Subversive Texts and the Multiple NovelJoyce outlines 4 single sentence musings in this essay and proceeds to connect them to each other.
1. Interactive fictions are largely figments of our imaginations.
Joyce says he wants to doubt this but cannot, since, for him and most of us, true interaction means that the system responds to the user as much as the user responds to the system and that each should alter the behavior of the other. This becomes the starting point for Joyce to speak to our expectations of interactivity. He goes on to claim that true interactivity does exist in the form of the text editor or data structure,
He then goes on to explain what he thinks future interactive texts will look like. They will appear "more closed" in order to be more open, "more like current print fiction, than the computer programs we currently consider to be interactive."
2. The first level of interaction precedes the creation of any text.
I think by this he means that the very act of writing, whether using the print medium or electronically, supposes that there will be an interaction with a reader somewhere. In his words,
In making this point he uses Finnegan's Wake, Hopscotch, and Tristam Shandy as examples of works that contain multiplicities as "intricate as any we envision for interactive fictions" (138). This move does a couple of interesting things. First it ties known works of literature to the hypertext fiction effort, which is an attempt to add credibility to hypertext fiction for those who prefer more traditional literature. It also partially reveals the wellspring of hypertext. We see, perhaps, a history to this movement that for some has come out of nowhere, with no apparent impetus from "respectable" literature practices.
3. It is likely that no one interrupted Homer.
"Or perhaps there were drunken hecklers then" (141). And I chuckle out loud at the image and think of my preconcieved notions about literary fiction. "Since the technology has existed for some time, why don't people write alternate chapters in the blank spaces of bound novels or alternate sentences in the blank spaces between printed sentences?" Good question. Joyce goes on to talk about the relationship between the reader and what is read, pointing out how we do not suspend all thought while we read. We plan out what will happen in each successive sentence in each coming page. Then, we "selfishly seek confirmation or our alternative choices within a text" by gauging how correctly or incorrectly we anticipated the unfolding drama of the work. Hypertext fiction has the power to alter this dynamic, though the power has always been there, we have not been encouraged to participate in this manner.
4. Suppose a text can anticipate unpredictable variations upon it.
Is this possible? Our print history screams "no!" and points to the barriers of the page. Joyce calls our attention to a phenomenon in computer science called "interference, the concurrency problem, or software interraction" where in complex systems where layer upon layer of software is interacting together, unanticipated "side effects" happen. This is where the debugging begins. Joyce quotes Umberto Eco:
So, we wait for a "text that can anticipate unpredictable variations upon it" and wonder if Storyspace, or any other hypertext software, really allows for this to happen.