Bibliotek: Chapter Two.Two

Posted on 01/08/2011 by


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“I was released after hours of questioning; but never actually cleared. It had been a pathetic, scattershot kind of accusation. They had nothing. They’d keyword-matched Jessica with the endangered eggs, to her academic readership, and to my geo-location at the time. Simple, brutish guesswork. It was by pure chance I’d actually met with her on my visit, though I was always in correspondence with her.” After discarding the pad of a paperback, he’d picked up another. What could he be looking for in those?

“She’d already published fascinating work, but nothing worth killing over; they simply had no motive for me. If only they’d done any true police work…” Emlen trailed off… and looked for a long moment at the starving, out of synch video which played on the photo-voltic posters as they passed through to another station. Graham had lost the false colour sense of the drugs, and was becoming dizzy, turning about sickeningly. He was lost—Tube maps were not like the maps of London, and he felt nauseated attempting to relate to where they were above.

“… I had received motivation.” Graham cut back to Emlen. What? For murder? Emlen continued. “Enough to make my career. She had draft work she had shopped to me for peer-review. Jess had been bitten once before, Authoring out on the open Meta—not unlike yourself—so she had become skittish in disseminating her studies. It was truly important work though. I couldn’t have been the only recipient of the reports. But I had no idea who else might have been. What if it really had been one of us? ‘Publish or perish’ indeed.

“It was then I started considering the lineage of information. Text is merely released across the world simultaneously, without any cost to its progenitor. It denies simple, evolutionary pressures. There’s no author-reader relationship. You can get the text from anywhere, sharing is easy.”

Emlen laughed. “You’ve heard of memetic theory of course, it might only be a catz joke now, but properly speaking, it describes the informatic equivalent of genetic code. When my friend had gone missing, I started thinking about how we choose to share our theory, just as we do sperm and pollen—to best maximise the offspring’s potential. That’d have been the only way to know who’d had the motive to have murdered her. Who had she known who would’ve cared enough for it to have been a crime of passion to kill her for the text? I saw that the migratory pattern of bounds—not just from Author, but particularly from reader to select reader—that it described a transfer of power that digitisation had made worthless. Bounds once defined our cultural capital. Think of it like mating—reader-to-reader—you’re careful who you pass your genes to, aren’t you? You must think about that very carefully.”

Graham guffawed. “Whereas digital texts are like a man sowing his wild oats?”

Emlen shook his head in gentle humour as he took them across the platform from one train to another. But he didn’t dispute the analogy to casual sex. Then continued. “So no it is not ok. I lost it. The very idea of this bound was that it’d be my control experiment. If no one else had access to a soft-copy like it, then that sole bound would have a deeper significance—economically speaking you understand—constricted along its readership inheritance. As it is now, most electronic books are passed around willy-nilly, and no one really bothers with them at all. I had this bound to test my theory.”

Graham squinted back at him. That doesn’t sound … is that how I sound when I talk about my book? Lost. Pretentious. Unreal. Fake?

Before he could ask, Emlen shook his head as if in self-pity, “and to clear my name.” Then his head struck upward, alert. Graham’s own swam back ward, in equal measure.

He followed Emlen, and considered. “Now someone’s taken it, and isn’t passing it on?”

“Unlikely! I patronised the work to be epistemologically likely to be shared, having mathematically little value in retention, and an optimized cultural capital for sharing. To maximise decisive trade. That hasn’t happened. I was using my own catalogue entry of the bound—its metadata—to track its movements. You must understand that this wasn’t truly a black bound, it wasn’t a ransom, not strictly speaking. But someone has further corrupted the print… now, even when someone references it… I can’t find it. It’s gone.”   Graham was still thinking, caught on it.

At Bank, Emlen finally took them off, changing lines to the Northern black line. Arriving at King’s Cross, he dropped the bounds he’d still been holding, off behind a train seat, and then they exited the station.

“This is where you come in, Graham.” Right it was.

“How did you cut the bound away from its soft-copy?” Graham asked.

“Well, I know you’ve heard of the lit hacking community.” Graham nodded guardedly. “Their protocols for hijacking peer-to-peer, for promoting preferred texts, shifting formats… they were my development.” At that, Emlen fast tracked, “my intentions weren’t toward your work! I was never interested in changing the texts themselves, I was more concerned with machine-tooling the metadata, in playing with the print, to break them apart. To force readers out of their safety zone, to make careful decisions about their bounds.”

Emlen stopped, and said. “Whatever it was about your book, that came after my time.” He removed his goggles, as if to reveal an otherwise hidden sincerity. “They’ve used my own work against me. The issue I have, and why you’re my ideal subject, is that we’ve both lost unique works important to us. But in your case, we still have access to the Auteur himself.”

“I need a drink after this talk. I’ll buy you one too, Em. That’s it, I don’t understand what the fuck this is about, and I want out.”


By Paul McLaughlan


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Initial I from page 17 of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920) by Ezra Pound.

Posted in: Btek, Hyperwork, Paul