It is easy for the unwary to become lost in Coover country, and the author is not about to provide a map, but during a recent interview he offered a few clues to his method.June 1, 1996ArtsBiography
When the novelist Robert Coover organized a conference called ''Unspeakable Practices: A Three-Day Celebration of Iconoclastic American Fiction,'' he invited some old friends to Brown University. There would be panel discussions that might define literary post-modernism once and for all, Mr. Coover said, but mostly it would be ''a family gathering'' to mark John Hawkes's retirement as a teacher of writing at Brown.April 9, 1988ArtsNews
Of all the post-modernist writers, Robert Coover is probably the funniest and most malicious, mixing up broad social and political satire with vaudeville turns, lewd pratfalls and clever word plays that make us rethink both the mechanics of the world and our relationship to it.January 7, 1987ArtsReview
Robert Coover has given us some of the most distinguished fiction of his generation. ''The Origin of the Brunists'' (1978), ''The Universal Baseball Association'' (1968) and long sections of ''The Public Burning'' (1977) are enduring works, demonstrating a total command of idiomatic American speech with a philosophical acuity rare in American literature. These are political and sexual parables at once deadly serious and deadly funny.
June 21, 1992
n the real world nowadays, that is to say, in the world of video transmissions, cellular phones, fax machines, computer networks, and in particular out in the humming digitalized precincts of avant-garde computer hackers, cyberpunks and hyperspace freaks, you will often hear it said that the print medium is a doomed and outdated technology, a mere curiosity of bygone days destined soon to be consigned forever to those dusty unattended museums we now call libraries. Indeed, the very proliferation of books and other print-based media, so prevalent in this forest-harvesting, paper-wasting age, is held to be a sign of its feverish moribundity, the last futile gasp of a once vital form before it finally passes away forever, dead as God.
Which would mean of course that the novel, too, as we know it, has come to its end. Not that those announcing its demise are grieving. For all its passing charm, the traditional novel, which took center stage at the same time that industrial mercantile democracies arose -- and which Hegel called "the epic of the middle-class world" -- is perceived by its would-be executioners as the virulent carrier of the patriarchal, colonial, canonical, proprietary, hierarchical and authoritarian values of a past that is no longer with us.
Much of the novel's alleged power is embedded in the line, that compulsory author-directed movement from the beginning of a sentence to its period, from the top of the page to the bottom, from the first page to the last. Of course, through print's long history, there have been countless strategies to counter the line's power, from marginalia and footnotes to the creative innovations of novelists like Laurence Sterne, James Joyce, Raymond Queneau, Julio Cortazar, Italo Calvino and Milorad Pavic, not to exclude the form's father, Cervantes himself. But true freedom from the tyranny of the line is perceived as only really possible now at last with the advent of hypertext, written and read on the computer, where the line in fact does not exist unless one invents and implants it in the text.
"Hypertext" is not a system but a generic term, coined a quarter of a century ago by a computer populist named Ted Nelson to describe the writing done in the nonlinear or nonsequential space made possible by the computer. Moreover, unlike print text, hypertext provides multiple paths between text segments, now often called "lexias" in a borrowing from the pre-hypertextual but prescient Roland Barthes. With its webs of linked lexias, its networks of alternate routes (as opposed to print's fixed unidirectional page-turning) hypertext presents a radically divergent technology, interactive and polyvocal, favoring a plurality of discourses over definitive utterance and freeing the reader from domination by the author. Hypertext reader and writer are said to become co-learners or co-writers, as it were, fellow-travelers in the mapping and remapping of textual (and visual, kinetic and aural) components, not all of which are provided by what used to be called the author.
Though used at first primarily as a radically new teaching arena, by the mid-1980's hyperspace was drawing fiction writers into its intricate and infinitely expandable, infinitely alluring webs, its green-limned gardens of multiple forking paths, to allude to another author popular with hypertext buffs, Jorge Luis Borges.
Several systems support the configuring of this space for fiction writing. Some use simple randomized linking like the shuffling of cards, others (such as Guide and HyperCard) offer a kind of do-it-yourself basic tool set, and still others (more elaborate systems like Storyspace, which is currently the software of choice among fiction writers in this country, and Intermedia, developed at Brown University) provide a complete package of sophisticated structuring and navigational devices.
Although hypertext's champions often assail the arrogance of the novel, their own claims are hardly modest. You will often hear them proclaim, quite seriously, that there have been three great events in the history of literacy: the invention of writing, the invention of movable type and the invention of hypertext. As hyperspace-walker George P. Landow puts it in his recent book surveying the field, "Hypertext": "Electronic text processing marks the next major shift in information technology after the development of the printed book. It promises (or threatens) to produce effects on our culture, particularly on our literature, education, criticism and scholarship, just as radical as those produced by Gutenberg's movable type."
Noting that the "movement from the tactile to the digital is the primary fact about the contemporary world," Mr. Landow observes that, whereas most writings of print-bound critics working in an exhausted technology are "models of scholarly solemnity, records of disillusionment and brave sacrifice of humanistic positions," writers in and on hypertext "are downright celebratory. . . . Most poststructuralists write from within the twilight of a wished-for coming day; most writers of hypertext write of many of the same things from within the dawn."
Dawn it is, to be sure. The granddaddy of full-length hypertext fictions is Michael Joyce's landmark "Afternoon," first released on floppy disk in 1987 and moved into a new Storyspace "reader," partly developed by Mr. Joyce himself, in 1990.
Mr. Joyce, who is also the author of a printed novel, "The War Outside Ireland: A History of the Doyles in North America With an Account of their Migrations," wrote in the on-line journal Postmodern Culture that hyperfiction "is the first instance of the true electronic text, what we will come to conceive as the natural form of multimodal, multisensual writing," but it is still so radically new it is hard to be certain just what it is. No fixed center, for starters -- and no edges either, no ends or boundaries. The traditional narrative time line vanishes into a geographical landscape or exitless maze, with beginnings, middles and ends being no longer part of the immediate display. Instead: branching options, menus, link markers and mapped networks. There are no hierarchies in these topless (and bottomless) networks, as paragraphs, chapters and other conventional text divisions are replaced by evenly empowered and equally ephemeral window-sized blocks of text and graphics -- soon to be supplemented with sound, animation and film.
As Carolyn Guyer and Martha Petry put it in the opening "directions" to their hypertext fiction "Izme Pass," which was published (if "published" is the word) on a disk included in the spring 1991 issue of the magazine Writing on the Edge:
"This is a new kind of fiction, and a new kind of reading. The form of the text is rhythmic, looping on itself in patterns and layers that gradually accrete meaning, just as the passage of time and events does in one's lifetime. Trying the textlinks embedded within the work will bring the narrative together in new configurations, fluid constellations formed by the path of your interest. The difference between reading hyperfiction and reading traditional printed fiction may be the difference between sailing the islands and standing on the dock watching the sea. One is not necessarily better than the other."
I must confess at this point that I am not myself an expert navigator of hyperspace, nor am I -- as I am entering my seventh decade and thus rather committed, for better or for worse, to the obsolescent print technology -- likely to engage in any major hypertext fictions of my own. But, interested as ever in the subversion of the traditional bourgeois novel and in fictions that challenge linearity, I felt that something was happening out (or in) there and that I ought to know what it was: if I were not going to sail the Guyer-Petry islands, I had at least better run to the shore with my field glasses. And what better way to learn than to teach a course in the subject?
Thus began the Brown University Hypertext Fiction Workshop, two spring semesters (and already as many software generations) old, a course devoted as much to the changing of reading habits as to the creation of new narratives.
Writing students are notoriously conservative creatures. They write stubbornly and hopefully within the tradition of what they have read. Getting them to try out alternative or innovative forms is harder than talking them into chastity as a life style. But confronted with hyperspace, they have no choice: all the comforting structures have been erased. It's improvise or go home. Some frantically rebuild those old structures, some just get lost and drift out of sight, most leap in fearlessly without even asking how deep it is ( infinitely deep) and admit, even as they paddle for dear life, that this new arena is indeed an exciting, provocative if frequently frustrating medium for the creation of new narratives, a potentially revolutionary space, capable, exactly as advertised, of transforming the very art of fiction, even if it now remains somewhat at the fringe, remote still, in these very early days, from the mainstream.
With hypertext we focus, both as writers and as readers, on structure as much as on prose, for we are made aware suddenly of the shapes of narratives that are often hidden in print stories. The most radical new element that comes to the fore in hypertext is the system of multidirectional and often labyrinthine linkages we are invited or obliged to create. Indeed the creative imagination often becomes more preoccupied with linkage, routing and mapping than with statement or style, or with what we would call character or plot (two traditional narrative elements that are decidedly in jeopardy). We are always astonished to discover how much of the reading and writing experience occurs in the interstices and trajectories between text fragments. That is to say, the text fragments are like stepping stones, there for our safety, but the real current of the narratives runs between them.
"The great thing," as one young writer, Alvin Lu, put it in an on-line class essay, is "the degree to which narrative is completely destructed into its constituent bits. Bits of information convey knowledge, but the juxtaposition of bits creates narrative. The emphasis of a hypertext (narrative) should be the degree to which the reader is given power, not to read, but to organize the texts made available to her. Anyone can read, but not everyone has sophisticated methods of organization made available to them."
The fictions developed in the workshop, all of which are "still in progress," have ranged from geographically anchored narratives similar to "Our Town" and choose-your-own-adventure stories to parodies of the classics, nested narratives, spatial poems, interactive comedy, metamorphic dreams, irresolvable murder mysteries, moving comic books and Chinese sex manuals.
IN hypertext, multivocalism is popular, graphic elements, both drawn and scanned, have been incorporated into the narratives, imaginative font changes have been employed to identify various voices or plot elements, and there has also been a very effective use of formal documents not typically used in fictions -- statistical charts, song lyrics, newspaper articles, film scripts, doodles and photographs, baseball cards and box scores, dictionary entries, rock music album covers, astrological forecasts, board games and medical and police reports.
At our weekly workshops, selected writers display, on an overhead projector, their developing narrative structures, then face the usual critique of their writing, design, development of character, emotional impact, attention to detail and so on, as appropriate. But they also engage in continuous on-line dialogue with one another, exchanging criticism, enthusiasm, doubts, speculations, theorizing, wisecracks. So much fun is all of this, so compelling this "downright celebratory" experience, as Mr. Landow would have it, that the creative output, so far anyway, has been much greater than that of ordinary undergraduate writing workshops, and certainly of as high a quality.
In addition to the individual fictions, which are more or less protected from tampering in the old proprietary way, we in the workshop have also played freely and often quite anarchically in a group fiction space called "Hotel." Here, writers are free to check in, to open up new rooms, new corridors, new intrigues, to unlink texts or create new links, to intrude upon or subvert the texts of others, to alter plot trajectories, manipulate time and space, to engage in dialogue through invented characters, then kill off one another's characters or even to sabotage the hotel's plumbing. Thus one day we might find a man and woman encountering each other in the hotel bar, working up some kind of sexual liaison, only to return a few days later and discover that one or both had sex changes. During one of my hypertext workshops, a certain reading tension was caused when we found that there was more than one bartender in our hotel: was this the same bar or not? One of the students -- Alvin Lu again -- responded by linking all the bartenders to Room 666, which he called the "Production Center," where some imprisoned alien monster was giving birth to full-grown bartenders on demand.
This space of essentially anonymous text fragments remains on line and each new set of workshop students is invited to check in there and continue the story of the Hypertext Hotel. I would like to see it stay open for a century or two.
However, as all of us have discovered, even though the basic technology of hypertext may be with us for centuries to come, perhaps even as long as the technology of the book, its hardware and software seem to be fragile and short-lived; whole new generations of equipment and programs arrive before we can finish reading the instructions of the old. Even as I write, Brown University's highly sophisticated Intermedia system, on which we have been writing our hypertext fictions, is being phased out because it is too expensive to maintain and incompatible with Apple's new operating-system software, System 7.0. A good portion of our last semester was spent transporting our documents from Intermedia to Storyspace (which Brown is now adopting) and adjusting to the new environment.
This problem of operating-system standards is being urgently addressed and debated now by hypertext writers; if interaction is to be a hallmark of the new technology, all its players must have a common and consistent language and all must be equally empowered in its use. There are other problems too. Navigational procedures: how do you move around in infinity without getting lost? The structuring of the space can be so compelling and confusing as to utterly absorb and neutralize the narrator and to exhaust the reader. And there is the related problem of filtering. With an unstable text that can be intruded upon by other author-readers, how do you, caught in the maze, avoid the trivial? How do you duck the garbage? Venerable novelistic values like unity, integrity, coherence, vision, voice seem to be in danger. Eloquence is being redefined. "Text" has lost its canonical certainty. How does one judge, analyze, write about a work that never reads the same way twice?
And what of narrative flow? There is still movement, but in hyperspace's dimensionless infinity, it is more like endless expansion ; it runs the risk of being so distended and slackly driven as to lose its centripetal force, to give way to a kind of static low-charged lyricism -- that dreamy gravityless lost-in-space feeling of the early sci-fi films. How does one resolve the conflict between the reader's desire for coherence and closure and the text's desire for continuance, its fear of death? Indeed, what is closure in such an environment? If everything is middle, how do you know when you are done, either as reader or writer? If the author is free to take a story anywhere at any time and in as many directions as she or he wishes, does that not become the obligation to do so?
No doubt, this will be a major theme for narrative artists of the future, even those locked into the old print technologies. And that's nothing new. The problem of closure was a major theme -- was it not? -- of the "Epic of Gilgamesh" as it was chopped out in clay at the dawn of literacy, and of the Homeric rhapsodies as they were committed to papyrus by technologically innovative Greek literati some 26 centuries ago. There is continuity, after all, across the ages riven by shifting technologies.
Much of this I might have guessed -- and in fact did guess -- before entering hyperspace, before I ever picked up a mouse, and my thoughts have been tempered only slightly by on-line experience. What I had not clearly foreseen, however, was that this is a technology that both absorbs and totally displaces. Print documents may be read in hyperspace, but hypertext does not translate into print. It is not like film, which is really just the dead end of linear narrative, just as 12-tone music is the dead end of music by the stave.
Hypertext is truly a new and unique environment. Artists who work there must be read there. And they will probably be judged there as well: criticism, like fiction, is moving off the page and on line, and it is itself susceptible to continuous changes of mind and text. Fluidity, contingency, indeterminacy, plurality, discontinuity are the hypertext buzzwords of the day, and they seem to be fast becoming principles, in the same way that relativity not so long ago displaced the falling apple.
August 29, 1993
ude Busch, an aggressive undergraduate student with something of a crazy past, is ferociously seducing a reluctant graduate student named -- in Stuart Moulthrop's fiction entitled "Victory Garden" -- Victor Gardner. It is the winter of 1991, and Victor, we have learned, has just received a "Dear John" letter from the woman he loves, a former student and friend of Jude's named Emily Runbird, who is now serving with the American forces in the gulf war. Emily has made it clear in a letter from the front that her true love is Victor's middle-aging and possibly deranged thesis adviser, Boris Urquhart. Now Jude, determined, as she says, to add pain to pleasure, seems to be using Victor's thwarted passion for Emily as part of her seduction. "Like all great desires this one was neither plain nor simple," she knows, "it was radically perverse."
This perversity "thematizes" her conquest, as she might have put it in a Boris Urquhart seminar. She strips lugubrious Victor, dons a blond wig (Emily is a blonde), sets up a mirror in her black bedroom so she and Victor can watch themselves, and makes him tell her how Emily smells.
After their peculiar out-of-body climax ("Yes folks, love is strange," the author muses wryly), Jude makes Victor admit that he still loves Emily, and she confesses (all this in the present tense) that she does, too. Suddenly -- poof! -- the narrative ends.
Or. . . .
(What is it like to read fiction on a computer screen in hypertext? Is it even possible to describe this nonlinear interactive art here in the implacably linear medium of printed text? As the pioneer hypertexter Michael Joyce puts it in his landmark hyperfiction "Afternoon, a Story": "There is no simple way to say this. . . ." Still, let us try, perhaps by imagining that the above route through this little corner of "Victory Garden" has not been taken, and that we have followed another.)
In a brief digression from the principal story (which has to do with university curricular reform, Desert Storm as media event and the concomitant nervous breakdown of Boris Urquhart), Jude Busch, whose history of mental problems has made her a sympathetic friend of men suffering crises, is attempting a therapeutic seduction (it is the same set of narrative elements, but we have come here by a different electronic path) of the grieving Victor Gardner, whose lover Emily Runbird has recently been killed by an incoming missile in the gulf war (a shocking moment; we have read her final thoughts, and then the text screen shattered, as though it were printed on glass).
What Jude is trying to do (she recognizes her desire as both "deeply symbolic" and "radically perverse") is "to create a link that would unite all three of them, a symbolic link outside of bodies and time," a desire shared in some respects by Mr. Moulthrop and exhibited in his multidirectional, atemporally linked hypertext structure. Jude's three-way link is in some manner made -- with the help of set, costumes, wig and mirror; the late Emily Runbird invades the lovemaking (love is strange) of Jude and Victor; later both confess that they loved Emily (the verb is now past tense), and their last candle goes dark.
Clicking the mouse, we wake up elsewhere, perhaps in the bedroom of Thea Agnew, a professor who is about to be visited by her rebellious son; or perhaps at the front lines, where Emily, not yet killed, is telling her mates about her love affairs back home; or in a flashback (as though postcoital Victor might be dreaming) to Victor and Emily in bed in the good old days. Or perhaps, always ready for a party, we click into the provost's wild all-campus masquerade ball, organized on the theme of Joseph Campbell's "Hero With a Thousand Faces," where most of the 4,500 revelers turn up in camouflage desert fatigues, Emily (we soon gather) having been called up to war but presumably stationed safely to the rear, sorting the mail. The provost takes the occasion of his party to call an impromptu faculty meeting to discuss the person we have come to see, but in this reading only, as the main character of this narrative, Boris Urquhart, who, the provost believes, has "just plain gone round the bend."
Later, choosing one path among many, we find ourselves at one of Urquhart's seminars. He is missing, but we have been following the 34-year-old professor's antics, including his "swarming" hallucinations, his correspondence in several different drafts with Emily, with whom he is "stone in love," his spectacular appearance as a mad prophet, Uqbar, and his wild flight, on foot and in a "borrowed" car, pursued by cops and an F.B.I. agent -- a scene intercut, if you choose to read it this way (and the choice, as always in hypertext, is yours), with the night of Emily's death. At the seminar, during a discussion of "The Garden of Forking Paths," by Jorge Luis Borges, Jude calls the Argentine writer "a pervert" whose alleged magic was done "with mirrors," thereby adding a touch of melancholic irony to the earlier bedroom scene, which in turn undermines her present classroom argument and softens its tone. (Mr. Moulthrop had acknowledged in his introduction that Borges is a primary inspiration behind his own garden-titled fiction.)
Or. . . .
It is 1992 in California as we enter the story, long after the gulf war and far from the dramatic events of the year before, some comic, some terrible, but none as yet known to us in detail. The unnamed narrator, who would seem to be the author himself, is collaborating on a book and sleeping companionably with Thea Agnew, a bold, quick-witted scholar some years his senior, whose move west (her son, a virtual reality enthusiast who wants to be a "reality artist," is with her) may have been forced on her by what happened the year before: "I've never met anyone," the author explains in one variation, "for whom academic culture seemed so much like a blood sport." They are mourning the loss of a friend named Emily, about whom, so far, we know nothing. . . .
Or. . . .
Or. . . .
The routes through Stuart Moulthrop's new hyperfiction "Victory Garden" are almost literally countless. Altogether there are nearly a thousand text spaces and over 2,800 electronic links between them. One is invited to "come in" by way of a sentence constructed by the reader, word by word, out of a set of choices that will yield as many as 56 different such sentences on the themes of beginnings, labyrinths, time, America, words, dreams, truth. When completed, these opening sentences link to at least 47 different starting points in the narrative proper, from which there are no fewer than 194 separate links to other text spaces, each in turn with branching options.
If one prefers a more carefully mapped trajectory (to each reader his or her own), the author has supplied a "map" of "Victory Garden" as a kind of schematic overview, a visual guide through the labyrinth of his text. In the garden there are 39 labeled "nodes" (on the map they look like garden benches or flower patches) that present entry points into major story elements, providing among other things a simple means (just click on a node) for moving directly into areas of the text unexplored in previous readings.
There are other ways to enter this hypertext, too, some more or less at random, others more consciously ordered: by way of the acknowledgments "page," for example, with its 12 relevant text links, or by way of lists of "Paths to Explore" and "Paths to Deplore" (there are several crisscrossing designated "paths"), or through the "Welcome" space, which explains hypertext and how to read it, leading directly to "The Place of the Big Wind," which describes this project:
"Perhaps, hypermediated and post-modernized, we now live in a universe that looks suspiciously like a Garden of Forking Paths. Or perhaps the old ways of understanding our lives -- struggle, question, commitment, love, loss, mourning -- can't really be pushed aside. I didn't set out to resolve that issue. I set out to put some stories in motion, hoping they'd take me somewhere. Here's where they led."
Where this leads in particular is to seven other places in the text. As one moves about in the story, clicking from window to window, one encounters newscasts, correspondence, quotations, other fictions, poems, curious dream sequences in the second person, which may or may not be part of a professor's research, text (or its absence) used as graphic elements, historical fables, parodies and self-parodies -- a great contextual enrichment as the story itself, whole and immutable but always partially hidden, slowly unfolds.
And yet "Victory Garden" is, essentially, a very conventional academic novel, easy to follow, easy to read, about a group of professors and students at a Southern university at the time of the gulf war in 1991. There are the usual intellectual affairs and passionate disputes, the parties, the politics, the familiar bedroom and campus tavern scenes, along with protests and counterprotests about the war, curriculum reform and other hot topics. It is all stitched together with the customary epigraphic gathering of the author's favorite quotations, a kind of "interanthology," as Michael Joyce calls a similar device in his own "Afternoon."
Moreover, in spite of all the overt play (there are, for example, elaborate dream sequences in which "you" may be the dreamer, abrupt cul-de-sacs and closed loops, several self-reflective and self-parodying spaces, occasional playful graphics and a number of alternative "endings," even a "happy ending" in which Emily is not killed but returns to a big homecoming party, though to believe it you have to believe, virtually, that the gulf war never happened), there is really only one story here, as whole and singular -- and ultimately linear, even chronological -- as that of any ordinary print novel -- the only difference being that the reader moves about in the story as though trying to remember it, the narrative having lost its temporality by slipping whole into the past, becoming there a kind of obscure geography to be explored.
This is one way of doing it. Another is the lyrical indeterminacy of a Michael Joyce hyperfiction, in which links work in a more free-associative way, as in dreams from which (there are loops, byways, drifting reflections) it is difficult to awaken. Mary-Kim Arnold's "Lust," a soon-to-be-published short-short hyperfiction (infinite expansion may be a risk here, but it is not a rule), is a miniature gem in this mode. Or there is the exploration of evolving human relationships as in a Carolyn Guyer hypernarrative, the sheer pleasure of play as in John McDaid's many-roomed fun house, the revelation of character by randomly linked fragments as in a Judy Malloy hypertext; the possibilities are no doubt as rich and varied as in any other art form.
Indeed, the potential of this fascinating new reading and writing medium has scarcely been glimpsed. The conventional nature of most of the fictions so far written in it probably reflects the apprehension felt in adjusting to a new medium (it took a century and a half after the Gutenberg revolution before Don Quixote first sallied forth, did it not?), but this transitional time will soon pass. Hyperfictions of the future will not necessarily have printbound analogues. With each foray into hyperspace something new is added to the craft, the orbits widen, the technical manuals expand.
Not everyone, of course, wants to read a story sitting at a computer keyboard. Many readers regard this medium with a kind of queasy skepticism, fearful of getting helplessly entangled in the gadgetry, of starting something that cannot be finished, of losing their way and missing everything important. "The desire for a comprehensive reading is not so easily relinquished," Nancy Princenthal says in a recent essay in The American Book Review on Judy Malloy's fiction "Its Name Was Penelope." Ms. Princenthal compares bopping about in hypertext to "late-night channel surfing: empowering, perhaps, but not altogether satisfying."
AND, one may well ask, what's so great about "interactivity" anyway? What's wrong with surrendering deferentially to the implacable linear flow of an author's creative thought, her own particular page-by-page artistic and narrative decisions? All these yields, links, buttons, nets, maps: not only are they vexing novelties, sometimes they seem more compelling than the text itself, as though the ancillas of book culture -- the tables of contents, the indexes and appendixes, the designs and jackets and headers -- might have swallowed up the stuff inside. If it takes so much effort just to struggle with procedures, how can one find time to appreciate style, voice, eloquence, character, story? And what do you mean, you can't take it to bed with you?
Well, it's true, hyperfiction is probably not for readers who fall asleep on four or five books a year. But it is more fun, more engaging, than one might suppose before trying it. Readers who surrender to novels as a way of going on holiday from themselves fear losing that dreamlike experience of being swept along by the story, but in fact there is something very dreamlike about reading hyperfiction, for it is a strange place, hyperspace, much more like inner space than outer, a space not of coordinates but of the volumeless imagination.
As one moves through a hypertext, making one's choices, one has the sensation that just below the surface of the text there is an almost inexhaustible reservoir of half-hidden story material waiting to be explored. That is not unlike the feeling one has in dreams that there are vast peripheral seas of imagery into which the dream sometimes slips, sometimes returning to the center, sometimes moving through parallel stories at the same time. Hypertext also shares with dreams the spatializing or dissolving of time, to which John McDaid refers in his "Uncle Buddy's Phantom Funhouse" as the "way that time perception changes in dreams; the objects of perception suddenly pulsing with Undifferentiated Meaning, luring the mind down thoughtmoments too tangential for the waking eye. Only when the analytic of consciousness can be suspended can the truly New emerge."