About the Work

In 2004, the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts published a report called "Reading at Risk," a document that got me thinking... How many people really understand the risks of reading? In answer to this national crisis, I conceived the present textual instrument, or deep reading simulator, which I offer as a service to the reading public of the United States of America and the Free World.

As they say in that Lina Wertmüller film, Oh yeah...

"Deep Surface" is the monstrous progeny of a strange romance between a reading machine and a free-diving simulator. Literature at crush depth. Hypertext gets wet.

Generically, it is yet another instrument: one of those things you can play (or play with), without playing a game. There are rules here, and procedures, and (as in Real Life) a more or less invisible scoring system; so astute players may be able to invent clever and even elegant strategies.

But if you're not feeling astute, you can plunge in and have a dip, immersing yourself in what signs and symptoms may present themselves as you pass by, dreaming perhaps of meaning... till robot voices wake you, and you drown.

Technical Requirements

"Deep Surface" requires a Web browser with Flash Player 7 or later, running on a moderately good, early-21st-century PC. If you are connecting via the Internet, you will want broadband. Audio is an important part of the experience, so you will also want headphones or powered speakers.


Code, graphics, and text, spoken and written, are my work, except for quotations. "Deep Surface" was programmed in ActionScript 2.0, using Macromedia Flash 8. Synthetic voices are ScanSoft's Tom, Daniel, and Emily. Sea sounds are from samples at the Freesound archive. Graphics were produced with Poser 7 and Vue 6 Esprit, using figures from Digital Art Zone and assets from vendors at Renderosity, used in compliance with relevant licenses.

This work is copyrighted 2007 by Stuart Moulthrop.


For chances to read and refine, I am indebted to Robert Coover and the Creative Writing Program of Brown University, Kelly Writer's House at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Program in Humanistic Informatics at the Universitet i Bergen.

Shout-outs to Nick, Noah, Scott, and Jill.


suggestions for play