Immersive Text

A Passage from Luminous Airplanes, or Things As They Were: A Hyperromance

“No one calls it hypertext any more,” says Jesse Coleman, my editor at FSG. “Hypertext makes me think of CD-ROMs and Choose Your Own Adventure books.”

“I’m OK with that,” I say. “This is an old-fashioned project.”

Jesse looks out past where I am sitting, to the gray buildings on the far side of Eighteenth Street.

“It is,” I say. “The site is at least ten years out of date. It’s not interactive or collaborative or networked. It doesn’t even link to anything but itself. It’s the valley that time forgot on the Web.”

Jesse looks into his plastic cup, but it’s empty.

“That’s how I want it to be,” I say. “This is a story about San Francisco in the 1990s. It’s about the first Internet bubble, the dot-com years. It’s a hypertext. Wait, try this. It’s the last hypertext on earth, lumbering out of the past to wreak havoc on civilization. Would that sell? The last hypertext on earth, miraculously preserved in an ice cave in Antarctica. What eldritch power might it possess?

“People call it immersive text now,” Jesse says.

“It’s just that immersive is totally the wrong word for it. The underlying metaphor is the cave system. Underground, not under water.”

“You write about Atlantis.”

“Could we call it a submerged text?”

“What does that mean?”

“You know. Buried underwater. Do you dare fathom the depths of Luminous Airplanes? A lost civilization slumbers beneath the ocean. Will you discover its secret, or perish in the attempt?

“This isn’t Dungeons and Dragons,” Jesse says.

“I’m just trying to think of something interesting. What if we call it a subterranean text? A text cave? A speleotext?”

Jesse shifts in his chair.

“I mean, I’m fine with calling it an immersive text, if you think that’s really the best name for it. I just feel like hypertext is better.”

“OK,” Jesse says. “Did you have any other questions?”

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