The unbearable thought of losing someone you love quickly becomes the focal point of Micheal Joyce's hypertext "Afternoon, a Story." Through the narration of the story's protagonist Peter, it is evident within the bone-chilling sentence, "I want to say I may have seen my son die this morning." In that heartbreaking moment of realization, Peter notices he has lost the two most important people in his life - his wife and son. This form of electronic literature, and seemingly known as one of the first works of hypertext fiction, Micheal Joyce creates this suspenseful reading in allowing the readers to have complete control over the story. He creates such power and suspense for the readers by only having a few sentences being spread across the screen, then having to click for the next couple sentences, expresses this notion of only being exposed to so little information at one time while reading. The story begins with Peter's intimate details recalling fond and cherished moments with his ex-wife, describing their undeniable love for one another. The idea of loss forces one to remember the past times that they may have experienced or shared with that love one; Joyce does this while the reader having to click to the next screen, almost creating a puzzle effect for the readers, that they have to put the story together as they go along. Within the next few pages, the reader concludes that he has witnessed a brutal and perhaps fatal car accident, only to find the clues along the way of reader sentence by sentence, it, in fact, it is his son and ex-wife; Lisa and Andy.
The readers experience death, loss, and memory through Joyce's poetic and descriptive language. With its unique electronic forum, "Afternoon, a story" was created in 1990 by a software system called Storyspace. Storyspace is essentially an application that writers use for "interlinked narrative both fiction and nonfiction." Storyspace allows authors to create a web-like structure for the story to have a linear narration. Meaning that the use of this complex and large-scale web directs the narration from screen to screen. For when the narration of this story takes place, it mentions the car accident in the morning only meaning, the car accident happened then, and it is now the afternoon of that same day where Peter is now settled into psychological distress. Joyce sets the character analysis of Peter in ways that present himself as in denial of what he had just seen and observed. The story continues to mention the details of Peter driving by the accident and never getting out of his car to help. An observant reader can only piece two and two together and come to terms that the protagonist is in pure shock and as the story unravels it only progressively gets worse. Peter must come to terms with his new social environment, and the new and shocking circumstance of his life, however begins to reminisce on earlier days spent with his wife, in days that they truly loved each other. The ways in which hypertexuality helps with this story, and why electronic literature makes it openly applies to postmodern fiction especially in ways that it contributes to the mind of a psychologically distressed human being. Having little accessible information to the plot of the story, meaning having to click from screen to screen slowly illustrates the progressive state of mind of Peter himself. Now having access to download and buy his most recent version, before it wasn't as accessible, meaning when the first version of this hypertext was published it was available on a "diskette and distributed by Eastgate Systems." An earlier version of this hypertext is HERE.
This entry was written and composed for Dani Spinosa's course, ENGL 4309: Digital Adventures in English Literature: Reflecting upon Digital Humanities at Trent University in March 2021.
“Afternoon, a Story.” ELMCIP, 1 Jan. 1990, elmcip.net/creative-work/afternoon-story.
“Eastgate.” Storyspace: Storyspace, www.eastgate.com/storyspace/index.html.
Walker, Jill. Jill Walker: Piecing Together and Tearing Apart. Finding the Story in Afternoon, jilltxt.net/txt/afternoon.html.