Hypertext 07 and Bubble Worlds

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

I’m really bummed about my inability to make it to Hypertext 07. Manchester looks gand in September. Fortunately, my novel, The Life of Geronimo Sandoval, was able to make it in my stead, and I want to thank Jamie, Mark and others for its safe travel.

My first regret is that I can’t perform TLGS. My second is having not written and designed the work on a Mac. Unfortunately, it was built in Windows over the last five years and would take some effort to rebuild in the Mac version of Storyspace. However, I will soon be embarking on this, relocating images into my MBP. I made the switch to the Mac this summer and am only now beginning to realize how important it will be to provide two versions of the novel or, even better, to allow for new ideas to develop because of this other method of revising.

TLGS tested all my powers in spelling, semantics, organization, and rewriting. It takes time to understand that in Storyspace, editing is a non-linear process, where linking can take the place of idea moving. In Storyspace, the writer doesn’t move a paragraph, though this is possible to do, he or she simply relates it to something else via a link. In the flow of story development a link may proceed from the shape of a cloud, or a returning mood in memory, thus motioning the reader down a path based on image not necessarily by plot. This means one must unlearn the remediated spaces of the typewriter, on which I wrote my first novel back in 1986, and the word processor. I found editing in Storyspace a deep, rethinking process, one that is almost impossible to share or explain. In TLGS, there are many areas of the text the reader will never see because they are simply bypassed. They are a sort of idea-based archaeology, bits of broken pottery that over time, I found no use for in the paths of the novel, such as a stretch of action that appeared at one time to supply the answer to a quandary, but that become too burdensome to keep in the possible flow. Likewise, the end of the novel may prove another beginning or yet another plot point if I was successful at making things interesting enough to explore.

In hypertext, the novel can form a cluster of lives that, much like Heroes, can spin off into an ever expanding universe of possibility. One link could provoke an infinite cluster of new spaces and times: Jackie meets Ron. Ron remembers his grandmother. A new story begins at the next link 1,000 years in the future with Grandma’s extended relation Jose, secluded on some rock being towed toward another sun. For the writer, hypertext can contain bubble worlds.

I honestly cannot say whether The Life of Geronimo Sandoval is a decent work. But writing it was something I’ll never forget. One image by the Rio Grande started it all off. That image also ended my progress into it.

6 responses to “Hypertext 07 and Bubble Worlds”

  1. Steve, I enjoyed reading your afterthoughts on TLGS and Storyspace and the writing process in Storyspace. First, I want to respond to the technical regret: not having written on the Mac Storyspace platform.

    It seems ridiculous that a Storyspace file cannot be opened on the other platform. Have you engaged the Storyspace makers in a dialog about that? These days, you just can’t write software that only works on one platform. It’s blasphemy. Even Microsoft is on-board with it with .NET – that Banner 2 eLumen program I wrote executes on any .NET run-time, which can be installed on any platform. “The hell,” you say? Well, I’ve already tested in on Linux and it works perfectly!

    Now if the Storyspace people show no commitment to 100% interoperability, then you’ve got to find a new platform to write hypertext on. That’s my opinion. Show me what Storyspace does for you and let’s see what else is out there. It seems to me that this is the type of software that would have an open-source counterpart lurking out there in the bytefield.

    Editing your book must have been challenging – you can’t read straight through, and it’s possible that following the links will tell the story in a different order, or not tell some parts at all. As I imagine the process of editing or reading the hypertext novel, I feel excited but also sad because I might miss something. But I think that that is exactly how we go through life: hopefully excited to hit new chapters, but always looking around and back, mourning what might slip away or go unnoticed. Humans want to have it all – our feline companions (I have cats so this is why I draw my example from them) do not seem to share such regrets.

    Thus, when I read in hypertext, and as I live my life, I think I’ll try to be a cat more often. Hey, Steve, look at this: I started out responding to your post and I found myself in the middle of a psychological awakening. Thanks on many levels!

    I’m going to start reading TGLS tonight.

    Oh – and I want to know more about what you said about the Rio Grande. And thanks, by the way, for linking to the Rio Grande article on wikipedia. The picture there reminded me that something in the West has been beckoning me for awhile.

  2. Steve says:

    Jim, thanks for the thoughts. The SSP Windows Mac issue is complicated. SSPs will run in either environment. In my case, I use lots of images. SSP is a quite an old program and Eastgate is small, responsive, and responsible. SSP saves images, I believe, in default BMP format. The smart writer, which I wasn’t at the time of the development, not even thinking about Mac, would have anticipated both formats. I believe I’m going to have to take all my images and save them for Mac in SSP. Not so big of a deal, but it may be worth the effort.

    In my mind, SSP is one of the most innovative and useful programs one can have on a machine. It’s very cool. And it’s stood the test of time.

    The hypertext spreads its time across lots of spaces: Massachusetts, New York, New Mexico, and Arizona. The rio is a core element.

  3. gibb says:

    Very, very proud of you. I’d say that while it’s an ending of story in one sense, it is just the beginning for the many paths open to you that you tend to skip down just because they’re there; joyful, expectant, map in one hand (unread past the first paragraph of direction), machete in the other to cut deeper into the ‘what if’ because boundaries, as we know, were meant to be breached.

  4. Mary Ellen says:

    In trying to follow your technical aspect, one thought: does this mean that all elements of a story that have been crafted need not necessarily fall from the editor’s chopping block into oblivion? I find this to be one of my biggest challenges as a writer. Some elements of story-telling are so personally fulfilling, or answer questions I’ve had about character, plot, or setting, but ultimately prove useless to the tale itself. Could this be a way to salvage, or resurrect, those little nuggets for readers who want to take the back roads?

  5. Steve says:

    I would argue no. That stuff that you would normally edit out of the story are, in hypertext, edited out for the sake of the story and its emergence to the reader. It should work in a hypertext that not all of the work may designed to be read on a first go whereas on closer inspection, more physical data will emerge.

    My point was to illustrate how a false direction may be “delinked” from the narrative but not erased.

    Your point I think goes to an actual possible link. You may find yourself drilling too deep into a character’s life for a particular plot or sense of story. In a paper story, this may deflect from the main character’s problem. In hypertext, a reader may choose to pursue the other direction, thus turning Character B into the protagonist. In this case, the hypertext as a whole is a universe inside which are multiple possibilities.

    Mine doesn’t necessarily work this way but Bill Bly’s and Deena Larsen’s contain such a concept.

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