Preface

"Fallow Field," a short work of fiction of no more than 30 lexias, chronicles the breakdown of a marriage. Mythic in quality, it is set in no particular place or time and reflects no one culture. It does, however, recall those archetypal power struggles between women and men so familiar in Western tradition, beginning with Hera and Zeus, Helen of Troy and Menelaus, and Klytemnestra and Agamemnon. The older we are, the better we know the compulsion and repulsion of such relationships, feeling both relief and sadness when they end.

The work is essentially an experiment in what Katherine Hayles calls "electronic textuality," yet one that utilizes the "software functionality" (Writing Machines 19-20) of hypertext not for breaking down narrative structure, but for holding the narrative structure more tightly together in a tale that centers on characters whose lives are horribly broken and fragmented. The images and sound brought into the story via the hyperlinks are intended to work in conjunction with the words to provide a larger canvas on which the reader can draw meaning. More specifically, it aims to demonstrate that images and sound are elements as important to any "text" as words can be when that text is electronic.

This particular experiment in electronic textuality also addresses strategies relating to arrangement and structure generally associated with rhetoric that theorists like Gerald Hauser say that attend to "functional uses of discourse to adjust people, objects, events, relations, and thoughts" (Introduction to Rhetorical Theory 33). Put briefly, "Fallow Field" assumes reading to be a "functional" activity intimately connected to "discourse" for a culture like ours so invested in print, and the reading of literature, in particular, to be an experience that can potentially "adjust" readers. Thus, what I have attempted to create is what is called in contemporary rhetorical theory a "readerly text" rather than "writerly text," which does not take into account the reader in its development or presentation.

My attention to readerly practices does not mean, however, that "Fallow Field" is simply a print-based story digitalized for the web or is any less experimental than Joyce's or Larsen's works. Rather, it suggests that it attempts to bridge traditional assumptions readers have about "literature" as they have experienced it in print-based contexts with their growing awareness of the electronic environment gained through working and playing online.

This concept of bridging print and electronic media is put into practice a number of ways. First, print-based assumptions that readers bring to "Fallow Field" are addressed through building immersion through the narrative—that is, the speaker's words, tone, and its plot. In that vein, the story is told in linear form and unfolds on the screen as text that can be controlled and moved through action so trivial as holding down an arrow with one's cursor. As Janet Murray has noted in Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace, trivial and nontrivial action affect the immersive quality of a text, and because immersion is one of three important qualities—what Murray calls "characteristic pleasures"—found in any text (94-8), it stands to reason that it be nurtured in "Fallow Field."

Second, assumptions about electronic environments readers may bring to the story are addressed through the enhancement of that narrative's ambience made possible through images and sound. As readers scroll through the story, they can see, for example, a representation of sweat "running like rivers," or they can hear the constant buzzing of flies and the songs the workers sing at twilight. Kinesthetic activity, a quality Hayles claims to be a "signifying component" (6) of electronic textuality, then, is found in the reader's conscious action of bringing the images and sound into the words of the narrative. The appeal to hearing, in particular, is a quality not found in print and which makes the electronic environment unique from it.

Thirdly, reading cues for both print-based and electronic-based environments are addressed. Specifically, I attempt to make all textual elements readily available and accessible to the reader as print-based texts do but in a way that, hopefully, makes sense for the electronic environment. For example, readers will find lexias, images, and sounds numbered, listed, and accessible as hyperlinks on both of the main narrative pages, "Part I: Day" and "Part II: Night." Each are listed on their own pages entitled, respectively, "Textmap," "Imagemap," and "Music." In the same token, readers can also read the story as printed text from the link called "Fulltext." Visually disabled readers will be able to hear an auditory version under "Reading" in the Menu. Along with these pages are other traditional print-based components, such as a "Preface" containing information about my approach and a "Colophon" containing technical requirements and publication information.

My work aims for a specific type of experiment: to find a way to bridge assumptions readers bring to electronic work from the world of print—without losing, but enhancing, the power of the word with all of the attributes electronic media can bring to bear upon it. I attempt to innovate rather than merely remediate old literary forms.