The Bomar Gene, by Jason Nelson, is a collection of hypermedia stories organized around the idea of the “Bomar Gene”—a fictitious gene which endows each individual with a unique ability. Due to the singular nature of the gene and its effects, these special talents go largely unnoticed in individuals and by society at large, and their expression appears anomalous (and often supernatural) in those rare events when such an ability is noted. Less a speculative account of genetic science, The Bomar Gene appears as a meditation on the singular nature of human existence against the backdrop of an indifferent world.
The Bomar Gene consists of an averarching Flash-based interface within which each tale is told in a singular fashion. Readers scroll through a graphical representation of genetic material and can click to select various accounts of the gene’s influence. Most stories consists of a brief character sketch which highlights how a particular individual’s effect on the world. Each is accompanied by a unique interactive component which is conceptually representative of the gene’s effects. For instance, “The Yeh Spirograph Gene” tells the story of Bryant Yeh who is unknowingly and unconsciously able to graph complex algorithms with a Spirograph. The tale, enhanced by undulating arrays of colored mathematical curves that can be manipulated by the reader, reveals how each instance of the gene’s manifestation is stolen away by circumstances—his first chart washed away by rain, the second appropriated by a janitor, and the third kept as an art object by his loving girlfriend (who accidentally poisons him with a can of spoiled food).
“The Hawthorne Aimless Way Gene” (which lacks a narrative text) is illustrated by maps, passages of text, and audio segments which seem to indicate, as the title suggests, an aimless sense of direction which meanders inefficiently towards the goal. “Genetic Tales from the Train” provides accounts of the Bomar Gene in relation to train travel, each brief account accompanied by a video clip. Characters like Jesse Rodriguez, who experiences a diminished gravitational pull while travelling, and Jason Wilson, a multi-media artist who enjoys burst of creativity while travelling, round out this collection of short stories and provide variety within the work’s overarching structure.