Saturday, December 20, 2008

process: the cobralingus engine

(Hello to visitors from Stephen-Hall.org!)

The Cobralingus Engine was invented by Jeff Noon as a way to transform text through the metamorphiction process.

Unfortunately the website established to demonstrate the Engine has been taken down, leaving few resources for the aspiring operator to explore. Complicating the situation is the difficulty of finding a copy of the book - it had a very small print run, and now commands prices approaching $200.

An article on everything.com had this to say about the Cobralingus Engine:

One might argue "Why not just write what you want to write without bothering with this "engine" business?" Well, that might be a good answer for someone who is creative all the time, and always knows exactly what their creation should and will be. For the other 97% of us, though, constraints make creativity come easier, and make getting past a block in creative flow faster. Also, use of the engine lets the reader see all of the steps between inspiration and final work, which themselves can be beautiful and enlightening. In Noon's own words, "... it is hoped that each interim text will be of individual interest; however, the real pleasure of Cobralingus comes from enjoying the pieces as a whole. From inlet to outlet, the journey is the goal."

Loyal ack/nak readers will know I am a fan of creative tools, such as the venerable Oblique Strategies deck. I've used the Engine in the past to help me unlock my right brain through the application of left-brain tools - you take a bit of text or story and subject it to a variety of "filter gates" that modify the text in different ways.

The idea is to apply the filter gates and "see what happens".  

If you'd like to randomize the process of applying the Engine to your text, try this - roll a 20-sided die (you have at least one in the house, admit it) to determine how many filters you will apply between START/INLET and SAVE, then roll the d20 again to select each filter gate.  Repeat until you reach the filter maximum or roll a "natural 20" that pipes the text to OUTPUT, which triggers a SAVE.


Cobralingus Engine Filter Gates

A. START
Denotes that the Cobralingus device has been activated.

B. INLET
The start-up text. The initial signal on which the device will act.

1. CONTROL
Brings the text down to earth. Forces language to behave itself.

2. DECAY
Gently breaks down the text. Dissipates. Introduces corruption to the signal.

3. DRUG
Injects artificial stimulant into the language. Type of drug will always be specified.

4. ENHANCE
Creates elements of beauty.

5. EXPLODE
Breaks up signal into highly disordered fragments. To be used with caution.

6. FIND STORY
Forces text into the nearest possible narrative, however nonsensical.

7. GHOST EDIT
Kills the text. Calls up a ghost to haunt the language.

8. HOLD
Temporarily halts the Cobralingus process. [NOTE - This gives the author an opportunity to make modifications to the text independently of filter gate instructions.]

9. INCREASE SENSE
Significantly enhances text. Increases readability.

10. MIX
Combines all elements into a single entity.

11. OVERLOAD
Drastically increases image density of text. To be used with caution.

12. PLAY GAME
Mischief maker. Encourages craziness. Results may surprise the user.

13. PURIFY
Loses deadwood. Selects images or phrases from the text.

14. RANDOMISE
Disorders text. Parts of text may be lost or changed.

15. RELEASE VIRUS
Attacks text, changing words of choice into others of a similar sound. Recommended for advanced users.

16. SAMPLE
Introduces new element to signal. Source of sample to be specified.

17. SEARCH & REPLACE
Uses machine function to introduce new elements to text. Elements always specified. For example, ‘Search and Replace: day with night.’

18. BABEL [LANGUAGE] New!
Runs the text through the Babelfish translation engine into the specified language then back again. Clearing out left-over foreign words is optional.  See below for example.

19. CLUTTER New!
Elaborate and extend text.

20. OUTLET
The final result of the filtering process. [NOTE - Triggers an early SAVE]

C. SAVE
Denotes that the Cobralingus device has been deactivated.

Source: Cobralingus by Jeff Noon (Codex Books, 2001) with two additions to assist d20 randomization


Examples of DRUG filter gate from Cobralingus

ANAGRAMETHANE

FECUNDAMOL

METAPHORAZINE

SIMILEUM

ETYMOL


New Examples of DRUG filter gate

AMPLIFON
Increases the urgency and energy of the text.

SOMNAMBULOL
Decreases the urgency and energy of the text.

DECHRONIZOL
Processes the text into the style and vocabulary in use 50 years ago. Multiple applications possible.  Thanks Sam Magruder!

DECIMATRAZIL
Remove every tenth word.

HOMONYMETHANOL
Replace all words with valid homonyms.

ALLITERATIL
Sentences trend towards use of words with same starting letter.


Example

START

INLET 

One might argue "Why not just write what you want to write without bothering with this "engine" business?" Well, that might be a good answer for someone who is creative all the time, and always knows exactly what their creation should and will be. For the other 97% of us, though, constraints make creativity come easier, and make getting past a block in creative flow faster. Also, use of the engine lets the reader see all of the steps between inspiration and final work, which themselves can be beautiful and enlightening. In Noon's own words, "... it is hoped that each interim text will be of individual interest; however, the real pleasure of Cobralingus comes from enjoying the pieces as a whole. From inlet to outlet, the journey is the goal."

BABEL FRENCH

One has could discuss the "Why not simply write what you want to write without worrying with this "engine" businesses?" Well, it could be an good answer for quelqu'un which is creator a l'heure, and knows always exactly what them creation would owe and will be.  For l'autre 97% of us, although, the constraints make the creativity come easier, and made obtaining after a block in faster creative flow. Moreover, use of the engine lets the reader see all the stages between inspiration and final work, themselves can be beautiful and lighting. In Noon have words, " ... one hopes that each temporary text will be individual interest; however, the true pleasure of Cobralingus comes to appreciate the pieces in general. Of admission at the exit, the voyage is the goal."

BABEL DUTCH
DRUG: DECIMATRAZIL
INCREASE SENSE
CONTROL

Why not write?  You want to write, but it is a worry-making engine.  You want to be able to have a good answer, one that produces by the hour, as the establishment wills. For 97% of our obligations come easily, a block-system of creative runaways.  The reader sees inspiration and the definite work, a beautiful reduction, the words.  One hopes each text will be important.  However, truth is the pieces have assessed pleasure, admission is the output, the goal.

Any of you care to apply a filter gate to increment the Engine one more step? 

1 comment:

Tractor Engine Parts said...

Hey guys!
i just started blogging not that long ago and running across this blog it seemed a bit too interesting to only read the first paragraph. I kinda got confused in the middle of it but the end just made it all go together like a puzzle. Please, who ever wrote this, keep me updated!