The Diane Greco/Mark Bernstein organization is back at it again. It must have been a slow newsday in the hypertext kitchen. Dr. Greco was writing what appears on first flush (though it will take a couple flushes to get this one down) to be a post about Henning Ziegler's Dichtung Digital article, which then veers off into a wide-ranging rant targeting a variety of folks, including me, and the organization that I helped to found, The Electronic Literature Organization. The essay I wrote a year and a half ago for ebr is, in Greco's considered estimation, “pompous, misinformed name-dropping and self-promotion.” Honestly, the ebr essay is not the best thing I ever wrote, but it makes some valid observations about linking and is competent scholarship.
While the fact that Bernstein and Greco go out of their way on every available occasion to attack me and almost anyone else working in electronic literature outside of the Eastgate stable doesn't surprise or even really bother me, the fact that the two of them so often attack the ELO (Bernstein is still, inexplicably, on the organization's board of directors), that the two of them have done very little to help and much to obstruct, really bothers me. The Electronic Literature Organization's 2001 Awards are characterized as a sham: “ELO gave away $20K plus untold organizational resources in an effort to create e-lit celebs, or a reliable mechanism (a prize) for producing them, to no avail.” During a time of economic plenty, the ELO directors and staff worked very hard to convince ZDNet to fund the 2001 Electronic Literature Awards. Two writers walked away with $10,000 each, and a dozen works of electronic literature were exposed to an audience that the existing publishing organs of hypertext (such as Eastgate) failed to reach. It's true that in these times of economic hardship the ELO has not been able to renew the Awards, but they were definitely worth the effort, and they took a lot of effort to put together. The untold organizational resources Greco mentioned included several years of my life, and the time and dedication of a lot of other people. The 2001 Awards did feature some “celebrities” — a dozen authors of an obscure and marginalized form of writing whom we celebrated for their writing. They sure as hell didn't take much effort on the part of either Greco, who showed up at the awards reception to eat a couple of pieces of cheese and slam the event, or Bernstein, who loudly proclaimed the whole idea of a competition “divisive” — just as he thought the idea of a symposium to gather some of the leading thinkers and writers in the field a year later was wasteful. Bottom line — if it didn't happen in Bernstein and Greco's backyard, it's worthless.
Why shouldn't we celebrate the work of experimental writers working in a form that promises them neither much profit (just ask publisher Bernstein to take a gander at one of his contracts) nor fame? I'm proud of the fact that during the dotcom boom I helped to redirect some media attention towards electronic literature, and helped to redirect some of the dotcom dollars towards Caitlin Fisher's student loans and John Cayley's canoe.
The conflicted Greco is starting to think that “electronic literature is terminally boring and stupid.” I guess that would make a large chunk of her life's work fatally banal and idiotic. As far as the observation (I guess this is what Herr Docktor Bernstein means by “eloquent”) that hypertext isn't all that, I think that someone should buy the good Doctor Greco a cookie for her keen insight. I guess that's what Joyce would call a petty epiphany. Ultimately, I like Diane Greco. Underneath her anger, she's a decent person and a decent writer. If it weren't for the years she spent working alongside Dr. Bernstein, and the souldraining shreiking she must have had to endure day after day after day, I wager she would feel a little less vehement about the changes that have occurred in the field that she helped to start. My hat is off to Bernstein and Greco for the work that they did at Eastgate. I teach Michael Joyce's Afternoon and Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl, Eastgate's two best-selling titles, and I'm glad that Eastgate is still publishing the hypertext classics, Bernstein's still hacking software, and Greco's still writing fiction, but I wish they'd grow up, already.