Under the Ashes

About this work

Under the Ashes began life as an expandable/collapsible document on a rather old version of a hypertext tool called Guide. I had been writing linear fiction for a year or two and I read about what Michael Joyce had done with Afternoon. At that time my computer facilities were a shared UNIX box, and needless to say, Storyspace wasn’t available for that particular platform.

The early efforts revolved around hyperlinks which would expand or contract pieces of the story. Essentially the first version was a short linear work which the reader could tailor to suit herself. For example, the house gate was mentioned briefly as “the gate”. But it was hyperlinked, and clicking on that link would expand those two words into a paragraph and a half, all about the gargoyles on the frame. So now the story was longer and lingered on that particular description.

I suppose that was interesting in itself, but what I really wanted to do was plot branching. I met HTML in 1995 and immediately set out to write a spooky house story. Voila, Under the Ashes version 2.0.

Since then I have been adding to the story from time to time. There is no real method; I add a node or two where it suits me. I suspect I will never be happy with it until it is the size of the Encyclopedia Britannica, creaky floorboards sagging under the weight of all the hyperlinks. The likelihood of it getting that big in my lifetime is pretty small.

As a self-contained work, Ashes has big problems. Its open-ended nature means some of the endings are unnatural. Those are really stopping places on a longer path. Also I know the reader has to use Back on her browser sometimes. I might eliminate that. I guess those pages are really notes which should come up in a separate window. However I’ve tried to keep Ashes as basic a hypertext as possible.

See it as a perpetual work in progress. See it as an enthusiastic first exploration of what hypertext has to offer.

Don’t play with matches.