Hypertext fiction is a genre of electronic literature, characterized by the use of hypertext links which provide a new context for non-linearity in literature and reader interaction. The reader typically chooses links to move from one node of text to the next, and in this fashion arranges a story from a deeper pool of potential stories. Its spirit can also be seen in interactive fiction.
The term can also be used to describe traditionally-published books in which a nonlinear narrative and interactive narrative is achieved through internal references. James Joyce's Ulysses (1922), Enrique Jardiel Poncela's La Tournée de Dios (1932), Jorge Luis Borges' The Garden of Forking Paths (1941), Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire (1962) and Julio Cortázar's Rayuela (1963; translated as Hopscotch) are early examples predating the word "hypertext", while a common pop-culture example is the Choose Your Own Adventure series in young adult fiction and other similar gamebooks. The Garden of Forking Paths is both a hypertext story and a description of a fictional hypertext work.
The first hypertext fictions were published prior to the development of the World Wide Web, using software such as Storyspace and HyperCard. Michael Joyce's Afternoon, a story, first presented in 1987 and published by Eastgate Systems in 1991, is generally considered one of the first hypertext fictions. Afternoon was followed by a series of other Storyspace hypertext fictions from Eastgate Systems, including Stuart Moulthrop's Victory Garden, its name was Penelope by Judy Malloy, (whose hyperfiction Uncle Roger was published online on Artcom Electronic Network on The WELL from 1986 to 1987) Carolyn Guyer's Quibbling, Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl and Deena Larsen's Marble Springs. Judy Malloy's l0ve0ne, created in 1994, was the first selection in the Eastgate Web Workshop.
Douglas Cooper's Delirium (1994) was the first novel serialized on the World Wide Web; it permitted navigation between four parallel story strands. On June 21, 1996, Bobby Rabyd (aka Robert Arellano) published the World Wide Web's first interactive novel, Sunshine 69, with navigable maps of settings, a nonlinear calendar of scenes, and a character "suitcase" enabling readers to try on nine different points of view. Shortly thereafter, in 1997, Mark Amerika released GRAMMATRON, a multi-linear work which was eventually exhibited in art galleries. In 2000, it was included in the Whitney Biennial of American Art.
Some other web examples of hypertext fiction include Adrienne Eisen's Six Sex Scenes (1995), Stuart Moulthrop's Hegirascope (1995,1997), The Unknown (which won the trAce(Alt X award in 1998), The Company Therapist (1996-1999) (which won Net Magazine's "Entertainment Site of the Year"), and Caitlin Fisher's These Waves of Girls (2001) (which won the ELO award for fiction in 2001). More recent works include Paul La Farge’s * Luminous Airplanes (2011).
The internationally oriented but US based Electronic Literature Organization (ELO) was founded in 1999 to promote the creation and enjoyment of electronic literature. Other organisations for the promotion of electronic literature include trAce Online Writing Community, a British organisation, started in 1995, that has fostered electronic literature in the UK, Dichtung Digital, a journal of criticism of electronic literature in English and German, and ELINOR, a network for electronic literature in the Nordic countries, which provides a directory of Nordic electronic literature. The Electronic Literature Directory lists many works of electronic literature in English and other languages.
Hypertext fiction is characterised by networked nodes of text making up a fictional story. There are often several options in each node of where the reader can go next. Unlike traditional fiction, the reader is not constrained by reading the fiction from start to end, and depending on the choices they make. In this sense, it is a bit like an encyclopaedia, with the reader reading a node and then choosing a link follow. While this can be done on paper, it is quite a different experience on a screen. The reader can be thrown into unpredictable loops because not all links are explained by their title. The fiction can contain text, quotes, and images.
There are different forms which the hypertext fiction can take. These forms are axiel, arborescent, and networked. Axiel hypertext fictions have a central story line with links which branch off and return to the central storyline. Arborescent fictions branch into mutually exclusive story lines, and networked fictions have multiple starting points and do not always have a set ending. A single work of hypertext fiction can have a mixture of these three forms.
- Bishop, J. (2009). Enhancing the understanding of genres of web-based communities: The role of the ecological cognition framework. International Journal of Web-Based Communities, 5(1), 4-17. Available online
- Ciccarello, Lisa. "Swiveling My Hips through the Interbunk (And Having a Great Time, Too)". Pif Magazine: January, 2000.
- Artists Selected for the 2000 Whitney Biennial
- Cicconi, Sergio (2000). "The Shaping of Hypertextual Narrative". The Integrated Media Machine: A Theoretical Framework, Ed. M. Yla-Kotola, J. Suoranta, S. Inkinen & J. Rinne. Helsinki: University of Lapland. 101-120.
- Allen, Michael (2003). "This Is Not a Hypertext, But...: A Set of Lexias on Textuality". ctheory.net, Ed. Arthur and Marilouise Kroker.
- "The hypertext Tristram Shandy page", David R. Hammontree's page
- The Non-linear Tradition in Literature from The Electronic Labyrinth by Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin and Robin Parmar
- Andersen, Alan Lance (1981). "Elfland catacombs", Ames, Iowa: Winterhearth.
- Malloy, Judy (1998). "Hypernarrative in the Age of the Web". Portions of which were published on the National Endowment for the Arts Web Site.
- Ensslin, Astrid (2007). Canonizing Hypertext: Explorations and Constructions. London: Continuum.
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- 253 by Geoff Ryman
- Revelations of Secret Surveillance by Judy Malloy
- "8 minutes" by Martha Conway
- Hypertexts and Interactive Narratives at Cyberculture Studies
- (FILE) — Electronic Language International Festival.Festival of new media art.
- Starry Pipe Book
- Adrienne Eisen
- "ebbflux: machine text" by gmb (2000)
- Online Caroline
- Luminous Airplanes by Paul La Farge
- RYOH — Roll Your Own Hypertext.
- The Shaping of Hypertextual Narrative (by Sergio Cicconi)
- Electronic Literature Organization (for more on hypertext literature)
- Dichtung Digital. Journal for Digital Aesthetics. (Texts in English and German). Editor Roberto Simanowski.
- Eastgate catalog (catalog of historically significant Hypertext fiction, nonfiction and poetry)