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Apr 11, 2009

Hypertext in fiction


One of my favorite authors is Jack Vance. Many of his books have footnotes and glossaries and accessory text that complements the story. I love fiction that educates and uses hyperlinks to connect the story to additional resources. I'm not sure that I would feel comfortable making fiction under conditions where I could not use multimedia resources and hyperlinks. I'm addicted to the hyperlink.

Back when I started reading science fiction, one of my favorite collections of short science fiction stories was one that had brief accounts of the relevant science for each of the stories. Sometimes science fiction can be explicitly designed to explore science or even the boundaries of science (example: the Science Fiction Challenge) and in such cases it is particularly convenient to be able to link from the fiction to discussions of the relevant science.

I'm also addicted to complexity in stories. Hypertext links for technical terms are a good way to help readers deal with complex story lines. For many of my stories I like to have a glossary that can both help the reader keep track of names and provide discussion of some of the key details of imagined science and technologies that are included in the story.

One of the advantages of writing fiction in a wiki environment is that there are constant opportunities for feedback from readers, even while the story is first being created. Sometimes I'm surprised by elements of my stories that puzzle readers, but in a wiki I can always quickly add a link and explain terminology that is problematical. Can't remember the difference between the worlds Sakkara and Azur? Just click over to the the glossary and refresh your memory.

Another use of hyperlinks that we are experimenting with at Novelas is branch points and alternate endings for stories. For example, see the alternate endings for the story VirileMail. In this kind of collaborative wiki environment, if you do not like the ending of a story you can always make your own and link to it from the others!

It would be fun to see what Jack Vance might be able to do with hyperlinks in a wiki environment.

Images. The image of a world seen from outer space (above) is a depiction of the planet Sakkara from The Search for Kalid. This is a modified screen shot from Celestia. The second image shows the Cotedazur ocean of Azur.

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