Judy Malloy, Uncle Roger, and the hyper-textual narrative

Judy Malloy’s 1986 project, Uncle Roger, was first written in UNIX and BASIC and first published on the Web in 1995. It is considered the first project of its kind to rely on a reader’s unique choices to develop a narrative. Her work synthesizes computer-based information with visual art. She gives the reader access and the tools to navigate a structured data base of information in the form of an online interactive fiction.

Malloy lists a variety of keywords and provides links to other parts of the narrative. This text consistently appears in yellow font contrasted against a black background.

From here, the reader can jump to a number of pages. Each hypertext links the reader to different parts of the narrative (“parties”), or node, which includes the keyword listed in the lexia. This gives the reader ten different paths to begin their reading. 

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Though it is present throughout the reading, the lexia generally appears after the body of text containing the narrative. Within the lexia, Malloy provides hyperlinks to the next section in which those keywords are used, though, no one keyword is used in every party. It is possible to navigate linearly through the narrative simply by clicking on the image to the left. 

Writer, publisher, and editor of the scholarly blog, I ♥ E-Poetry, Leonard Flores writes of Uncle Roger, “such an endearing and enduring work is Malloy’s instincts for structure and humor, pacing and plot.” In choosing writing a fragmented story, she develops a “smoothly flowing prosy free verse…punctuate[d by] a situation with a well placed line break.” In the twenty-nine years since first writing Uncle Roger, Malloy has developed a career creating “new media narrative poetry” in which she works to perfect the marriage between the written word and the human narrative.

Her original work, Uncle Roger, represents the frontier of hypertext and IF adventure. While this body of work doesn’t have any specific underlying message, it stands as an example, in its time, of the possibilities of electronic literature and the digitally born.

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