Richard Powers Web Site

Richard Powers: American Novelist a web site about the novelist. Powers was a programmer, among other things, and that shows in novels and short works like Galatea 2.2 and Literary Devices.

Literary Devices is a brilliant story that purports to be about an e-mail dialogue between Powers and an ex-MIT character that leads to him trying out a system called DIALOGOS. DIALOGOS is Eliza taken to a new, and literary, level. In the story the character/author Powers reflects on machines and fiction.

I found myself wondering if it was a story or the real thing. Poking around on the Web I am now convinced DIALOGOS doesn’t exist and that it is a story written as if an essay and reflection. After all, in Galatea 2.2 we also have the author as himself a character reflecting on something that happened to him involving AI.

For a short while the story was on Salon, but now it is gone. To get it you need to order the issue from Zoetrope: All-Story (Winter 2002, Vol. 6, No. 4). Here is the description on the Zoetrope site:

“Richard Powers speculates about the narrative complications of the digital age. By invitation of an anonymous e-mail, his narrator tests a computer program, DIALOGOS, which weaves its stories from bits of data around the web, without any central authorship. He sends out e-mails into the DIALOGOS void — to Emma Thompson, to an estranged friend, to Goethe, to Emily Dickinson. Each missive is returned with implausible accuracy. In time, the narrator gets lost in DIALOGOS, and wonders if he has lost touch with reality or if the reality of narrative has in fact been changed. “