The Electronic Labyrinth


SwiftCurrent was the world's first on-line literary magazine. Conceived by Frank Davey and Fred Wah, with input from Dave Godfey, SwiftCurrent was installed on a VAX 750 at York University, Toronto in 1984. The magazine has recently ceased publication.

Unlike many electronic magazines, there was a subscription fee for SwiftCurrent. Anyone could subscribe, but only previously published authors could submit articles. There were no other editorial criteria. Each reader acted as an editor for their own SwiftCurrent archive; they could delete or retain whatever material they chose. As Davey describes in his essay "Swiftcurrent: A Canadian Experiment in On-line Literary Texts:"

Our choice at SwiftCurrent has been to control not what texts are contributed but only who may contribute texts--we give contribution rights to any Canadian writer who has published a literary book, and allow these writers to contribute work both by themselves and by others. This choice has clear and somewhat contradictory political implications--on the one hand it maintains literary authority by privileging those who have already been able to publish, and by privileging literary writing, and on the other it decentralizes literary authority by transferring editorial tasks traditionally performed by editors and reviewers over to the reader. (113)

SwiftCurrent may be seen as one of the first tentative steps towards the linked collection of texts that is the World Wide Web.

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