Sunday, 26 August 2007

Hyperfiction --- Boldly going where?

Though I've never been a fan, I could always appreciate the appeal of the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' genre. You know the sort: a basic framework for a story with three or four diversionary tracks the reader can follow:

  • If Noddy goes home to wash and wax his little yellow car, turn to page 78;
  • If Noddy summons up courage to ask Mrs Bear out to dinner at Chez Big Ears, turn to page 101;
  • If Noddy trades his car in, buys an AK47 on the Toy Town blackmarket and goes postal, turn to page 132.

Noddy_postal_1 If one pathway doesn't excite, then come back and try another. It's like getting three books in one, and might even be seen as the literary precursor to the video game, Nintendo 64, Xbox, etc. It certainly attracted a lot of kids into reading.

With this in mind, I thought I should overcome my prejudice about reading novel-length slabs of text on a monitor and get hold of some examples of hyperfiction, which I duly did a few months back. I'd come across a couple of excited articles about the wonderful potential of hyperfiction and wanted to sample them for myself, so loaded one on to my pc and one on to my work laptop, began flicking from page to page ... and felt my interest sink faster than a lead balloon. Since then, they've been sitting there, sulking or skulking on my hard drive, and I've failed to interest anyone else in having a read.


AfternoonQuarterly It isn't just the fact that these texts can only be viewed on screen, which kills my eyes, because if the hardware was any better this still wouldn't win me over. No, even with a hand-held digital book, I can't imagine being enthralled by the notion that what I have in front of me is not so much a story as an almost-endless series of permutations without direction: turn right if you like, or turn left, turn Turning_in_2Victory_garden_2 back if you're in the mood, jump forward perhaps, make your own choice, make another choice, read this character's thoughts, discover another character, and another, or another setting. Navigating the menu alone makes me feel as if the story-teller's craft has been sacrificed to creating endless links and cross-overs instead. Whilst a sense of design undoubtedly exists, the sense of being taken on a journey, the sense of purpose, has been replaced by the frustration of being left to wander in a random manner through an unnavigable maze.

But I also find it frustrating that I can't make more of the experience than this, so I'm posting this blog to see if anyone can enlighten me. Does anybody have a better experience with hyperfiction and, if so, how did you approach it? What did you get out of it? Help!

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