… Tomasula creates a new postmodern, post-human realism that richly traces our infinite potential of self-production, with just enough human left to give it a beating heart.Quarterly West
Once human: Stories
IndiFab Best Book of the Year (Short Fiction) Nominee.
A stunning new collection of stories by a master fictionist, Once Human shows the ways to go beyond standard maps of simple understanding.
A manga artist who is afraid that she herself is slipping into a cartoon version of life, a lab technician who makes art with the cloning technology she uses at work, a sociologist hunting for the gene that makes some people want to take risks — these are some of the characters who populate the stories in Once Human. Exploring the spaces where life is shaped by science and the technologies we bring into being, Steve Tomasula’s characters often find that the harder they look at the world, the less they can say. The map that emerges from these stories charts the territory of human longing and the failure of poetry, science, and technology to explain the “why” of the world, if not its “how.”
… a valuable sampling of the work of a compelling and genuinely experimental writer.
… In Once Human, Tomasula impresses not only with his literary skills but also with the range of his knowledge.
TOC is an evocative, steampunk fairytale. It also represents a new literary genre: a marriage of conventional narrative and image use with the possibilities for fiction that are opened up by the computer.Yuriy Tarnawsky, Rain Taxi Review of Books
TOC: A New-Media Novel
Gold Medal Winner: Best Book of 2010 (awarded by eLit Awards)
The Mary Shelly Award for Outstanding Fictional Work (awarded by the Media Ecology Association), 2010.
You’ve never experienced a novel like this. TOC is a multimedia epic about time — the invention of the second, the beating of a heart, the story of humans connecting through time to each other and to the world. An evocative fairy tale with a steampunk heart, TOC is a breathtaking visual novel, an assemblage of text, film, music, photography, the spoken word, animation, and painting. It is the story of a man who digs a hole so deep he can hear the past, a woman who climbs a ladder so high she can see the future, as well as others trapped in the clockless, timeless time of a surgery waiting room: God’s time. Theirs is an imagined history of people who are fixed in the past, those who have no word for the future, and those who live out their days oblivious to both. A new media hybrid, TOC re-imagines what the book is and can be. Produced as a DVD for playback on personal computers (both Macs and PCs), TOC retains the intimate, one-on-one experience that a reader can have with a book as it draws on the power of other art forms to immerse readers in an altogether new multimedia story.
TOC is an entrancing digital novel that explores temporality’s elusiveness and how, ultimately, the more we think about time, the less we really know about it. Reminiscent of Borges, Calvino, and Ballard, TOC functions less through plot than thesis, less through character than idea. Steve Tomasula’s latest is nothing short of brilliant.
With stunning visuals, a compelling and complex narrative, a gripping soundtrack, and a user-friendly but satisfyingly sophisticated interface, Tomasula’s TOC is one of the few pieces of digital media that feels fully integrated and profoundly literate. It brings us to the trailhead of the genre’s future, and then takes us a good way down the path.
… an elegant meditation on the nature of time … A fascinating look at some of the possibilities of narrative in the multi-media … age …
… cutting-edge [but] surprisingly easy to navigate … a hard-hitting (and visually and aurally magnificent) rendition of one of the world’s most ancient moral lessons.
Marked by aesthetic ruptures, discontinuous narratives, and diverse modalities including video, textual fragments, animated graphics and sound, TOC creates a rich assemblage in which the conflicts between measured and experienced time are related to the invention, development, and domination of the Influencing Engine, a metaphoric allusion to computational technologies.… TOC explores its conditions of possibility in ways that perform as well as demonstrate the interpenetration of living and technical beings, processes in which complex temporalities play central roles.
Exploring untrodden paths out of the groove of language, TOC releases us to a different approach to temporality that may also provide a cure for … chronology.
The once-rare moment of creation in art and writing has become ubiquitous in the digital age. The Book of Portraiture reimagines what the novel, particularly the historical novel, might mean in the digital world, and it does so with verve, gusto, and style.Bookforum
The Book of Portraiture
The Book of Portraiture is a postmodern epic in writing and images. A desert nomad struggles at the close of the ancient world to inscribe himself into life, and centuries later a Renaissance artist attempts to overcome his lowly origins by painting nobility. Throughout Steve Tomasula’s arresting tour de force, human beings seek to become what they are by representing it. An early twentieth century psychoanalyst in search of a cure for sexual neurosis discovers the reflection of his own yearning in a female client, and an accidental community of twenty-first century image-makers connects the pixels to bring their group portrait into focus. Across a canvas that spans centuries, the several narrators of this novel look through the lens of their own time and portray objects of desire in paint, dreams, photography, electronic data, and genetic code. Together their portraits comprise a collage of styles and habits of mind. The Book of Portraiture is a novel about the irrepressible impulse to picture ourselves, and how, through this picturing, we continually re-create what it means to be human.
The once-rare moment of creation in art and writing has become ubiquitous in the digital age. The Book of Portraiture reimagines what the novel, particularly the historical novel, might mean in the digital world, and it does so with verve, gusto, and style.
Whether questioning the ways we represent ourselves in writing and painting, exploring the act of reconstruction both at a subconscious level and a digital level, or presenting the possibilities of genetic creations, Tomasula’s The Book of Portraiture interweaves art and science, the tangible and the theoretical, in a search to explain human desires and how these desires drive us to create and re-create the human image.
Think of Swift, Groddeck, Lautreamont, and George Carlin conversing together in a large wastebin — up to their chins in 21st century sweepings — and you will begin to have an idea of Tomasula’s very funny, very smart, and downright scary epic vision.
Tomasula’s five interlocking chapters cross continents and centuries and aesthetic sensibilities to build to a dazzling and dizzying whole. The Book of Portraiture is one of those rare books that manage to be at once emotionally and theoretically satisfying.
Once again, Steve Tomasula has fabricated an incisive and sly commentary on art’s way of being in the world, and the manner in which it intersects, and conflicts, with our perceptions. Virtuosic in its execution, and sublime in its discernment, The Book of Portraiture is an able continuation of Tomasula’s ongoing project to redraw the boundaries of contemporary fiction.
… brilliant … the overarching theme of representation and self-portraiture, from cave art to computer code, gives this novel a historical sweep that is breathtaking. Like Joseph McElroy and Richard Powers, Tomasula can make intellectually engaging fiction out of forbidding (to some of us) topics like recombinant genetics, microbiology, computer technology, and other hard sciences, and utilizes the advantages of graphic design to go places even those gifted writers don’t go.… Tomasula’s finest creation yet.
What Tomasula accomplishes with The Book of Portraiture is exactly the resonance between the history in the novel and the history of the novel.… Certainly, its concern is with different historical periods, and, certainly it offers itself as a reflection on those periods. But the context of the Spanish Inquisition or 19th century psychopathology is not simply “re-created” through the transparency of narrative prose. Instead … Tomasula basically re-defines the novel …