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[Easy Chair]

The Wizard of Q

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In 2006, when the internet was younger and seemed to hold untapped artistic possibilities, I was asked to write a serial novel for Slate. The subject of the “book” was up to me, so I chose themes that seemed appropriate to the new medium: high-tech surveillance, cultural fragmentation, selfhood eroded by scrutiny. I imagined people reading my dark tale surreptitiously at their office computers and feeling almost as hunted as the characters, who were a mix of anarchists and federal agents, omniscient spies and hapless nobodies. I titled the novel The Unbinding and filled it with experimental devices—specifically, scores of hyperlinks—meant to hasten a Great Leap Forward for fiction. One of the hyperlinks took you to a video of a metal band from Scandinavia playing a sped-up, scary-sounding cover of Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man.” How I thought it might help the story I no longer recall. I may have stuck it in just because I could.

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