Like afternoon, a story, Stuart Moulthrop’s Victory Garden: a fiction is one of the first and most widely read and taught hyperfictions. It was written in Storyspace and published by Eastgate. A sampler is available online. Due to its enormous scope (approximately 1,000 lexias and 2,800 hyperlinks), it is barely readable in a single go. Thematically, it represents a mixture between American campus novel and anti-war novel and may thus be contextualized within the traditions of books like The Groves of Academe (Mary McCarthy, 1952), Pictures from an Institution (Randall Jarrell, 1954), Pnin (Vladimir Nabokov, 1955), as well as All Quiet on the Eastern Front (Erich Maria Remarque, 1929), and Tin Soldiers: A Novel of the Next Gulf War (Michael Farmer, 2003). Like Michael Joyce, Moulthrop lays open his intertextual references. He draws mainly on Jorge Luis Borges’ Labyrinths (1964), as well as song lyrics written by John McDaid, Mojo Nixon and Two Nice Girls. Labyrinths is the primary intertext and analogy for the eponymous garden metaphor, which is derived from Borges’ short story The Garden of the Forking Paths.
Victory Garden is set primarily in Tara, an imaginary North American sunbelt state, during the Persian Gulf War of 1990/1991. It centers around the influence of the media in war correspondence and strategy. Moulthrop explains: "Hypertext seemed the right choice—indeed the only choice—to capture the bewildering complexity of such a massively convoluted, hyper-mediated experience" (quoted in Simanowski, 2000). The vast array of characters employed by Moulthrop is almost Dickensian in nature, and readers are bound to have difficulty identifying a protagonist or a coherent story world.
The underlying love story unfolds between Jude Bush, a misanthropist undergraduate, and (eponymous) Victor Gardner, a graduate student. Victor is unhappily in love with Emily Runbird, a young soldier in the American Forces, who in turn has fallen in love with Boris Urquhart, a professor at her university. Jude, pretending to be Emily, perversely seduces a spiritually dis-embodied Victor before telling him about her own, homoerotic, passion for the girl.
In one possible strand of the story, Emily is killed in a bomb attack. In another one, the reader is taken back to pre-war times, finding Emily and Victor making love. Other central characters who (potentially) appear during the reading process are Dorothea Agnew ("Thea"), a professor, who is waiting for a visit from her rebellious son, Harley; Veronica Runbird (Emily's sister); John Law; Leroy, and Miles Macarthur, a university lecturer, whose aim—in alignment with the principles of hypertext perception—is to dissuade his students from the principles of necessity and determinism.
One of Moulthrop's major novelties is a topographical map representing the narrative "Garden," offering the reader a variety of entries into the hypertext. The map does not give an exhaustive view of all lexias but rather represents a paradox in that beyond it lies a host of intricately interlinked lexias, which come to life under the surface of a treacherously simple, visual navigation device.
Simanowski, R. (2000) 'Operations of writing: interview with Stuart Moulthrop'. dichtung-digital, 7. Available at www.dichtung-digital.de/Interviews/Moulthrop-22-Nov-00 (05 February 2010).
This entry has been adapted from Ensslin, A. (2007) Canonizing Hypertext: Explorations and Constructions. London: Continuum, pp. 72-74.