Title Graphic
original image by Kenneth Lu

a creditable fiction
by stuart moulthrop

about the work

Once upon a lazy summer, in the impossibly innocent year 1992, the media impresario Mary Milton called our mutual friend John McDaid with an assignment. She was developing programming ideas for a cable TV venture in Manhattan. She thought it might be interesting to have a channel devoted entirely to film credits. If nothing else, consider the sheer prank value: What's with the movies on Channel 345 -- every time I click in all I see is a $#&*@ credit roll! Ms. Milton knew about McDaid's wizardly command of certain Apple technologies. Could he cook up a demonstration?

Manhattan is another country, and so, in those days, was the magical land of media, dreaming of its 500-channel future, little knowing what dire disruptions and convergences lay ahead. I do not know if John ever made that demo. I recall hearing about the gig during a visit by Michael Joyce. John may have invited Michael and Nancy Kaplan and me into the brainstorming. I don't know that we came up with anything useful, though one of us did suggest the concept might be a lot more fun if the movies weren't real.

The idea lay buried, for all I know, fermenting in my head into notes for a hypermedia piece called "Five Hundred Channels" which ultimately became groundwork for the first "Hegirascope" (1995). And so we all went on for the next quarter-century.

Now comes this winter of dissolutions and discontents in which the title phrase of this piece seems increasingly salient -- either in the declarative or the aspirational sense. The old multimedia show of crazy notions, artful hacks, and innocent pranksterism got the axe long ago. Now we face the other kind of hacking, the spread of fake news and blood libel through social media, and the monstrous regime of tweeting, that latest remediation of Forster's "telegrams and anger." Given the show in which we all now feature, who wouldn't wish for early cancellation? Change the channel, already. Fade to oblivion. Roll credits.

So I offer the present exercise in kitsch and resistance, beginning with this thought for the day: "Show's Over."

viewing guide

Follow the link below and you will find yourself in my version of the lost demo, the Credits Channel as it rolls through my dreaming. The shows are all over, so you can just hang out and watch the words. In some cases what you see is composed on the fly by a series of programs. Other bits were written more traditionally, though even I have a hard time telling the difference. Resemblance to persons living or dead can be blamed on a little too much realism in the name-generator.

Watch while you want. Get up and go when you're ready. It's not like there are any sneaky post-credit sequences in there. (Seriously, there aren't.)

The bonus content is a story in eighteen parts. You can access it by clicking anywhere in the active window while the credits are rolling. When you do this a subtle message will appear in the background, saying something like request story. (The messages will differ from time to time but their meaning is always the same.) Requesting the story is like buzzing for the next stop on the bus. You'll get the driver's attention, but it may take a while for her to reach the stop. You'll have your story segment as soon as the current credit sequence completes.

When story bit rolls up, the words will pause at the top of the screen. You have two whole minutes to read in peace. If you don't need that much time, click in the active window and things will move along.

Can you go directly to the next bit of the story? Absolutely not -- this is disruptive technology, folks. You'll always have to sit through at least one imaginary credit roll before the story resumes. Take more if you like. Code never sleeps.

Is there a difference between more and less? Might there be some kind of invisible scoring mechanism keeping track of how much time you spend floating in demo space, as opposed to following the story? You could just get down in the code, but wouldn't that spoil the fun of wondering?

Suffice to say that twisty little passages often come out differently. There are several ways the show can end, depending on what you choose to see. And the end is not the end, of course: swallow-taled, the story will happily recycle after you reach full count.

Some shows go on forever.

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