There never was any more inception than there is now, Nor any more youth or age than there is now, And will never be any more perfection than there is now, Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.
This is a test.
This is only a test.
For the next 23 months we will be conducting a test of the Emergency Human Consciousness. If, at the end of the test, the human race is facing 100 or 1000 more years of the same exploitative self-destructive bullshit without hope of cessation...
By century's end they'll know their fate Either a rose 'midst rubble blooms, or else has bloomed too late.
This Foreword is designed as a sort of user's manual/FAQ for this Web site. Come here if you want to know more about .angelheaded hipsters, the project; if you're more interested in the story itself, you can read the Style and Character Notes that will appear later.
Instructions for Use:
.angelheaded hipsters is a serialized novel-in-progress. New installments will be added every week until the story is complete. This gives you, the reader, the chance to read the book even while it's being written. Creative "stunts" such as this have been done before, but the Internet offers the new possibilities of an infant medium and the chance for readers to actually comment and interact with the writer as the story goes along.
As a work-in-progress, the book will necessarily have improvements added as time goes on. However, this is not intended as an excuse for substandard work. The chapters themselves will be written with all the professional skill I can muster; I figure I owe you that much just for reading the thing.
But I'm still exploring the limitations and possibilities of the Net (with lots of help from Webgineer "Grinnin'" Gordon McFarland), finding new ways to change the novel's form to suit my vision. (And, of course, there are the inevitable typos that always slip through the cracks.) To make it easier for you, I'll mark signficant changes in past chapters with an "Updated" banner on the main page.
The serialized novel has a long and illustrious history, encompassing such great writers as Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Rice Burroughs. (Stephen King made a pretty decent pass at one recently with The Green Mile.) This is not to say I'll be writing the next chapter of this illustrious history with .angelheaded hipsters. But the Internet seemed a logical next step for this recently-revived art form.
Really, the survival of the serialized novel is kind of amazing when you think about how risky the idea of it is. Publishing the beginning of a novel before the end has been written falls somewhere on the sweat scale between a live television broadcast and a tightrope act. It's crazy, is what it is.
Unfortunately, this story informed me, in no uncertain terms, that it can't be written any other way.
The idea behind the book also owes a debt to noted author Harlan Ellison, who sometimes practices what can only be called "action writing." Ellison has, on numerous occasions, stationed himself in a bookstore window or radio talk-show studio and proceded to write entire stories from scratch, with an audience at hand. At least one episode of "action writing" involved input from the audience, who offered oddball phrases Ellison then wove into the fabric of the story.
Other story forms I'll be drawing on for structure include Republic-style movie cliffhangers (which I used to watch as a kid, even though I'm only 30); television serial dramas (read: soap operas); and ongoing graphic novels such as Cerebus and Strangers in Paradise (both of which are self-published by their authors, by the way).
Self-publishing is another old means of expression (Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf) that's been given a blood transfusion by modern tech cetera. I'll get back to self-publishing a little later on.
Numerous schemes have been devised for "selling" books on the Internet. One of the most common is to offer the complete text of a story on the Web, minus the final chapter. The readers then purchase a password to access the thrill-packed ending.
That's not what this is.
I am not selling this novel. I am giving it away for free, for reasons that are listed below. Anyone with Web access is welcome to read it through to the conclusion; and for those without access, you should be able to log on at most major libraries. I've arranged a text-only site in an effort to accommodate even the most primitive browsers.
(Although you may read for free, please note that I retain all copyright to the story. You're welcome to print chapters out and pass 'em around, but please make sure they bear my name and copyright notice.)
Finally, .angelheaded hipsters is also a puzzle, and each chapter contains clues to what's really going on. The Net makes it easy to jump back and re-examine chapters, searching for special words or names, etc. You may want to take advantage of these functions as the story gets farther along.
I know I have...
As I was preparing this book for its Internet debut, the great Beat poet Allen Ginsberg passed away. Ginsberg helped awaken the American consciousness with his revolutionary poems, of which "Howl" was the most famous. He was also a political activist and spiritual explorer. He helped transform not only American literature, but the nation's outer and inner lives as well.
This is not a dedication. To my mind, dedications belong at the end of a book, after the tale is told. But .angelheaded hipsters certainly wouldn't have existed without Ginsberg. I'm glad he was around long enough to see the renewed appreciation for Beat literature that has come with the end of the century. I'm just sorry we'll have to start the next century without him.
And now, the FAQ (frequently asked questions):
Besides, I liked the way it sounded.
Choose one answer below.
Because it is about the Rainbow Gathering, among other things, and everything about the Gathering is, by design, free. The Rainbows are dedicated to the idea that a society can exist with out the nightstick of capitalism across its windpipe; that a system of trade and barter is a preferable alternative to greedy green bills; that life is meant to be lived without a price tag.
More about the Rainbows later.
It's not free. It's actually offered in trade.
In trade for the story, you must agree to think about a few things with me: questions about life at the End of the American Century. That's all. Just think about them. I'm not expecting answers or anything...
Because I want to get you hooked, and the first one's always free...
Because I can. The Internet offers an opportunity to inexpensively distribute my book free to a potentially vast group of people, almost 35 million if I've got the numbers right. That's reason enough to do it; it reinforces the idea of the Internet as an electronic lending-library of knowledge and art, which function alone could have a profound effect on the human race.
There will be plenty of opportunities to sing for my supper later on.
It's bait - to lure you into the theater of my mind...
And then there's the tree thing.
If electronic magazines, books and newspapers become a significant segment of the entertainment/information industries in the next century, we could see a reduction in the demand for paper consumption. Far be it from me to wish reduced profits on such a benefactor of nature and humanity as the timber industry, but it would be nice to reduce the burden on our old-growth forests, and we don't seem likely to switch to industrial hemp in the near future.
For a while now, alarmist critics of electronic media have prophesied doom for the written word, rendered obsolete after thousands of years by the TV, the video game, the comic book or the CD-ROM. Cultural illiteracy is a real problem, and television, well, it's its own problem - but in my rose-colored way, I think the existence of the Internet bodes well for reading and writing.
(Of course, there's nothing like the weight of a book in your hands, the feel of rough pages under your fingertips, that a cold glass screen can replace. I suspect people will always want books as books.)
If you have to ask, obviously you haven't been doing it enough.
So much for my aspirations as a "serious" writer.
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