An Intimately Disorienting Afternoon

Philip Paul Peters, CCST02, "Telling Stories in Cyberspace," University Scholars Programme, National University of Singapore

Reading Afternoon, the inexperienced hyper-reader is trapped in freedom. The comparatively boundless opportunities that this hyper-fiction has, vis-à-vis conventional linear fiction, leaves the reader perplexed to how the story is read. Being inculcated to the mainstream linear styled fiction, I was at a lost at where to go and what to do. The notion that the story is determined by me and not by the author is something that I have not been accustomed to. Apart from having to adapt to the more active role that a reader must play in Afternoon, I also discovered that is started as a very disorienting experience.

Approaching Afternoon with the mindset of reading a conventional novel resulted in the initial experience being disorienting. The lexias bore no sense of any remote coherence, where the reader can be transported between scenes which have no common ground. At times, the lexias are even repeated. Characters do get proper introductions and in some cases, they do not even have proper names such as 'T'. Further disorientation results as the reader's attention is divided between figuring out the situation as well as figuring out the personae involved. Faced with such difficulties, I initially had a displeasing experience as first-time reader of hyper-fiction.

This displeasure, however, is only felt by an inexperienced hyper-reader. Upon reading Afternoon for close to an hour, things did seem to make more sense as the plot seemed to link and the characters begin to be revealed. Although clarity was not immediately and totally forthcoming, the satisfaction of connecting the seemingly disconnected left me pining for more. The second time I read Afternoon, a totally new sequence was revealed to me and again, this was an initially discomforting experience. Recalling my previous experience, I persevered, hoping for things to be revealed with each lexia I read. Eventually it did.

Afternoon presents to me an intimate relationship between the author and the reader. The way that the fiction is read and the way that the scenarios develop happen in a very similar way to life. When you meet someone you are not automatically acquainted with the person's background. Afternoon on the other hand, lets the characters develop in the same was as they would in daily life. The reader gets to choose whom he wants to read about and whom he does not. This provides for an intimate author-reader relationship as the reader gets the choice on which way he wants to react in response to the author.

Afternoon gives the reader a very different experience of reading. The reader has power and choice. This power and choice, however, would be disorienting for those who are not acclimatised with the idea of giving power to the reader. Once the reader can come to grips with possessing power, he opens himself to an experience that linear fiction cannot provide. One of the experiences that Afternoon gives is intimacy as the reader begins to feel the author. Reading it was certainly An intimately disorienting afternoon.

Afternoon Discussion overview Hypertext Cyberspace Web