a review of the Hard Way

Reading through Mathew Ritchie's internet project, The Hard Way
(http://www.adaweb.com/influx/hardway/), is like reading through a piece
of contemporary mythology.

Yes, there are gods, elemental portraits, archetypes, allegories and the
like, yet it is a curious sort of mythology, one that uses myth as a
stylistic concern. At the risk of uttering a redundancy, I would say
that it uses myth as fiction. And in doing so adds nicely to the
assortment of interesting hypertexts available online. Bookmark it.

To set the scene, the cast of characters are introduced:

"The watchers - a gang of seven damaged celestial agents - have been
thrown out of heaven. As they fall to earth like the giant comets that
fell in 50,000 B.C., each character shatters into segments which fall
across the seven continents."

These 'watchers' are subtitled with names like "distribution," "the
vector," "uptake," and "development," revealing Ritchie's curiosity for
the various marquees of our digital economies. The reader is then able
to follow various threads relating to the 'watchers', through
interesting narratives that ultimately hit on issues of storytelling,
information processing, and nature.

A scientificity is at work here. Ritchie's Hard Way players are
characterized by names referencing the periodic table of the elements.
There is "Sh" for Shemjaza and "Ka" for Kashdejah, and like the chemical
elements, these characters are elemental constructs with precise
chemical and physio-digital codings that shape their personas.

Kashdejah in particular is described most vividly: "She never took no
for an answer. She was a strict carnivore, with more than a passing
interest in the parts of the beast that other people overlooked. She
avoided milk products. She could feel the child moving inside her;
passing through the animal kingdoms as it grew and changed, from
protozoa to fish; from fish to bird. She would rather die than bend,
rather kill than break. She was a fanatic; every revolution needs one."

It seems that the author is obsessed with biological systems. There are
severed limbs, frontal lobes, fleshy assemblies. Yet this refreshingly
does not come across as a nostalgic longing for certain pre-digital
conditions. Rather, Ritchie concentrates on describing present
conditions, be they organic or cyborganic.

Aside from the author's zealous use of the "background image" HTML tag
(at times very frustrating), this net artist has indeed found some more
"artistic" ways with which to display hypertext. In addition, a
multimedia-free interface provides fast access for a variety of browsers
and modems–a big win in my book.

Check the site for a schedule of current and future "Hard Way"
exhibitions, projects and events.