Bringing Changes with Hypertext

One of the many beauties behind hypertext and works of electronic literature is that sense of unending possibilities. The nodes and paths of a hypertext, or of the internet as a whole, somewhat mimic that of neurons and the human brain. Connections that may at times seem random, constantly changing and created different paths. There are potentially endless different possibilities to read a single work of hypertext and everything depends on the individual sitting in front of the computer at that given moment. It’s based on the choices they make at the time. Then, if they decided to go through the hypertext again, there is also no guarantee that they would read it the exact same way the second time around, or the third or fourth. As Robert Coover states,

And what of narrative flow? There is still movement, but in hyperspace’s dimensionless infinity, it is more like endless expansion.

Hypertext, though digital and somewhat erratic due to its multi-/non-linearity, is still literature or at the very least has the potential to be considered literature. It all has to do with the content included within the work rather than dependent on being in a print medium.

With the birth of hypertext came the chance to expand one’s thinking beyond the boundaries of linearity. Certainly storytelling did not and has not always been solely confined to a strict linear “beginning-middle-end,” but it provided more artistic opportunity to think even beyond the confinement of telling a story in a single way. It created the chance for the readers to choose where the story would go, and develop or discover their own ways through the work, individualizing the experience for each and every person in a way that a physical print book would be unable to achieve. It creates a new way to examine and think about works, literary or otherwise, and how various parts connect to one another. The opportunities are endless, only limited by the imagination of creator and reader.


Robert Coover’s “The End of Books”

Babies Babysitter and Hypertext

Robert Coover’s story, The Babysitter is a perfect model for post modern hypertext fiction, because it does not follow linear narrative. I can certainly see how Coover’s style influenced writers in this genre. I can see his use of branching path influencing writers such as, Mez Breeze. In her video game All the Delicate Duplicates, she uses objects to tell part of the narrative; by touching some of these objects, the players can travel to a different timeline. I most admit, I have not read many stories in this genre, the concept of none linear story telling where all possibilities are true is new to me.

As I read the Babysitter, it felt like I was jumping from one universe to another with each passage. The readers are the all-seeing eye looking at each possible time line/ multiverse. The first few paragraphs had a kind of Pulp Fiction vibe. I must admit the story was hard to follow, because of the multiple path. I was confused by the multiple path, especially the pin ball and girdle branching parts of the story. I could not figure out the point of the objects. If I wasn’t aware of hypertext fiction or electronic literature, I probably would have given up on reading the story; the story is not accessible to the average reader. I feel that this kind of story telling is excellent for role play games. It’s common for video games to have branching path where all the possibilities are true.

Hypertext and “The Babysitter”

Robert Coover’s short story “The Babysitter” is a fragmented set of stories about the same set of characters that plays out in pieces where each story line and outcome, as there are several, are equally as likely to have happened. The story is meant to be read from page one to the end, and it follows a set timeline of a few hours over the course of one evening, but the text is broken up into chunks and separated with characters that signify a break in the story line. Perspectives shift, character focus shifts, but the timeline of 7:40 to 10:00 pm remains constant. The reader progresses through the evening, visiting each of the main characters in several different “alternate realities.” The reader does not know which narrative is the “actual” and which are “alternates,” or perhaps none are real and all are just possibilities.

“The Babysitter” was published in 1969, and while it wasn’t the first work intended to be read in a multi-linear manner, it had a heavy influence on writers who came later, especially those creating hypertext stories that explored the same story from multiple points of view. The structure of “The Babysitter” is like a branching tree, each possibility stemming from the same set of events. This type of branching text creates a very meta experience for the reader, who is aware of how the stories keep changing, and how this one piece of writing is really multiple pieces. Rettberg calls this type of text “reflexive” and ties it to works that came later that also explore fragmentation as a structure that helps to guide, or disrupt, the reader’s experience.

All the Best of Hypertext: Fantasy, Clever Structure, and Rape…maybe…

Farinsky Blog Post 2: Hypertext 1

A movie poster for the 1955 film adaption of “The Babysitter” by Robert Coover.

Hypertext fiction is a genre which celebrates non-linear story telling, and narratives that embrace being told in randomized orders each time a user clicks on them. Robert Coover’s “The Babysitter” is an excellent example of this form based upon the criteria of segmented, and distorted, storytelling.

“The Babysitter” is a collection of over 100 fragments that focus on the male fantasy looping, and seemingly folding upon itself, as the babysitter interacts with young children while their parents attend a party nearby. Between 7:40 and 10:00pm the narrative cleverly avoids labeling one section of events as exactly what happened or which interpretation of the fragments is “correct”. Each segment adds to the complexity of the story and tangles the overarching narrative further by layering fantasy on fantasy giving shockingly detailed glimpses of the character’s thoughts.

Despite the victories within the genre this work achieves, the content of the story is hard to get through without feeling disgusted at the characters, and the blatantly sexual plot which verges into pornographic. 

The extreme closeness of which the male fantasies are presented along side the more reality based segments makes it hard to distinguish not only order, but coherence on the whole. This story does not spread its branches far- or in a manner which makes one version of events more distinctively accurate. It is hard to even grasp the basic underlying narrative through alienating sexualization of the babysitter constantly repeating itself or the repetition of the television entering the space.

While one should appreciate the structure and genre refining tenants this work created, the content within can be hard to talk about because of the cultural differences between original publication and current views on exercising sexuality or sexual fantasy.

Hypertext Fiction and “The Babysitter”

While Robert Coover’s work titled “The Babysitter” is by no means a work of hypertext fiction in a literal sense, it certainly holds many of the same characteristics that a hypertext work contains. The story begins at 7:40 in the evening and gradually progresses through the evening until 10 and in this sense, it follows a linear path. Additionally, the setting and characters of the story are all described early on.

Yet, as the story progresses, there are a plethora of different scenarios that are described throughout the course of the story. The story appears to shift from the perspectives of many of the characters. One paragraph will describe the thoughts and perspectives of the babysitter, while the next may describe the perspective of Jack, her boyfriend or even Harry (Mr. Tucker). While the constant shift in perspective may create a sense of confusion for the reader, it also provides more freedom for the reader. The reader isn’t bound to the parameters that the author of a linear story provides, rather they have more freedom to experience the story in a way in which they see fit.

Hypertext fiction works in a strikingly similar fashion. Readers can click on a selection of links that will take the story in a particular direction based on their selection. This empowers the reader to take the story in a direction that they see fit and can provide a cause for discussion surrounding the different story’s that readers can create.

Rettburg briefly mentions Twine’s influence on multi-linearity and hypertext. Twine is an excellent example of how a reader can choose the path of the story. In Twine, a reader is encouraged to click on a link to progress them through the story, and they are often presented with multiple links in order to choose the direction of the story. Twine is a platform that has allowed for a vast amount of storytellers to explore multi-linearity and hypertext in a user-friendly fashion. As Rettburg states:

“More prevalent uses of multi-linearity in hypertext include the representation of cognitive associations between nodes and shifts in point of view on the same events.”  (Rettburg 59).


Electronic Literature by Scott Rettburg

“The Babysitter” by Robert Coover

Hypertext and The Babysitter

Reading “The Babysitter” is a comparable experience to reading a Choose Your Own Adventure Book like a regular book. Hypertext Fiction however, differs from a Choose Your Own Adventure book, in the sense that it’s not trying to tell one linear story in specific places of the text but rather telling multiple stories within the one singular piece. You get different pieces of differing stories all related to the same subject. “The Babysitter” does this extremely well. By mixing slightly comical, dramatic and most of the time very dark storylines all together, it sets the reader loose on a literary rollercoaster that whips around wildly and changes speed at unexpected times. This leads to a confusing experience overall with each separate section resembling less of a puzzle piece and more of a loose magazine clipping. This piece could have a huge influence on the hypertext fictions written after it, not only because of its use of form but because of the overall weight of its subject matter. The intense happenings, both good and bad, within the story are what keep the reader engaged and willing to tangle with the multiple storylines. The topic must be great enough, to be able to generate multiple different outcomes of the same emotional caliber. For example a topic I see working in this format is a story of being lost or stranded. There is a lot emotion that can be connected to the feeling of being lost and isolated that would resonate with lots of readers. The separate sections could contrast the feelings of being hopelessly lost with the feeling of being saved much like “The Babysitter” contrasted innocence and goodness with evil and greed. I would like to read another piece in this form with different subject matter.

Hypertext Fiction and a look at The Babysitter

In reading the chapter this week I enjoyed reading the different approaches taken by authors to produce hypertext. Though, in reading “The Babysitter” I found it a little challenging in following the story.

It could be that is the author’s intention, to make it jarring so the reader is unsure and reads on to figure out the conclusion.
However, through the use of these “fragmented narratives,” The Babysitter is able to take the reader on not just one linear story, but instead the multiple paths of different characters(Rettberg, 84).

The author doesn’t give any instructions in reading the short story, in contrast to something like a choose your own adventure, which leads to a specific piece to make the story flow in a way. In reading it paragraph by paragraph, it jumps to another story, or a new character quite frequently.

In this way, it follows a pattern that Rettberg talks about in the more recent uses of hypertext. I would say Coover’s story is similar to some of Moulthrop’s work discussed in the book. Moulthrop’s pieces dealt with “the conflict between conventions of reading fiction and the fragmentary nature of attention online”(Rettberg, 76). I feel The Babysitter is much like this, with the constant switch in redirecting the reader’s attention to a new plot line, each one seems to get darker than the last.

Personally, I can’t say I enjoyed The Babysitter. I didn’t like the way the author sexualized most everything and everyone in the story.
Still, I’m interested in reading more hypertext literature. Possibly some of the ones Rettberg talked about in the chapter. There were some really interesting plots that I think fit well with the format of hypertext.

Hypertext Fiction and “The Babysitter”

During the reading of Robert Coover’s “The Babysitter” I couldn’t help but feel just a little confused to the fact that So many things where happening at once I couldn’t necessarily keep track of who’s doing what. I felt like this should be a way not to use Hypertext Fiction because even though this opens up the story to more possibilities instead of just a singular, linear path, to me, I just could not follow so parts of the story.

The definition of Hypertext Fiction, to me, is a great way to express a much broader and open storytelling experience for all of the readers by giving different conclusions just by the smallest decisions. Like in Scott Rettberg’s book “Electronic Literature”

“The development of hypertext fiction include a shift away from linear storytelling toward a multi-threaded approach”.

I still believe that this is Hypertext Fiction but it’s Hypertext Fiction that is still being developed, that is still trying to go into a different way than linear storytelling and instead gives us a lot of different perspectives that contributed to the ending in one way or another.

In conclusion, “The Babysitter” really does contributed well to the Hypertext Fiction category because, even if it is a little bit confusing at first, it still has those branching paths that make you think about what could possibly happen next.


The Babysitter by Robert Coover

Electronic Literature by Scott Rettberg

“Fiction of Possibilities”

Initially when I read the first couple of paragraphs in “The Babysitter” I didn’t expect the story to take the disturbing turns that it did.

The story appears to be about a babysitter who is watching Mr. and Mrs. Tucker’s little ones while they are off at a party. The babysitter at first appears to have a pretty typical night, she takes care of the young kids who are being as rowdy as could be expected from children their age.

In this story, there are a few characters outside of the babysitter who are important. Mr. Tucker is the father of the children, and is incredibly attracted to the babysitter, in certain paths, he ends up putting himself on her. Mrs. Tucker, is the mother of the children, and appears to be somewhat suspicious of Mr. Tucker and also incredibly unhappy as indicated on page 4.

Then there is Mark and Jack, who have plans to rape the babysitter. The easiest way to describe the story is that the babysitter has the worst night imaginable.

Also, while the story is called “The Babysitter” it does not solely focus on the babysitter, but rather it gives incredible attention to all of the characters, which appears to be influenced from modernist writing. (Rettberg 56)

The story is a bit hard to follow on the PDF but the strong writing helps, “Although chronological progression takes place in the story, as we move from 7:40 p.m. into the late hours of the night, the distinction between objective reality and fantasy falls away as we read the fragments, and every possibility has equal opportunity to be visited.” (Rettberg 58)

Coover’s approach through fragmentation may at first seem to be an annoyance as the reader has to pay incredible attention to what is happening, but I view it as a strength of the story. The fragmentation encourages the reader to fully involve themselves by looking at each fragment and looking at which match together and which don’t. It felt like I was piecing together the story, and just when I thought I had it pieced together, there are additional fragments that lead to other paths in the story as certain fragments have fragments that can go into different directions.

While reading the story, I made highlights as a way to indicate fragments that I was piecing together. I only wish that the story wasn’t on a PDF file so I could actually move the fragments around.

This “fiction of possibilities” allows for a level of engagement that cannot be achieved in traditional storytelling. In a way, it allows the reader in a limited capacity, to be the author of their own narrative.

Coover’s influence can be seen clearly in hypertext fiction, which have experimented and explored the idea of multilinearity for many years. An example can be seen with the story of Uncle Roger by Judy Malloy which contained seventy-five lexia, which was in a database structure. (Rettberg 69)


Electronic Literature by Scott Rettberg

“The Babysitter” by Robert Coover

Blog 2 :Hypertext Fiction

While I did enjoy reading Coover’s The Babysitter much more than Taroko Gorge, The Babysitter leaves me wanting something more when it comes to being able to comprehend a story or at least get a grasp of what it is trying to teach me. The story goes back and forth between Harry and Dolly Tucker, the young female babysitter(Jeannie?) with the two children Jimmy and Bitsy, and her boyfriend Jack who is hanging with his friend Mark. Already we have three narrative paths to follow (and possibly a fourth?).

Good luck keeping track of what’s what.

At first, I felt that I was somewhat able to follow what was happening in the story. Mr. Harry Tucker fantasizes about doing sexual activities with their babysitter Jeannie while his wife seems slightly suspicious of him. Jeannie’s boyfriend Jack wants to go further with her but is too timid to do so so he also fantasizes about her while his friend, Mark, tries to talk him into seeing her with him. And then there’s Jimmy who seems to have an odd fascination with the lovely babysitter as well.

What even…

This story jumps all over the place more and more the farther you read into it. For example, on page ten, the story jumps from Mr. Tucker trying to come up with an excuse t so that he can “run over” to the house, Mark and Jack trying to catch a glimpse outside of the frosted bathroom window, Jeannies’ 8:30 television program, an awkward tub scene between Jeannie and Jimmy(?), Mark and Jack trying to rape Jeannie, and then Mr. Tucker possibly fantasizing about Jeannie in a naughty way. It is so hard to appreciate the little details and descriptions the author has put into this piece when it is so agonizing to try and make sense of this story!

It is extremely challenging to tell whether everything that is happening is real, fake or a mixture of both. Despite these problems, we can connect this story and its spider web of a layout to another hypertext fiction. In Michael Joyce’s Afternoon, A Story, as mentioned in Rettberg’s Electronic Literature, most readers interpret the piece as something that:

“Forces the reader through detours without coming to a clear end “(Rettberg, 70-71)

We see this in The Babysitter. Sometimes she’s getting raped, other times she’s getting murdered, offered a ride home, questionable handling of a little boy’s penis, spanking someone, teasing Mr. Tucker, playing with herself or her boyfriend. The story is almost like a messed up version of “Choose Your Own Adventure” except the reader doesn’t get to choose. They are forced down these various paths until the end of the story. Then they have a choice as to how they think the story went.

Hypertext Fiction

Coover’s story “The Babysitter” works as a model for later works of Hypertext by creating a nonlinear narrative path without using electronic tools. The narrative directly involves the reader by providing them with various perspectives on the same story and not directly revealing which perspective is which. The narrative switches between perspectives along the way, which can cause further confusion for the reader. Because of the way that “The Babysitter” is formatted, the reader must infer which perspective is which, and try to formulate a coherent story from both the information they are given, and the information they are not. This story makes sense as a precursor to modern Hypertext because modern Hypertext tends to feature fragmented narratives that are connected through various “hypertext” links. “The Babysitter” works as a Hypertext narrative without the technological advancement of Hypertext. In other words, the narrative could be easily translated to modern Hypertext and have a similar effect on readers today.

The Babysitter

The main quality with works of hypertext are their non-linearity. Though Robert Coover’s “The Babysitter” may appear at a glance to be linear given its written out, print-based format, it is anything but. If someone were to read it linearly, they would quickly within just the first few paragraphs find themselves deeply confused or simply catch on that there is a different way to read this particular work. Looks can be deceiving after all.

While this work cannot be considered a work of Electronic Literature, it is an early example of multi-linearity.

The story consists of over one hundred fragments – paragraphs set off from each other by space breaks, that take us through multiple and divergent sequences of what might have or what could have occurred during the course of one evening between a babysitter, a baby, her boyfriend, and the mother and father of the house.

By describing the events of the night from these multiple perspectives, and providing the reader the opportunity to experience multiple endings through the course of the work, Coover has clearly and quite deliberately developed the structure for housing various paths the reader could take within the single text.

Later works of hypertext are all born digital but follow a similar structure to that which Coover demonstrates with his multi-linearity, storylines, and paths. Instead of separating by space breaks, each section of text would be in its own node whether on Twine or StorySpace (pre-Twine), and would have a word or sentence linking to the next node of text following a path. The digital age could far better take advantage of this method of storytelling and providing interactivity for the reader, but Coover’s “The Babysitter” certainly cast a light on the potential in storytelling linearity/multi-linearity and its structure.