radioELO: Califia remix

Readings of Califia are text-based, on screen, accompanied by interesting sounds. This remix was made by John Barber from some of the sounds I provided him. He tells me this work is inspired by driving at night through the desert. Only one headlight is working, but you drive all night that way, listening to the radio, drifting, ethereal, dreaming of golden, magical Califia
—M.D. Coverley



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Overview | Background | Statement | Resources


Califia (2000, Eastgate Systems), by M. D. Coverley (pen name for Marjorie Coverley Luesebrink), is a hypermedia, interactive novel for CD-ROM featuring interactive stories, photos, graphics, maps, music, and movement that allows readers to wander and play in the landscape of historic/magical California.


Once upon a time there was an Island named California where dreams came true. So begins the opening address to the reader in the electronic narrative, Califia, a story of five generations of Californians on a quest for a lost stash of gold. The gold was buried, it seems, in the Southern California mountains some few years after the great gold rush of 1849. And then, through a series of California dust-ups, it got lost. From the discovery of the earliest clues—the Baja Map and the blue blanket-embroidery of Willing Stars—the characters puzzle though earthquake, fire, a mysterious train wreck, Hollywood nights, strange land-buying expeditions into the desert, flight plans, and Chumash legends to link together the elusive path to the dream of riches—and discover the sensory longing that makes seekers of us all.

With three narrating characters (Augusta, the day trader; Calvin, the would-be director; and Kaye, the mystic visionary), journeys in four compass directions, star charts, archive files, and a map case, Califia comprises eight hundred screens, two thousand four hundred images, five hundred words, and thirty songs by California musicians. The flamenco music is written and performed by Michael Olsen. The classical lute and mandolin music is performed by John Schneiderman. Samples by The Grateful Dead were made available by the Grateful Dead organization with the valuable assistance of Alan Trist.

The name, Califia, is taken from accounts of early Spanish explorers who hoped to find the Terrestrial Paradise in the New World. They believed California was an island, inhabited by beautiful Amazon women with arms of gold. In his popular romance of 1521, Las Sergas de Esplandian (The Adventures of Esplandián, Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo notes the queen of the Island of California is named "Calafria."

Artist Statement

The moment I began to create the first screen on the computer, I could see it happening: the weary and beleaguered Samuel Walker—leaving the Tejon Ranch with his wife, Willing Stars, and the renegade mission Indians—desperate to find a place to hide the heavy gold he had mined in the Sierras.

And the generations that followed, dreamers all, risking their lives for the belief that the gold was still there, buried and waiting for the one who could decode the clues, read the hypertext of star lore and plot maps and legends of gold and movies and airplanes and the history of water and land combines: find pattern in a seeming chaos of desire. Erskine Summerland was in my imaginary California, flying a plane from San Simeon to Tehachepi and straight into a mountain. Quintana, of Chinatown, lost to fire and water. I saw Augusta, just the other day, digging in her own back yard the morning after her father was buried, certain he had left a stash of gold coins under the eucalyptus grove above Hollywood Boulevard.

And you, too, were there. All of us at the interface between acceptance and passion. The western edge is a place where, as Joan Didion once wrote

the mind is troubled by some buried but ineradicable suspicion that things had better work here, because here, beneath that immense bleached sky, is where we run out of continent.


Califia preview at M.D. Coverley website