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Writing Califia

About the CD-ROM

Moments from Califia

Critic's Circle--Critics on Califia

For Curious Readers

Historical References in Califia



Critic's Circle

Califia has been the subject of excellent critical essays by prominent writers in the field.  Here, you can see excerpts from some of these and link to the pieces in their entirety.

Carolyn Guertin

Katherine Hayles

Raine Koskimaa

Jaishree Odin 

(new ebr 12 review of Califia)

Jose Luis Orihuela

Katherine Hayles

"M. D. Coverley's Califia takes layering as its central trope. Califia, the name of a fabled Amazon female warrior, was used by Spanish explorers to christen California when they still thought it was an island. The title thus works to suggest that the present site of southern California is underlain by an earlier history, which itself alludes to a still moredistant mythic past. Three characters in the present--Augusta, Kaye, and Calvin--join forces to find the gold rumored to have disappeared in the chaotic days of the early 1800s, when their ancestors first came in California. Each character is associated with a particular way of navigating. Augusta, whose sections are primarily straightforward narrative, steers by the sun; Kaye, more mystical and intuitive, uses the stars; Calvin, rational and highly analytical, uses topological and geographic maps and charts. At first each of the three tries to find out what the others know without revealing his or her own discoveries."

This exerpt is from an address at the Guggenheim, Soho, Novemeber, 1997.  Katherine Hayles teaches at UCLA and writes extensively on Electronic Literature.  Her latest book, How We Became Posthuman, and several others, are available at


Carolyn Guertin

"Califia....excavates the past of five generations' lost memories: from the ravages of Alzheimer's, clues about the Chumash Indians' last journey and final stand, oral histories, hints of secrets, unsolved puzzles and the quest for buried treasure. Califia sets out to devise a new kind of history that tells lost stories and popular or unofficial knowledges from two women's and one man's perspectives....Califia is the story of a search for forgotten origins by dead reckoning, for the fabled Amazon queen and her gold-rich empire, of the mythic quest for stardom in Hollywood and of Augusta's hunt for her buried inheritance. Clues to the past's secrets, that the land keeps in all four directions, reveal the possible treasure and legacy in an alternate future if it can be excavated from lost wisdom and forgetfulness."

See Carolyn Guertin's essay, "Three-Dimensional Demential" in the Theory Section of Riding the Meridain, Spring 2000. 
See also, "Anamnesis and Amnesia, The Cyberfeminist Archive in M.D. Coverley's Califia "
For a complete listing of Guertin's on-line publications and other critcal eassys, visit her  home page


Raine Koskimaa

"Put side by side, Califia and Myst clearly show us the difference between hyperfiction and virtual reality: even though the text fragments have an important role in Myst, they are still functioning as one subcategory of effects in that game, and no conclusion can be drawn that text would somehow be necessary in all virtual realities aiming at delivering a narrative. In Califia, on the other hand, everything is language, even though in many instances symbolic one. In Bolter's terms, everything in Califia is simultaneously meant to be looked through (creating fictional world) and looked at (functioning as a metatextual device), while in VR everything is meant to be looked through."

From  unpublished thesis, "Digital literature. From text to
hypertext and beyond
"  by Raine Koskimaa, University of
Jyvaskyla, Finland.


Jaishree Odin

"M. D. Coverley a.k.a. Marjorie Luesebrink uses yet another technique of layering to explore the buried history of the original California Indians in her colorful and visually fascinating multi-media novel Califia (Eastgate Systems, 2000). To create a performative space that engages the reader's senses at many levels, Coverley draws as much on images, photographs, letters, journal entries, maps, and music as on a linearly unfolding narrative. The performative space that unfolds becomes the site of reinscription as it results in re-membering and re-incorporating the symbolic order of the Chumash Indians (the original inhabitants of California) into the protagonists' past and present. "

From the fall 2001 issue of ebr,  Jaishree's review of Califia: "Unraveling the Tapestry of Califia: A Journey to Re-member History, "  Jaishree Odin, University of Hawaii.


Jose Luis Orihuela

José Luis- Would you consider that M.D. Coverley is also performing the role of a narrator?

Marjorie - If we consider M.D. Coverley as the "author persona" (leaving aside for a moment the issue of pen name), then M.D. Coverley is the shaping consciousness, but not a "narrator" per se.  On this issue of shaping consciousness, I remember a talk I heard by Maxine Hong Kingston.  She was speaking about the creation of the "shaping authorial consciousness" in The Tripmaster Monkey. She said she started out with the idea that the "author persona" was omniscient and transparent.  Then, in the course of writing the book (Tripmaster has a male "narrator," by the way), she found that it was impossible to have an author persona that was transparent.  No matter what a writer does, the choices that she makes *always* indicate a view of the world, a personality, a set of values.  She said that this "world view" of the author may be consonant with the narrator, or may sit in opposition to the narrator.  In the case of Tripmaster, Kingston said that she found she had created an invisible, but shaping, persona that was a Chinese Goddess.

In the instance of Califia, we have Augusta, Calvin, and Kaye as visible, active narrators.  None of these characters actually represents the "world view" of the author persona. They do come closer to the ideas of the author persona at certain points, as they have learned to see a little deeper.  But Augusta is constructed as a fairly shallow character, good to tell the events of the day, but not much on reflection (for much of the plot, she is looking for hard cash). Calvin is eager to organize the material they find, but he, too, does not reflect much.  Kaye is into lots of cosmic and wide-ranging speculation, association, but she is not a character who is capable of making the connections that the "author-persona" would have had to make for the novel to exist in its present form.  Therefore, even though M.D. Coverley is not on the scene, is not a narrator, is not even part of a meta-fiction, really, she is the "shaping consciousness" that always sits, invisibly or visibly, behind the creation of the world in which the story can exist.

José Luis Orihuela
Universidad de Navarra

From Hipertulia, edited by Susana Toska, University of Madrid. Interview with the Author , by Jose Luis Orihuela.  See also El narrador en ficción interactiva:  El jardinero y el laberinto in Spanish --  published in Quien Cuenta La Historia:  Estsudios sobre el narrador en los relatos de ficcion y no ficcion. Edicion Edunate, Spain, 2000.