Announcing the 2019 ELO Prizes

At the annual conference of the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO), held this year in Cork, Ireland, outgoing President Dene Grigar announced the 2019 ELO Prize winners, including:

The Robert Coover Award for a Work of Electronic Literature

1st Place: False Words 流/言 by IP Yuk-Yiu
Honorable Mention: Little Emperor Syndrome by David Thomas Henry Wright
Committee members: Erik Loyer, Gabriel Gaudette, Johannah Rodgers, Brian Greenspan

The Robert Coover Award for a Work of Electronic Literature honors the year’s best work of electronic literature, of any form or genre. It comes with a $1000 stipend.

Regarding “False Words,” one judge wrote, “I was impressed with the design and execution of this project as a visual, technical, and verbal object.” Erik commented, “I find this piece to be exceedingly elegant in both design and concept—it works on multiple visual, temporal, and signifying scales, and the emergent phenomenon of the character for ‘human’ becoming the last thing to be obscured is very effective.” Another judge added, “It is impressive in its visual design, and strikes me as important for its implicit critique of human rights offenses and censorship, all while conveying the fleeting powerlessness of words and of life.”

Of “Little Emperor Syndrome,” one judge wrote, “Beyond the strong writing, it’s the deep, sustained, and motivated engagement with combinatorics that wins me over with this one—I feel like my choices to reorder the text are clear, meaningful, illuminating, and expressive, and it’s rare to find all of those elements in a single work.”   Another judge added, “It is impressive for sustaining the coherence of such a complex narrative while cleverly encoding its polyphony.

The N. Katherine Hayles Award for Criticism of Electronic Literature

1st Place: Electronic Literature by Scott Rettberg
2nd Place (tie): Small Screen Fictions co-edited by Astrid Ensslin, Paweł Frelik, and Lisa Swanstrom ; The Digital Literary Sphere by Simone Murray.
Committee members: Monika Górska-Olesińska, Joellyn Rock

The N. Katherine Hayles Award for Criticism of Electronic Literature honors the best work of criticism of electronic literature of any length. Endowed through a generous donation from N. Katherine Hayles and others, this annual prize recognizes excellence in the field. The Prize for 1st Place comes with a $1000 award.

Electronic Literature presents a wide-ranging survey of the field of electronic literature. According to the judges, “No other work addresses with such consistency the varied and extensive selection of born digital literary works over the past two decades.” They go on to say, “Also, one finds here a substantive (and varied) context in critical theory and creative practices. It is the first monograph I know of that articulates electronic literature as both a scholarly field and a viable creative practice with much, much room for development.”

Electronic Literature, written by ELO co-founder Scott Rettberg. Not only has Rettberg been pivotal in the formation of this field, but after moving to Norway, he expanded the field through spearheading the ELMCIP directory, an extensive database of digital works, many of which appear in this book.

In support of the anthology Small Screen Fictions, one judge wrote, “I loved that it began with works for young readers, establishing a lifelong readership for e-literature. I appreciated the interactive use of my own small screen to sample content  as embedded in the codex. The topics and perspectives were diverse and the collection casts a wide net.”

Of Digital Literary Sphere, the judges said, the work opens “the discussion about audience, readership, and authorship in electronic literature.” They added, “Murray tracks, more broadly, an emerging set of interactions between print publications and online author/reader conversations. Murray brings Habermas and Adorno, Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault to bear on the audience for literature in the digital media era. This seems to me a highly original and entirely necessary contribution to the e-lit discourse.”

The Marjorie C. Luesebrink Career Achievement Award

Winner: Mez Breeze
Scholar Beneficiary: Kate Gwynne
Committee: Jeremy Douglass, Odile Farge, Mia Zamora, Soeren Pold

The Marjorie C. Luesebrink Career Achievement Award honors a visionary artist and/or scholar who has brought excellence to the field of electronic literature and has inspired others to help create and build the field. Bestowed by the Electronic Literature Organization and funded through a generous donation, it comes with the following: a $1000 award that can go directly to the awardee or to a young scholar who would use the funds in support of developing content for online resources about the awardee’s achievements; a plaque showing the name of the winner and an acknowledgement of the achievement; and a one-year membership in the Electronic Literature Organization at the Associate Level.

The Artist or Scholar selected for this award should demonstrate excellence in four or more of the following categories:

  • Creation of opportunities for younger scholars
  • Publication of influential academic studies of electronic literature
  • Practice-based artistic research in the field, with significant presentations and exhibitions of creative work
  • Curatorial activities, particularly including editing and the organization of exhibitions, conferences, workshops, roundtables and research groups
  • Preservationist work, whether individual or institutional
  • Active participation in conferences and exhibitions, both national and international
  • Contribution to ELO as an organization, whether as a member of the Board of Directors or Literary Art Board or as informal advisor

We are delighted to announce this year’s winner of the Marjorie C. Luesebrink Career Achievement Award, Australia-based Mez Breeze.

Mez Breeze, who has been working in electronic literature for decades, is known for “, working primarily with code poetry, electronic literature, mezangelle, and digital games.” Mezangelle is a unique language that blends code and text in what previous winner, N. Katherine Hayles, classifies as a computer-age creole. Mez’s more recent work has led to her collaboration on an episode of “Inanimate Alice” as well as other explorations in Virtual Reality.

As previous winners have done, Mez will be passing the monetary award to a scholar who will be working on the artist’s oeuvre.

Scholar Beneficiary Kate Gwynne is a creative practice PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. Her current research explores character embodiment in Virtual Reality (VR) narratives, specifically works which allow for the self to be experienced as another, and how this transformation is achieved through the embodied possibilities inherent to VR. She holds a masters in prose fiction from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England and has written for the Guardian and The Conversation.

This year’s three committees were chaired by past-ELO President Joseph Tabbi, who was last year’s Hayles recipient.

ELO awards these prizes at its annual conference. The next conference will be held in Orlando, Florida. The call for next year’s awards will be issued months before via ELO’s Website.