Individual Work
Morpheus: Biblionaut

Morpheus: Biblionaut is about a lonely astronaut, as well as a world that destroys itself as America declares war on China. The true story, however, is the disconnection between astronaut and earth. In the end, there is nothing to return to. A wonderful poetic meditation on the social nature of man and the transformation of reality brought about by isolation.


In Morpheus: Biblionaut a poet-astronaut returning to a post-apocalyptic Earth narrates, in a lyric poem addressed to a ‘you’ whose radio transmissions he has been monitoring, the waning of meaningful communication in an extra-terrestrial environment. His poem expresses anxiety about reading’s future in computationally advanced yet constrained, isolating, and potentially annihilating media environments. Morpheus: Biblionaut is a remediation of the ‘Biblionaut’ chapter from Keyhole Factory, and Gillespie and Travis Alber’s moving work of e-lit attunes readers to how Gillespie’s intricately structured novel stages scenarios of affective communication in order to raise concerns about the ways meaningful human communication gets devalued in a media ecology warped by the quantifying pressures of technocapitalism. This work of elit enables readers to make sense of a larger, complex literary ecosystem that Gillespie is creating with not just Keyhole Factory but also Spineless Books, a small, avant-garde press Gillespie founded on the palindromic date of 20 February 2002 (20–02–2002) and still operates from his Urbana, Illinois home. Keyhole Factory aspires, Gillespie says, "to be neither a novel nor a book of short stories, but to fall between, where elision or ellipsis between provocative fragments forces the reader’s imagination to mortar story into the gaps" (‘Keyhole Factory Factory’). Gillespie has described Keyhole Factory as a mosaic of twenty-two narrative shards. Characters recur, but are barely recognizable from each other’s points of view. (Like many of us, they don’t narrate themselves the way others would narrate them.) Characters differ, their experiences differ, their interpretations of events differ, the literary styles and forms in which they are rendered differ, but, most deliberately, the plausibility that their stories can even be told differ (‘Keyhole Factory Factory’).

Most characters are affected by a major catastrophe, the outbreak of the man-made super-virus Pandora, which kills ninety per cent of the population. One of the most dehumanising features in Keyhole Factory’s pre-apocalyptic America is a widespread embrace of communicative models premised upon the autonomy of affect from meaning. Such models view linguistic meaning-making as disconnected from, and even rendered obsolete by, more efficient, affective modes of data transmission, such as programs composed in computer and genetic code. Programs are affective in that they generate corporeal-material effects capable of transforming cyborg bodies and other biotechnical systems. What ostensibly makes them efficient is that the nonsemantic, affective transmission acts directly upon the affected system, and transformative communication can occur without any interpretive activity.

Morpheus: Biblionaut problematises tropes of proximity and distance often used to characterise modes of critical reading; and a desire to recognise Gillespie’s exceptional commitment in Keyhole Factory to both conceptual, constraint-based writing practices (often facilitated by computational media) and the intentional production of meaningful narrative affect.

This entry has been mined from Eric Dean Rasmussen's essay, "Narrative Affect in William Gillespie’s Keyhole Factory and Morpheus: Biblionaut, or, Post-Digital Fiction for the Programming Era." CounterText, vol. 2, no. 2, 2016, pp. 140–171.