“At one time, Ts’ui Pen must have said; ‘I am going into seclusion to write a book,’ and at another, ‘I am retiring to construct a maze.’ Everyone assumed these were separate activities. No one realized that the book and the labyrinth were one and the same.”
At first, when I went to read “The Garden of Forking Paths” by Borges, I was confused because I thought that the text itself was going to be a work of interactive fiction. Then I realized that the story was about a work of interactive fiction. So I was a little disappointed, but the story about a story still offered a lot of insight into this particular genre.
It seems crazy to think that these forms of creative and interactive text were being thought of back in the 1940s, but when I think about it I guess it’s not that surprising. After all, humans’ instinct to be creative has been around for as long as we can remember. Even cavemen felt the need to connect with others by writing on the rock walls right? So it’s not anyone’s mindset or instinct that has changed, it’s merely the avenue through which we are able to pursue those interests.
Back in Borges’ day, the idea of using a text as a puzzle was revolutionary. Today we see hypertext novels as revolutionary. But if the idea has been around for so long, why are we looking at this form of fiction as some crazy, new way of doing things? It’s just another way to get the reader involved.
Sometime, ask a reader what their favorite book is. Then ask them why it is that they like it. My guess (and this guess is made from both my own experiences as a reader and my experiences with other readers) is that most of them will say that they felt they could relate to the story and that they felt connected to the characters. So if people are picking up books that they can connect with already, imagine how many more people would consider reading a hypertext novel? It’s the ultimate connection between reader and author. The reader doesn’t feel left to their own devices because the author does give them some direction. After all, a reader wouldn’t be a reader if they were writing the entire piece of fiction. But at the same time, the reader gains some control. They are able to create the story that they want to read.
It seems to be the perfect balance of creativity and passive entertainment right? The tools are there, and the ideas have been there forever, so we should embrace the opportunity to get involved when we seem to be so stuck in this passive culture.