Tracing the Growth of a New Literature, by Michael Shumate
The Development of a Hypertext Fiction Web SiteLike communities in the Old West or gardens in the heat of summer, many Web sites turn into ghost towns and weed patches along the digital frontier after the excitement of something new passes. What keeps them growing? It helps if they garner profit or attention, or satisfy contractual obligations or private obsessions for the developer(s). I guess a combination of all of these would be best. I'll leave it to the reader to decide which of these apply to my work on Hyperizons.
My attention was first attracted to hypertext fiction by Robert Coover's 1992 article in The New York Times Book Review, "The End of Books." In this article, Coover described his experiences at Brown University with the development of the Hypertext Hotel and the use of Eastgate's Storyspace hypertext writing environment. Having never seen or heard of such a thing, I was mesmerized. But I couldn't find any of it, and anyone to whom I tried to describe what I thought I understood from Coover's article usually got a glazed look in their eyes or tried to back away without making eye contact. It was another year and a half before I saw anything written in Storyspace, two years before I was introduced to the Web.
Once I was on the Web, in mid-1994, I soon began looking for hypertext fiction and came across Prentiss Riddle's Web site (now obsolete), "The Search for Some Hypertext Fiction." Not much was there, but it was a start. Over the next few months, I gradually read a few more things and also finally got a chance to read some of the Eastgate fiction on disk, enough to realize I had my own thoughts about this new field and wanted to develop a different kind of list than Prentiss, one less inclusive but more detailed, an annotated bibliography that would document my thoughts. I'm not only a fiction writer, but also a note-taker and list-maker, a library archivist and cataloger, and, at the time, was also an interdisciplinary masters student hunting for a final project topic in the area of ethical and social issues in technology. Suffice it to say, I was one happy camper (until I began trying to find a faculty member to work with me. I started getting the glazed looks again--"What do you mean 'there will be no paper copy of my thesis'?").
I soon had early versions of five of the eight sections that are at Hyperizons now:
I still focus more on the sections for original fiction than the others, and always will. Finding good new writing is my main interest in developing the site. There are about 100 links at present, most of them to fiction, most of them to Web-based works. The entire site contains perhaps 250 links altogether, with another 100 or so bookmarked for exploration in the near future. The response has generally been positive, but rather than go into the details of that I'll provide a link to my "Clippings."