Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature

Book review by Deane Barker tags: tech

I’ve become interested in interactive fiction lately. I found an article about ergodic fiction, and when I defined that word, I found this book, in which the concept was apparently coined.

It’s called Cybertext because the word cyber comes from a prefix refering to the control of systems. This in sense, the book or the story is the “system,” and the reader is the one in control – their choices lead to the narrative.

The easiest example are the Choose Your Own Adventure books of my youth (I’m slowly collecting them). Those books were kind of usurped by the hypertext nature of the web itself. But this book was written in 1995, when the web was just a baby, so it discusses other types of interactive fiction, like text-based adventure games.

The book is very theoretical, and some of it is hard to follow. But the author does a nice job of discussing something that’s difficult to categorize. It’s tough to draw generalities in this space, because the range of options is just so wide, but it was neat to look back at historic examples.

And, I’m grateful for the word “ergodic.” That’s helpful in figuring out how to search for other examples in the space.

I would love to see a second edition of this today, 30 years down the road. The technology that would impact this has changed so much that the author would have a lot to discuss.

Book Info

Espen J. J. Aarseth
  • I have read this book. According to my records, I completed it on .
  • A softcover copy of this book is currently in my home library.

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