Hyperliterature

Hyperliterature

The vast majority of fiction on the web is nonergodic: stories presented as linear text. Yet, in an age where everyone has a supercomputer in their pocket, literature can take on any shape imaginable. In recent years, some pieces have taken advantage of these capabilities—not as a gimmick, but in a way that is integral to the narrative.

Let’s call this hyperliterature 1.

Imagine a love story told through interactive Gmail threads. Or a corporate heist as seen through the history of a Google Doc, where blinking cursors become characters and edits drive the plot. Or a tale where the main character goes mad, and the words themselves begin to seize control of the webpage as you scroll.

A big challenge here is that the intersection of writers and developers is small. So, I’d like to stoke this medium by simply listing good hyperliterature, which you’ll find below. If you have any additions, please drop me a line.


17776: What football will look like in the future by Jon Bois — SB Nation
A serial piece about space probes in the far future that have gained sentience and are watching humanity play an evolved form of American football. GIFs, animations, and found digital media galore.

Fish: a tap essay by Robin Sloan
An essay presented via quick taps. Even though this is a mobile app, the medium itself could be easily ported to web. Wonderful use of typography and colors.

Harmonia by Liza Daly
A story about utopian ideals utilizing gorgeous marginalia, typefaces, and interactions. The author has open sourced the framework used to build the narrative.

Hot Spot by James Yu
My own piece about synesthesia and the simulation theory. As you scroll, you experience colors in words similar to the main character of the story.

STET by Sarah Gailey — Fireside Fiction
A story about autonomous vehicles and the trolley problem told through comments on a digital document.

You Are Here by Bogi Takács — Strange Horizons
A poem which reconstructs itself into a new poem using the same words.

  1. There's other similar terms like interactive fiction, cybertext, hypertext fiction. However, these focus on the reader’s ability to affect the plot. I’m not interested in this kind of agency, because readers still crave narratives that form a predetermined story from start to finish.