Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Is e-literature just one big anti-climax?

Is e-literature just one big anti-climax? That's the question put forth in an interesting blog post by Andrew Gallix. Here are some excerpts:

A year later [in 1997], Mark Amerika's Grammatron transcended the fledgling genre by turning it into a multimedia extravaganza. This, I believe, was a crucial turning point. The brief alliance between literati and digerati was severed: groundbreaking electronic fiction would now be subsumed into the art world or relegated to the academic margins.


My contention that e-literature has been gradually sidelined by the rise of the internet as a mass medium proves controversial.


In fact, Dene Grigar - who chaired the Electronic Literature Organization's latest international conference - was alone in thinking that I may have a point. Interestingly enough, she argues that American universities' digital humanities departments are partly to blame because of their emphasis on digitising traditional books at the expense of promoting creative electronic writing: "In reality, unless it is a department where Kate Hayles, Matt Kirschenbaum, and a handful of other scholars reside, Michael Joyce's work will not receive the attention that James Joyce's does". Nevertheless, she is convinced that e-lit remains a "viable art form". That it may be, but is it still writing?


Since its inception, e-lit has been struggling to free itself from its generic limitations and now seems to be on the verge of doing so. At long last. Although interesting, its early manifestations were hardly groundbreaking. Collaborative narratives are as old as literature itself. Generative poetry simply adds a technological twist to Tzara's hat trick, the surrealists' automatic writing or Burroughs' cut-ups. Interactive fiction has its roots in Cervantes and Sterne. Hypertexts seldom improve on gamebooks like the famous Choose Your Own Adventure series, let alone BS Johnson's infamous novel-in-a-box. Besides, if you really want to add sound and pictures to words, why not make a film?
Read Gallix's entire post (and responding comments).

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Anonymous PO8 said...

(Comments are closed on the original article, and in any case I prefer being here. ☺)

I think the claims made in the original article are the result of very superficial observation. In particular, to write off interactive fiction in a sentence or two seems to me to be quite surprising.

The line between video gaming and interactive storytelling is blurring spectacularly. While we may not yet have a Shakespeare or even an Agatha Christie, we do have increasingly influential authors in IF and mainstream video gaming.

The future always comes agonizingly slowly if you're looking ahead. But it seems to me that it's arriving.

January 16, 2009 5:12 PM  

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