Hypertext fiction

Hypertext fiction is a category of text fiction characterized by the hierarchical structure and hyperlinks.  It became popular during the end of 1980s to 1990s.  It is composed of a series of web pages connected with each other by hyperlinks in a non-linear or non-sequential way.

What is hypertext fiction?


Joyce (1997), who is well known as an electronic literature critic and author of “afternoon: a story”, emphasized the importance of hypertext fiction’s changeability and reader’s choices.

“Our choices change the nature of what we read. Rereading in any medium is a conscious set of such choices, a sloughing off of one nature for another. The computer is always reread, an unseen beam of light behind the electronic screen replacing itself with itself at thirty cycles a second. Print stays itself–I have said often and elsewhere–electronic text replaces itself.” (Joyce, 1997)

The End of the Books?


Robert Coover, who wrote an essay “The End of the Books” in 1992, emphasized the difference between hypertext fiction and static book fiction.  Hypertext fiction makes readers free from domination by authors.  Unlike static text, hypertext’s readers and writers can be co-writers and co-creators.  Also, hyptertext fiction changed the form of narrative dramatically from linear and static way to non-linear, non-sequential and interactive way.  It had been impossible to create infinite text until hypertext emerged.

Genre of hypertext fiction


Also, Cicconi (2000) classified hypertext fiction according to frameworks; tree-hypernarrative with false forkings, tree-hypertext with true forkings, hypernarrative generated through expert systems and web-like hypernarratives.

Tree-hypernarrative with false forkings

Tree-hypertext with true forkings

Web-like hypernarratives

According to Hayles (2007), electronic literature can be divided into “first-generation” and “second-generation” with the break coming in 1995.  Before the invention of World Wide Web, the authors such as Michael Joyce, Jay David Bolter and John B. Smith created their works in Storyspace and HyperCard, which were popular hypertext writing environments.  As the development of World Wide Web and writing environments, hypertext fiction become more multifaceted.  M. D. Coverley, Caitlin Fisher, Talan Memmott, Scott Rettberg and William Gillespie were classified as second-generation creators.


Cicconi, D. 2000. The Shaping of Hypertextual Narrative. In. The Integrated Media Machine: A Theoretical Framework, Ed. M. Yla-Kotola, J. Suoranta, S. Inkinen & J. Rinne. Helsinki: University of Lapland, 2000. p.101-120.  http://www.cisenet.com/?p=5

Coover, R. 1992. The End of Books. New York Times Book Review. June 21. I. p.23-24.  http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/09/27/specials/coover-end.html

Joyce, Michael. Of Two Minds:Hypertext Pedagogy and Poetics. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1995.

Joyce, M. 1997. Nonce Upon Some Times: Rereading Hypertext Fiction. MFS Modern Fiction Studies. Volume 43, Number 3. pp. 579-597.  http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/modern_fiction_studies/v043/43.3joyce.html

Silvio GAGGI. From text to hypertext. Decentering the subject in fiction, film, the visual arts, and electronic media. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania University Press, 1997, 135-138.  http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/leonardo/v046/46.5.baetens03.html

Jan Baetens, J. and Fred Truyen, F. 2013. Hypertext Revisited.  Art and Architecture . Leonardo.Volume 46. Number 5.  http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/leonardo/v046/46.5.baetens03.html


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