The Electronic Labyrinth


Dreamtime is a component of CHAOS, a work in progress by hypertext author Stuart Moulthrop. The work represents the dream activity of two persons, Aloysius McIntosh and Moira daSzem, as well as a third, unspecified consciousness. The work is written in HyperCard and employs unique structural devices.

On the initial screen one has the choice of clicking on one of five squares titled "SPIRE," "KINDLE," "ARK," "TRANS," and "FLEX." This gains access to the stack and a collection of sound bites: "Hello?," "Hypertext," "Reality," "Amazon," "Really complex text." Within the stack each card contains a short text passage and four "transitional symbols"--icons that appear at the corners of the card. These icons change as one progresses through the text:

Flex Kindle Mu Flo
Plex Kindle Emit Mort
Wurm Kindle Flo Trans

A cursor is always in motion circling the text, running around the border of the card. The reader activates a link by clicking the mouse. One of several links will be traversed; the selection depends on which icon is currently highlighted.

Each card contains a chaotic and sensuous passage of text:

Dreaming into your book
dreaming that dreaming the great sceptic of sleep herself is
dreaming what we should call you: Moira Moera Miss Lucid Ananke
dreaming into your book of places
No, go back, not there, not that way, other way now
Fold back the time take me the other place
So sorry no can do no one here now no where here
Jack back do it again cause it was not
it was not to my liking
O Wake up, Miss Moira, you're dreaming

The emphasis is on flow ("flo"), process, and mutation. By always choosing the same icon, the reader can attempt to restrict the path they follow through the hyperbook. However, this will ultimately be unsuccessful, as paths cross and combine. Two icons often lead to the same destination. Some nodes may be read only if one particular path is followed, others are hard to avoid. In any case, the chaotic nature of the text itself ridicules any attempt to read linear storylines.

Passages are often self-reflexive, containing comments such as "this is clearly nothing new." Some are structured to mimic forms such as e-mail messages, with addresses such as "" and "" An early node contains the sentence "You are in a maze of pointless little passages," a parody of the famous line from the original role-playing game Adventure. Dreamtime is thick with such allusions.

The animated icons, flashing screens and audio punctuation reinforce the dynamic playful nature of the text itself. Though ultimately flip and somewhat unsubstantial, Dreamtime points the way towards a more substantial multimedia hypertext than has so far been created. It acts as a remedy for the dry and self-conscious writings which make up many hypertext articles and, unfortunately, hypertext fictions.

© 1993-2000 Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, Robin Parmar.
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