"Ever since Mnemosyne, the mother of the muses, gave the wax tablet to mortals, memory, writing and technology have been interconnected. "

-- Carolyn Guertin


Carolyn recommends these online literary links.

All thumbnails link to larger, high quality versions of Califia's illustrations. All images are from
M. D. Coverley's Califia (Eastgate Systems, in press). Reproduced by permission of Eastgate Systems.

Three-Dimensional Dementia: M.D. Coverley's Califia and the Aesthetics of Forgetting
___by Carolyn Guertin, with illustrations by M.D. Coverley

Ever since Mnemosyne, the mother of the muses, gave the wax tablet to mortals, memory, writing and technology have been interconnected. As a mnemonic technology, hypertext (the non-sequential linking of fragments of text and images) was first envisioned by Vannevar Bush and Ted Nelson in its prehistory as an associational, archival storage system suitable for classifying and sorting vast quantities of information. But where library databases, technical manuals and other knowledge-based hypertexts still fulfill this function, literary hypertext overturns this proposed usage, incorporating information overload and forgetfulness as a part of the reading process. Promoting dissociation and an awareness of the spatio-temporal dimensions of its environment, hypertext fiction uses the aesthetics of its three-dimensional interface and structure to frustrate memory and to play with sensory and emotional responses. In M.D. Coverley's multimedia novel Califia, the aesthetics of the hypertext form become an engine of forgetfulness that drives her text through its explorations of lost memories, including the ravages of Alzheimer's Disease, unofficial histories, missing pieces, encrypted maps and the quest for buried treasure. Forgetting is a part of living in the text, and short term memory is constantly being bombarded by cues, clues and flashbacks in 800 screens of text and images. [1]

Califia is a genealogical "treasure map" that reconnects a forgotten web of stories and legends of three prospecting California families over five generations. A complex user interface divides the text into four journeyings, each of which is a doorway into the narrative: they are South (The Comets in the Yard), East (Wind, Sand and Stars), North (The Night of the Bear) and West (The Journey Out).

The present tense chronicles of Augusta Summerland, Kaye Beveridge and Calvin Lugo show their "speculative reconstructions" (To the Reader--South) of their families' search for the hidden stash of Califia gold. On her home page in the text, Kaye explains: "This effort to put all of the information together will reveal that no part of the story is an isolated incident, all is a part of the whole... we will unearth forgotten relationships, restore the connections, find the harmony beneath the fragments of song." Even though Califia can be read in a linear progression through the four sections, the storylines within each section are anything but linear. Navigated by StarMaps, this is a nomadic quest to trace the fluid connections between fortune, bloodlines, women and the past and the future. "Nomadic consciousness," argues Rosi Braidotti,

is akin to what Foucault called countermemory [the transformation of history into a different kind of time]; it is a form of resisting assimilation... The nomadic tense is the imperfect: it is active, continuous; the nomadic trajectory is controlled speed. The nomadic style is about transitions and passages without predetermined destinations or lost homelands. The nomad's relationship to the earth is one of transitory attachment and cyclical frequentation... (25).

Califia is just such a feminist anti-history of navigation where the nomadic reader steers by dead reckoning. Following the seven stars of the big dipper, the reader exits via the solar table into sacred spaces and new lands. An assemblage of narrative, images, documents and prophesies, the text is open-ended and invites the reader to lose herself in a rambling web of the sometimes contradictory pieces comprising the journeys. Augusta's narrative relates the present day chronology of the grail-like quest to solve the riddles that lead to the legendary treasure, but it also tells the story of her mother's decline into the "convoluted labyrinth" of Alzheimer's Disease.

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