Kind of Blue
Scott Rettberg

Launch Work

Kind of BlueKind of Blue is a serial email novel that was written and initially distributed to a group of eight writers during the summer of 2002. I started this project on a whim. Earlier in the summer, I had been a subscriber to Rob Wittig's Blue Company. The email messages of which that novel was composed — from Berto, the lovesick copywriter transferred to 14th Century Italy, and addressed to his romantic interest/correspondent in the 21st Century — had been a great comfort (distraction) to me as I worked (slowly) on my dissertation and various other projects. When the Blue Company messages stopped coming, I found myself missing its characters, and thought to myself "What if Berto wasn't actually ever sent back to the 14th Century? What if Berto was in fact simply a mad sojourner trying to escape from the ruins of the 21st Century's earliest days?"

As a kind of joke or homage (I'm not sure which), I wrote an email message on the basis of that premise, intending to write only that one message to a few friends who had also been Blue readers — William Gillespie, Rob Wittig, Joellyn Rock, Shelley Jackson and Nick Montfort. But the voices kept coming, and I spent the remainder of my summer writing Kind of Blue, sending off each message the moment I finished writing it, and setting each scene in the moment of its composition. When the writing got going, I added a few more friends to the list — Bobby Arellano, Dirk Stratton, and Larry McCaffery. Rob Wittig and I wrote the final scene of the novel together, and its drawings are in his (and Berto's) hand.

It was a peculiar experience, writing to an audience I knew well, writing a novel loosely based on a novel written by one of my best friends. As I wrote, I was able to think of my audience in a very specific way, and that specificity affected the writing. The writing style of one character, for instance, was informed by the style of Larry McCaffery's emails. There are some in-jokes here for which I do not apologize. In particular messages, I may have been trying to amuse Nick or William, or have imagined how Shelley might respond to a certain kind of note. Among other things, this work is a kind of valentine to friends, a farewell to my hometown, a means of catharsis, an avoidance mechanism, and a way for me to rediscover what I love about writing, and about the network as a writing medium. One year after its original composition and circulation, Kind of Blue is a slightly different animal than it was in the summer of 2002, for better and for worse. I've done some line editing, though the majority of the text remains as it was originally written. More interestingly, much has happened in the world outside the world of Kind of Blue, and the events of our sad and turbulent history have put this work — a recontextualization of another work — in yet another context again. Text can't stand still, and the world changes the stories that populate it.


Narrative Experiments:


Launch Work