Fly: An "Antihypertext" Hypertext?

by Jamey Konczakowski

return to Fly

Being an avid and eager participant and explorer of hypertext fiction, I approach each piece with anticipation of a mental exercise and a sense of wonder. As a self described "hypertext Romantic" my preference is the freedom "to wander through an array of connected texts...and commentary, to explore and create topical paths of association at will." ("The Effect of Hypertext," Davida Charney).

From reading Fly, I feel as if I am being cheated out of participation. Fly is "antihypertext" in that it is structured by the author as a "regular ordinary path that guides the (reader) taking it down only one route." ("Hype and Hypertext," David Dobrin). In that sense it is not so very different from standard, linear text except I am clicking a mouse rather than turning a page. Like hypertext, Fly does not have a specific problem/resolution theme nor any ending persay, however, it does present a comparison/contrast between each 'fly on the wall' story. I will assume that the author interspersed segments of each examination of a moment in life with the others in order for the reader to draw some parallel such as the disenchantment and disappointment combined with the "what is the point?" of each character's life. Might that be the author/reader relationship in Fly? The author presents the question and the reader then leans back in his/her chair with eyebrow raised, finger beside head, and a thoughtful, quizzical eye that then narrows while examining a mental re-play of each moment and attempting to derive an answer. Must there be a point? Ray certainly got the point when his father "whipped him only to show how good it was to be alive."

David Dobrin says, in his essay "Hype and Hypertext," regarding the conventions of hypertext, that readers "who...want more from them will be dissatisfied and uncertain." Dobrin was directing that opinion to the hypertexts with paths, guard fields, and changing links that do leave more (multiple) choices up to the reader as well as generate varying reaction and response. My feelings, after reading Fly, of dissatisfaction and frustration are the same but for the opposite reason. The author has set specific boundaries in his structuring of Fly that leave no escape or even a sense of play for the reader. There is no question of 'what if?' and no second guessing that might be proved or disproved. There is only what is there in the text of each box set in a specific order and maybe a musing or two offered by the reader as to how they identify or react to each character's situation. It is like a photo album with brief captions but the photos have faded to a gray square and there is not enough information in the captions to imagine more. I want to be able to catch a glimpse of something in the photo that might provide me with more insight to why the caption was added. I want to find a creased, stained note slipped underneath one of the photos that might tweak my curiosity even more. What is the point? The point is that, in reading (experiencing) hypertext I look for what Moulthrop and Kaplan describe as "infinitely expansible and thus promiscuous (in the root sense of 'seeking relations'). Because there is always room for a new link and a new word, no hypertextual discourse is ever formally closed." I was left with wanting more and the knowledge that there was no more, no matter how often or where I tried to wander, Fly was closed.