I've been chatting with Rory Ewins about different ways of presenting stories on the web, and it's relit something I've been wondering about for a long time.

On our way to full digital paper, I would like to see a side trip to 'reactive paper', where a passage in a book, like a date or a time, would begin counting the moment you read it, and then keep counting. I get lost trying to imagine the ways this affects the story-telling, and how authors could use this new device.

I could make something like this for the web, but it wouldn't be the same. It means something entirely different to have my personal copy of, say, Round The Bend, quietly changing internally since I first read it. A story becomes something more personal. The story wouldn't just be changing as I age and understand more, but it would also be changing physically from when I first met the words. Like returning to a favorite playground to find the season is different.

Eno has said perhaps soon we won't buy an album by him; we will buy an Eno "box" that will produce new music in the moment, but based on his programming, so all the songs will have a musical relationship. And it will be possible to combine boxes of different artists, so I can listen to a Bjork / Music For Airports "mix" that is fresh each time.

I'm just going in a slightly different direction with this. The book with the changing passages is not "interactive" like a video game, but is something where those passages, once read, act like seeds becoming trees. The writing style I am imagining to go with this would create a story that can take these changes, yet remain whole and recognizably the same, in the same way that I am not now who I was in 1990, but it is also clear that I am the same person.

It's the change in writing style that is the thing. Technology is always doable -- what's important is playing with it to discover new ways of story telling. That's what's central. The ideas one can have are limited by one's vocabulary. I want to extend vocabulary.


This essay is part of a conversation that is over here.

This site is strictly personal. I give no guarantee to the accuracy of my facts or my fictions.
© 2000 Owen Briggs
last modified on 29 May 2000