July 28, 2013

Capitalism and Hypertext

Someone who writes under the name “Porpentine” has published a manifesto on hypertext fiction: Creation Under Capitalism and the Twine Revolution.

I’m thinking, no wonder hypertext fiction had a lull–they hid behind middle-upper class literary pretensions, acting like it was some kind of avant-garde science. I’m seeing academic essays on hypertext buried behind passwords, I’m seeing a hypertext editor like Twine for $300, I’m seeing stories selling for $30. How many people are buying those?

Pseudo-Marxist drivel doesn’t really advance anything and, once you get the hang of it, it’s about as much fun as t-ball. Capitalism may be bad, but it’s not my fault. I’m not sure that the best way to tell a story is to begin by overthrowing Capitalism. If Porpentine has been to a ballpark lately, that $30 price tag looks pretty good.

Porpentine’s world is inconveniently inconsistent with reality.

Raised to believe that a select few create and the rest are just fans. Rich white people create and we suck it up. This is an extremely profitable system.

So they place unfair expectations on what you create. Tell you it’s too short, too ugly, too personal, ask you why it doesn’t resemble what already exists. And the answer is, why would we want it to?

This is a tantrum, and its purported target – rich white folk – is just a ritual invocation, standing in for The Devil, The Critical Establishment, Repressed Desire or whatever force led so many of our ancestors to look askance at that merrily dancing Quaker’s wife. If you make art, people will tell you it’s too short or too long, that it’s ugly, that it’s embarrassing. If you swim, you will get wet.

I mention this because, if you scroll far enough, you’ll get to a section called “WHY TWINE?” which, aside from some residue from the preceding tantrum (“A side-effect of being a minority is exhaustion, loss of time.”) is pretty good.