As a fledgling game designer in the 1990s, fictional college student Sadie Green, co-protagonist of Gabrielle Zevin’s new novel Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow (2022), creates a funny send-up of the 8-bit teaching tools of the so-called Oregon Trail Generation. In the book, the game is called EmilyBlaster and enjoins players to recreate the starkish, rhyming prose of Emily Dickinson by shooting at moving words from a fixed point, Missile Command-style.
Zevin’s novel concerns the not-quite-romance of two friends “often in love, but never lovers” who partner in video game design, and in support of the book’s release, Knopf has designed and launched a working version of EmilyBlaster that real-life users can play from the comfort of their real-life computers.
“I liked the slight subversiveness of making a game where the object was to shoot poetry, and I thought that Emily Dickinson’s compact verse style and memorable phrasings would make for perfect targets,” Zevin told Literary Hub. Each level offers a verse as a prompt and leaves the player to attempt to reconstruct it in the game field from memory. Dickinson’s poem ‘That Love Is All There Is,” for example, is featured in the first level of EmilyBlaster, and it also provides the epigraph for the novel.
Successfully stringing along the short bits of prose requires short-term memory and hand-eye coordination — and even with adequate amounts of both, the game is challenging. Words whoosh unpredictably like autumn leaves, with the occasional interloper that plays no part in the original text, and getting the full stanza intact is almost impossible. However, the mistakes produced are satisfying on their own, converting Dickinson’s tidy verses into Gertrude Stein-esque word loops and random thoughts about worms and trucks.
“When I played the game for the first time, it was somewhat mind-blowing,” said Zevin. “It felt very close to what I had described in the book, and it brought me back to the fun of early computer games.”
All in all, EmilyBlaster sits in the warm center of a Venn diagram overlapping ’90s nostalgia, literary luster, and genius marketing tactics. Practice makes perfect, but even failure allows one to dwell, as did its namesake, in possibility.
What would it look like if museums turned their billions toward positive good instead of questionable investments simply for profit?
Patricio Guzmán combines reflection on the past, observation of the present, and hope for the future into an expansive vision of all the ideas he’s explored in his work.
Artists reflect on histories of oppressive power structures in Brazil in this exhibition at the Visual Arts Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
So closely do Disney’s animators assimilate the sensibility of French design that on occasion their source material appears almost more Disney than Disney itself.
The Grand Avenue Billboard Project enables artists like Karen Fiorito to publicly express their political views.
The museum opens to the public on October 8 with a 24-hour kickoff and a rebooted California Biennial.
The report estimates that 6.7 million Indigenous objects and human remains continue to be held in Canadian institutions, most of which do not have formal repatriation policies.
Funding options at UB include full-tuition scholarships for MFA students, the Arthur A. Schomburg Fellowship Program, and additional opportunities for MA students.
The Association of Art Museum Directors announced a shift in its longstanding policy, which restricted the use of funds from sales of art to new acquisitions only.
Martín Mobarak may have broken Mexican law, but he burned the proof.
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very Los Angeles art events this month, including the Maya Codex of Mexico at the Getty, Beatrice Wood, Trenton Doyle Hancock, and more.