Below is a clip from the original PhD thesis (2005) of David Cicoricco, author of Reading Network Fiction, which may just capture even more specifically what Shade of the Morning Sun is – namely a networked novel or network fiction.
Read it several times and take time to digest:
“A three-tiered distinction of axial, arborescent, and networked adds greater precision when applied to narrative fiction.
“An axial narrative refers to a narrative where digressions are present in the form of glosses or notes that are secondary to the main narrative; typically, a reader returns to the main text after the digression.
“Anarborescent fiction, by contrast, refers to a narrative with branches, but specifically those that contain mutually exclusive story events or outcomes; a reader of an arborescent narrative makes choices at bifurcating points in the text and continues on until the end of one of the branches is reached. Returning to a previous bifurcation in an arborescent narrative is equivalent to rewinding a temporal frame; that is, readers undo and redo the story whenever they decide to go back.
“A network narrative, then, differs not only in its non-hierarchical organization, but also in that its narrative emerges gradually through a recombination of elements. Writers of network fictions are less concerned with confronting the reader with mutually exclusive outcomes and more concerned with the way narratives emerge in digital environments …
“Fixed sequence does not play a crucial role in determining meaning in network fictions. Rather, the experience of reading a network fiction is analogous to Hayles’ discussion of an engagement with complex systems, whereby repeated encounters with local structure give rise to an emergent global structure (l999a, 214).
“The parts, or nodes, of network narratives are self-contained semantic entities – and each screen-full of narrative material must be combined and re-combined in order for a higher level of coherence to emerge. Network fictions are emergent and recombinatory, and they exploit digital technology toward these ends.”
I’m not sure how much it matters, but it felt good to get an even more specific category for the Shade of the Morning Sun project than merely “hypertext fiction”, much less “electronic literature”. And if I have understood David correctly, the definition above is spot on for what I do.
P.S. Here is a shorter paper with some of the same themes: “The Electronic Writing and Reading Interface: Gateway to the Mainstream for Digital Born Fiction” by Beverly Morris (2011).