robust glyphs and could be imported into another program. In the end, I bowed to necessity
and made separate .gif and .jpg files for each one - but at the time of the Toolbook version,
I was still trying to avoid that.
HTML and DHTML
Oh dear! I find it very hard to think about these versions, since they are obsolete before
even being born!
I have been grateful to Barry Smylie, Jim Andrews, Deena Larsen and other hypertext
writers for their explication of the process and thinking that has gone into their
works. It's far easier to move on to the next problem than it is to write about the
labyrinthine details of construction. The Director/Shockwave version that you will
access on this disk is not only unfinished, it is at the very stage that the multi-media
artist junks the whole thing and starts over. In the new version which emerges, the
features that need to be there will stubbornly remain, and the jetsam of several
exploratory drafts will be pruned out. The process of starting over is particularly
important in this case, because I was learning Director as I went along.
A few things, however, have been central to this iteration of Going Forth. First,
Director is a time-based authoring system. I had worked with Flash in the past, so I
was familiar with the timeline method of setting up triggers and events. However,
Flash is not well suited to interactivity - and we often see Flash pieces that simply
run through without reader input. Director allows several different ways to pause a
sequence, jump to another frame of the movie, or jump to another movie altogether.
What is significant about these features in Director (as opposed to the spatial,
object-database of Toolbook or the "page" limits of HTML) is that one makes pathways
through time as well as space using this program. Left to its own devices, a 300-frame
Director movie might run through in a matter of ten seconds. However, using the
delay and jump features, one can construct a "temporal/spatial horizon" that will take
some time to explore - a document organized in layered space and marked time. In
re-creating Going Forth in Director, I have utilized this aspect of the program
because it is in keeping with the fluid quality of Egyptian narratives. [I am
indebted to Scott McCloud, too, for his theories of the "infinite page" in comic strips.]
In traditional critical terms, "formal" and "meta" aspects of a work are easily identified.
In hypermedia work, too, we see some examples of self-referent in the use of visible
coding/reference or in works whose subject is media and media theory. Another possibility
for investigation, perhaps less remarked upon, is that of the work/structure referent -
the way in which the structure of the work can represent a conscious interrogation of the
visual/sensory language of hypermedia. One concrete example of this might be Deena Larsen's
Samplers, where each stitch in the quilt graphic represents a link to a part of the
story. In writing Califia, I was very concerned with the way the structure of the
interface mapped to the actual geographical space. While it was a challenge to arrange an
architecture where the real geography of Los Angeles, the imagined spatial structure of the
hypertext, a history of events, and the narrative itself could be superimposed into one
mapping system, in a sense I was only working with layered space. The screen itself was
static unless I chose to introduce animation (in small elements). With Director, the
program is always, already in movement. Thus, a new approach to mapping the structure of
the work, and signaling this to the reader, had to be devised.
The solution was to draw from the conceptual relationship between Egyptian hieroglyphs
and art. Many texts on Egyptian art point out that the hieroglyph is the basis for all
of the "tomb art" that we are familiar with. That is, the image/picture is the hieroglyph
writ large and embellished. Even in hunting scenes, for example, the birds in the swamp are
sets of hieroglyphs, colored and detailed, but all identical in shape - and all of them
the hieroglyph for "duck."
How would this work? Well, it needed to start with the navigation orientation. The
opening title sequence of Going Forth consists of three lines. These represent
the earth, the river, and the sky - two horizontal lines and one vertical line. When
they come to rest at the "go to" frame [that is, nothing happens until the reader chooses
an option], they form the shape of the "neter" or flag glyph that signals "a god" or "the
gods." [Egyptian art is frequently designed in the shape of hieroglyphics - even to the
furniture from Tut's tomb.]
This shape becomes, in the subsequent sections, the registers of the virtual
manuscript. The "sky" line expands to become the vertical register that carries the voice
of the Akh (the manifestation of the eternal being that rides in the barque of the sun).
The "river" line expands to embody the voice of the Ka (the soul in the tomb - and also
the source of sub-movement on the screen). The "land" line marks the voice of the Ba
(the part of the deceased that "goes forth by day"). These elements become the major
navigation foci, as they will allow the reader to choreograph the temporal and spatial
paths of the narrative.
Many other aspects of the content and navigation of the narrative are indicated in
graphic and glyphic language, and these are not necessarily present in the text.
For instance, the vertical scrolling hieroglyphs on the title page can be
interpreted: water, sky, horizon, a million years; these mysteries given for
eternity. On the narrative "days," the Flash sequence images often refer to
the "language" of the hieroglyphs. The initial Flash sequence begins with a
schematic of the Big Dipper - used by the Egyptians (in the symbolic form of a
bull's hind leg) to "open the mouth" of the deceased as part of the rituals
of burial. Then, an image of geese appears. The geese images are from a tomb
at Meidum (part of the storyline), and they are imposed on a moon calendar that
is stretched so that the moons look egg-shaped. All of these references are to
the "beginning" or "the first time." The creative force was often referred to
as "the great cackler." Structurally, too, the trope of the manuscript mapped
onto an infinite interior world is extended. Readers are sure to ask, for example,
why one cannot jump backwards in the narrative screens. I envisioned the
navigation for the narrative as a symbolic journey downstream - one can go back,
but it takes a bit of doing (readers can rewind that layer of the ms. from the
Rubric, or they can choose a location to revisit from the Ba Narrative option on
the False Door).
Readers often ask about the use of history or historical references in my work.
Our popular view of Egyptian history has undergone lossy compression, and we tend
to make little distinction between ideas and styles of the Old Kingdom, for example,
and late Ptolemaic times under Cleopatra. [The Ba narrator, Jeanette, tends to see
Egypt this way at the beginning.] Going Forth, though, centers on events
and archaeology from the Middle Kingdom. The choice of the Middle Kingdom is based
on the theories that have been developed about a period for which we have not much
real information. However, some important aspects are established about this era.
It is the earliest period in which we see the spells of the Book of the Dead
written on coffins and on papyrus rolls buried with the corpse. Moreover, this
epoch marks the beginning of the "democratization of death" - that is,
individuals other than the king begin to participate, ritually, in the Osirian
mythic cycle. Also, the art of the era consolidates the stylistic innovations
of the Old Kingdom and refines the vocabulary of glyph/image that will form the
conceptual basis of Egyptian representation for another two thousand years.
Perhaps most important is the sense of the cyclical that is formed by the
Middle Kingdom. In the time of Senusret I, Egyptian kings and scribes,
at least, had retained a memory of the failure of the Old Kingdom and the chaos
of the First Intermediate Period. Their architecture, art, and literature
reflects the knowledge that they are not "the first time" - but that they
consciously intend to recreate an ideal and stable universe. Scholars
of Egyptian history may dispute some of the attributes and events that
I have assigned to the Middle Kingdom - there is still much controversy
about these centuries. And, too, this still fiction, and I had to invent
the silver coffin (the only real silver coffin that we have is from much later).
Another controversial aspect is the use of hieroglyphs. While it was
impractical to rely on real Egyptian text for several reasons, I have tried
to stay true to the symbolic meaning of the glyphs throughout (more information
about this in the piece under *The Project*). The title, Re en Per em Hru, however,
is the suspected pronunciation of The Book of Going Forth by Day, and the glyphs are accurate.
Notes on the platform evolution of The Book of Going Forth by Day
The first, short draft version (Iteration 1) of The Book of Going Forth was created in 1998.
This version was done in Toolbook Publisher 4. [Toolbook is a robust, object-oriented,
database-design authoring system that is supported by a proprietary code, Open Script -
originally produced by Asymetrix.]
In 1999 and 2000 I worked, when possible, on a much longer Web version.
[The time-consuming aspect of transcription between platforms involves not only
page and navigation re-design and the inevitable changes to text and context.
In switching platforms from Toolbook 4 to HTML, I had to re-do all the graphics from .bmp to .jpg or .gif,
find substitute midi or MP3 sound files for the .wav files, and so forth.]
Java Applets. By 2001, many of the features of Iteration 2 would no longer work on Level 5/6 Browsers,
and so I undertook a new design/expansion - Iteration 3. In order to facilitate Web access, I needed
Iteration 3 was some 210 MB, 1400 files, and reflected, I thought, a nearly complete draft.
[Iteration 3 has been up at my Website as an example of a novel-in progress for the past year.]
At the point of having a "nearly complete" draft, however, I was still a long way from being
finished - such is the nature of electronic work! As you know, while the rough drafting can be
done in sections, the finish/polish work requires an extended concentration period - not just early
mornings and weekends (too short a time to even figure out what the file structure was, again).
In light of my teaching load, it began to look as though, if I could not find some clear time to work,
I would never be able to finish Going Forth before it was obsolescent on the next level Browser.
Somehow, I needed to find a way to secure more platform stability and to get enough time to
complete the project.
In preparation for the work ahead, I began to re-investigate the platform issue.
The first thing that I found was that the latest versions of IE 6 did not automatically play
Flash files (requested a Microsoft Flash player) and that this player really only wanted
to play Flash MX files - would not easily handle Flash 4/5 files. Even though I had
so much invested in Iteration 3 for the WWW, it began to seem that I would perhaps
be better off returning to a platform that would be stable on a CD with a reader mechanism -
avoiding the Browser issue altogether. The two candidates were Director 8.5 and the
old standby, Toolbook (now called Click-2-Learn and also at version 8.5). I did
mini-models of a new iteration on both platforms, and, though these platforms encourage
very different solutions to discrete writing problems, they each have strong points.
The deciding factor, at the end, was the fact that my 30 days had expired for
Toolbook help - and no more Open Script/Neuron (the rather flaky Web translator)
advice would be forthcoming; on the other hand, several friends use Director,
and I could get help with programming Lingo. I also tried out the Shockwave
feature and can have a Web presence with Director (limited by the
downloading time, but a possible delivery method).
I now have a few sections done in Director - Iteration 4.
This journey through the Tuat-like underworld of hypermedia technology has been
an extended curriculum in examining possible approaches to long narratives in this medium.
a.. In Iteration 1, I wanted to figure out how to
construct a multilinear set of voices that represented the three states of the
Egyptian death/soul - the Ba, the Ka, and the Akh. In that Iteration, as well,
I wanted to see if I could use the visual language of hieroglyphics as an integral
part of the plot and also as the navigation scheme.
b.. In Iteration 2, I struggled with the integration of peripheral information.
How much did the reader need to know to proceed? How could the reader get a
sense of the parameters of the whole?
c.. By Iteration 3, I had mostly solved the navigation issues and voice
problems and began to investigate the options for different kinds of spaces
on the page (specifically prompted by the HTML which can be so flattening,
no easy way to do multiple layers) - one in which the horizontal and vertical
registers of the typical Egyptian manuscript each became infinite regress -
opening windows on states of consciousness and historic time.
d.. Iteration 4 is characterized already by the fact that
Director is a timeline-based software. An Egyptian manuscript is marked by a
sense of eternity - but the story in a timeline-based software is always in
movement, either potential or real. I am concentrating particularly,
in this iteration, on those action behaviors that signify continuity and flow.
Also, since Director is text-adverse, I will be cutting back considerably
on the length - seeing if I can condense meaning into motion.