The Unknown

The Unknown

Somewhat unusually for a work of electronic literature, the wit and creativity of The Unknown may best be communicated through live performance, when one or more of the authors reads from the text, heeding the demands of the audience to follow a hypertext link. Still, the playful exuberance of this satire of the creative writing industry is there to be read in the novel itself, a sprawling, self- referential, and fictional discourse network, the cumulative effect of which is a light-hearted but critical parody of the culture of literary celebrity.


Author description: The Unknown is a collaborative hypertext novel written during the turn of the millennium and principally concerning a book tour that takes on the excesses of a rock tour. Notorious for breaking the "comedy barrier" in electronic literature, The Unknown replaces the pretentious modernism and self-conciousness of previous hypertext works with a pretentious postmodernism and self-absorption that is more satirical in nature. It is an encyclopedic work and a unique record of a particular period in American history, the moment of irrational exuberance that preceded the dawn of the age of terror. With respect to design, The Unknown privileges old-fashioned writing more than fancy graphics, interface doodads, or sophisticated programming of any kind. By including several "lines" of content from a sickeningly decadent hypertext novel, documentary material, metafictional bullshit, correspondence, art projects, documentation of live readings, and a press kit, The Unknown attempts to destroy the contemporary literary culture by making institutions such as publishing houses, publicists, book reviews, and literary critics completely obsolete.

Instructions: The Unknown is a Web hypertext authored in XHTML and should work in any browser. Open index.html to begin. It includes audio files in two formats: RealAudio and MP3. The RealAudio files are in an early version of the codec, but work with the current RealAudio player. The MP3 collection directory is accessible from the Green Line index page. The majority of the links are to pages within the hypertext, but some external links may no longer function.

Previous publication: The Unknown was published by the authors in 1998 and co-winner of the 1999 trAce/AltX International Hypertext competition. Principal writing activities took place between 1998-2002. Technical modifications and editorial revisions have continued through 2008.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.