1997: Interactive Fiction – What Does It Want to Be?

From the depths of the Internet, a great quote about interactive fiction a.k.a. hypertext fiction:

“The misguided impression that the reader can bring in his point of view (in case he/she has one) has to be avoided. The reader can only compare various perspectives, provided by the author, and identify with one or several of them.

“This, however, remains sheer “theory” as long as we cannot find in any of the existing interactive novels truly contradictive points of view. Contrasting opinions (as voiced, e.g., by Marquis Posa and King Philip in Schiller’s “Don Carlos” or by Naphta and Settembrini in Thomas Mann’s “Magic Mountain”) should not be expected in interactive novels. They require as a setting a dialectical plot-structure and do not fit into a loose sequence of (largely interchangeable) episodes.

“Concerning the “freedom of choice” of the reader in linking portions of text: We said already that we have to examine in each individual case how far it can go. However, in no case is it unlimited. Technically, it is determined by the “links” (words of the text that call up other portions of text) provided by the author within the “nodes” (chunks of text). Unrestricted possibilities of linking nodes must be impossible for psychological reasons. They would lead into absurdity.

“However, in order to be able to provide as many “links” as possible, hyperfiction has a tendency towards episodic character and pseudo-profound vagueness, often also towards a quasi-lyrical discovering of “connections” in everything. “Patchwork Girl” provides a good example for [sic] this. The titles of the text passages (in “Victory Garden” they are called “Story Spaces”) are so general in character (and often have so little inner connection with the text itself) that they hardly offer us any help in “navigating” through these passages.”

May Shade of the Morning Sun have less pseudo-profound vaguess and less quasi-lyrical discovering of connections, indeed!

Everything may very well be connected, but my ideal is to provide options to connect that are as meaningful as possible for the reader and works towards a reading experience that is greater than the sum of its parts. We’ll see.

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