In the source code for this generative poem, Sample writes, “Nick [Montfort] wrote the code. I supplied the words.” Takei, George builds off of Montfort’s Taroko Gorge (2009) and the many other variants that followed, each with their own distinct theme, appearance and message. Sample focuses his version on the Japanese American actor George Takei (as the title of the poem suggests) and Takei’s work in the television series Star Trek in the role of USS Enterprise helmsman Hikaru Sulu. In addition to this thematic element, another way in which Sample’s poem differs from Taroko Gorge and others like it is in the number of variables from which the text generates itself, essentially doubling those of earlier works. The resulting complexity of the poem is visible in the sheer number of possible combinations that can be produced.
These phrases from which Takei, George is generated curate a surprisingly rounded image of the actor and the cultural impact of his work, weaving together elements from Star Trek and the fandom it spawned with references to Takei’s personal life (pointing, for example, to his role as an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights). Accordingly, the poem seems to celebrate both queer desire and fan communities while functioning, in essence, as an ode to the actor.
Retaining many of the same characteristics as Taroko Gorge, the poem’s text automatically scrolls up and off the page as new lines are generated. While the color scheme (a palette of bright, primary colors) differentiates Takei, George from Tarako Gorge and the other iterations that have been created, it also gestures once more to Star Trek—the highlighter-yellow background being the same color as Sulu’s Starfleet uniform while the red and blue texts match the uniforms of other characters on the show. Yet, the poem’s activist bent is what most clearly distinguishes this text from the others in this family of generative works.
Read the ELD entry for Taroko Gorge here.