by Stuart Moulthrop
Copyright Eastgate Systems 1995
All Rights Reserved
=============== 105 spaces; about 500 links
|a hypertextual portal to the diverse lives of five linked individuals|
To enter 'five|standing', click on the portal link below.
The product of five individuals, this 'hypertext' contains five distinct and independently produced narratives. Brought together through the employment of computer technology, it is possible to read each as an independent fiction, or as part of a wider conglomeration of narrative. Narratives intersect, collide, share ideas and concepts, creating a complex web where seperate and distinct stories come together to present a gestalt, a new form born of five others. Depending upon the choices you make, you will find either a single narrative, a group of independent stories, or a tangled web of interconnected narratives. You are in control.
In an attempt to simplify what could become an extremely confusing and frustrating reading experience, we have attempted to provided a variety of navigation aids for your use.
Initially, we have included a screen which, while apparently a part of the wider narrative, allows you to choose whether you wish to read each narrative individually, or all five together. Presenting two hyperlinks - 'together' and 'apart' - this page is self-explanatory. Once you have navigated this screen, you will enter 'five|standing' proper. The content of the two 'versions' (independent or linked narratives) is almost identicle, the independent version differing only in that all hyperlinks lead to other parts of the same narrative - there are no links to the other four 'stories' as in the fully combined version.
Secondly, at the bottom of each page there is a drop-down menu. This simple tool provides an easy-to-access list of every link on the page. So, if you cannot be bothered to select a word in the main body of text, you can select it's mirror in the drop-menu.
Thirdly, we have placed 'forward' and 'back' buttons on each page, allowing quick and easy navigation. Clicking on the 'forward' button takes you to the next page of the narrative, following a logical chronological order, and so providing a conventional reading experience. It is more rewarding to explore the text as a true hyperfiction, however, in which case you should simply click on any link within a page.
The 'back' button is most useful when you examine 'five|standing' in it's interlinked 'together' form. As you progress through the tangle of narratives, you may become disoriented, losing the particular story you were following. If this happens, and you wish to retreat to the narrative you had been reading, simply click on the 'back' button. This button does not depend upon a logical order of pages, instead moving one step back according to the route you have taken.
If, despite these navigational aids, you still become disoriented, we have included 'signposts' denoting which particular narrative each page belongs to. We have assigned each narrative a particular symbol, as shown below:
[ One leaves ] - [ One stays ] - [ One dies ]
These are hidden, however, so that if you wish you may piece together the narratives without our guidance. However, if you do wish to see which narrative a particular page relates to, simply roll the mouse-pointer over the top left corner of the page - the coloured symbol will appear.
Although hyperfiction usually comes in the form of written text, we have attempted to develop the 'genre' through the inclusion of images. An entire narrative - 'one|dies' - is constructed around a series of twenty-five snapshots. Together these photographs tell an interesting yet disturbing tale, which, true to the central characteristic of hyperfiction, can be read in a number of ways. Due to the lack of text, we have employed image-mapping techniques to provide links to other pages. It does not matter if you do not know what 'image-mapping' is - all you need to know is that certain areas of the photographs have been converted into links. Roll your mouse pointer over each image, and you will be able to identify and select various links to other pages. Simple, yet effective.
[click to go on]
| This site is fiction and all the characters are fictional. Any similarities to real people are purely unintentional. If you have any real mental health concerns, be sure to seek the advice of a medical professional.|
Although "Holier Than Thou" is a work of fiction that can be read in its own right, it is also part of a larger web of text. It is part of my final project "Writing Lives: Technology, Creativity, and Hypertext Fiction," which I will be submitting for completion of my M.A. in Liberal Studies, Duke University, Summer, 1996. As part of this project, more detail on the writing of "Holier Than Thou" and its metamorphosis into a hypertext is available, although--I hope--not necessary to an enjoyable and informed reading of the story.
"Holier Than Thou" should be readable from all browsers--there are no images as yet except an image map. However, since it uses "client pull," one of the "dynamic documents" extensions to HTML proposed by Netscape, reading it with Netscape Navigator version 1.1 or higher will be a very different experience than reading it with other browsers. I have no problem with this--in fact, it is done on purpose and I will discuss this in more detail in my final project. My inspiration to introduce this feature came directly from Stuart Moulthrop's recent fiction, Hegirascope, which I highly recommend.
Initial release: October 19, 1995
Last update: July 25, 1996
[ S I L I C O N__F O L L I E S ]
Adrift among the cubicles
BY THOMAS SCOVILLE | It was a sea of cubicles. Every 20 yards an oversized potted palm rose up like a desert island, a cluster of upholstered chairs marooned and huddling at the base. High overhead, box-girders braced up a brooding sheet-metal sky. Banks of lighting hovered at regular intervals -- regiments of incandescent clouds. All natural light had been banished.
Once it had been a manufacturing plant, but the waning of the aerospace business had pressed it into other uses. Now it was a thought factory. The industrial designers' attempts to humanize the anonymous, cavernous space had only made it more surreal.
Aesthetics weren't the only problem. The leviathan imposed a number of logistical challenges, foremost of which was the Question of Caffeine: What happened when 100,000 square feet of personnel simultaneously converged on a common area for coffee? What would such a concentration of volatile, undersocialized engineers, passive-aggressive managers and other hard-charging corporate overachievers yield?
Management decided such a critical mass wouldn't be in its best interests. It didn't like the sound of all those lost man-hours spent walking back and forth, either. But this was Silicon Valley: Coffee wasn't just coffee. This was vente-double-macchiato-with-an-almond-shot country; labor-intensive, gourmet coffee beverages, in every conceivable roasted mutation and international variation, were standard corporate perks. You could lose engineering talent without viable coffee options; they'd wander offsite to Starbucks for a jolt. Sometimes, recruited away by a company that gave caffeine its proper consideration, they wouldn't come back.
So management declared the coffee must come to them. Rolling espresso carts, masts flying cafe-style awnings, piloted by captain coffee-jerks, navigated the cubicle sea like Chinese junks.
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It was with this gravity of purpose that the coffee man jibed down aisle 4N. Approaching his usual stop, the electronic chime announced his arrival.
Rumpled-looking men emerged from their cubicles.
"What'll it be?" barked the coffee man.
"Double latte," one of the engineers called back. "Single mocha, vanilla shot," called another. The espresso machine commenced its hissing.
Paul Armstrong did not rise from his cubicle, though the smells called to him. He furrowed his brow, peering into his terminal at a lump of code encrusted in curly brackets.
He was looking for a leak. Somewhere in this tangle of a foreign alphabet, bits were leaking out and falling on the floor. It was making his project manager inconsolably cranky.
He sat motionless for several minutes, just staring, then gingerly added a few keystrokes he hoped might plug the hole. More staring. His hands flashed across the keyboard, initiating yet another iteration of the compile cycle, this time with some obscure flags and arguments. He didn't put much faith in his patch, but the compile time would give him a moment before the coffee rolled away and his debugging resumed in earnest.
Not a moment too soon; coffee man was preparing to set sail for other ports. As Paul waited for his double latte, he fell into a chat with one of his project members. He listened as his colleague speculated on the project's shortcomings.
"I'm telling you, man, it's down in the presentation layer. This is asynch, baby, and you know we don't do asynch worth a damn. X.25 is not TCP/IP, and it sure as hell isn't SNA, either."
Paul looked thoughtful and tried to think of some useful response. Failing, he tried to say something that indicated he'd even been paying attention. But he felt ... distracted. By a persistent thought. The same moldering notion that of late had become the backdrop of his career:
This wasn't what he had expected to be doing with his life.
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Seven years had passed since Paul graduated with a degree in journalism. And here he was, slumped in front of a terminal, debugging an error-handling routine using a debugger that itself was full of bugs, on a product that would probably never see a customer.
His title was "consultant."
How had this happened? How had he ended up as an engineer, enmeshed in an endless dialogue with the cold complexity of idiot-savant machine logic?
He retraced the steps derailing his literary career: a boyhood friendship with Steve -- socially backward, withdrawn, with a destructive curiosity and a talent for re-engineering the telephone system. Paul and his friend had journeyed -- with a little help from Radio Shack -- from the rotary-dialed telephone on his mother's kitchen wall to the central switch serving Monterey County. Then there was his high school geometry teacher's insistence he join computer club after Paul had demonstrated a knack for geometric proofs. A class in formal logic fulfilled a dreaded philosophy requirement at university.
Then, in his first real job as a research assistant at a Santa Clara County newspaper, he salvaged an editor's work -- presumed lost forever -- from the minicomputers linking the paper to the wire services. It was simple for Paul, having cultivated an understanding of the literal-mindedness of digital machinery. But it impressed his boss, and led to an immediate "promotion." His new title -- Senior Systems Analyst -- and the twofold increase in pay had blinded him to the fact that his career had taken an irrevocable turn from the life of the humanities toward the life of machines.
That was 1988 -- just the beginning of the explosion. The Silicon Valley was already well established as a hotbed of electronic enterprise, but sometime in the late '80s, things got way out of hand. Overnight, computers stopped being the exclusive domain of scientists, defense contractors, Ma Bell and nerd hobbyists, and suddenly became everyone else's business, too.
At that point, if you could even spell "COBOL," "Pascal" or -- especially -- "C," you became the object of relentless attention by technical recruiters. They would track you down, buy you a series of expensive lunches and pledge to triple your paycheck.
Paul was happy to give in. After all, how was pushing bits for a newspaper any different from pushing bits for a software or semiconductor outfit? Besides, technology companies were much more flush-and-plush than publishers -- way better perks, rapidly escalating pay.
But what had really set the stage for his incipient malaise was the day he became a Believer: the day, convinced that XYZ Corp.'s newest "insanely great" technology would change the world (he could barely remember what it was now, and neither could the world), he signed up with the fledgling start-up -- in exchange for stock options.
Paul had toiled there for three years of 80-hour weeks. Then, on the eve of the IPO, management accepted a takeover offer, leaving employee options high and dry.
That had wrecked him. Not financially, of course; he had been paid reasonably even without stock options. But he'd never Believe again. After that he insisted on the money up front, at an hourly rate, as a private consultant. A black hat. A mercenary.
Which is how he found himself here, in this cubicle, with his hands over his eyes, shaking his head: tired, well off, 28 years old, adrift.
C H A P T E R_2 .|. The disinhibition of market leaders