Would fiction written, published, and viewed via computer be classified as electronic literature?
Electronic literature is defined as literature born and experienced digitally. Hypertext poems count as electronic literature. Interactive fiction counts as electronic literature. But would simple, non-interactive fiction born and viewed purely via computer count as well?
Sites like Fictionpress.com (available for original works) and Fanfiction.net (available for fan-based works) provide a place for amateur writers to “unleash [their] imagination” (as one of the sites slogan goes). There are sections available for every genre of fiction or nonfiction, including poetry and its separate genres. All one needs is to be thirteen years or older and own an active email address to sign up for a free account, and then you can upload poetry and prose to your heart’s content. Any genre, any style, any topic (with limitations, of course – no explicit material created for the single purpose of being pornographic is allowed, and a rating system is available to give ample warning to other users of the site) can be published. Each piece is separated by a chapter system, allowing authors to upload ‘in progress’ works and receive feedback on each chapter individually.
There is no linking structure as in hypertext other than clicking from chapter to chapter. There is no interactive feature, no plausible way to create a choose-your-own-adventure novel (although attempts have been made). It is written, published, and read through electronic means. Some authors handwrite their stories before typing them up, but they are still largely produced electronically. Many use the sites (mostly Fictionpress) to gain feedback on a novel they hope to eventually publish in print.
If afternoon: a story by Michael Joyce, a simple interactive electronic novel, is considered interactive fiction, then why not electronic novels that lack such a viewer-interactive element? Is interactivity a requirement for a piece to be considered electronic literature? Does the fact that one must actively click from chapter to chapter count as interaction? Both sites are a network, where authors communicate and collaborate with each other. Forums are available for users to interact with each other, discuss and ask questions and advice about writing. The review system is amazingly helpful for improving an ‘in progress’ story chapter by chapter. The level of interaction may be lower or less intense than that of other electronic literature, but it is certainly still there.
That leaves the question, then, whether or not fiction published and viewed online counts as electronic literature. I would say it does – it has both the literary and digital aspects that categorize electronic literature pieces as such. Elit is such a difficult genre to pin down, it’s often hard to classify what counts and what doesn’t.