This hypertext examines what I believe to be profound and disturbing failures in hypertext scholarship and criticism. Simultaneously, I have sought to point out some directions that critics and scholars might profitably follow.

Many of the hypertexts discussed here are published rather than Web-borne. In part, this is a matter of time and history; hypertext writing is older than the Web, and many of the best-studied hypertexts predate WWW. In part, this occurs because the technological limitations of the Web have proven less congenial than stand-alone systems for large-scale narrative. A number of examples are chosen from hypertext fiction. The craft of writing often develops most rapidly in fiction and poetry, and craft is sometimes more visible to us in art than in scientific or technical communication. Lessons in the craft of writing, once learned, can be applied where we wish.

Although I argue that a great deal of recent hypertext criticism is undistinguished, I am deeply indebted to the work of many devoted and intelligent writers and critics. The studies of Stuart Moulthrop, George P. Landow, Robert Kendall, Michael Joyce, Jim Rosenberg, J. Yellowlees Douglas, Jay David Bolter, Cathy Marshall, Diane Greco, Terry Harpold, Robert Coover, Richard Grant, Sarah Smith, David Kolb, Richard Lanham, and many others are indispensable to understanding hypertext today.

This essay was written in the middle of 1997. As it was nearing completion, a number of thoughtful and interesting studies of hypertext writing appeared. Arriving to late to be considered here were a remarkable number of exciting new monographs:

  • George P. Landow's Hypertext 2.0
  • Janet Murray's Hamlet on the Holodeck
  • Silvio Gaggi's From Text to Hypertext
  • Johndan Johnson-Eilola's Rearticulating Hypertext Writing
  • Espen Aarseth's Cybertext
These ambitious and thoughtful volumes, as well as the Fall 1997 issue of Modern Fiction Studies on Technonarrative (edited by N. Katherine Hayles), suggest that the state of hypertext criticism is already improving.

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