IV. Map as metaphor:
Stuart Moulthrop's Victory Garden has a similar, if somewhat more elaborate visual navigation system than Afternoon. The tool bar is the same, the functioning of the 'return' key is the same, and there is the possibility of double-clicking on yielding words. Unlike Afternoon, the yielding words can be made visible by the use of alt-option keys (pressing them frames the yielding words). Also, Victory Garden employs more of the possibilities of screen-based typography and also some pictures.
Fig. 2. A screen from Victory Garden
Fig. 3. A screen from Victory Garden
The most important difference, though, is Victory Garden's use of a navigational 'map'--a visualization of the Text's cognitive space (Fig. 4 and 5). There is an overview of the map, from which the reader can choose either the 'Northern', 'Central', or 'Southern' part in order to see each in more detail. The map shows names of some 'important' lexias, and links between them. The reader can make his/her entry to the Text by choosing one of the lexias named in the map. There are other possibilities, too, for example a list of different stories with short descriptions, of which the reader can choose one. The map is not just a visualization of the structure of lexias, but is in a highly symbolic way a representational map (the use of qualifiers like 'Northern' and 'Southern' relate to this). For example, it can be seen as "a map of a garden with paths and benches" (Coover 1992).
In fact, the map offers only very limited possibilities for actual
navigating. Only a few of the more than 900 lexias are shown,
and the links between those shown in the map are so numerous and
complicated that they tell the reader very little. Intentional
navigating is not possible, but the map offers one way to choose
one's place inside the story space. The use of a representational
map is, of course, one way of making the interface 'fuse' with
the represented fictional world (even though in this case it is
quite a symbolic representation--it isn't anything like a geographical
map of the places of action).
Fig. 4. The navigational map from Victory Garden
Fig. 5. A close view of the southern end of the map
The map as such, however, alters the nature of this narrative. The author himself has written extensively about the relation of story and map in interactive fiction, and I will quote him here at some length:
they [the students in a hyperfiction class] had given up hope that the metonymic flow of language in any given node would take them coherently to a conclusion. Instead they were plotting their own readings through a cartographic space, hoping to discover a design which ... might prove to be buried or scattered in the text. The map, which represents the text as totality or metaphor, was not something to be reached through the devious paths of discursive metonymy, rather it was a primary conceptual framework, providing the essential categories of 'right', 'left', 'up' and 'down' by which these readers oriented themselves. Metaphor here was not identified with finality or revelation, but with the initial incitement to hypertextual reading, the sense of being precipitated into an unexplored space. (Moulthrop 1993, 128)
Moulthrop seems to make use of this observation in his own hyperfiction (the Text to which the citation refers was Moulthrop's interactive adaptation of Borges' "Garden of Forking Paths"--the Garden in Moulthrop's Victory Garden is obviously an allusion to Borges). Acknowledging the fact that many links, especially 'associative' ones, often leave the reader perplexed, he provides the reader of Victory Garden with a map. (Note that the Text to which the quotation above refers did not allow the readers to see any kind of map--they constructed the underlying virtual map solely on the grounds of the navigational arrow-buttons!) The map in Victory Garden, however, doesn't allow the reader the possibility of going systematically through the "cartographic space"--as a procedure for reading fiction this would be, indeed, quite artificial.>7 But for the most part, the map has the same effect as the students' imagined map in the quotation: it shows that the Text is limited, there is a limited number of storylines, and the links between the lexias are fixed (this, however, does not mean that the lexias could not be read in many alternative orders). Because of this, the reading of Victory Garden turns easily--at least after some time--into a process of spotting 'blank areas' on the map, that is, looking for those parts of the map which are not yet familiar to the reader. This can be seen as a mode of 'reading as plot' instead of the more traditional 'reading for the plot' (as described by Peter Brooks in Reading for the Plot, 1984), but as Moulthrop himself has noted, the ultimate goal still is to 'fill in' the underlying story (Moulthrop 1994, 128).
The fixedness of the Text as a whole does not mean that there are not numerous potential stories. Or to quote Moulthrop again: "To conceive of a text as a navigable space is not the same as seeing it in terms of a single, predetermined course of reading" (Moulthrop 1993, 129). On the other hand, there are limitations:
As we have noticed, however, no hypertextual product can realize the 'strictly infinite labyrinth' of Borges' fantasy. ... No matter how numerous the branches, some reader ... could work out all the permutations of a given structure and reduce the hypertext to a finite series of linear narratives, the whole of which could be treated as an eccentric but still quite conventional fiction. (Moulthrop 1993, 129)
What I find most important here is not the actual 'working out' of all the permutations, but the realization that there is a 'finite series of linear narratives'. If Afternoon's tool bar already evoked this idea, Victory Garden's map makes it evident. This can be seen as a parallel to Slatin's view that "the fixity of printed text as an object in physical space makes the text as an object in mental space seem equally stable and fixed." (155) The fixedness of the representational object (the map of Victory Garden) makes this hyperfiction Text also seem stable and fixed.
There is another interesting dimension to Victory Garden's map. As Robert Coover has pointed out, the map resembles a
garden, the rectangles of lexias placed like benches by the garden
paths. This interpretation preserves the metaphoric identity of
the Text. At the same time as it serves as closure for the Textual
level, it also opens up different metaphoric interpretations.
It can be read as metatextual comment on reading hyperfiction:
it is like strolling around in a garden, sitting down for a while
now and then, choosing the interesting looking paths, etc. It
can also be read against the background of the Persian Gulf War:
either cynically, fiction is a closed playground where even war
can be contemplated without anxiety, or, as parodic comment: "the
most important thing is to take care of gardening.' This latter
interpretation also bears heavy ironic undertones because of the
allusion to Voltaire's Candide.>8
>--- V VI VII