An Afternoon with Afternoon promotional logo

30th Anniversary Celebration of Michael Joyce's afternoon, a story
hosted by the Electronic Literature Lab at Washington State University Vancouver

afternoon a story 1st edition floppy disk


afternoon a story 1st edition floppy disk


afternoon a story 3rd edition folio


afternoon a story 4th edition folio


afternoon a story 6th edition folios, blue and white variants


afternoon a story 8th edition screenshot


Norton Anthology of Postmodern Fiction book cover


afternoon a story 10th edition jewel case


afternoon a story 12th edition USB flash drive


afternoon a story 13th edition email and download



The first two editions of Michael Joyce's afternoon, a story are produced with Version 3.3 of Storyspace, the hypertext authoring system that Jay David Bolter, John B. Smith, and Joyce created. The software is written in PASCAL (Kirschenbaum, Mechanisms, 188) and realized for the Macintosh environment, the creators' platform of choice (Barnett 123). While Matthew Kirschenbaum refers to these two editions as "beta"editions ("Editing the Interface" 27), Joyce himself considers them to be "finished literary work" (5 June 2020).

  • Version 1.1 (1987) 1st Edition
  • Version 1.2 (1989) 2nd Edition

Version 1.1 (1987) 1st Edition

The 1987 Edition is recognized as the 1st Edition of the work (Kirschenbaum, Mechanisms, 2008). According to Joyce, approximately 50 copies were distributed on floppy disk to participants at the 1987 ACM Hypertext conference at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by Jay David Bolter and himself (Barnett 129). Kirschenbaum points out the anomaly found in this edition of the node entitled "Jung," "that contains no inbound links and no scripted text," an issue corrected in subsequent editions of the work (Kirschenbaum, "Editing the Interface," 32). To access the work, readers need a Macintosh computer, Plus or greater, with 160K RAM.

The floppy disk featured in this image, according to Joyce, represents one of the copies of the 1st Edition that Bolter and he distributed at Hypertext '87. The label you see currently affixed to it was actually created for the 27 or so floppy disks of the 2nd Edition distributed at Hypertext '89. As Joyce reports, this label is misdated "1987." The floppy disks for the 1st Edition were actually labeled and marked with an instrument like a "Sharpie." Joyce has signed and inscribed a copy of the 1st Edition for his two sons (Joyce, 8 June 2020).

Version 1.2 (1989) 2nd Edition

The 2nd Edition released in 1989 is a revision the 1st Edition before its publication the following year by Eastgate Systems, Inc. Joyce said he distributed copies of this version to participants at the Second ACM Conference on Hypertext, Nov. 1989, Pittsburgh, PA, believing only a total of 27 copies to have been produced (Joyce, "Letter to Sandra Kroups," 25 May 1992). Kirschenbaum, who conducted in-depth research of afternoon, a story at the Harry Ransom Center where Joyce's papers are held, expands upon this information, adding that it was "distributed to some subscribers to IF, The Journal of Interactive Fiction and Creative Hypertext, (edited by Gordon Howell); and a few copies were also distributed at Hypertext '89" (Mechanisms 160). The difference between the 2nd Edition and 1st Editions, according to Kirschenbaum, is that the 2nd "took advantage of certain changes to Storyspace to add new links and create a few new places" ("Editing the Interface" 29). It requires a Macintosh models Plus or greater and 160K RAM.

As mentioned previously, the image shows the floppy disk from the 1st Edition and the label prepared (but misaned) for the 2nd. Note that the label displays a bitmapped version of the logo created by Joyce and used on the folio cover of the 3rd and 4th Editions discussed in more detail later in my commentary. It notes Storyspace and Readingspace 1984-89 and credits Jay David Bolter, Michael Joyce and John B. Smith of Riverrun Limited. The location of Jackson, MI is also identified on the label. It is important to point out that this is where Joyce lived when he wrote the novel. During Joyce's visit to my lab he stated that he remembers the sounds of winter described in the opening screen's text (Grigar, 4 May 2016).


  • Version 2.1 (1990) 3rd Edition

After Mark Bernstein of Eastgate Systems, Inc. licensed Storyspace from Riverrun, Ltd. on December 17, 1990 (Barnett 134), he rewrote the software in C, renumbering it as Storyspace 1.0 (Kirschenbaum, Mechanisms, 189) and, so, "pioneered hypertext publishing . . . and arguably legitimized hypertext as a creative endeavor" (Barnett 132). It is listed on the title page as "'afternoon' in Readingspace", "Version 2.0d format" and copyrighted 1985-1989.

The 3rd Edition, referred to by Joyce as the "1st Eastgate Edition," was published on floppy disk with Storyspace for Macintosh computers and packaged in a cream and maroon vinyl folio. The front cover of the folio shows the name of the work with the yoni, the Hindu symbol of the womb. The symbol is also used for the launcher icon, thus further emphasizing the novel's exploration of women and men's relationship (Grigar, "Ten Things," 4 May 2016). The back cover features the famous line: "I want to say that I may have seen my son die this morning," as well as a description that highlights the work's literariness: "Michael Joyce's Afternoon is a pioneering work of literature, a serious exploration of a new hypertextual medium. It is neither a game nor a puzzle." A testimonial by hypertext author and theorist Stuart Moulthrop follows. Contained within the folio, along with the 3.5-inch floppy disk, is a booklet that features a license agreement, warranty, and disclaimer, as well as critics' testimonials and the author's bio. Thus, the presentation of the work and the work itself bridge the worlds of electronic and print media and signal that the former is a serious, intellectual endeavor. It should also be noted that Joyce remembers creating the art for the opening screen himself, using MacPaint, repurposing it from an image of reporters filing out of the Pentagon (Grigar, "Ten Things," 4 May 2016). This graphic is found in the title screens of all but two editions that follow.

Kirschenbaum reports that the 3rd Edition "changed text windows and typefaces and made minor fixes of links and texts, all differing from the [previous] edition" ("Editing the Interface" 29). Readers familiar with the later editions of afternoon, a story and other Storyspace hypertexts will notice that in the 3rd Edition the loading screen, which came to represent a work's size and hypertextual complexity, is divided into two: one for the spaces and another for the links— 539 and 950, respectively. Without access to the previous two editions, I do not know if this variation of the loading screen is a holdover from the Riverrun Editions or if Eastgate Systems, Inc. introduced the two screens for its own imprint. In any case, they are consolidated into one screen in the later editions. It is also important to note on the start page of the work that the copyright reads "©1987 Michael Joyce" and "The Eastgate Press Edition 1990".

To access afternoon, a story readers needed a Macintosh computer 512E or above. The 512E, by the way, was released by Apple on April 14, 1986 and cost at the time $2000.

The image, shown above, is a .pdf shared with me by the artist.


  • Version 3.1 (1992) 4th Edition, The 1992 Mac Edition
  • Version 4.1 (1992) 5th Edition, The 1992 Windows 3.1 Edition

Version 3.1 (1992) 4th Edition, The 1992 Mac Edition

The 4th Edition, which is packaged in a gray and blue folio instead of the cream and maroon colors of the previous edition, is a release that addresses the upgrade to Macintosh Systems Software 6.07. It has been referred to as the "authoritative text of afternoon, a story" (Kirschenbaum, "Editing the Interface," 31). Readers will note, however, that its title screen identifies it as the "3rd Edition". The discrepancy in the publisher's edition number can be explained by studying of the title screens of the editions published on the CD-ROM and USB Stick: Both show that the publisher acknowledges the copyright dates of 1987 and 1992 but disregards the 1989 Edition. Additionally, Terry Harpold refers to the 1992 Mac Edition as the 5th, citing the 1992 Windows 3.1 Edition as the 4th (Harpold, Ex-foliations, 316), a discrepency I address in detail in the section about the 1992 Windows 3.1 Edition.

By the time the 4th Edition was released, the novel had received rave reviews in by Robert Coover in The New York Review of Books and Pamela McCorduck in The Whole Earth Review, and J Yellowlees Douglas had completed her dissertation on the novel. Thus, its growing popularity resulted in a change of the back cover: Joining the previous information from the 3rd Edition are now excerpts from reviews by Coover and McCorduck and an excerpt from Douglas's essay from Writing on the Edge.

An interesting anomaly is seen in the booklet for this edition. On page 5 there is a notice for Sarah Smith's "epic" King of Space, advertised as "available in September 1990." Because the 1992 Mac and Windows 3.1 Editions of afternoon, a story were released in 1992, it is highly plausible that this booklet packaged with the 1992 Mac Edition is repurposed from the 3rd Edition—that is, the 1st Eastgate Imprint.

Besides changes to its physical presentation, the work also underwent textual and structural ones. Kirschenbaum reports a slight increase of nodes, from 536 to 539, and large increase of links, from 854 to 951. The version I used for this commentary, however, shows that the 3th and 4th Editions both offer the same number of nodes but that the 3rd Edition has one additional link. In all, the work grew, according to Kischenbaum, "from 235 kilobytes in the first edition to 375" in this one, due to "changes in the underlying software code and the way in which it has been compiled" ("Editing the Interface" 30). More importantly, however, a revision to the linking structure "yield[ed] access to a remote region of afternoon that opens up important new plot developments." As he points out, "this area of the text would not have been previously accessible without a far more prolonged and circuitous reading of afternoon" ("Editing the Interface" 30-31).

System Software 6.0.7 was released on October 16, 1990, a day after 6.0.6. It was available for a wide range of Macintosh computers, including the SE, SE/30, Classic, II, IIx, IIcx, IIci, IIfx, IIsi, and LC. For this study, I accessed afternoon, a story on two of my Mac Classics and, so, can verify that it works on computers running System Software 6.0.3 and 7.1. At the time of its release the novel sold for $19.95, or $36.50 in today's dollars.

The image featured for this edition was taken of a much used copy held in my lab's library.

Version 4.1 (1992) 5th Edition, The 1992 Windows 3.1 Edition

Version 4.1 is the 5th Edition and the first release of afternoon, a story for computers running Windows 3.1. Kirschenbaum references it as the 5th Edition (Mechanisms 160), but as I mentioned previously Harpold identifies it as the 4th (190). It is clear, however, that it was released after the Macintosh version had already been distributed because the manual for the 4th edition (1992 Macintosh Edition) makes no mention of a Windows version, nor does it include instructions for installing one, as was the company's common practice for conserving resources with its booklets. Additionally, a flyer, entitled "Storyspace serious hypertext" and packaged in the folio for Moulthrop's Victory Garden (1991) advertises "More Titles" offered by the company, listing afternoon, a story among the eight. Below that section is another one, entitled, "New! For Windows!," that includes four titles. The first work mentioned is afternoon, a story. The information states that it required Windows 3.1, 386/486 and a hard drive.

The copy in my collection and the one found in the Marjorie C. Luesebrink Collection show that the same gray folio used for the 1992 Mac Edition is repurposed for the 1992 Windows Edition. The folio does not designate which version of the work it holds, a practice that developed later with the 1994 Editions of the novel.


  • Version 5.1 (1994) 6th Edition, The 1994 Mac Edition
  • Version 6.1 (1994) 7th Edition, The 1994 Windows 3.1 Edition

Because the vinyl used previously for the folio was found to damage its contents, when Eastgate Systems, Inc. re-released afternoon, a story in 1994, the company shifted to cardboard as its packaging material, a practice it also undertook for the re-release all of its titles. Interestingly, although two different colors are used for the folios—white and blue—color is not associated with a particular platform. To determine if the floppy disk contained in the folio is compatible with a Macintosh or Windows computer, readers need to check the folio's back cover and see if a sticker is affixed to the dot marking it "Windows" or "Macintosh." It is interesting to note that the white folio shows the "A" in afternoon, a story capitalized, while it is not on the blue folio. When asked about it, Joyce said he does not know why it happened since his intention was for the title to be represented uncapitalized (Grigar, 4 May 2016). One hypothesis I have, but cannot verify, is that the white folios were used first for the Macintosh Edition, but when the Windows 3.1 Edition was released, the company released both editions packaged in a blue folio with the letter "A" corrected on both the front and back covers. What can be verified is that the continued critical acclaim of the work impacts the design of the folio cover: It changes from the conceptual design used for the previous two versions to one featuring a photo of the author. The back cover is also affected by the novel's growing popularity. On the white folio the author's photo is featured four times down along the left hand side. Interestingly, this treatment is eliminated on the blue folio. On both, the famous line from the novel, description, and excerpt from Coover's review remain from the 1992 Editions, but replacing the other critical responses are Richard Grant's for The Washington Post Book World, Harry Goldstein's for The Utne Reader and those from the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Wall Street Journal. Like the previous versions, the folio contains a manual—though now expanded to 14 pages to accommodate directions for both Macintosh and Windows computers. The folio also contains a self-addressed Registration Card.

There two main differences between the Mac and Windows versions of afternoon, a story: the aesthetic and the functionality. In regard to the former, readers using a Windows computer encounter a work framed by two bars that recall a software environment. The top bar includes seven menu items: "File", "Edit", "Storyspace", "Navigate", "Bookmark" "Windows", and "Help"; the bottom, items generally associated with Windows systems: "Start", "A:\," "C:\WINDOWS\Start Menu," the name of the file, which in this case is "Afternoon a story", and the time of day. The Mac version, on the other hand, offers what looks more like a page of a book with a small bit of space at the top left-hand side of the screen showing the Apple icon and the word "Reader". Interestingly the difference in aesthetic is driven by the difference in functionality: The Toolbar, a feature of Storyspace hypertexts from the beginning, is reorganized into the menu of the Windows version. For example, to locate the paths in a given lexia—an activity the Toolbar is used for in the Macintosh version—readers need to go to "Storyspace" in the menu. For many of us who came to Storyspace hypertexts before Eastgate Systems, Inc. began publishing Windows versions, the experience of reading literary hypertexts on a PC was jarring.

It is important to point out that the copyright date for the 6th Edition is listed as "1987/1992" while the 7th Edition shows "1987/1993".

The image, shown above, includes the copy of afternoon, a story with the blue folio purchased many years ago from Eastgate Systems, Inc., and the copy packaged in the white folio given to me by my friend John Zuern.

Version 5.1 (1994) 6th Edition, The 1994 Mac Edition

The 6th edition is a re-release for Macintosh computers that requires System Software 7, 8, 9, or OSX.

Version 6.1 (1994) 7th Edition, The 1994 Windows 3.1 Edition

The 7th edition of the work is the re-release of the version for computers running Windows 3.1.


Many hypertext scholars were surprised to see Joyce's afternoon, a story, along with J Yellowlees Douglas' "I Have Said Nothing," published by W.W. Norton & Co. in its Postmodern American Fiction: A Norton Anthology. Joyce himself called it "ironic" (Grigar 4 May 2016). Kirschenbaum emphasizes this oddity by italicizing the word "print" when talking about this edition ("Editing the Interface" 28). With Joyce's permission and help, Norton also published afternoon, a story online as a hypertext. Some of us believed that the inclusion of hypertext literature in a Norton anthology and hosted online by the company meant it had been recognized as a formal literary form by the purveyors of print (Grigar, "Saying Something").

  • Version 7.1 (1997) 8th Edition; The Norton Special Web Edition
  • N/A (1998) 9th Edition; The Norton Print Edition

Version 7.1 (1997) 8th Edition, The Norton Special Web Edition

The 8th edition is the "special web edition" published by the W. W. Norton & Co. It required Java and Javascript-enabled browsers with access to LiveConnect and ActiveX support, both Windows products. Compatible browsers include Netscape Navigator 3.x for Windows 95, NT, and UNIX; Navigator 4.x for Windows 95, NT, MacOS, and UNIX; and Internet Explorer 3.x and 4.x for Windows 95 and NT; and possibly Internet Explorer 4.x for MacOS and other browsers. It is a full version of the work, consisting of 541 webpages, two more than the number found in the author's authoritative 4th Edition. Joyce reports that he "resisted *any* restrictions upon the reader's choices in the Norton version and . . . implemented a full version of afternoon with all its lexia, links, and guardfields but compromised by limiting the number of screens to a certain number of reader choices/lexia, although *all* were potentially reachable" (Joyce, 31 May 2016). The website credits Justin Edelson for the "Java programming and Javascript guard field engine;" Jason Lucas as the graphic designer; Jay David Bolter as the programmer who produced the data structure and special textual coding; and Heather Malin as the editorial assistant. The site also references the dates for afternoon, a story as 1987, 1992, and 1990.

While this edition still appears to be online at both its original URL ( and a secure URL (, those wishing to read it unfortunately cannot get beyond the interface.

The image, shown above, is a screenshot taken of the site's graphic. Note that it has been modified from the one featured in the title page of the previous editions.

N/A (1998) 9th Edition; The Norton Print Edition

The 9th edition is an excerpt of the novel, comprised of 10 lexias spanning pages 577-580 in the anthology. The Norton Print Edition, published in 1998 after the Norton Special Web Edition, was edited by Paula Geyh, Fred G. Leebron, and Andrew Levy. It is included in the section, entitled "Technoculture," which focuses on "technology as a "social and creative force." In the introduction to the section, the editors describe hypertext fiction as a "full partnership of computer and authorship," suggesting a "paradigm shift, linking the act of creativity with the telecommunications machines that now facilitate—and mediate—human contact" (509). Joining afternoon, a story are six lexias from J Yellowlees Douglas' hypertext narrative, "I Have Said Nothing," mentioned previously; reprints of William Gibson's short story "The Gernsback Continuum," Ursula Le Guin's "Shrödinger's Cat," and other stories; and excerpts from novels, such as Don DeLillo's White Noise, Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, and others. Some lexias from Joyce's story include commentary about the possible paths readers can take in the digital version. The date of afternoon, a story referenced is 1990, which speaks not to the edition of the work from which the print edition comes but rather the one of the two copyright dates frequently used for the novel. The anthology also includes an essay about afternoon, a story, entitled "Conclusions," by Harpold in the anthology's last section, "A Casebook of Postmodern Theory." In his essay Harpold refers to the novel as "unruly" (638), a term echoed by Kirschenbaum. Because Harpold cites 539 lexias in his essay, it is clear he is talking about a 1992 edition of the work even though the publication date showing up in Figure 2 of his essay gives the date, 1990.

The image, shown above, is taken of the paperbook copy of the anthology held in my personal library. The cover painting, entitled Skylab by Minicam, was created in 1979 by Roger Brown.


  • Version 8.1 (2001) 10th Edition; The CD-ROM Edition for Macintosh System 7-MacOS X 10.4
  • Version 9.1 (2007) 11th Edition; The CD-ROM Edition for MacOS X 10.5-10.15

The 10th Edition, created with Storyspace 2.0 and published by Eastgate Systems, Inc. in 2001, combines the the Macintosh and Windows versions of the work into one file for the CD-ROM format. It requires computers running Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, and me or Macintosh computers running System Software 7-9 and early MacOS X running the Classic operating system.

It had been seven years since the company had released a new version of afternoon, a story. When it finally did, it came packaged as a CD-ROM in a plastic jewel case. Gone are the bookish vinyl and cardboard folios filled with promotional brochures and a booklet providing directions for how to install the work. By the early 21st century, the reading public had years to become inculcated by web culture, and Joyce's audience did not need to believe they were interacting with a book in order to be enticed to read it.

The novel's art changes, too. The insert cover features a black and white drawing of woods, an image inspired by the woods found near the publisher's office. The CD-ROM does not have a label, so its silver surface is printed with the graphic in black along with publication information. The launcher icon, which is titled "afternoon CD", opens to a VISE installer. The graphic of the woods appears on the installation screen, which simply states "Eastgate Systems, Inc." and "Michael Joyce afternoon, a story." Following its installation, a folder containing launcher icon with the yoni symbol found in the previous versions, a manual created as an Acrobat document entitled "Reading _afternoon, a story_", and a free coupon appears. It is notable to mention that the launcher icon is colored blue and red, the first time color is used in the work. Both the Title and Start Screens are the same as those featured in the 4th Edition. This means that though released in 2001, the 10th Edition is said to be the "3rd Edition 1992." A look at the file date reveals that it is listed as Macintosh System Software 6.07.

The need to migrate afternoon, a story from the 3.5-inch floppy disk format was predicated not by aesthetics, but rather by technology: the elimination of the floppy disk drive from Apple computers, beginning 1998. Eastgate Systems, Inc. had already begun to publish new titles, like Rob Swigart's Downtime and M. D. Coverley's Califia, straight to CD-ROM in 2000 and was, by 1997, releasing titles, like Stephanie Strickland's True North and Bill Bly's We Descend, simultaneously on both 3.5-inch floppy disk and CD-ROM formats. What is clear by looking at this version of the CD-ROM is that it functions as a breadcrumb leading readers from the conventions put into place by the company for its floppy disks in the early to mid 1990s. The bitmapped graphic and information found on its screen, as well as the need to double-click on the hyperlinks, give way a gradual update to its interface and overall reader experience.

In October 2007 Apple dropped support for the Classic operating system. This upgrade to MacOS X 10.5 (Leopard) meant that the 10th Edition would become inaccessible for readers using this new operating system and an 11th Edition was needed.

Information about the second release of a CD-ROM edition cannot be found through scholarly databases, and WorldCat, neither does the Electronic Literature Directory mention it. Using the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine to examine the publisher's web page at which the work was promoted and sold shows that Eastgate System, Inc. also makes no mention at all about the release of a new edition. Even when the company updated its website in July 2009, it does not change the information on the page for Joyce's novel. Harpold, however, lists it in his bibliography, and afternoon, a story's German translator Rolf Krause alludes to it in email exchanges we have had about his work. I own both CD-ROM editions in my library but had not heretofore paid attention to the variations between them nor pieced together their history until now.

It seems from looking at the 11th Edition's file date that Eastgate Systems, Inc. began work on the 11th Edition in 2006. This edition was produced with Storyspace 2.5.1 for both Macintosh and Windows computers and packaged in the same style as the 10th Edition. This time, the publisher included along with afternoon, a story in English, the Italian translation by Walter Vannini from 1993 and the German translation by Rolf D. Krause and Doris Köhler from 1998/2002, though oddly their names are listed only by their initials. The insert cover and the CD-ROM label are similar to the 10th Edition's except that the CD-ROM is given a white label. The launcher icon is changed from the yoni to the Storyspace logo. The title screen lists this edition as the "6th" and dates it "2007." The CD-ROM's jewel case insert has not been updated and, so, still states that the "[p]ackaging, art, and documentation are copyrighted in 2001."

As mentioned in my curatorial statement, the look and feel of the later editions—the 11th onward—differ from that of those produced on floppy disks and the 10th Edition CD-ROM. The interface of the 11th Edition, for example, is smaller and, so, demands less attention on the computer screen than the previous editions. Its typeface, too, is more up-to-date, having lost the jaggy bitmapped look from before. In essence, this edition set the style for the next edition.

The image, shown here, is taken from the CD-ROM from my personal collection.


  • Version 10.1 (2016) 12th Edition; The USB Stick Edition

The 12th Edition of afternoon, a story was released in 2016, the same year optical disks were discontinued on Macintosh computers. It had been nine years since the 11th Edition had been published and five years since Apple's introduction of MacOS X 10.7.5. When the 12th Edition arrived in the hands of readers, it was packaged as a USB Stick or a downloadable digital file produced with Storyspace 3.0 for Macintosh computers only. As of this writing, neither editions are available for Windows computers. It is important to note that only three works from the 48 published by Eastgate Systems, Inc. have been published in this media format: afternoon, a story, Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl (1995), and Bernstein's Those Trojan Girls (2016).

A comparison between the editions Eastgate Systems, Inc. published on floppy disk with those published from the 11th Edition onward shows a marked difference of aesthetic, with the latter three editions offering a contemporary interface that readers of the early 21st century had come to expect from their interactive media. While the 11th Edition still displays testimonials on the back insert of its jewel case extoling the work as a hypertext, the 12th and 13th include no such information. As with all editions of afternoon, a story, the work opens to a title page. This one is, however, identical to the 11th Edition's, identifying it also as the "6th Edition 2007" with the two copyright dates "1987, 1992" also mentioned. Because screen resolution had continued to improve over the ensuing years, the title page of the 12th and 13th Editions are wider than the previous, leaving more white space on the right hand side and further deemphasizing the logo and associated information. The typeface though remains the same at the 11th Edition. It should be noted, though, that the graphic featured on the title page is the same one used for previous editions except when accessing the work with a computer running the most recent operating system, MacOS X 10.15.5 (Catalina). Readers with computers running this operating system will notice the opening graphic is missing. Also of interest is that the graphic used for promoting the 12th Edition on Eastgate Systems, Inc.'s website is the cover art from the 10th and 11th Editions—that is, the black and white image of the woods. By moving away from an aesthetic introduced in the 1990s, the 12th Edition continues the work to re-situate the work for a contemporary audience begun with the 11th Edition.

2016 — VERSION 11., The Downloadable Digital File Edition; THE 13TH EDITION

  • Version 11.1 (2016) 13th Edition; The Downloadable Digital File Edition

The 13th Edition of afternoon, a story is a significant departure from the other editions. As a downloadable digital file, it lacks the physicality of the previous 10 editions presented on various media formats—floppy disk, CD-ROM, and even the USB Stick of the 12th Edition that the novel closely resembles in aesthetic and functionality. Unlike the web-based 9th Edition, the only other edition that was not packaged on a physical media format, the 13th comes to readers as a Dropbox link to a .dmg file, a format commonly used for moving apps to a computing device. Like the 12th Edition, it provides none of the contextual materials connecting it to literature or past editions, like quotes from Coover and other critics, promotion as a "postmodern classic," an author bio, the image of Joyce on the cover, a cover graphic, etc. The edition exists outside of the system of references with which it had long been associated as a novel, hypertext or otherwise.

A hint of this shift occurred over a decade before when the 11th Edition of afternoon, a story, published in 2007, changed the launcher icon from the yoni symbol to the Storyspace software logo. Even at the time it seemed odd for the novel to lose this connection to its past, but since Eastgate Systems, Inc. had taken this step with all works it had migrated to Storyspace 2.0 published on CD-ROM, there was consistency in the decision. Looking back, it serves as a harbinger for other technological changes shaping the public's relationship with electronic media. Just a year before, in 2006, cloud technology became mainstreamed with Amazon through its web services. Users were becoming accustomed to downloading media from sites and interacting with files instead of handling physical objects like floppy disks and CD-ROMs that had been used by Eastgate Systems, Inc. for its publications. By 2016 when the 13th Edition appeared, the public had been reading novels off the Kindle for well over a decade and via the Apple iBook app for six. An electronic novel like Joyce's was no longer expected to look like a print book, much less possess the physicality of one. It could, in fact, exist as a file. What this exhibition lays bare is this transformation of afternoon, a story, from its association as a novel born out of print culture sensibilities to its current instantiation as a work of electronic media.

What this exhibition demonstrates are the challenges to keep this important work alive and in the hands of readers for over three decades. That the novel has been presented in six different formats—floppy disk, website, excerpt in a book, CD-ROM, USB Stick, and downloadable digital file—withstanding technological upgrades to both hardware and software and the growing popularity of steaming media— speaks to afternoon, a story's legacy and its impact on contemporary literary culture. They also speak to the evolution of hypermedia over time: the loss of physicality of the object, the move away from features and attributes associated with book and print culture, and the changing nature of publishing in the Digital Age. afternoon, a story may have been considered a "postmodern classic" in the 1990s, but today in the second decade of the 21st century it endures as a literary classic, timeless and significant.

The image, shown here, is taken from a copy that I own in my collection.