About Marble Springs 3.0

Like old women huddled behind vegetable carts, we hawk the wares of our minds, calling out over the noise of data, of interlinks, of electronic networks—hoping someone will hear us, will drop a half- penny into our laps, knowing we will yet live.

Sophie Smith Weaver, Susannah Smith’s great-granddaughter, 1993.


Marble Springs is a complex tapestry of the lives of women (and men) in a mining town in Colorado, United States. The time concntrates on the 1890s, just before the Silver Panic, but extends roots of families from the 18th through the 21rst century. Feel free to poke around, find out who is in whose community (for after all, there were communities before the Web 2.0) and discover the details that the denizens of Marble Springs may or may not discuss.

Audience and tactics

Marble Springs can be read on a number of levels:

Casual: Just poke around and see what you can find. Read the stories, follow a few threads, and come to know these folks.

Classroom analysis: Got a paper due? Quick, find one character, find all of the references to that character in the connections, and then figure out why they said or did what they did—and who thought what about them. Write it up, and you have an instant analysis. Find out more from:

  • Nodalities, a discussion of how to analyze characters and connections in Marble Springs
  • Fundamentals, a textbook on how to read and write electronic literature.

Deeper analysis: There are all sorts of semantic and fabuliac shenanagans lurking under the surface, and every word has a tension reflected somewhere in the links. So, go on find an aspect of hypertext and imagery and dig in. It won't be instant, but it is guaranteed to be intricate.


Marble Springs 0.0

In the first version, I had written the stories on little paper index cards with embrodeiry thread knotted in the back and going to other cards to show the connections. I mounted these cards to little cabins on a model railway set up in a friend's basement. But the threads were too thick and too hard to follow, and the trains could not get through any more. So that really was not a great publishing model.

Marble Springs 1.0

Then, in 1990, Tom Trelogan, my old logic teacher saw it and said, "try this in HyperCard." In those days, no one knew what a link was, let alone a wiki. And my vision was to have a tiny town, like Spoon River Anthology. Unlike Spoon River, anyone could play in Marble Springs. (This would be Marble Springs 1.0, a version number befitting the early stages of technology then).

So we jury-rigged HyperCard to do links and interactivity1, which is still sold by Eastgate Systems, and well worth buying if you have a Macintosh computer that can still run System 9.

A side note on the graphic links. The very first reviewer of Marble Springs for Eastgate (for of course, Eastgate is a peer reviewed press) noted that the "graphic oddments" detracted from the work. Note that back then we were used to just plain text—woodcuts had been invented but were not in popular use in print. Seriously, we thought that no one would want to see graphics in an electronic environment. I explained that the graphics were a subconscious, ineffable way to get at underlying connections, and since about 90% of the meaning in Marble Springs comes from the links themselves, I needed this additional layer of complexity. Eastgate grudgingly allowed the graphics. I also wanted them to be crude and rough, to give the flavor of a mining camp where paper, pens, and artistic talent are all in short supply. That and HyperCard pretty much topped out at 30 pixels per inch. Kathleen Suarez provided rough sketches and we used Photoshop 3.0.

Marble Springs 2.0

Readers did move into the town, interacting with the characters. They reshaped what they needed to. Which was what I had —in this brave new world of hypertexts, experiments, and collaboration — declared I wanted.

In the later 1990s, when HyperCard looked to be coming back from the dead, Mark Bernstein asked me to make good on my promises and create a new edition to actually put these writings in. So I redesigned and reprogrammed Marble Springs 2.02 in HyperCard to show that an open collaborative hypertext could work and point the way to "the future of constructive hyperfiction" and rewrote to incorporate people's contributions. HyperCard was finally buried (but still alive, still kicking). Marble Springs 2.0 has never been made available.

In Marble Springs 2.0, I cleaned up the map graphics to a pretty major extent, believe it or not. I also created a few better graphics, as HyperCard went up to an unbelievably good 75 pixels an inch. But again, I wanted a very rough Victorian flavor. There were new poems in Marble Springs 2.0) from readers who heroically went through a byzantine copyright process to add their works officially. Other copies out there probably have other annotations, but it would be impossible to discover this.

Marble Springs 3.0

Now the internet has come somewhat closer — but nowhere near — what I originally had in mind. And Leighton Christiansen wrote his thesis on digital archiving techniques using Marble Springs as his digital archiving guinea pig. So now, using his exhaustive lists of links and texts and images, I am porting Marble Springs to a wiki.

When I remember to, I am noting new changes and links. But this is more of an organic endeavor and not a thesis for credit. So there may be some unreported changes. Not all of the Connections are the same in MS 2.0 and MS 3.0. For one thing, I’ve forgotten what the lines meant. For another, people change.

And now, thank you Rob Elliot, for the lovely template. The photographs are what we expect to see, and it is "proof" that the roughness of the other graphic oddments is intentional. Also, I want to get some flavor of HyperCard and that the visual placement, graphic oddments, etc. all had meaning, which is something I can not quite achieve in the vastly simplified HTML or wiki languages. Ahhh, how I do long for Xanadu!

As Marble Springs 2.0 was never released, there were no new authors for Marble Springs 3.0. However, I wove many connections, wrote many transitions, rewrote silently and in notes (seen only in the everything file from the home page), and liberally sprinkled the entire thing with sage footnotes, mostly from Enquire within about Everything.London, Houlston and Sons, Paternoster Square. The copy I got (from an antique bookstore in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where I stayed from 11/22/11 to 1/11/12 to transform Marble Springs 2.0 into Marble Springs 3.0) has an inscription in copperplate handwriting to Teppis T.P. Ainsley, July 1880. An elderly hand has scrawled Spring Grove Ainsleys on here as well.

Poems new to Marble Springs 3.0

New Major Connections and Index


Thank you to all those who suffered through this with me:
I should like to call you all by name, But they have lost the lists3.
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