December 1996


From Contest to Content

by John December

At least I don't have to write checks for $400 in prizes, but I wanted to, I really did.

I would haved loved to publish a Web-based work of fiction this month that would break new ground, would be read for years to come, and would be looked upon as a branching point in the expression of meaning on the World Wide Web.

Or I would have loved to just cry. Or laugh. Or feel something. But I didn't, so I'm not awarding prizes in the hypertext fiction contest I announced here in March.

I think []Michael Shumate's assessment of the state of Web-based hypertext sums it up best:

" hypertext fiction on the Web is replete with bad writing of all kinds: dull prose and wooden characterization; typographical errors... inane sermonettes on contemporary society and cultural and literary theory among all sorts of other postmodern pretentiousness... "
Some of the entries I received fell into these categories. Most of the entries, however, were simply dull reading.

I don't know about you, but I still love those old-fashioned paper books, the ones with the "linear" texts with block after block of paragraphs filled with sentences. Each sentence piles on one after another, accumulating meaning. I'm not going to pretend hypermedia--just because it is computer-based, modern, or interesting--moves me as much emotionally as books. I wonder []why the Web hasn't fired the human imagination yet.

The pleasure I have is introducing you to this month's issue. While the fiction submitted was not acceptable, the essays were. Michael Shumate []surveys hypertext fiction on the Web in the lead essay. []Chris Boese takes us into the woods--a journey through her development as a multimedia artist. []Nino Rodriguez challenges us to confront the fragmented, multiple meanings possible in hypertext expression. Richard Thieme [] explores the idea of play in its relationship to computers and posits that computers have brought us to some kind of higher level of expression.

Completing the issue, []Christopher Harper gives an account of his teaching computer communication to journalism journalism students. []Leslie Regan Shade explores a new book on the cultural and linguistic side of computer-mediated communication.

John December ( is editor of CMC Magazine.

Copyright © 1996 by John December. All Rights Reserved.

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