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The Novel as Software 150

Posted by michael
from the write-once-run-anywhere dept.
LukePieStalker writes "Former English professor Eric Brown has published the first work in what he claims is a new literary category called the 'digital epistolary novel', or DEN. 'Intimacies', based on an 18th century novel, requires the DEN 1.2 software. The program's interface has windows for mock e-mail, instant messaging, Web browser and pager, through which the narrative unfolds. For those wishing to create their own works in this genre, Mr. Brown is marketing composition software called DEN WriterWare."
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The Novel as Software

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  • I know this is going to sound silly, but I read the title as "The Novell [novell.com] as Software"! Did anyone else make that mental typo, or "mypo"?
    • Hmm, if a typo is a typographcial error, then you must have made a memographical error; a memo.
    • Yeah, I thought it said "The Novell as Server" ... My first reaction was "been there, done that", and then "man, Slashdot editors have bad grammar", until I re-read it slowly! LOL!
  • Great... (Score:5, Funny)

    by maan (21073) * on Friday April 16, 2004 @11:30AM (#8881346)
    Great: first of all there's no link in the NY times article to find where this guy's homepage is. Then I go to google, and the first link is a guy named "Eric Brown" who's an FBI top ten [fbi.gov] wanted person. But hey, this [wustl.edu] Eric Brown has published a guide to all Eric Browns [wustl.edu] on the net. Thank you!

    Maan
  • by SkaOMatic (771887) on Friday April 16, 2004 @11:33AM (#8881365)
    Interesting concept. Sometimes it would feel nice to virtually live another life in such a detailed manner. This one is making me sleepy.

    Now if only Microsoft could do something with this.....

    *naps in his cube dreaming of malware-infected reading materials*
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 16, 2004 @11:35AM (#8881395)
    "...if you join Sallah on his balloon journey, turn to page 31. If you decide to continue on your own, turn to page 46."

    Interesting idea. But new literary category? Please.

    • Just what I was thinking. I actually still have some of these books based on Sonic the Hedgehog from back in the Megadrive (Genesis) era.
    • Well, it's experimenting with a form that hasn't really been used in novels, so it can be classified as a new literary category, that is if it's not just a POS (forgive me, I haven't yet read the book).

      As for the choose-your-own-adventure books? They're not novels, at least not very good ones. Characterization is minimal. There's an overemphasis on plot. Pretty much like most video games =).
    • Well, if you'd RTFA, you'd have found out that what they're describing has nothing in common with Choose Your Own Adventure books, except perhaps that both can be implemented on a computer.

      I swear, every day Slashdot gets more and more like a bunch wanna-bes sitting in a circle watching somebody else do all the work, saying "that sucks" every five minutes.

      (DEN does, in fact, suck. But at least I read the article to find out why)
    • This comment is in reference to the Choose Your Own Adventure series of book published by Bantam in the 1980s and 1990s. The series was "invented" by a lawyer named Edward Packard. He went on to write the best books in the series.

      If you ever decide to check out a CYOA book, stay away from the titles by R.A. Montgomery (including By Balloon to the Sahara, referenced in the parent post). He sucked.
  • by jlechem (613317) on Friday April 16, 2004 @11:37AM (#8881405) Homepage Journal
    I imagined a choose your own adventure novel online. If you pick the machine gun turn to page 36 if you pick the rocket launcher turn to page 54.
  • by DrkShadow (72055) on Friday April 16, 2004 @11:37AM (#8881414) Homepage Journal
    Really, this seems very much like the concept of .Hack//Sign.

    That game takes place in a massively multiplayer online RPG; the events unfold through happenings in the world, posts to the message board and e-mail. It seems like this "novel" is very much the same thing, but perhaps more in depth.

    In either case, as far as literature goes, there's no need to have people clicking around to get to the next part. That, to me, says "game". This can just as easily be accomplished in a book with a bit of narration.. it seems just an attempt to shift the style of narration.

    -DrkShadow
    • Really, this seems very much like the concept of .Hack//Sign.

      It seems more like a watered-down version of Majestic. Anyone remember that game a couple years ago? You'd get voicemail, IMs and faxes from the fictional characters in some big conspiracy story. Great concept; unfortunately the game itself turned out to be a rather obvious and cruddy puzzle game, so I ditched it in the second month.

      • I signed up for that "game" when it first started and I haven't been able to escape since! They're still following me!!!

        Oh God, I've gotta go, one of "Them" just came into the library...

      • Yep, I tried it out. I think it would have been more fun if I was 14, but I was bored and willing to try something new.

        HOwever, I quit once they came out with some announcement about shutting down, and that there was just enough time to finish the whole thing if you kept playing.

        My only disappointment with the game was how you'd have to wait a whole day for new stuff. Sometimes I had time to do more. Other days I was too busy to do everything (or too bored to read all the clippings). I also had a difficul

    • by harrisj (14577) on Friday April 16, 2004 @11:57AM (#8881642) Homepage
      What I was hoping for from the title of the story was something like Galatea 2.2 by Richard Powers. To sum up part of the story there, a professor has a smart AI which drives an interface allowing the user to engage in realistic emails to literary characters. So, the user is able to figure out the story interactively and be part of their own epistolary work (not just read someone else's letters). Obviously, we aren't anywhere near that, and I guess the disappointment leaves me underwhelmed.

      It seems like the innovation here is that instead of chapters, the user has days of the week they can click on to look at the formatted messages. And the vaunted interactivity is that the user can read the story out of sequence, not really in a nonlinear fiction sense (that can be hard), but really just in the same way I can skip forwards and backwards in a book if I want. Wow. I agree that while the interface is cute I suppose, the style really is more like a "game" version of a book. You might as well try interactive fiction [f9.co.uk] instead.

      • It seems to me that Galatea 2.2 was actually about an attempt to get a neural network to parse a literary novel into an English essay of approximately the same calibre as that produced by a graduate student.

        Well, that and Richard Powers getting over his break-up with his wife.

        Excellent book, but I don't remember anything about this interactive epistolary novel stuff.
    • Actually, it would be .Hack//Infection, .Hack//Outbreak, etc, the game series. .Hack//Sign was one of the TV shows.

      While they all have the MMORPG as the setting, it's the series of four games that has the interface that you describe.
    • by cardshark2001 (444650) on Friday April 16, 2004 @12:09PM (#8881797)
      In either case, as far as literature goes, there's no need to have people clicking around to get to the next part. That, to me, says "game". This can just as easily be accomplished in a book with a bit of narration.. it seems just an attempt to shift the style of narration.

      Well, I think people tend to discount new ways of telling stories. I say there's a reason interactive fiction lives on: people are naturally drawn to a medium which allows them to feel they are in control of a story. This sounds like it's a new form of interactive fiction, and I for one am happy that this professor has pushed the boundaries just a little with respect to how we receive our fiction.

      I love a good novel as much as the next person, but in this age of tech, the novel format is not the only way to present a storyline, and I enjoy being challenged every now and then with a new format for the art form I admire most. I think the interactive novel is the way of the future with respect to fiction.

      There is a reason that interactive fiction lives on despite the lack of pretty graphics and bells and whistles and so forth. People like to be a part of the fictional worlds they enjoy, and fancy graphics can only tell so much of a story. In the end, there's no substitute for good writing.

      Someday, interactive fiction may be the norm, with the old, passively read novel format becoming quaint and outdated. This work may be seen as a pioneering work, when that day comes.

      When people think interactive fiction, they think games, but I think this space has not been explored in depth and I see great opportunities for the future. I for one applaud this man and wish him great success.

      • The point of a good novel is NOT simply to tell a story but to express a theme in some manner or other. Can you imagine, say, "Great Expectations" without the unification provided by Dicken's social insight? "Boy meets fugitive in chance event, later becomes pivotal experience in life, wastes a bunch of money, and then we find out everyone is related to everyone else somehow." People would call it boring, unrealistic, out of touch. The novel format, however, takes this story and makes it into much more
        • In order to create the equivalent of a novel in the form of interactive fiction, an author would have to create digital analogs of real people, able to interact with the audience in a manner that live actors would be able to do. This has never, to my knowledge, been tested even with human agents

          Actually, it's been done rather well, take a look at Trinity (winner of the very first IF contest) for a good example.

          Obviously a program cannot yet pass the Turing test, but within the limited realm of interacti

      • I say there's a reason interactive fiction lives on: people are naturally drawn to a medium which allows them to feel they are in control of a story.

        Like...life?
    • Much older than that. System Shock [the-underdogs.org] (1994), where you wander around the 3D world, but most backstory and all character interaction other than fighting comes through email and diaries you discover. The earliest I know of is Portal [the-underdogs.org] (1986), which takes place entirely in a simulated computer interface.
    • I agree.
      The fact that the medium leads and in many ways restrain the experience of the reader put it outside litteracy to me.

      I remember for instance the way John Brunner echoed the zapping frenzy of its world in its Zanzibar novel. He didnt need a screen and an automated zapping to share that feeling with his readers, only style and talent. Same goes for Gibson's views of cyberspace.
  • Yeah... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I liked this better the first time around when it was called a video game

    but, you know, some professors just need to stir up a little press to get raises and/or funding. especially professors without any actual skills

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 16, 2004 @11:38AM (#8881429)
    Portal was a great Sci-fi novel that I read back on my trusty C-64 back in the mid 80's. It was kind of like reading a series of emails and logs, and every so often it would provide you with "resarch material". Ah the good ole days.....
    • When I was in high school, I had this really neat idea for a text-based adventure game that was a lot like the technical aspects of Shadowrun. Here are some of the key thoughts I had (all within a virtual environment, mind you):

      You'd rummage through the trash of a target looking for clues like written-down passwords, or website printouts.

      You'd get shell access to a machine, and could use a utility to mirror all of the hopefully sensitive data.

      You'd be able to blackmail company insiders for useful inform
  • How is this any different from Interactive Fiction. Its form being epistolary (letter formed novel, like Dracula) doesn't matter - this whole idea is till basically interactive fiction...or am I missing something here?
    • What you're missing is that Brown's idea isn't actually interactive. What you're doing is looking at your screen while a bunch of IMs and e-mails show up. There's no game here, you're just reading what's presented to you.
  • I remember reading DEN 2 [muuta.net] in Heavy Metal about 20 years ago.
  • Epistolary form (Score:4, Interesting)

    by scottennis (225462) on Friday April 16, 2004 @11:43AM (#8881490) Homepage
    The epistolary form requires the reader to put additional effort into understanding the author's intent. It died out as a viable form more than a hundred years ago as authors realized their readers didn't want to put that much effort into reading. So they came up with the "omniscient narrator." (Hey, cool, now I don't have to think at all, the author is telling the story as if he were god, so I can trust everything he says!)
    I doubt that people today are much more interested in putting effort into their reading than they were 100 years ago.
    My predicition is that the DEN will not revolutionize writing.
    • The epistolary form requires the reader to put additional effort into understanding the author's intent. It died out as a viable form more than a hundred years ago as authors realized their readers didn't want to put that much effort into reading. So they came up with the "omniscient narrator."
      So you finally get a chance to put that English Lit. major to use, eh? ;)
      • by panda (10044)
        Yeah, except that he should have studied Medieval Lit., too, and then he'd know that the omniscient narrator has been around longer than the epistolary novel.

        • Re:Epistolary form (Score:2, Interesting)

          by jsac (71558)
          Also, Wayne Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction is all about the extent to which omniscient narrators are not omniscient, and furthermore, how they are often are deserving only a limited degree of trust.
        • My point was about when the omniscient narrator edged out the epistolary novel, not about when it originated.
      • So you finally get a chance to put that English Lit. major to use, eh? ;)

        Actually, I've never had a chance to stop using it!
    • Re:Epistolary form (Score:2, Interesting)

      by elid (672471)
      (Hey, cool, now I don't have to think at all, the author is telling the story as if he were god, so I can trust everything he says!)

      Ever read The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie?

  • Iain M. Bank's take (Score:2, Informative)

    by kilf (135983)
    There is a large portion of Iain M. Bank's "Excession" that is told as a series of communications between distant and powerful AIs. The joy of these pages is that they read pretty much like a cross between IRC logs and usenet digests. The same petty cliques and tendancies are on display. Even a sort of "TINC" concept is there.

    Each message is topped and tailed by a fictional, futuristic header and footer with an addressing mechism, timestamp, location and the like.

    I recommend it to all.
  • You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.
    There is a small mailbox here.

    WTF?!?

    -m
    • You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.
      There is a small mailbox here.

      No mention of Zork is complete without a reference to the Zork 404 error [thcnet.net] as implemented by my friend Krux at thcnet.net.

  • A novel as software would use something like the Shakespeare Programming Language [sourceforge.net], but for novels instead of dramas.
  • F-R-Not-R (Score:4, Informative)

    by obsidianpreacher (316585) on Friday April 16, 2004 @11:47AM (#8881535)
    Here's the free registration NOT required link [nytimes.com]

    From the article:
    Thom Swiss, editor of The Iowa Review Web and a professor of English at the University of Iowa who focuses on those forms of hypertext, said that to him Mr. Brown's creation seemed mechanical. "While inventive if buggy, I'm not sure how useful it is," he said. "At this stage of its development, it's more of a game and less literature - and not because of the pulp story but because the formal elements of composing the piece are given to you: you just fill in the content."

    And I couldn't agree more. I don't see this style as being appealing to me. Neat concept, but it's not quite "it" ...
  • Bah (Score:2, Insightful)

    by daeley (126313) *
    The key here is "Mr. Brown is marketing composition software called DEN WriterWare."
  • by FromWithin (627720) <stuff@fromwithin.cPERIODom minus punct> on Friday April 16, 2004 @11:49AM (#8881562) Homepage

    A long time ago (1986 I think), Activision published a game called Portal [the-underdogs.org], and C64, PC, Amiga, Mac, etc. It is an interactive novel where an intelligent computer pieces together the story of why nobody is left on the Earth. The pieces come as memos, effectively e-mails, and you can browse other parts of the system for various bits of information on characters, events, etc. It's very absorbing and is obviously predates this "new" thing by nearly 20 years!

    There are other excellent games from around the same time like The Fourth [spray.se] Protocol [gb64.com] which, although much more interactive, effectively work in the same manner via an icon-based system. A brilliant game, by the way, highly recommended.

  • And I mean it, this is a stupid gimmick and will be forgotten in a week. Why did it make frontpage?
    • I agree it's a gimmick and doomed to failure, but not because the idea itself is bad. The problem is the silly software you need to read it. People are too lazy to download an app for a work like this, and anyway it breaks the illusion.

      Similiar things have been been done before on real Web pages and in real e-mail forums. One of these days someone will write an actually interesting story this way, they'll get lucky and it'll become popular, and the art form will start to gain some traction. It's not go

  • It's been done (Score:5, Informative)

    by jd142 (129673) on Friday April 16, 2004 @11:50AM (#8881571) Homepage
    Griffin and Sabine (and the followups) did this with dead trees back in the late 80's early 90's. The book contained a series of letters, postcards, etc. between the two main characters. And unlike all the novels that were written in letter form before, the letters and post cards were physical objects in the book.

    It's one of those oh-so-clever ideas that gets done once just to show it can be done, then is never done again because it's not that great of an idea.

    There was even a video game like this. I think it was Majestic, http://www.gamezone.com/gamesell/p16652.htm , that I'm thinking of. You could give it your beeper number and it would call you, etc. A one person LARP.

    • As pointed out in the blurb, it is an epistolean novel, and that means it consists of (fictional) letters and it has been done for a few hundred years.
      It is the first digital one, or the author claims so.
    • Re:It's been done (Score:2, Interesting)

      by nrabinowitz (471147)
      As in the Griffin and Sabine books, the key here is not the form of the story, but the medium - the reason that G+S were interesting was not really the writing (which was was well-done but nothing special) but the artwork and the physical nature of the medium. Holding someone's letter and reading it is actually quite a different experience from reading the same text in a book - you're presented not with the story of someone's life, but with physical objects from that life.

      In the same way, I can see that t
  • by rusty0101 (565565) on Friday April 16, 2004 @11:51AM (#8881580) Homepage Journal
    ...where you were sent e-mail, pages, called at work and home, on your cell phone, faxes, etc. Each event was a clue to a mystery, or an indication you had to go look for something.

    I seem to recall the game folding itself up and going away immediately after the Trade Center Tower Attack.

    Other than the phone and fax events, this sounds quite similar, and I suspect it may end up with some of the same flaws.

    The primary flaw that I see with this is that I personally have no problem reading bits and pieces out of dozens of books, often several different books by the same author. This is purely my decision, and I am in a mindset for that book when I go back to reading it, because I choose to be. Getting IM's, e-mail, etc as "Novel" content, seems to me to be eliminating the reader's election to get back into the frame of mind for properly processing the content, and I suspect will end up being ignored.

    Then again, I could be wrong.

    -Rusty
    • Was that real, or was that just a movie with Michael Douglass?
    • Before the Dan Brown's The Davinci Code was published, the official website had a variant on this game... You were given a starting point, which had a clue where to find the next bit of information... Parts of it allowed you to log onto a corporate 'portal', read emails, and such. It was fairly short and culminated in an ad for the book, but it was still a fairly interesting idea.
    • that was a real game which I was about to comment on myself. I could not for the life of me remember the name of the game, probably because it curled up and died in the corner after horrible reviews and sales. Its always been an interesting idea, but I still dont see it being successful just yet. Maybe in 2 or 3 years someone else will come up with this "revolutionary" idea again and make it actually work, but I dont think this one is there yet.
    • Majestic died long before Sept 11. It only lasted a couple months after the initial release. The few people who tried it didn't like it.

      Based on what I've heard, it was a bad idea, not much fun and required a massive time investment.

      That, and I'm sure all those phone calls and pages added up in cost, both both the publisher maintaining it all and the people "playing" the game.
  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Friday April 16, 2004 @11:52AM (#8881594)
    he claims is a new literary category called the 'digital epistolary novel', or DEN.


    If all his works sound this appealing, then I'm sure he'll be making tens of dollars in no time.

    Anyway, Griffin and Sabine [griffinandsabine.com] has done the series of letters as a story already, and in grand style, I might add. The novelty novel. With paintings and cursive handwriting and little pasted-in envelopes.

    Frankly, I can't think of anything further from the romantic ideal than ASCII. Of course, I can also think of several relationships which began on-line, so who am I to judge?


    -FL

  • Eye-strain (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ra5pu7in (603513) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <ni7up5ar>> on Friday April 16, 2004 @11:53AM (#8881605) Journal
    Don't we already spend enough time looking at our computer screens? Looking through a bunch of faux emails and webpages to "read" the story just doesn't sound appealing. Instead it sounds like a recipe to keep people in front of their computers even more than they already do.

    Now, the one thing I don't see any indication of, but that several people have mentioned, is the ability to alter the story by how you respond. This DEN looks pretty cut and dried to me - i.e. the sequence of emails and webpages is preset to tell the story - it isn't something you as the reader respond to. Maybe I missed something because I didn't read the NY Times article (won't register) - but looking at his own site should have been more informative.
  • Official Site (Score:2, Informative)

    by beeglebug (767468)
    More information about the novel, the software and the author can be found here [greatamericannovel.com].

    It's not a bad read actually, even if the idea is not exactly new...
  • I'm sorry, I don't think that a novel in this form is going to be popular bedtime literature... it requires effort from the reader. Of course, there were many popular text adventure games, so it's not like there will be no market for this.

    Just don't forget that interactive books aren't in vogue anymore. What's so different about this?
  • I mean, I love to read, many generes - from Terry Pratchett over Tad Williams to Karl May
    But when I'm faced with interactive fiction I always get the feeling to have to "split up".

    "So were all the subtile hints true? Is the conspiracy real? For Yes, go to page 56, for No go to page 241"

    I somehow cannot stand such books. Sorry.
  • What Is Art? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by linuxdoctor (126962) on Friday April 16, 2004 @12:01PM (#8881693) Homepage
    Yet another contribution to that age old conundrum. Other posters have weighed in on whether they like it or not, and whether it is even a new genre citing similar approaches going back over a hundred years.

    An Anonymous Coward dismissed it entirely saying it was not even literature. Isn't it, though?

    The one point that caught my eye was the last sentence. "Mr. Brown is marketing ..." That said it all.

    Is it art, or marketing ploy? Considering that even television commericals are considered by some to be art, one wonders.

    I've always been in the "art for art's sake school." The fact that Mr. Brown is marketing his 'genre' diminishes the value of his 'literature', at least for me. But does that mean that it's not art?
    • Re:What Is Art? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ShieldWolf (20476)
      I have a rather useful definition that seems to cover all cases I consider art:

      "Art it the indirect communication of one persons abstract idea to another through an indirect medium."

      The more abstract the idea, the less the audience connects with the artist; the more direct the communication the less 'revelatory' the experience is.

    • Is it art, or marketing ploy?

      I gave a bit of a double-take to the web address for this. Calling it "great american novel" speaks a lot more of ego than of substance.
  • by MagicM (85041)
    This sounds more like reading the past events of an ARG [unfiction.com] than a novel.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The LJBook [ljbook.com] thing turns your blog into a PDF archive/book suitable for printing... It's produced by LaTeX and looks quite good...

    It's highly similar when people use their blog as a journal like livejournal's users...
  • Shuteye Town (Score:3, Informative)

    by jefu (53450) on Friday April 16, 2004 @12:13PM (#8881858) Homepage Journal
    For those interested in such things, there is also "Shuteye Town" by R. F. Laird, author of the puzzlingly odd and brilliant "Boomer Bible" [boomerbible.com]. Unhappily it is all MS Word files so I've never been able to explore it correctly and can only report this at second hand.
  • Exegesis (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dmorin (25609) <dmorin@nOsPaM.gmail.com> on Friday April 16, 2004 @12:17PM (#8881913) Homepage Journal
    Everybody's mentioning Griffin and Sabine (or however you say it). If you actually like this style, look for Exegesis by Astro Teller. The story consists of a series of emails between an emergent AI and its unwitting creator. Nothing special in terms of story or character, but that particular aspect does make it stand out as different from the rest.
  • Not entirely offtopic as it deals with authoring works, but flips the subject behind the article on its head. And, it's something I couldn't resist sharing.

    Jos Claerbout, in teaching himself OOP, has written one of the more creative and instructive tutorials [stanford.edu] on OOP design hosted at Stanford [stanford.edu]. The work is admittably rough around the edges and may be too short (nothing a good publishing editor couldn't have polished up). But, it remains valuable for those who tend to be more right-brained thinkers, rather

    • I only started reading that tutorial, but it demonstrates very clearly that writing software is tied to a unique sense of literacy. Much like creative writing, programmers have to develop program flow (much like a plot) and they do a butt-load of "naming". As far as I'm concerned, when reading other people's code, "naming" is my biggest pet peeve. What you call a function or variable determines the overall readability of code. The best creative writers have often "bent" the language to create a new lite
      • I have to wonder if programmers had more creative sensibility when naming variables, classes and methods (hell, even package/component names), wouldn't it make code more interesting to read?

        At the very least, it would make code a pleasure to navigate. No one appreciates being lost if your aim is to reach a definite goal. Considerate and friendly signs accurately describing the foreign landscape would be a welcome sight for a stranger. Who enjoys hacking through the thicket of maze-like logic in the dar


  • Nice going prof, but you are tunnel visioned.

    'The novel as software' has long existed in the form of interactive computer games - dare we go back to nethack, maniac mansion and the various other unfolding adventures of the genre.

  • This doesn't sound that original ...

    Maybe a better approach would be something like one of those tests that adapts to your previous answers, except the user would have to rate sections of the story and it would serve up alternate paths based on what the reader likes (more action, suspense, plot twists, romance, *action*, etc.)

    They could read the story hundreds of times and have hundreds of possible path's and endings.

  • These were stories writen in a non-sequential order. You had to flip to another page at the end of a section. Sometimes you had more than one choice.

    Some instructional material wa written this way. It got rather annoying. I prefere the "expanded outline" type. You only go into the detail you think you need.
  • The devil did his work by appealing to one's intellectual arrogance- "I'm too smart for that". Sounds familar? The devil has lots of opportunity in the modern world when knowledge is a prized commodity.
  • Download file is WinDOS only. No thanks.
  • by mopslik (688435) on Friday April 16, 2004 @01:35PM (#8883273)

    The program's interface has windows for mock e-mail, instant messaging, Web browser and pager, through which the narrative unfolds.

    Just browsing through the table of contents...

    Chapter I: John deletes his spam
    Chapter II: John closes a million popups
    Chapter III: John deletes more spam
    Chapter IV: John cybers **hotChIcKa69**
    Chapter V: John deletes more spam and sets up a new mail client
    Chapter VI: John closes more popups, installs Mozilla
    Chapter VII: John deletes more spam, puts his fist through the monitor
    Chapter VIII: John goes to the hospital
    ...

  • Was Uncle Buddy's Phantom Funhouse, a hypercard stack (or rather set of stacks) designed as a whole free-exploratory mystery. Really still brilliant stuff, and a hint at the possibilities of hypertext before EastGate defined it into a certain narrow and dull scope. Some links: http://www.eastgate.com/catalog/Funhouse.html http://www.kith.org/logos/wander/10.west/Buddy.htm l http://www.iath.virginia.edu/elab/hfl0285.html
  • It's not like me to smack new technology but, c'mon, how far could somethig like this go?

    It seems that it's the type of technology that'll wind up wearing a big t-shirt that says: "If you've seen one of me, you've seen it all".

    If I wanted to look through a bunch of email and follow a soap opera-like story I'd go to work.
  • People interested in this might also be interested in some interactive fiction.

    http://www.ifarchive.org/
  • Of course, you don't need software to write an epistolary novel...or even an e-pistolary novel.

    There was a rather fun gaming product that came out a couple years back called De Profundis [rpg.net], which involved roleplaying by writing letters back and forth. Sadly, it came out shortly before Hogshead went out of the gaming business, so it's not widely available anymore.

"It's curtains for you, Mighty Mouse! This gun is so futuristic that even *I* don't know how it works!" -- from Ralph Bakshi's Mighty Mouse

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