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Secondary Source Hypertext Commentary Novel

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Being that all world knowledge now hangs ripe for the plucking from the many low branches of the internet, it should be possible - and likely already has been proved to be possible - for an individual to write a novel which would previously have required some primary source research without leaving the comfort of his or her creative writing bolthole. And, given a sufficiently large dollop of indexomania and/or a grant from some Croesus quango, such writer may be able to write not just the secondary source sourced novel but a hypertext version of the novel also, with each element that required such research linked from an appropriate part of the novel's text. The end result is few-fold: the mystery of creation (though, it must be said, not The Mystery of Creation) is exploded (in the diagrammatic sense) to reveal the tedious clickwork that underpins it; and the reader has not only immediate access to the secondary sources to allow them to dig deeper into interesting crannies but also access to the history of the creation of the novel with, assuming the grant funding flows like the Don, the author providing a commentary upon the research which sheds light upon the specific creative processes involved.

The hypertext model (shorn of the creative commentary) could be (and perhaps has been) applied post hoc to whichever didactic pulp is flying from the shelves of airport bookstalls this Q.

calum, Feb 16 2010

Pynchon Wiki for Gravity's Rainbow http://gravitys-rai...php?title=Main_Page
This is not what I am proposing. [calum, Feb 16 2010]

Commentary: The Musical http://www.youtube....#p/u/13/dMIUj_nRxoY
This is not what you're proposing, either. [jutta, Feb 16 2010]

rekindled my memory Track_20Changes_20Edition
[theircompetitor, Feb 17 2010]

Dictionary of the Khazars http://en.wikipedia...nary_of_the_Khazars
What this idea would be like with the primary source removed. [mouseposture, Feb 17 2010]

Pale Fire http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_Fire
[calum, Feb 17 2010]


       Technical detail: Where does the author commentary actually reside? Let's say you're reading a Dick Francis novel, and some jockey is being clubbed to near-death in a particularly shady racetrack locale. You click on a hypertext link and go to a map. How do you hear Francis's commentary about reading the map? Or is that to be inferred? And will we really want to know?   

       I've seen attempts at this on the web, and they have been painful to read. I like stories. Stories are sequential. I can read something once, and then again, and maybe during the again part I want to know all about the process; but then I do want to know all about it, not some yes, some not, and they'd better tie together. More like a DVD commentary or writer's interview, less like footnotes.
jutta, Feb 16 2010

       One of the fandoms I'm in is somewhat historically-based, and footnoting fanfics is common practice there. It would be fun to see more of it; research is often fascinating, if it can be viewed time-compressed. [+]
gisho, Feb 16 2010

       On a slightly different track, I wonder whether anyone has considered adopting hypertext as an alternative to academic referencing? Using wikipedia as a model, in any given article there might be a number of hyperlinks, plus a number of old-fashioned reference notes. Whenever there's a new technology there's always a transition period where overlapping protocols are in use at the same time - maybe one day, students will write their theses in html and instead of providing a list of references at the end, encode them within the text as per hypertext.
zen_tom, Feb 16 2010

       [zen_tom,] //I wonder whether anyone has considered adopting hypertext as an alternative to academic referencing?// I would argue that academic referencing *is* hypertext: i.e. academics implemented hypertext using print technology. I'd characterize your suggestion as updating the technology. That's happening, but slowly: I think the requirement for backwards-compatibility is holding back the adoption of new standards.
mouseposture, Feb 17 2010

       I hadn't given a buttload of thought to the form of the SSHCN. There are a number of ways, come to think of it, that it could be constructed. The first, and least hypertexty, approach is to produce a physical book, split perhaps into three sections: novel; research; commentary. This form would probably require to make use of the footnotes approach. A more ambitious "book" approach would be to adopt something akin to the Pale Fire system, with novel, research and commentary commingled and interlinked. This would propose significant literary challenges but I would guess that it might not be beyond the skills of some literary smartarse to make such a book readable, if not enjoyable. And of course, that smartarse could play games within the new forms, to the delight or otherwise of academics.   

       The second approach - which would be closer to being truly hypertetxy - would probably require reading through a browser (or similar), where reading the novel would be akin to reading Wikipedia (and may well feature links to relevant Wikipedia pages, if it was used as a source). The linking of the commentatry might be achieved by right- rather than left-clicking, which would take the reader to the relevant part of the research/creation story. I suppose if the three strands were stored locally (and I realise that that might cause IP issues in respect of the secondary sources) it would be possible to have several stylesheets (for want of a better word) prepared to allow the reader to pick how they wish to read the package and tweak how the package looks (e.g. highlighted links on or off).   

       [duckdodgers], I am afraid that I haven't read anything by Fowles (though one partner in the office keeps suggesting I read The Magus) so I can't say whether or not what he has done with the two novels mentioned renders the proposal baked but I would hazard that his work does not feature hypertext. I realise, however, that this is likely not the point you're making.
calum, Feb 17 2010

       It is with great delight that I can announce that I have somewhat baked this idea my very self.

A couple of years ago my employer was required, due to some perfectly necessary, I am sure, government legislation, to produce a document called "Treasury Management Practices" which outlined all the policies & procedures used in managing our huge coffer of council tax payers' cash.

Most local authorities immediately set their bureaucratic wheels in motion and ground out vast tomes of arcane documentation, laced with footnotes, appendices and awash with brackets and parentheses. These documents were then used to shore up the foundations of their ageing council offices.

I, on the other hand, being a lazy bugger, produced a totally on-line document made up almost entirely of linking text, liberally interspersed with hyperlinks to existing working documents, policy reports and relevant government legislation. A document which continues to be used to this day and which, because it doesn't actually exist in a fixed manner but is dynamically amended by its underlying links, needs very little updating or revision.

I was quite proud of it really, although the plot was a bit pedestrian, character development was poor and no jockeys were beaten to death in a dark alley.
DrBob, Feb 17 2010

       [DrBob] I'm not surprised you're delighted & proud: I certainly would be if I'd done something like that! Kudos.
mouseposture, Feb 17 2010

       Hmmm... a whole new take on 'Choose Your Own Adventure' could take shape. Would they be books or rather online text-based games, in which subplots pursued were constantly trimmed or added or redeveloped?
RayfordSteele, Feb 17 2010


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