The Potential of Hypertext

I grew up mainly reading conventional books under parents that really pushed traditional print material. I was fascinated by how in kids’ books, the words and pictures were directly connected to one another. Both paint an image of what the characters are doing and how they look. Still very early on in my life I was introduced to pc software and went on to interact with both print and digital stories for a while. As I have gotten older though, digital stories have taken over my life. Video games especially have been my go-to for the most immersive stories and worlds. Honestly, print-based media has been relegated to text books for me. I believe the potential of the print-based media itself has reached its full potential. Actual stories themselves though have all the potential in the world. Hypertext and the digital medium in general can provide elements for a story that print cannot. Hypertext can surprise readers through links and present them with changing environments through pictures, video and sound. There could be a real social aspect and the stories can be updated with new additional chapters and other content. If someone feels that print is too limited for their story, they may find the affordances of digital hypertext to be a better suit and let out their creativity that way.

“I want my fiction to be more like a world full of things that you can wander around in, rather than a record or memory of those wanderings.”(Jackson)


The Future of Hypertext


I think that there is a promising future for hypertext fiction as a literary form. Culturally, we have begun expressing our “stories” and thoughts in a form of hypertext through social media platforms. An individual tweet or post can stand alone with cryptic meaning, much like fragments of hypertext, however, when they are put together, they can form a complete story that has an intended meaning or message. I think that because we are getting so used to seeing stories revealed this way that our minds are having an easier time deciphering fragmented text in this fashion.

Author Shelley Jackson mentions in an interview that with hypertext, she was able to write her stories like Patchwork Girl without “imposing a linear order” to the narrative.

“Hypertext makes it easy to place things side by side, rather than one after another, so it makes “thing” and “place” metaphors much easier. I guess you could say I want my fiction to be more like a world full of things that you can wander around in, rather than a record or memory of those wanderings.”

I feel like this allows for the narrative to be expressed and experienced in a way that printed stories cannot. Stories that also diverge and meet like some hypertexts do would be much more difficult to achieve in the print world. The use of multimedia elements that are included in hypertext narrative also add an enhanced experiential element to a story that print cannot. Hypertext has the potential affordances of giving the consumer the abilities to make choices that influence the progression of the narrative, to select alternate endings, or to have an entirely new experience of the story each time it is read. While I would say that this isn’t impossible to achieved in print, it is not typically done.

Print vs. Hypertext


“The difference between reading hyperfiction and reading traditional printed fiction may be the difference between sailing the islands and standing on the dock watching the sea. One is not necessarily better than the other.”

-Carolyn Guyer and Martha Petry Izme Pass

I liked this quote in the reading’s this week. I don’t think we can really say that either of these forms of writing will die out. Both of them have their own place in the literary world. While print may seem like the slow and steady that wins the race, hypertext is the one coming up with multiple paths the race could take.

As technology changes hypertext does too, with new ways to tell the story. With recent uses of hypertext in television and video games, one wonders what the next step is for it?

I think that hypertext does have something different to contribute, that gives a unique experience to the reader. If it’s a nonlinear story the reader has the choice to go back and change the ending if they don’t prefer the one that they got. Or just go back and see what were the other possibilities.

In the reading Why no one clicked on the great hypertext story, I liked how it highlighted the growing hypertext writing that is being seen on different social platforms. In one of my other classes, we talked about this platform, where people come and add to these time travel/ romance themed stories. The stories take crazy turns, but it is a very popular space that people come to share ideas.

My only concern with hypertext along with print is the waning attention span that we seem to have when it comes to reading. It seems that most people take in their stories and information through five-minute clips on the internet. I think the question that needs to be addressed is will society still be willing to take the time to discover these works?

The Death of Print?

It can be easy to say that books and print are an outdated technology, a still living artifact of the past that we will soon leave behind. The possibilities afforded us in the digital age certainly seem to leave old print media in the dust., at least at first glance.

Digital media is so much easier to store, allowing you to carry an entire library in your pocket, and still have room for your movies, music, and video games. Physical storage itself is hardly even an issue anymore as cloud computing allows us to store our files online and stream our videos from subscription services. In fact, less and less it seems like ownership and possession of a thing is what our culture values, opting instead for a steady I.V. drip of access to cyberspace where we aren’t land owners, we’re tenants.

Beyond storage, consider the way that digital media can be so seamlessly and naturally integrated into pieces of hypermedia. One moment you’re reading a piece of prose, the next a video plays, sounds run in the background, and interactive elements can be dropped in. The potential of electronic media is astounding compared to old print media. Even the branching narrative structure available in a basic HyperText project provides so many more tools for the creator to utilize.

Why then, decades later, are books still a thing? We’re starting to see textbooks in the classroom replaced with netbooks and tablets, brick and mortar bookstores are endangered, newspaper and magazine services struggle in a post-print era, but books are still going strong. There are several things that print does have going for it that digital media does not.

For one, print is self-contained. If you have a piece of print media, you don’t need any other device to use it. You don’t need to worry about backwards compatibility, if a file format is still supported, if you have batteries, if a part breaks and replacements are no longer being made. This gives books a staying power that digital media struggles with; technology almost seems to be moving too fast to take a lasting hold. Until more universal standards and the certainty of future compatibility is assured, people will still have a reluctance in giving up completely on print.

Another important thing for many people is the physical experience of the book. While digital media can provide countless opportunities for creators, some things still can’t be fully replicated in digital media. I consider a book sitting on my shelf, S. by by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams (pictured above). In much the same way that e-literature can incorporate other forms of media, this book contains numerous other objects tucked between the pages, from vintage photographs to post cards and more. The amazing thing about this creative piece is that it is actually more than just the book. The book itself, titled The Ship of Theseus, is written by a fictional character called V.M. Straka. The story of S. unfolds not just in the prose of the book, but in the notes written in the margins and the objects tucked inside the book. Much like a  non-linear HyperText project, it falls on the reader to unravel the connections between the notes, objects, and the text of the book itself. Made to look like a released library book, even including a “Property of…” stamp and Dewey decimal sticker on the spine, everything about the project lends itself to feeling like an object that the reader could have found at an old book sale. The texture of the cover, the faux-faded pages of the book make an experience that can’t quite be replicated digitally.

While books like S. are certainly an unusual case, it isn’t hard to find a book lover who enjoys the experience of reading and owning a physical artifact, just like people who collect vinyl or go to community theater. Media goes beyond the content of simply the words, but the entire experience. As Marshall McLuhan said, the media is the message. Does HyperText and digital media offer new opportunities for unique and exciting experiences? Yes. Should they be explored and value as much as any other technology? Of course. Will they replace print completely? Maybe someday, but not anytime soon.

3 – Hypertext fiction

I would have to agree that hypertext fiction does not appear to be as prevalent in today’s era of social media. I admit I was not even aware of hypertext fiction until this class. However, considering what we have experienced and read in class and for assignments thus far, I do hope that hypertext fiction is able to maintain a presence amongst social media. As a writer by hobby, it inspired an angle of creativity that I had never experienced before, the idea of hierarchies, and linking parts to each other. Shelley Jackson spoke of having bits and pieces of her works, characters, and drawings, and just hoping to find a connection between any of them, and when nothing clicked, she would mix it all up and try again. I understood where her approach came from, as I myself often begin just by writing anything and everything that comes straight to mind of what I think I know, however, my brain then thinks far too linearly and tries to make sense of an idea I already had when I started. Hypertext fiction, I think, brings to a writer’s mind firstly, the many layers that can be used and how infinite the hierarchy of a story can be, given all the routes one can take. Secondly, the idea of linking sections together is can speak to the story and its characters itself (“The medium is the message”). The method that Jackson mentioned has a way of jumbling up the conventional and sometimes automatic, or cliche, and that is something that this era needs, where often our words are limited to 200 characters (or whatever it is now). Not that I would consider a single “Tweet” as hypertext fiction, but my generation has gotten so used to that way of communicating that hypertext fiction can continue to bring inspiration, and hope it does.

The Future of Hypertext

It has come to my opinion that Hypertext Fiction is unique in a way that let’s the reviewers or the readers think. And really think hard about the decisions that has to be made throughout the journey that they are going on. Whether it’s print or digital it has the potential to have us stop and think about if our choice was correct or not.

The choices or even the action that we do make us believe about the ominous outcome of the situation that we where put in and let us to believe that in the end… no choice is 100% good.

The future of Hypertext Fiction, to me, is a little bit unclear at this point. I do believe that Hypertext Fiction is a very well-known genre of storytelling that has the potential to go much further then it is at. For years hypertext Fiction has been growing in books as well as digital media but not necessarily in it’s own form but more of

“Instead of prospering as a specific genre in it’s own right, elements of hypertext have opened up new forms and genres. Complex multilinear narrative structures have for example become standard fare in long-term episodic television series.”

So in conclusion I do believe, in a literal sense, Hypertext Fiction can continue making a huge impact on all of us even if it’s in forms of other types of media but thanks to this program called Twine. everybody can bring there multilinear imaginations to life and expand as far as they want to go.


Image caught from “Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season Two”

Image caught from “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch”

Scott Rettberg’s “Electronic Literature”

Future of Hypertext?

It’s hard for me to say what I think the future of hypertext fiction will be. I don’t think it will die out, as there will always be people and pieces of work that will keep the genre alive. I do however, think that it will dip in and out of popularity as the years go on and as more technology is developed. In the past, hypertext fiction is something that has repeatedly grown popular for a short while, only for it to die down and come back again later. The best example I could come up for this is the company Telltale Games, a gaming company that exclusively creates “Choose Your Own Adventure Games”, or works of hypertext fiction. This company became increasingly popular a couple years ago, to the point of creating stories for big names and other game companies. The Walking Dead, Minecraft, and Batman are a few series’ who got their own Telltale Games. Although all their games got generally favorable reviews, and fans loved playing them, on September 21st, an announcement was made that Telltale Games would be shutting down. The reason? Not enough people were interested in and buying the hypertext fiction genre of video games. Unfortunately, no matter how well something is made, if there isn’t an audience to watch/play/listen to it, then it becomes unprofitable and will come to an end.

I really enjoy hypertext fiction. I like the idea that you decide the outcome of the story, and that your choices truly affect what happens. I do think for a work of this genre to be enjoyable, it needs to be done the right way. If there’s too many or too little options, or the story becomes so meddled and confusing that there doesn’t seem any point in continuing, then it becomes more work than enjoyment. Since a story with multiple storylines can be difficult to properly write out and execute correctly, I feel like this is the image that hypertext fiction often gets. Like I said before, I don’t think hypertext fiction is going to die out (at least anytime in the near future), but I also don’t think it’s going to get extremely popular in the near future. Even newer medias such as Bandersnatch seem to have excitement for a few weeks, and then the whole genre gets lost in the depths of the internet again.

Hypertext definitely goes somewhere that regular print cannot. Print books in the past have been “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. However, the constant flipping of the pages, and navigating through the big piece of text is a lot more frustrating than just being able to click on a particular link in a story and get to the next point. If one were to create a hypertext fiction piece of work, I think most of the time one would lean toward creating it on a digital medium. The evolution of technology and hypertext as one have created this genre of fiction that is compelling, exciting, mysterious, but unfortunately, not very popular.


While the rapid rise of social media does reduce the novelty of hypertext fiction, I believe that this rise, as well as the rise of personal video games (as opposed to games at an arcade), could lead to a resurgence and possible eventual widespread awareness of hypertext fiction and other forms of e-literature. Both social media and video games encourage many of the facets of e-literature: multilinearity (open world games), stories with various concurrent viewpoints (multiple users Tweeting about a breaking event), link structure (moving between pages, sites, accounts, stories, etc from a central social media site)…with these (and more) interactive aspects becoming regular parts of our everyday lives, as well as the growing community of Twine creators and readers, I believe that hypertext fiction could easily grow in public awareness in the coming years.

As far as expressing that which print cannot, I believe that e-literature allows us to experience a story in more dynamic, more personal, and even more lifelike ways. Firstly, a reader is able to more or less choose how they want to navigate through any given e-literature piece, which is a freedom not readily available with traditional printed literature, but is closer to the flexible nature of our own thoughts and memories. The flexible nature of e-literature is also increasingly reminiscent of our own lives: hyperlinks embedded within stories are no longer something strange and startling, but are natural to the modern reader, even lending an air of familiarity or intimacy to the work. I believe this flexible multilinearity also allows a broader kind of story than traditional literature is capable of.

Blog 3-The Future of Hypertext Fiction

It’s hard to say at this point where I think the future for hypertext fiction will be. Hypertext fiction, like anything, can ride the wave of popularity. Hypertext has more options than a physical book that you could pick up at your local store. It gives the reader the ability to choose variety of paths which open up to different sets of dialogue, imagery, and plot. With that in mind here’s what I think would not work in the future. During class last week, as we were reading “Afternoon, a story” (keep in mind that this story was written in 1987) I couldn’t help but feel a bit uncomfortable with how the story was laid out. The way you had to jump from one link to the other by some sort of “tab” was very awkward compared to how you click on something in made in Twine or something similar. Not only that but I, as a reader, didn’t get a sense as to why I should have chosen any of the links listed. It wasn’t because of a lacked interest in the story but rather because I did not feel as if there was enough in the story presented to me to motivate me into making a decision. I could have just read maybe three pages of the story and been contempt with it.

I feel that this style and the style that appeared in “The babysitter” would quickly die off in the world of hypertext fiction. Perhaps back then it would have worked but you have to remember, this is the modern age, and our society is becoming more and more impatient. Everything has to be easy and attention grabbing. A lot of restaurants have some sort of tablet sitting at their tables so that customers no longer have to wait for the server to bring them their menus.

Not a lot of people take the time to read these days. When I say read I don’t mean the type where you are reading simply because your professor and the missing $500 from your wallet is telling you to do so. I mean the kind of reading that you are genuinely interested in like a comic book, Harry Potter, or A Bride’s Tale. Hypertext fiction is not trending these days because it failed to do so when it first debuted. Sure it’s attracting our attention, but that’s because in our case, it has too.

Hypertext also seems to be dying out in video games as well. It’s not that big of a genre anymore, especially Tell Tale games shut down; the makers of games like The Wolf Among Us, Guardians of the Galaxy (game), Game of Thrones (game), Batman (game), Minecraft: Story Mode(game) and the Walking Dead (game). With so many links to connect it takes too long to put out another hypertext fiction into the world. Supply doesn’t meet demand. If you have ever played any of these games you really start to appreciate this type of story telling. You feel in control yet can still be surprised all at once. Almost like some sort of detective. It’s extremely fascinating to make a choice and to see the outcome of your decision. That’s something that you can’t get from a printed book these days.

My Boyfriend Came Back from the War

After (at least partially) reading all three of the fiction pieces, I decided to focus on My Boyfriend Came Back from the War by Olia Lialina. I was struck by the stark and emotive quality of this piece, as well as the literal and figurative fragmenting of the narrative. While it doesn’t have have the randomized quality of combinatory poetics per se (reloading the page or clicking in different orders did not change which piece of text came after which), it does achieve a state of multilinearity and variability by virtue of the aforementioned fragmentation. As the narrative and screens continue to break down, the reader can choose to follow one thread until its end before moving onto the next, to click each panel in an order (say, clockwise), randomly, or a combination thereof. I read through it a few times in different orders and while the overarching story is the same, different reading orders do lend different tones to the narrative.

I think that this piece is particularly different from the hypertext fiction we looked at last class in that it is all contained on one page, and it is impossible to step backwards (except by completely refreshing the page and starting over). In Joyce’s the afternoon, the reader moves from one concrete page to the next, albeit in nonlinear and sometimes indirect ways, and can return to previous pages. In contrast, readers of Lialina’s My Boyfriend Came Back from the War must continue forward on one fluid page. I think this technique places the reader deeper into the mindset of Lialina’s story, as it is close to how we experience real life (unable to go back, and while sometimes fragmented, still part of a solid whole).