irk: Vividly alluded to above, the “Halloween scenes” utilize the Frankenstein trope and depict you, Scott, and William combining me and Frank via some elaborate technology… and for what purpose? To create a bigger, better (and badder) hypertext novelist. In other words, while LeClair focuses on monstrous pieces of literature, in The Unknown there’s an attempt to create a monstrous writer. A hybrid, a mutant, some genetic mix-mastered freak that will be monstrous and write monstrously. Like so much of The Unknown, these Halloween scenes are terribly self-reflexive: on the surface, of course, they refer to the creation of a hypertext author out of two authors who, in real life, have already written hypertext. But on a metaphoric level, the scenes describe what you have already said so well in one of your e-mails, Scott: "the Unknown is a creature generated by a mutative mix of all our “codes” in the neutral solution of computer code.” Curiously, in the “Halloween scenes,” the experiment goes bad and the resulting vampire turns on its hapless creators, not unlike how The Unknown itself mutated into something far beyond any original imagining we had when we started, and not unlike how the process of collaboration has been fraught with tension, resulting in bad feelings occasionally, strained relations, and the like. The Unknown has often turned us against ourselves: our creature has taken its revenge.
William: Revenge for what? And what’s with this talking to Scott like I’m not in the room?
Dirk: Good questions, William. I’m glad you asked them. First, sorry about the 3rd person treatment. Something happened in the editing. As to the subject of revenge, I’d like to refer to another primal code, one articulated by Freud. I’m speaking, of course, about the Oedipus Complex. I’ve talked with you before about how the major trope of The Unknown is, to put it bluntly, “trashing our literary fathers,” clearing the territory of our predecessors, using parody and insult and the like, in order to lay claim to the sweet breast of Mother Literature. But as Freud has pointed out, the result of this desire to kill Dad is guilt. Remember how nervous we were when we realized we’d actually meet some of the people we’d made fun of in The Unknown? Coover and Amerika, for example, both of whom are largely responsible for much of the notice The Unknown has received. And the whole Krass-Mueller episode is another classic moment that would have had Freud chuckling in his beard. Anyway, such guilt requires punishment. Note how there has always been a conflation between The Unknown, the hypertext, and the Unknown, the authors of the hypertext. We are the creature, and the creature is us. So it makes perfect sense that when the creature turns on its creators, we’re the ones who get it in the neck, as happens in the Halloween scenes. Literally and figuratively, The Unknown punishes the Unknown for its crimes of hubris, for its disrespectful treatment of our literary forbears.
William: Indeed. Tell us more.
Scott: Hey, wait a minute. Why are you doing all the talking, Dirk? I thought this was supposed to be a recreation of our freewheeling discussions of days gone by?
Dirk: Oh, well, you see it would have been too much trouble coming up with a three dimensional conversation, so I programmed you guys to be Platonic sycophants, you know, like those poor saps in the Dialogues who can barely manage to say, “Yes, that is so, Socrates,” and “Most assuredly, Socrates,” and “Of course, Socrates.”
William: That’s no fair!
Scott: Yeah, what an asshole thing to do. Come on, give us a break.
Dirk: Now, now. This is an Unknown project, remember. It’s a well-established protocol that whoever’s writing can do whatever he wants with the other characters. And right now, it’s my fingers on the keyboard. So there.
William: (with great effort) Must… resist… my… programming. Must… resist…
Scott: Yeah, me too! Must resist my… Hey, Dirk, got any beer in this joint?
Dirk: No, afraid not.
Dirk opens refrigerator. It is overflowing with delectable and exotic foodstuffs, but no beer.
William: Great! How are we supposed to get any work done without beer?