The Heart of the Machine

Conception and production: Fortner Anderson
Writer: Ian Ferrier
Publisher: Dromos editions
Date: 1986

The Heart of the Machine was an experimental interactive novel begun in 1986 and published on several on-line platforms including the Art Com Electronic Network (ACEN). discussion board on the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link, (The WELL), Compuserve and SwiftCurrent in Canada. Users were asked to contribute autobiographical details which were to be integrated within the narrative of the novel.

New chapters were uploaded every two weeks.

Books in Canada

One author available on SwiftCurrent is Ian Ferrier, whose interactive serial novel The Heart of the Machine is also being sent chapter by chapter through computer information services such as Compuserve, based in Columbus, Ohio. Tire Heart of the Machine, apparently a psycho-sci-fi fantasy, is delivered every two weeks; soon to appear is the first subscriber-suggested character, a San Francisco barmaid into heavy metal.
Ferrier’s publisher, Dramas Editions in Montreal, has also experimented with graphic works such as Schizotexte, which melds poems by three Montreal poets with complex Madntosh-generated graphics that recall a surrealist chapbook. With an air of sadder but wiser, Schizotexte’s creator Former Anderson says that the work, which was runner-up in the books category of the 1905 Desktop Publisher of the Year awards sponsored by MacUser magazine and Apple computer, was incredibly labour-intensive, too complicated to typeset and impervious to market distribution.

According to Fortner Anderson, “Data bases are like wanting into a huge Kresge’s with thousands of closed boxes. You pay $10 a minute to sift through absolutely worthless material.” Too much knowledge is a dangerous thing, asserts Anderson: “Soon the techno-fascists will achieve their goal of having every home wired to receive two gigabytes of information daily – people for all their good intentions are allowing a world of total social control.”

For more information on the project see: