Judy Malloy, Editor

J.R. Carpenter
Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie and JR
Software: Python

J. R. Carpenter conducts the Hermit Crab Reading Choir, in which, members read Excerpts of the Chronicles of Pookie & JR in a round, at the launch of GENERATION[S], a collection of code narratives, published by Traumawien. Cabaret Fledermaus, Vienna.

J. R. Carpenter is a Canadian artist, performer, poet, novelist, new media writer and researcher, based in South Devon, England. She began using the Internet as a medium for the creation and dissemination of non-linear narratives in 1993.

Since that time, her work has been presented in journals, festivals, and museums around the world, including the Electronic Literature Collection, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art; Montréal Museum of Fine Arts; Istanbul Contemporary Art Museum; The Art Gallery, Tasmania; The University of Maryland; Jyväskylä Art Museum, Finland; Palazzo delle arti Napoli in Naples, Kipp Gallery, Indiana University of Pennsylvania; E-Poetry, Barcelona, Spain; the Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, England; and The Banff Centre, Canada.

She is a two-time winner of the Quebec Short Story competition, recipient of the Carte Blanche Quebec Award, and recipient of research and production grants in literature and in new media from the Conseil des Arts de Montréal, Conseil des arts et des lettres du Quebéc and Canada Council for the Arts. Her first novel, Words the Dog Knows, won the Expozine Alternative Press Award for Best English Book. Her second book, GENERATION[S], a collection of code narratives, was published by Traumawien in Vienna in 2010.

J. R. Carpenter is currently a member of faculty for In(ter)ventions: Literary Practice at the Edge, a ground-breaking new residency program at The Banff Centre, in Canada, and she is a practice-led PhD Researcher, working in the emerging and converging fields of performance writing, digital literature, locative narrative, media archaeology and networked art practices at University College Falmouth, in England.

J.R. Carpenter's work is interesting and entertaining, creatively using software and narrative to take the reader on explorations of community, animal companions, and the lives of writers and artists. In a statement for Authoring Software, she describes the creation of Entre Ville, which uses an interactive graphic as an opening interface to a poem about a Montréal neighborhood. In Chronicles of Pookie and JR, she adapts a story generator, written in Python by Nick Montfort, to tell a story of hermit-crab human interactions. Story generators use a variety of computer-mediated composition systems to create poetry or narrative. For instance, they may generate plot or characters, or they may ask users to input text that is the systematically recontextualized, creating, as in Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie and JR, a software-mediated story.

More information about J. R. Carpenter can be found on her homepage at http://luckysoap.com

J.R. Carpenter: Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie and JR

Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie and JR is one of a series of short fictions generated by Python scripts adapted (with permission) from two different 1k story generators written by Nick Montfort and documented at

The other stories in this series (so far) are: I've Died and Gone to Devon and Auto-Autobiography. For more information of those, visit:

Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie & JR documents my adventures with Ingrid Bachmann's hermit crab Pookie, also known as Pookie 14, during June of 2009. Pookie is a biological, digital, quasi-fictional manifestation of Ingrid Bachmann's imagination. Pookie already has a website.

And I've already written about past collaborations between Bachmann and Pookie: Digital Crustaceans v.0.2: Homesteading on the Web. But I'd never spent any time alone with a hermit crab before. I started chronicling my adventures with Pookie as sentences written on a blackboard and then started feeding those sentences into one of Nick's story generators written in Python. The generator uses a sequence of (specially written) sentences; all but 5-9 sentences are removed, and the remaining text is presented as the story.

To read Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie & JR, download this file to your desktop: http://luckysoap.com/stories/PookieAndJR.zip. Unzip the file and then follow the instructions below. On a Mac or Linux system, you can run the story generator by opening a terminal Window, typing "cd Desktop", and typing "python story2.py". The generator runs on Windows, too, but you will probably need to install Python first: http://www.python.org/download/releases/2.6/.

Once Python is installed you can double click on the file and it will automatically launch and run in the terminal window. Every time you press Return, a new version of the story will appear. Here are a few examples:

Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie & JR:

Previously, Pookie and JR had only ever met at parties.
Pookie hides in his cup when JR is in her cups.
JR is patient; Pookie has to crawl before he can walk.
Pookie is actually pretty social, for a hermit crab.
Every three days or so, JR waters the ferns.
Live and let live, Pookie's nonchalant attitude seems to suggest.
When Pookie digs in the night, he makes quite a racket.
Late one night, Pookie and JR listen to a chained dog's howls.
JR hasn't been sleeping much lately.

To be continued.

Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie & JR:

JR has a friend over for drinks and forgets to introduce Pookie.
Pookie only plays in his water dish when he has an audience.
JR changes Pookie's water. Pookie makes a mess of his feeding dish.
Pookie has turned JR off of shellfish for life.
The cafe across the street is only noisy until eleven or so.
Do you hear that? JR asks Pookie.
JR hasn't been sleeping much lately.
JR is in hiding.
To be continued.

Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie & JR:

Pookie slowly comes out of his shell, so to speak.
Pookie has many shells to choose from.
JR changes Pookie's water. Pookie makes a mess of his feeding dish.
JR crumbles Pookie's hermit crab food pellets into bite-sized bits.
When Pookie digs in the night, he makes quite a racket.
Pookie keeps his thoughts to himself.

To be continued.

Of Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie & JR, Nick Montfort writes:

" J. R. Carpenter, author of Words the Dog Knows, Entre Ville, The Cape, and other fine works of e-lit, print, and xerography, has delightfully re-purposed one of my 1k story generators to have it tell stories involving her and a hermit crab named Pookie. The program has grown to about 2k, but it uses the same simple (and surprisingly effective) method as my first generator does: It simply removes all but 5-9 sentences from a sequence, eliding some of what's been written. Sometimes the reader is left to wonder who the hermit is."
Nick Montfort -- "Story Generation with Pookie and JR"

In July 2009, NYC-based artist/programmer Ravi Rajakumar ported the Python script into Javascript to create this web browser friendly version of Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie & JR

In October 2010, Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie & JR, along with three other generators I've adapted from scripts by Nick Montfort, will appear in print in a hybrid code narrative book called GENERATION[S] published by Vienna-based Traumawien. There was only one rule in creating GENERATION[S]: No new texts. All the texts in this book were previously published in some way. The texts the generators produce are intertwined with the generators' source code, and these two types of texts are in turn interrupted by excerpts from the meta narrative that went into their creation. Most of the sentences in the fiction generators started off as Tweets, which were then pulled into Facebook. Some led to comments that led to responses that led to new texts. All these stages of intermediation are represented in the print book iteration of GENERATION[S].

Authoring Software


Writers and Artists
Talk about Their Work
and the Software They
use to Create Their Work

Mark Amerika

Mark Bernstein
__Interview wirh Mark Bernstein

Bill Bly

Jay Bushman

J. R. Carpenter
__ The Broadside of a Yarn
__ Entre Ville
__ Chronicles of Pookie and JR

M.D. Coverley
__ Egypt: The Book of
Going Forth by Day

__ Tin Towns

Caitlin Fisher

Chris Funkhouser

Dene Grigar
__ 24-Hr. Micro-Elit
__ Fallow Field

Fox Harrell

William Harris

Megan Heyward

Adriene Jenik

Antoinette LaFarge

Deena Larsen

Judy Malloy

Mark C. Marino

María Mencía

Nick Montfort
__Nick Montfort and
Stephanie Strickland
Sea and Spar Between

Judd Morrissey

Stuart Moulthrop
__ Interview with
Stuart Moulthrop

Karen O'Rourke

Regina Pinto

Andrew Plotkin

Sonya Rapoport:
__Interview with
Sonya Rapoport

Aaron Reed

Scott Rettberg

Stephanie Strickland
__Nick Montfort and Stephanie Strickland
Sea and Spar Between

Eugenio Tisselli

Dan Waber