What Is Bareword?

Hypertext fiction probably has several versions of the “old school”. It might refer to the Storyspace authors, or somebody like Edward Packard or Julio Cortázar. Or some damn Babylonian author with whose work I am unfamiliar.

I spent some time with new media and hypertext writers. Those were inspiring meetings, but I found a lot of their actual work unsatisfying. Perhaps because I was coming to it looking for the devices of linear fiction: character identification, gripping story, plot reversals …

There seemed a lot of enthusiasm for multimedia. In these works, words faded in or out, or moved on the page. Sounds, images and digital landscapes were important. Yet the hypertexts which grabbed me, like 253 and Lies, were old school text on a page, with links between pages. And sometimes conditional text.

That was the type of hypertext fiction I wanted to write. Just words on pages. Plain old words. Bare words.

The complexity in my hypertexts — and they’re not very complex — happens behind the scenes. Same Day Test and Mr. Tokyo are driven by Perl scripts. The mechanism is hidden. In the end, you get words on what looks like a static page. That’s how I like it.

It means I sometimes hear from readers about how they think it works. As an author, that’s fascinating.

In Perl, a bareword is a word that the interpreter doesn't recognise, so treats as a quoted string. Program code that becomes a word in natural language. A bareword.