Ed Steck’s “An Interface for a Fractal Landscape”
Should you get the opportunity, I recommend being driven around by Ed Steck late at night in a van, having just left something that he can’t abide at all. Ed complains in this really desperately beautiful way that endears you not only to him (so long as you’re not the target) but to the world generally. Luckily, he also writes well about his own work—absent all complaint! Here he is on the revisioning process behind An Interface for a Fractal Landscape (forthcoming!).
. . . . .
Editing is the conversion of removed spaces. Editing is the resurfacing of removed spaces. The removal is a space for further entry into the subject matter being written upon or researched. Erasure is potential for data entry: but, I think what propels the poem (or piece or instruction manual or psychology abstract or first year writing composition essay or whatever) is the flexibility that porous material allows the entirety of the structure to form. Flexibility. That’s easy though. It’s a lot more fun to not work with porous material and instead attempt to sabotage something that is fully realized. Destroy something complete. Totalities, systems, genres, fields, universalities, opaque fundamentalisms, universities, and other external-corporeal-concrete-boring-shit(s) have the ability to be chipped at, dugout-holes infiltrated, and Frankenstein’d back into something monstrous and re-whole. Just don’t fill the holes with romanticism, please.
Space doesn’t always have to be refilled with other bits of language (or things in general). Keeping things thing-less allows the entirety of a thing to function. When I was working on The Garden: Synthetic Environment for Analysis and Simulation, there were a lot of open spaces left open for reasons of incomplete reference materials or because I liked the spaces when the text left out explicit connections. There were a lot of collapses when editing that project, which was fitting. Editing is collapsing (sometimes). I think it’s important to focus on the collapsibility of your project and always take responsibility for its inevitable collapse regardless of contribution or consequence. In fact, when you are structuring a writing project, plan the collapse into the trajectory of the piece. Embrace the simulation of the actual collapse. It’s about preparation. Editing, that is.
Currently, I’m working on a nature poetry/environmental meditation/science fiction/retelling-of-Adonis/long poem/Frankenstein titled An Interface for a Fractal Landscape. I’ve been working on it for six years now. About a year ago, I thought I was done with it and I was reading through the ultra-dense, narrative-sprawling prose and remembered something that someone (someone great) said to me about how the form needs to fit the content of the piece. I had about 250-300 pages of paragraphs, chapters, complete sentences, characters, settings, chronologies, and other prosaic formalities. I destroyed all of it. It was too solid and didn’t have the global conventionality of collapse. After its complete destruction, I thought I was translating it into its new form, structure, and reader-access point. I wanted this editing process to be an act of translation, but it was really a conversion of pre-existing material through a filtering process into the new alienable destroyed format. I’m a converter and not a translator. My editing process is like turning a potato into a potato chip. The potato on its own has many possible functions and futures but a potato chip should only have one refined, tasteful and accessible functioning future.
Here is an example of the conversions.
The syndic remembers walking through an unnatural ecosystem – the divide interim before the natural-surveillant transition. The syndic remembers slipping into a canonized golden spring, the proportions were perfectly muddled and clustered, the spaces – if open – were in constant motion, moving towards one another in motion away from all other open spaces. It was like slipping into a construction of unseen availability – there was no eye, just an atmosphere, a heavy translucent material defining open white space. An outstroke of a stem – a bulbous loop arches and rounds.
In pixel absentia, the individual grid panels contain multitudes of prospective growth implications. The fog dissipates. Cro-Adonis-x.26 peers through the gridded emptiness, its stealth veil only hovering systems, picturing the rigid peaks of digital mountains. / A square is a prologue / the thought alarmed the organic-android; in its abrupt materialization, the unit failed to configure the origins of its point of programming, immediately feeling lost in its cerebral circuitry’s foreshortened arrival. Time, enhanced and deflated by its utter non-configurative presence in virtual reality, passes beyond its hierarchical planned adoption and ceases to exist as Cro-Adonis-x.26 sits down on the fractal terrain. If time’s procession could be calculated on Barren Thule, the CRO-AD unit would have aged triplicate boundlessness as it sat and observed the authentic scale variations of a computer-generated landscape of mimicry.
What happens mostly is that once the text is destroyed, parsed out, and un-packed, the pieces are graphed and re-pieced together to form the components scattered across the plane that will become a new format. It’s basically a huge mess that needs to be put into some order but not necessarily put back together. In this conversion process, the syndic became Cro-Adonis-x.26: before, the syndic was a general character having syndicated control over its environment, but after, Cro-Adonis-x.26 is an amalgamation of the original narrative constraints on the syndic character and the specific research for this project (Adonis, interfaces, digital environments, and navigation strategies). While the original character acts as a template for the converted character, the landscape completely changes in the conversion. In this case, everything is dependent on the setting of the narrative. The characters change with the setting. The time changes with the setting. The format of the text changes with the setting. The actual editing process is affected by the fictional interface in the narrative. The new landscape is based on an actual computer-generated terrain that I designed on a terrain generator program. I return to the generated landscape when I am working on this manuscript. Pre-conversion, the landscape was fictional, designed-by-my-mind, and not digital-physical like the second landscape. I couldn’t wander around it on my computer screen, which is what I wanted the reader to be able to do—to wander around a landscape on a computer screen in the reading experience of An Interface for a Fractal Landscape. So, I created it. I find that once I plan out these pseudo-generic narratives that I believe to be a finished piece of writing, I just want to completely destroy-create them by layering it with abstractions that signify the distortion’s source. I think this confusion is the benefit of absolute destruction because it allows for the explicit reconstruction of the source material. Editing exposes the abstraction and allows for the abstraction’s source material to be integrated into the scaffolding of the text.