Matthew G. Kirschenbaum

University of Maryland

Red Storm Rising’s Game Plots

Techno-thriller genre fiction may seem like an odd place to look for rules-based textual experimentation, but I’ve just argued that Tom Clancy and Larry Bond’s 1986 cold-war-turned-hot bestseller Red Storm Rising may be the most widely read piece of procedural writing ever.  Find out why in “Choreographing the Dance of the Vampires,” which is my contribution to Kari Kraus’s superb Rough Cuts: Media and Design in Process collection just launched on MediaCommons’ The New Everyday.


If you’re here because of the link on Quinn DuPont’s AGRIPPA Challenge, you might be interested in “‘No Round Trip’: Two New Primary Sources for AGRIPPA,” which details the recovery of an hour of bootleg footage from the 1992 launch in New York City as well as a bitstream image/emulation of the original software.

Track Changes is on Tumblr

I’ve created a Tumblr blog for Track Changes to collect some of the media coverage and other developments related to the project. I will also continue to post periodic updates here.

My Literary History of Word Processing: Your Assistance Needed

Greetings. As described in Jennifer Schuessler’s New York Times story “The Muses of Insert, Delete and Execute,” I am in the midst of researching and writing a book entitled Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing. The book is under contract to Harvard University Press, and should be out in late 2013. You can listen to a talk I recently gave at the New York Public Library based on the first chapter, “Stephen King’s Wang,” here.

The book documents the moment at which large numbers of literary writers began making the transition from typewriters to word processors and personal computers (late 1970s, early 1980s). I want to know who the early adopters were, and how they thought about the new digital technology in relation to their writing practice. I am interested in both “highbrow” and popular authors alike, fiction and non-fiction. I am also following the story through to the present day: many writers now have platforms on social media like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter.

Some of my best information so far has come from word of mouth. That’s where I need your help. I would be very interested in hearing from:

  • authors who were early adopters of computing and word prcocessing and/or social media (also authors who made a deliberate decision not to switch to a computer);
  • editors, publishers, agents, and others in the business with relevant insights to contribute;
  • technologists who worked on early word processing programs;
  • anyone with relevant primary source materials to loan, share, or contribute;
  • anyone who knows of interesting fictional renditions of computers and word processing (for example, King’s short story “Word Processor of the Gods”).

If you would like to offer information, anecdotes, corrections, or tips about things to look at or persons to contact, please write to me at mkirschenbaum at gmail dot com. Thank you for reading.

Stephen King’s Wang

Update: Audio here.

I will be giving a talk entitled “Stephen King’s Wang: The Literary History of Word Processing” on Dec. 16 at the New York Public Library. Here’s an abstract:

Mark Twain famously prepared the manuscript for Life on the Mississippi with his new Remington typewriter, and today we recognize that typewriting changed the material culture (and the economy) of authorship. But when did literary writers begin using word processors? Who were the early adopters? How did the technology change their relation to their craft? Was the computer just a better typewriter, or was it something more? This talk, drawn from the speaker’s forthcoming book on the subject, will provide some answers, and also address questions related to the challenges of conducting research at the intersection of literary and technological history.

The talk, which is drawn from Track Changes, my new book in progress under contract to Harvard University Press, will be at 12:00 noon in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Wachenheim Trustees Room (that’s the main 42nd St. branch).

Thanks to NYPL Labs for the invite!

Digital Humanities Archive Fever

My plenary lecture at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria, June 2011. The talk, which runs about 50 minutes with questions, attempts to present a framework and rationale for more closely integrating the activities of the digital humanities with the work of those archivists now beginning the formidable task of processing born-digital cultural heritage collections.

DHSI Plenary Lecture: “Digital Humanities Archive Fever” from MITH in MD on Vimeo.

During My Fellowship

I will be on leave with a Guggenheim fellowship from August 2011 to August 2012, working on my new book project. During this period I will be adopting the following policies to protect the research time with which I have been entrusted.

For students and colleagues here at Maryland:

  • My commitment to current and former students or employees for whom I am or have been their primary adviser or supervisor continues, and I will be available to them for job-related letters of recommendation, reading work in progress, research consultations, and thesis defenses or exams. I will not, however, be able to take on new students during my fellowship year, neither graduate nor undergraduate. Nor will I be able to write letters of recommendation or offer consultations for students with whom I have not had a previous advising relationship.
  • I will be keeping my time on campus to a minimum. Generally Tuesdays will be the best days to make an appointment.
  • I will not be available for class visits or for hosting groups or classes at MITH.
  • I will not be accepting new committee assignments.
  • As of May 2011 I have concluded my term as director of the Digital Cultures and Creativity honors program. Hasan Elahi is the new director. Inquiries may be sent to dcc-honors at umd dot edu.

For the rest of the world:

  • I will be keeping new travel and speaking commitments to a minimum. Please feel free to contact me with your invitation—I am always genuinely appreciative—but please understand if I ask you to keep me in mind for the future instead. The same goes for invitations to contribute chapters and essays. I will, of course, be honoring previously arranged commitments.
  • I will not be taking on manuscript reviews or reports for presses and journals. (If you truly think I would have exceptional interest in a particular item you can try me.)
  • I will not be available to write letters of support for grant applications and the like.
  • I will not be taking on external project evaluations.
  • I will not be taking on external tenure evaluations.
  • I do anticipate teaching at Rare Book School in summer 2012, pending, of course, the needs of the RBS curriculum.

In short, for the next twelve months,

Give me, kind Heaven, a private [work]station,
A mind serene for contemplation!

Thank you in advance for your attention and understanding. (With apologies to John Gay.)



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