A Fragment of Hotel Hack

August 12, 2002

The purpose of fiction is to tell a story. Hopefully one with few distractions. While most people overlook (or don't even notice) bad typography or layout, there comes a point where even the best of stories may be harmed by looking bad.

I don't know what's worse, Mad Gregor when the Benadryl kicks in making him think he's Ethel Merman covering NIN (when he gets to Closer it's time to leave) or the Phone Cops, those Boys from Bell, when they catch the scent of an illegal hook-up. Don't let that little break up fool you—Baby Bells, AT&T, they're all Boys from Bell.

Yigal, the Russian Orthodox Aleut raised by Samoans in South America, learned phreaking as a kid from someone he called the Doc, an older gentleman of German stock that would often remininse about the old crew and his fondness for Leni's films. I trust his skill in these matters, even if he does have an odd pediliction for cheap Chinese beer and expensive gold plating 24 gauge stranded wire (The surface effect of eletricity down gold induces a better audio response than copper does. Isn't that obvious?), although I do keep the number of questionable hook-ups to a minimum of three.

I hope Mad Gregor doesn't mind us dialing into his network, but really, it makes sense—after all, he's wired his network to repel incoming connections, but there's nothing preventing us from going out from it. It was a simple matter of keeping him occupied (Look Gregor! Benadryl! Want some?) and having Yigal install the modem on one of his unused computers. I also know Mad Gregor; he's a sucker for hoomei and Kurosawa films. A few well placed calls to Kyzyl, some social engineering, and Mad Gregor has a stack of hoomei records and a copies of Dersu Uzala and Ran.

We're not ten minutes into the operation when the hotel phone rings. My first thought is that hotel management is on to us, noticing our arrival in a '73 hot pink Monte Carlo with a trunk full of empty Benadryl bottles and a random assortment of various computer equipment held together with duct tape. Waldorf Astoria. Room service. Keep them guessing I always say.

Yes, said a vaguely familiar voice. This is Ramon Shit.

He's on to us! I yell to Yigal, knowing we only have moments before the Boys from Bell show up. Yigal runs out the room to ready the car as I start pulling cords in an attempt to salvage what equipment we can in the minutes remaining.

There's a reason why you seldom see underlined or bold text in fiction (or in publications in general): it doesn't look that good. It's distracting, typographically speaking. And for fiction, you don't want the reader distracted. You want the reader absorbed in the narrative, unable to put down the book.

But this presents a problem for hypertext based fiction. On the one hand, without links, there is no hypertext; that's the point of hypertext to begin with. But the current method of designating links in HTML is distracting, typographically speaking, and that may be the point of changing the color and underlining the text—to draw attention to the existence of the link.

So, this experiment (and if you can read this, then the intent of the experiment is lost. The links are being presented differently through the use of CSS and your browser does not support them. Keep that in mind when reading the rest of this). Initially, there should be no links visible in “Fragment.” Why even bother with links if you can't see them? To render the distractions to a minimum when reading fiction. And if you are curious enough to wonder who Ethel Merman is, you can always click on her name and find out.

Ideally, each word should be linked, if just to a definition of the word (which to me as a gradeschool kid, would have been a Godsend; imagine! No more having to drag out the dictionary). But having such a densely linked passage would be rather difficult to read, being (as is the current standard in HTML to have links underlined) which explains why I am initially hiding the links in “Fragment” (even though not every word is linked).

That might prove to be too subtle so I am providing some alternative versions in addition to the invisible links version, I have one where the links are designated by small dots on either side, and one where I use single angle quotes to mark links. And then there's always the HTML standby.

The text itself was written in June of 1999 in response to semi-fictional posts to an email list I'm on. It was a case of nearly everyone contributing to the shared fictional backstory and I figured I'd give it a try. The sheer number of obscure references was intentional as I was attempting a My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist feel to it. The six paragraphs alone took about two or three hours to write and I seriously doubt I could continue much further and still maintain the number of references.

It's not easy coming up with enough obscure references (or references in general) to keep a narrative going.

But I had fun writing it.

It took me about two more hours scrounging up links to turn it into a hypertext document, and a further two days writing the commentary on it; this is the third major edit I've made to date.

I don't know what's worse, writing about Mag Gregor when the Benadryl kicks in, or writing about the writing about Mad Gregor when the Benadryl kicks in.

Comments? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller?