Thursday, January 2, 2014

Properties of Light: A Hypernovel - Linton Robinson

Here's a new kind of ebook for your New Year.

Imagine that you're wandering the streets of Seattle, when you come across a display of photographs -- racks and racks of them tacked up on wooden easels. You learn that an award-winning photographer has set up shop here to sell off his stock. As you peruse the photos, the man himself -- who is somewhat of a local legend -- tells you a little story about each of them. You can wander at will amongst the display, seeing a color or form or image here that draws you to a similar color or form or image a row down. Or you can start at one end and simply go up and down the racks, looking at everything in order. And always, the photographer is at your elbow, spinning his stories about his work.

Now take that scenario, but remove the photos and just leave the stories, complete with their tenuous thematic links. Then put them in an ebook. That, in a nutshell, is the concept behind Properties of Light.

Linton Robinson -- who did, in fact, work as a photographer in Seattle for a while -- wrote this book in 1990, well before the technology existed to make the novel's concept work. Each of these 100 flash fiction pieces is hyperlinked in multiple ways to other pieces in the book. Sometimes, following the links will build a narrative, but depending on how you click the links, the experience of reading the book will be different every time.

Some of the stories made me wish they had been illustrated; others, particularly the more gruesome ones, made me glad they weren't. But I appreciated the author's effort, as well as the fascinating tour. Properties of Light highlights the possibilities inherent in the ebook medium. It's definitely worth a look.

Happy 2014, everybody.