e-Lit Resource
Pathfinders: Documenting the Experience of Early Digital Literature

Pathfinders begins the necessary process of documenting early digital literature, specifically pre-web hypertext fiction and poetry, from 1986-1995. These literary works were produced with programming languages like BASIC or authoring systems like Storyspace and HyperCard and require a degree of interactivity between the reader and the work. They were also among the first computer-based works of literature to be sold commercially in the U.S. and, because of their availability through commercial distribution, were influential in shaping literary theory and criticism that, today, are used to discuss born digital writing. They are also literary works in danger of becoming inaccessible to the public because they were produced on and for computer platforms that today are obsolete.

1. Judy Malloy’s Uncle Roger, programmed in BASIC as a serial novel and published on the net from 1986-1987; sold from 1987-1988 in various versions on 5 ¼ floppy disks through Art Com Catalog; published in 1995 on the web

2. John McDaid’s Uncle Buddy’s Phantom Funhouse, a hypermedia novel created in Hypercard 2.0 and published in 1993 by Eastgate System, Inc. as a box containing artifacts from the literary estate of the titular Uncle Buddy

3. Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, produced on Eastgate's Storyspace platform and published by the company in 1995; regarded by critics as an important work of hypertext and cyberfeminism

4. Bill Bly’s We Descend, a complex hypertext novel––also created on Eastgate's Storyspace platform for both floppy disks and CDs––that experiments with the layering of time and published by the company in 1997