[E]very interactive fiction depends upon
a fiction of interaction.
in the Breakdown lane"
Critics writing about hyperfiction frequently allow two distortions into their work. First, they ignore the special character of hyperfiction as fiction and treat it as any hypertext. Second, they write about hyperfiction as promises of what is to come; analyses strictly dealing with characteristics of existing hyperfictions are rare. The result is that the actual narrative structures of hyperfiction and the actual implications of thier narrative structures to meaning are passed over in silence, a problem I would like to avoid in an examination of the visual aspects employed by Michael Joyce's Afternoon, a story, Stuart Moulthrop's Victory Garden, and Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl.
First, a dismissal of hyperficton mythology. One of the main myths created by the confusion of hypertext with hyperficton is the exaggeration of the reader's interactivity. 'Interactivity' is usually interpreted as the possibility--which almost automatically turns to a responsibility--to take the 'role of the author,' for the reader to create his/her own story. Hypertext theoreticians make a distinction between the 'interactive' and 'proactive' reader, but in practice this distinction seems to be forgotten; existing hyperfictions largely maintain the distinct role of the author as the ultimate creator of the Text. The reader has to some extent the possibility of 'interacting' with the (making of the) story, but not of taking the role of a 'proactive author.'>1
It is also essential to highlight the nature of hyperfiction stories as narratives. MUDs (Multi-User Domains, Multi-User Dungeons) are an example of collaborative fiction, but their narrative element is usually weak. Or, if the narrative is strengthened, as is the case with adventure-MUDs, the collaborative potential is diminished to mere 'interactivity'.
The problem is then, mainly, to define 'interactivity' with respect to narrative hyperfiction. The lexias of hyperfiction (more or less independent passages of text which are linked to each other) are pre-defined, as are the links between them. This means that the Text as such must be seen as given to the reader. The reader?s interactivity, then, has an effect on the unfolding or construction of the narrative, but not on the Text per se. A phrase much used with hypertext, 'reader-as-author,' should be replaced with the more accurate 'reader-as-(co)narrator'--but even this is somewhat misleading, since interaction is limited only to certain parts of the narrator's activity.
This refinement has some practical implications for the development
of hyperfiction interfaces. But to concentrate on what hyperfiction
is rather than could be, it's more useful to examine the visual
devices used to structure narration. I have chosen examples on
the basis of their reliance on alphanumeric text, so that they
use illustrations, animation or other such devices only little
or not at all. That is, I'm not dealing with primarily visual
narratives, but with the visual structuring of primarily written
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