picture courtesy of Adam McLean





is more than we think

Hypertext fiction - by which I mean fiction on the World Wide Web using hypertext links to create more than one path through the text - is an obvious PR for postmodern theory. While academic circles are growing bored of the word "postmodern" and we havenít yet begun to internalise its tenets, hypertext fiction is its ultimate "Show and Tell". The active role of the user in navigating a hypertext and making sense of the disparate pages received makes Roland Barthesís "Death of the Author" an observable notion. The choice of links, generating multiple paths and non-linear structures, counters all that nasty patriarchal, hierarchical, empirical linearity that postmodernism seeks to rupture. The variability of contexts (which page do I read before and after that page) emphasises the role of context in generating meaning, a brief bow to post-structural theories of language. It has Derridaís mutability and mobility, it is Roland Barthesís "galaxy of signifiers", it speaks in a deliciously post-structural, feminist way of multiple entrances, openings, mazes, and interiors.

In all this, hypertext fiction corresponds to what have become the signifiers of postmodernism: the slightly passe tools which no longer disrupt our worldview, giving us instead a collection of tags with which to render "known" all those ruptures. Postmodernism itself seems to have been reduced to these signifiers, clever and hollow, far from challenging how we conceptualise reality. Its ludic quality has taken over until the liberal scattering of brackets, hyphens, and prefixes upsets no notions of language-structure, but signifies only "cheap pomo technique". Is postmodernism more than this?