An Interview with Mark Bernstein


Interview--Part I



Part II

FC: Who is the audience for Eastgate publications? Is it concentrated in particular ways, such as by area or age group? Do you see it expanding?

MB: The audience is growing at a pleasing, sustainable rate. The most distinctive demographic about the hypertext audience is that hypertext readers tend to be deeply engaged in shaping culture and technoculture. They also tend to be a very visible and influential audience; lots of them read extensively and write well. It's now very common for college literature courses, and even high schools, to assign hypertexts. That's a tremendous change, of course, from the early days at Eastgate when hypertexts were laboratory curiosities.

FC: What are your best selling titles?

MB: Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl is very hot right now. Stuart Moulthrop's Victory Garden and Michael Joyce's afternoon, a story are perennially strong.

FC: Can you describe the narrative technique of hypertext? How does it differ from a "traditional" narrative? Did examples of this technique exist before the computer? For instance, reading True North reminded me of Virginia Woolf and To the Lighthouse. Were authors such as Woolf involved in a similar narrative project?

MB: There is no one true narrative technique. Hypertext writers differ enormously; the approach Stephanie Strickland uses in True North is very different from Bill Bly's hypertextual archive, We Descend, or John McDaid's artifactual hypertext, Uncle Buddy's Phantom Funhouse. A number of hypertext writers have close affinities to modern and postmodern writers -- James Joyce, Borges, Coover, Pynchon, Calvino. This has proved to be a fruitful synergy, in that hypertext really seems to reflect the aspirations of this tradition. But that's just one facet of a complex literary world. Searching for antecedents really is useful only if you're using them to understand actual works.

FC: What do you see as the future of hypertext?

MB: It is now clear that the future of literature lies on the screen. Hypertext is already mainstream. Movies, buses, sporting events -- everything has links. Don't get me wrong. Books are wonderful, and they aren't going away. New media grow up alongside old media. Media are never replaced. But fine writing is more than paper and ink, and hypertext is clearly a more powerful and more expressive medium than chopped trees.

Interview--Part III