A Word on Hyperfiction

I was recently trolling the web for hypertext fiction, and I was pretty disappointed. Granted my experience with this is limited, and it’s possible there’s a lot of great stuff out there that I just didn’t find in my initial cursory search, but the problem, as I see it, is that folks are going about it in the wrong way.

Let me begin to sketch out a hyperfiction manifesto:

Ideally I think that hyperfiction needs to aim toward non-linear fiction, but not non-linear narrative. A reader, even on-line, craves linearity in his plot but not necessarily in his content, that is, he has control not over the story, but rather over which aspects of the story he wants to delve into most deeply. In short, the reader does not want authorial responsibility, only editorial responsibility.

This is not to say, there is no room for experimental fiction that grants the reader authorial control. This I'm sure has its place both on the web and in print (I was a huge fan of "Choose Your Own Adventure" novels growing up), but I just don't think there is anything inherent in the Web or HTML that necessitates this structure. The model for interacting with text that the web establishes is, I think, quite different and much less radical.

On-line news provides us with a useful example. Every web news story has a single beginning, the option to "click here" for more, and then usually a series of related links to complement the content of the article. Remember, when people go to the web, they go there not to read, but to gather information. But even recreational reading is in itself a form of information gathering. Accordingly, Non-linear web fiction exists somewhere near the intersection of information and narrative.

More to come?

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