Essays, Criticism, Theory
The inaugural issue of Game Studies, an international journal of computer game research, is now available, featuring articles by Espen Aarseth, Marie-Laure Ryan, Jesper Juul, Selmer Bringsjord, Markku Eskelinen and Gonzalo Frasca.
"This first rate hypertext examines the memories of five generations of Californians, full of bravado and mystery, as Augusta Summerland searches for a lost cache of gold."
Adrian Miles' recent JODI essay, Hypertext Syntagmas: Cinematic Narration with Links was written and published with Storyspace.
New book reviews in Cyberculture Studies including reviews of Matt Drudge's Manifesto by James Broderick and Wendy Harcourt's women@internet: Creating New Cultures in Cyberspace by Kali Tal.
The winter issue of Contemporary Literature (University of Wisconsin Press) contains Robert Selig's article, "The Endless Reading of Fiction: Stuart Moulthrop's hypertext novel Victory Garden." Selig writes,
"Far from wanting closure in hypertext fiction, I offer its authors a friendly challenge. Create with more and more pathways, lexias, link points, guard fields, changing combinations, and above all subtleties and nuances...Make it endlessly new, endlessly renewable, a perpetual pleasure to read, the ultimate expression of where hypertext can take us."
Adrian Miles has posted several elegant new installments to his web vog, including a meditation on timelines and narrative design in digital media, an observation on the false promises of webcams, and a discussion of motion and realism.
"any program that thinks or wants to let you write multilinear content, and uses a timeline, think again. [...] it is strange that environments that are for writing multilinear content rely so strongly on linear metaphors and though our stories might still need a teleology, it should not be derived from traversing the path and finding the terminal point.
this is why i fell in love with storyspace. small program. only words. (and i mean only words, you can put pictures, sounds, movies into it, but as far as the words go, choose a font, some rather crude formatting, and that's it.) no timeline. no middle or end. hard to avoid beginnings but its easy to start in the middle in storyspace. or fake it."
The Journal of Digital Information announces a special issue on hypertext criticism, guest edited by Susana P. Tosca, Oxford Brookes University, UK. The issue includes M. Engebretsen on "Hypernews and Coherence"; Adrian Miles on "Hypertext in the Dark: Cinematic Narration with Links"; Anja Rau on "Wreader's Digest: How to Appreciate Hyperfiction"; and Jill Walker on "Child's game confused: reading Juliet Ann Martin's oooxxxooo".
From the editorial: "Hypertext critics work with software and computer languages that support hypertextual structures and [these critics] think about how using it can affect the ways we present or recover information as authors and readers, and even the way we think about information. This special issue brings some fresh air and a new perspective to Hypertext Criticism. Four brilliant young authors have contributed to the issue, which we really believe is special due to its innovative content and form."
The 18 January 2001 issue of The Guardian contained a mini-review of Rob Swigart's Down Time, by Karlin Lillington. "Amidst the e-book hype, Eastgate, a literary hypertext publisher, remains one of the few companies to offer works that actually use their electronic format as a literary device. Along with some freely-accessible online works, essays, and links to just about everything to do with hypertext, Eastgate has added a new work to its online catalogue. They say Rob Swigart's Down time is 'a collection of hypermedia short fiction exploring the psychic costs of life in the computer age'."
"Hypertext is to the Book what Lake Geneva is to the Giza pyramids. This being the case--and predicting the form will evolve into its own creative species--I prefer not to discuss hypertext here, except to say 1. it will be interesting to watch what becomes of the form over the next decade or two, and 2. this is a hypertext, built in Storyspace, not in Simon and Schuster."
"the beginning of the 'new wave' of hypernovels...[A] truly engaging story about seeking a lost treasure somewhere in California mountains...[The] text and audio-visual materials well balanced, and navigation devices nicely integrated into the fictional world. When will we see e-books which can handle native digital text like this?!"
Congratulations to Web Del Sol! which was named to the Writer's Digest Fiction Top 50 this year.
Matthew Mirapaul reviews The Jew's Daughter by Judd Morrissey (whose My Name Is Captain, Captain is forthcoming from Eastgate) in the New York Times Arts@Large. Also discussed is Isabel Chang's apergillum gently, an adaptation of Juan Rulfo's "Pedro Paramo". Thanks, Michael Downend!
"Morrisey and Chang are both 25 years old, an indication that young artists will ignore inertia and produce exciting work no matter what is happening -- or not -- around them."
J. R. Smith, Jr., writes to observe that Mirapaul calls The Jew's Daughter "a startling alternative to conventional hypertext fiction."
"Did you ever think", he asks, "you would see the phrase 'conventional hypertext fiction' in the New York Times?"
"The consistency of the landscape allows the variability of the text to become more visible, and this is why the use of a panorama with 'hotspots' is more than mere fancy. The panoramas provide a navigable 3 dimensional space where pages can be visited by clicking on their eponymous objects. In turn, following a text link loads a page with the panorama which is the view from that geographical location, so the reader has, in fact, 2 methods of reading. One is spatial and concrete, the other is textual and abstract. Through these panoramas Moulthrop is not only exploring spatial metaphors in narrative, but expanding the relation of image to word."
"...Reagan Library combines history, criticism, and self reflexive irony to meld a narrative that takes well aimed bites at both the self appointed keepers of a literary heritage and those who misread the vicissitudes of hypertext as merely the opportunity to turn a trick. "
The July/August issue of Poets & Writers features an interview with Richard Powers, "On Reading in the Digital Age." Unlike recent pundits who've weighed in on digital literature without appearing to have given the form more than a passing glance (if that), Powers evinces at least some familiarity with the form's potential and pitfalls.
"What we need in story is the illusion of
possibility; we need our narrative being curtailed by someone
else's narrative. The invocation of potentiality and then the culling
of that potentiality as it moves forward in time, that plot, as information
theorist Claude Shannon says, depends on all the things that will not
George Dillon's article, Dada Photomontage and net.art Sitemaps, has been published in Postmodern Culture. Musing about the role of the various types of maps in hypermedia navigation, Dillon cites Mark Bernstein's Hypertext Gardens: Delightful Vistas as "a tasteful stroll in the Horatian vein, emphasizing the pleasure of 'unexpected delights' to be found in well-crafted 'gardens' that supply neither the unsorted profusion of the wilderness nor the practical predictable grid of the downtown highrise."
In the April 27th issue of The Guardian, Karlin Lillington looks at the hypertext revolution and what it means for the future. She traces the history of popular hypertext writing ("the bone and muscle of the Web") to Apple's HyperCard, which she says "unknowingly launched a small literary revolution".
Christian Palme contributes an interesting article on hypertext fiction, Boken som Legobygge, to the latest issue of eDN, the technology supplement of Dagens Nyheter. Interviews with Anna Gunder and Michael Joyce. In Swedish.
One of the best places to delve into hypertext is at the site of its leading publisher, Eastgate. Publisher Mark Bernstein is both a devotee, writer and essayist and nurtures a range of writers, sells hypertext works and critical writings about it, and has extensive links to essays, online hypertext and more. While there, have a look at Twelve Blue by Michael Joyce, who wrote the haunting Afternoon, A Story, considered a hypertext classic.
Also at Britannica.com: " In 1992, award-winning novelist and professor Robert Coover claimed the novel had exhausted its potential and that hypertext was the next step in our literary evolution." In Link To No Where, Britannica.com's Neal Pollack takes a (rather cursory and, we think, unfair) look at how hypertext is doing eight years later.
The weekend section of New York Times for March 24, 2000 features a review of the Whitney Biennal by Michael Kimmelman, including a discussion of three works of net art selected for the exhibit: Mark Amerika's Grammatron, Ken Goldberg's Ouija 2000, and Ben Benjamin's Superbad, described here last January as "a quirky site, to say the least. Whatever it is, it couldn't be anywhere but the Web."
Is e-literature in crisis? Dichtung-Digital's Roberto Simanowski reflects on the fate of Netzliteratur in light of a recent decision not to award a highly-publicized prize for webwork. In German.
In the Australian film magazine Real Time, Kirsten Krauth reviews Patchwork Girl and interviews Eva Gold (New South Wales Board of Studies) about a recent decision to include Patchwork Girl and Samplers in the new Advanced English curriculum.
"Exploring what it's like to be freakish and monstrous--something most teens can relate to--there's an uneasiness in the text, an eroticism: does Mary desire her own creation? Our monster has on the surface what most of us carry inside, scars, finely stitched, criss-crossed evidence of her making."
Indeed, Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl offers the patient reader, if there are any left in the world, just such an experience of losing oneself to a text, for as one plunges deeper and deeper into one's own personal exploration of the relations here of creator to created and of body to text, one never fails to be rewarded and so is drawn ever deeper, until clicking the mouse is as unconscious an act as turning a page, and much less constraining, more compelling.
N. Katherine Hayles reviews Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl in "Flickering Connectivities in Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl: The Importance of Media-Specific Analysis".
"I will discuss Shelley Jackson's brilliantly realized hypertext Patchwork Girl, an electronic fiction that manages to be at once highly original and intensely parasitic on its print predecessors. I have chosen Patchwork Girl for my tutor text not only because I think it is one of the best of the new electronic fictions, but also because it is deeply concerned with the prospect hinted at in Points Seven and Eight, that a new medium will enact and express a new kind of subjectivity."
Jenine Gordon Bockman, editor and publisher of NYC's free literary 'zine Literal Latté, recently reviewed Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl. In a feature on " Books without Covers," Bockman wrote that Patchwork Girl is
"...one of the newest permutations of the form is in its infancy. Although what you purchase resembles a cover without a book, inside is a disk holding the hypertext that magically unfurls on your computer. A book without cover or pages. Furthermore, you can navigate through it in many different directions, making it a personal creation as well as the creation of the author. Patchwork Girl fuses traditional and new texts with graphics.
"It's hard to get a grip on this new technology (perhaps I'm more passive than I care to admit and prefer being told where to go) and the books still feel young and small. But I am reminded that at first people had a hard time understanding the concept of reading quietly to oneself without opening one's mouth. It took some getting used to that strange concept. I don't think hypertext will replace books with covers, but it is exciting to watch the birth of this new form of coverless book"
Cornerstone, Vanderbilt University's alumni magazine, profiles Jay Clayton's course on hypertext reading and writing. "In Garland Hall's microcomputer laboratory, where English Professor Jay Clayton and 15 freshmen are discussing the hypertext novel Patchwork Girl by feminist and gender theorist Shelley Jackson, the room becomes the setting for a postmodern literary salon."
The latest issue of The American Book Review features Dene Grigar's "Lost in Translation," a review of Stephanie Strickland's hypertext, True North. "In her hypertext, True North, Stephanie Strickland resets her compass for a continuation of her intellectual and spiritual exploration into the relationship between space and time, a journey she began in her award-winning book of poems by the same name."
A brief review of Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl has appeared at Romantic Circles, a Web site devoted to Romantic literature in English, edited by Neil Fraistat, Steven E. Jones, and Carl Stahmer. In addition to articles, reviews, and scholarly editions of Romantic texts, the site features the Villa Diadoti, a "real-time, interactive MOO" for discussion of all things Romantic and literary, and the Romantic Circles High School, an experiment in on-line pedagogy. Also of interest at this site: the Cambridge University Press@Romantic Circles project, "devoted to finding productive ways to fuse the worlds of hypertext and print." Thanks, Mike Duvall!
Seattle arts paper The Stranger features Stacey Levine's Geek Lit 2.0: a Tour of Hypertext Fiction in its August 5-11 issue. Works considered include afternoon, Samplers, The Company Therapist, Electronic Book Review, and a photoessay of the LA Century Freeway by Jeff Gates. Thanks, Blake Hannaford
Also in Hipertulia (but not in English) are intriguing essays by Anja Rau (on Patchwork Girl and Action Heroes and on Where the Digerate Meet the Literati)and by Roberto Simanowski on Web Diaries in Europe and America. In Spanish and German
In A Migration between Media, Joseph Tabbi reviews True North. "In Stephanie Strickland's winter migration from print to electronic text, we can observe the forces that are transforming literary culture."
From editor-in-chief Michael Miller comes the lead editorial in the July PC Magazine, The Web as a New Art Form. "Every once in a while I see something that makes me say, 'Wow!'" He's excited by the emergence of hypertext fiction and poetry, especially by such work at Bill Bly's We Descend and Deena Larsen's Ferris Wheels.
Robert Siegle reviews Twilight: A Symphony by Michael Joyce in The Blue Moon Review. "What do I think of Michael Joyce's achievement here? It is beautiful, it is ambulatory. . . . Joyce has managed to use Eastgate's Storyspace program for a classical storyspace indeed, one in which readers may drift withing a well-made virtual reality, breathing deeply the familiar fragrance of sensitive observation, poetic responses, evocative language."
David Miall (University of Alberta) believes that much writing about hypertext is fundamentally wrong. In Trivializing or Liberating: The Limitations of Hypertext Theorizing. (Mosaic, 32, 157-172) he says he "shows that David Bolter, George Landow, and Stuart Moulthrop ... misrepresent what is actually involved in the reading of both printed and electronic texts." Dense theory.
In But I Know What I Like, Robert Kendall proposes a framework for judging hypertexts. "In trying to define satisfying interaction, we have three main issues to consider: agency, which lets the reader influence or mold the final form of the text; momentum, which propels the reader onward, and closure."
Brandon Oelling apparently mixes up "catharsis" and "epiphany", but his survey of the state of Web Entertainment is interesting nonetheless. The essay is theoreticallly unsophisticated, but the issues he identifies (the promise of closure, the importance of the first impression) echo recent work by Robert Kendall, Deena Larsen, and others.
Christine Boese (Clemson) wrote a hypertext-only doctoral dissertaion at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on "The Ballad of the Internet Nutball: The Xenaverse in Cyberspace". An interesting study of cyberculture and fan fiction in the Net era, also interesting to students of hypertext dissertations.
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