theNEWMEDIAREADER · 1990s · Writing on the Edge, 1991
Reading [Joyce's] WOE strikes me as being a little like watching yourself undergo an upper G.I. ... Ordinarily, reading is virtually undetectable, apart from delicate twitchings of the eye and the odd subvocalization here and there. Reading is a black box. Opening a reading log in WOE I see its movements crystallized, understanding where conjecture begins, each little synapse the text obligingly leaves for me to leap.
—J. Yellowlees Douglas
This landmark special section of the journal Writing on the Edge contains texts from an all-star list of pre-Web hypertext theorists as well as two important hypertexts—all conceived as one hybrid document. The section, edited by Stuart Moulthrop, included "WOE," a hypertext that was a radical departure for author Michael Joyce from his modernist hypertext classic afternoon: a story. "WOE" combines narrative material with metafictional passages, typographic experiments, notes to and about hypertext theorists, and even images; it creates a heterogeneous browsing experience of the sort familiar to today's Web readers (or fans of Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves). "Izme Pass," the second electronic file, has the distinction of being the first published collaborative hyperfiction. It takes meta-hypertextuality to a level beyond that of "WOE," as it includes fragments and threads from Carolyn Guyer's hypertext Quibbling, Martha Petry's hypertext Rosary, and even its companion hypertext "WOE." Some of the linear documents that were printed in this section—Moulthrop's introduction and essay, J. Yellowlees Douglas's contribution, and Jay David Bolter's essay—were at least partially intended to help orient readers to the hypertext experience. (Douglas's unpublished reading notes, included here, are also a help in this regard.) While the hypertext of the Web seems second nature today, these documents remain instructive as windows into pre-Web approaches to hypertext's possibilities—especially what may be accomplished when a hypertext's elements are more fine-grained than in the case of Web pages, and when the interface's movement between reading and authoring is fluid—when the activity can be "constructive" in the sense coined in Joyce's essay included in the NMR book (<>42). The texts that appeared in print expanded the range of the issue's fiction/metafiction/critique. Guyer and Petry contribute a piece constructed from their electronic mail communication during the creation of "Izme Pass." John McDaid's "The Planes" is a print (meta/hyper)fiction, originally intended to be integrated into Joyce's electronic text. Terry Harpold, on the other hand, moved out into more recognizably theoretical territory, providing a Derridian read of the hypertext link. Today this compound document remains a fascinating experiment in alternative textuality—an exploration of hypertext's constructive possibilities—that leaves the reader wondering what sorts of current electronic forms (perhaps blogs or wikis?) might be usefully seen in similar terms, and might possibly be employed in the next stage of the inquiry that was undertaken here.
"WOE." [In "Programs" folder, for Macintosh.] From the 3.5" disk "Hypertext on the Edge: WOE & Izme Pass," included with the Spring 1991 issue of Writing on the Edge. On a Mac, open the "Programs" folder and look in the folder "Writing on the Edge" to run "WOE" by Michael Joyce.
|"Izme Pass." [In "Programs" folder.] From the 3.5" disk "Hypertext on the Edge: WOE & Izme Pass." On a Mac, open the "Programs" folder and look in the folder "Writing on the Edge" to run "Izme Pass" by Carolyn Guyer and Martha Petry.|
|Writing on the Hypertextual Edge. Print text converted to HTML. [2 pages.] By Stuart Moulthrop. Introduction to the special hypertext section of Writing on the Edge, Spring 1991, 2(2):79-81.|
|Notes for Izme Pass Exposé. Print text converted to HTML. [8 pages.] By Carolyn Guyer and Martha Petry. pp. 82-89.|
|The Shapes of WOE. Print text converted to HTML. [2 pages.] By Jay David Bolter. pp. 90-91.|
|Understanding the Act of Reading: The WOE Beginner's Guide to Dissection. Print text converted to HTML. [13 pages.] By J. Yellowlees Douglas. pp. 112-125.|
|The Contingencies of the Hypertext Link. Print text converted to HTML. [12 pages.] By Terry Harpold. pp. 126-138.|
|The Planes; A Decoupled Monomeric Hypernarrative. Print text converted to HTML. [10 pages.] By John McDaid. pp. 139-149.|
|Polymers, Paranoia, and the Rhetorics of Hypertext. Print text converted to HTML. [9 pages.] By Stuart Moulthrop. pp. 150-159.|
|Jane's Absolutely Unadulterated WOE Reading Log. Coverted to HTML. [~12 pages.] Unpublished notes on a reading of WOE, sent to Michael Joyce and others. By J. Yellowlees Douglas.|
New developments in poetry on the computer included Robert Kendall's The Clue and the poems of John Cayley. When this issue of WOE came out, the shareware model for software distribution was popular and being used for new sorts of works. A few years later saw a wave of early Web works.