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 Whilst a sense of design undoubtedly exists, the sense of being taken on a journey, the sense of purpose, has been replaced by the frustration of being left to wander in a random manner through an unnavigable maze.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!

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Down at the Factory of the Imagination

Factory_of_the_imagination Here I am doing a spot of overtime down at the Factory of the Imagination. The machinery is humming fairly smoothly for the moment though, so I thought I'd take a late lunch-break and post a quick blog.

Yep, every lever in the place points to EDIT and the pistons are chattering: "the-snowing-and-greening-the-snowing-and-greening-the-snowing-and-greening..." All I have to do is make sure nothing seizes or wears loose and that no gaskets blow. Mind, these machines have been running full bore for several days now and the quality of engineering wasn't crash hot to begin with.

The other week, I was taking a break from the factory floor and decided to wander upstairs, along to MARKETING. They're a different breed up there, with a different outlook, and chewing the fat with the Marketing gurus made a pleasant change to the grinding of gears and pressing of plates. Came across the following in my travels: Click here Don't think we'll be using anything like it for The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore, but thought you might enjoy.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Bad news on the doorstep

Gob-smacked by the news that Angus & Robertson, one of Australia's largest bookshops have invoiced publishers for books they can't sell, and are attempting to charge publishers up front in order to stock their titles---or will refuse to stock them. Read full details here. However, if all the publishers signed an accord and refused to supply Angus & Roberston, it would be one empty bookshop very quickly and every bookshop could expand to fill the gap. Bad news turned good!


Friday_at_the_nobody_inn_2 Recent reads: Bombshells by Joanna Murray-Smith. A play in six parts, each with a different character played by the same actor. Quite enjoyed this, particularly the stories of overworked housewife Meryl Louise Davenport, bride-to-be Theresa McTerry and widow Winsome Webster. Am looking at it as a text to use at work, and think it'll do nicely along with a couple of novels and a film. Also finished with Caroline Smailes' In Search of Adam, which leaves me ready to start Mark Hayhurst's Friday at the Nobody Inn.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Desert Island Discs

Since posting a list of 10 books I'd happily revisit, and mentioning the radio program Desert Island Discs in passing, I've discovered it's still running ... into its 65th year! That's a stunning feat. However, with all those celebrities stranded on desert islands over so many years, what's even more amazing is that any islands are left on which to dump yet another. Not only this, but I can't get over the fact that no one's fully considered that you don't find many functioning record players washed up on desert island beaches, nor that you'd find an electricity grid and power socket to plug the thing into.

It all seems a tad cruel to pluck a celebrity from stardom, to encourage them 002to select 8 records, and then to abandon them on a desert island without any real chance of listening to the things. They might come in useful as frisbees, I guess, but the frustration would outweigh any pleasure. It's either cruel or pleasantly absurd.

Maybe the additional items they're allowed to take (a book, other than a religious or Shakespearian text, and an inanimate luxury, without any practical use) will somehow compensate for the futility of having carefully chosen the 8 records they can look at but can't hear.

Now, I can't just sit back and let other people create lists of their top 8 records without wanting to do the same. So, after great deliberation and much consternation at having to leave out a few hundred favourite tracks, here's my list:

  1. Amsterdam - Jacques Brel (David Bowie did a cover once---everyone's covered Brel---but the live version of Amsterdam, performed by the Belgian, reminds me of a small town in France[!] where I bought the album and had a great holiday)
  2. Mahli (remix) - Souad Massi (impossible not to tap your foot to, to start dancing to, to start bouncing round the room to)
  3. Soleá - Radio Tarifa (love the soulful passion of flamenco)
  4. Burn One Down - Ben Harper (probably not representative of Ben Harper at his best, but a fun song that'd remind me of his other work)
  5. Little Red Rooster - The Rolling Stones (couldn't choose between Muddy Waters and all the other Blues greats, but the Stones did a great job with this song)
  6. Exit Music (For a Film) - Radiohead (evocative and strongly linked in my head with Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, which I like a lot)
  7. Trois Gymnopédies - Erik Satie (something classical, pensive, mellow)
  8. No Woman, No Cry - Bob Marley and the Wailers
If I was ranking these records, I'd have to put No Woman, No Cry first. Which is why I've left it till last! It's a no-brainer for me. One of the best tracks of all time, with many excellent covers and a few terrible ones too. Many years 001 ago, when I was on the way home from Northampton School of Art and College of Technology, where I was doing my 'A' levels, a friend told me that a band called Bob Marley and the Wailers were playing in the town that night and that I should come along. I'd not heard of them at the time and thought they'd be a two-bit band so didn't go, but within a couple of months I'd learnt what I'd missed out on. Ouch!
  • For reading material, I'd probably want to take an encyclopedia. Something to dip in and out of and never quite finish. No beginning, no end.
  • For that little luxury, I'd either negotiate to take my collection of Northern Exposure DVDs (and something to watch all six series on) or, failing that, a large bottle of good Irish whiskey.
Well, that's me on my desert island. What about you?