You know, it really pissed me off when you wrote that scene a couple of years back about there being nothing in my fridge but a stale crust of gorgonzola. And then made me come in to check your spelling of “gorgonzola.”
Scott: So that’s why you stick me in this silly scene in your kitchen. Better fill me with beer. Better beer than you usually carry. None of that raspberry lambic shit. My hologram’s sipping on a spotted cow cream ale.
Dirk: Kind of ironic that you’re a hologram so you can’t even enjoy it.
Scott: Yeah real fucking funny. Might as well stick in some Oysters Rockefeller, Snow Crab legs, and a filet mignon.
Scott: Tender, pink in the middle. Throw some Hollandaise on there.
Scott: Why not? Moet Chandon White Star. Do you know that most people read The Unknown on their lunch hour? We ought to put more food in there.
Dirk: What’s in the box, Scott?
Scott: It’s a surprise for William.
Dirk: Well, can you tell me what it is?
Scott: With William standing right here?
Dirk: He’s in a coma again.
Scott: Did I do that?
Dirk: I did it this time.
Scott: Isn’t it fun? It’s a rabbit.
Dirk: What kind of rabbit?
Scott: Let me see your black light.
Dirk reaches into his bong cupboard and removes a black light. Scott pulls a rabbit from the box. Under the black light it glows a fluorescent green.
Dirk: Holy smokes. How did you do that?
Scott: I didn’t. This is Eduardo Kac’s rabbit, Alba. He got some French geneticists to splice some jellyfish genes into its DNA. He says it’s the first example of a living art form.
Dirk: It’s cute. Did he loan it to you.
Scott: No. I stole it. I figure he’s doing the same thing with a dog, so the rabbit might as well travel with the Unknown.
Dirk: I can see where the moral and ethical implications of that might make for interesting treatise. Maybe a dissertation. Or a scene in The Unknown. Which reminds me. Do you think we should include William’s small essay on monstrosity?
Scott: Most assuredly, Dirk. A marvelous example of William’s ability to be dead serious while being totally silly.
Dirk: You know, William sent me some old copy recently. Let’s see if we can replicate it below using that divine synthesis of technology and fiction, cut and paste: