History of Fiction on the Internet

First web comicThere are some histories of new media around, such as Stuart Moulthrop’s Subjective Chronology of Cybertext, Hypertext and Electronic Writing; and D. DaCosta’s Influences, which juxtaposes some key technological points in time with installation, video and performance art; and how about the long-overdue Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology. But I haven’t seen a timeline that lists early fiction that involved the Internet specifically. You know, the experimental gameplay produced by those naughty Net programmers and users who were supposed to be using it for “serious” research. Well, here is a listing of some creative works that were early examples of Internet Fiction. They’re not really Internet fiction as we know them now, in that they don’t all need to the Internet to be played. For some the Internet was used to circulate them, as a broadcast channel. They are perhaps, dare I say it, the earliest forms of Internet distribution. Whether they relied on some network to be played by multiple people or to be distributed, they are however early forms of Internet fiction. The list begins…

Net as Distribution Channel

  • Mid-70’s: Will Crowther (1973) created Adventure (or Colossal Cave Adventure), which was later developed by Don Woods (1977). Considered by many to be the “first Adventure game”, the first “Interactive Fiction” (IF). Circulated through Usenet . [Dennis Jerz’s guide]
  • 1976?: Database-driven version of Tak To’s Trivia that used questions on the ARPAnet and was accessed via ARPAnet by Marc Blank [Montfort, 2003, p:80].
  • 1977: Zork created by Marc Blank, David Lebling, accessed through ARPAnet. [Dennis Jerz’s guide]
  • 1986: “First electronic hyperfiction” Judy Malloy’s Uncle Roger �published on WELL, on Art Com Electronic Network.
  • 1992: On Apr 15 the “first comic on the Internet”, Where the Buffalo Roam by Hans Bjordahl, was posted to Usenet in GIF and PostScript formats by Herb Morreale [history]
  • 1993: First feature film to be transmitted on the Internet: Wax: or the Discovery of Television among the Bees by David Blair. [WaxWeb site] [New York Times article]
  • 1993: “First web comic” –comic made for the web — (one-panel) uploaded September 24th: David Farley’s Dr Fun.

Net as Experience Mode

Obviously I haven’t included everything here, suggestions?

5 Responses to “History of Fiction on the Internet”

  1. 1 Jill

    Thanks for putting this together, Christy! I had a narrower search for early web hypertext when I was writing my Feral Hypertext paper last year. I found some surveys of hypertext online that were written in 1995 and 1996, but most of the links were long since broken, of course.

  2. 2 Christy Dena

    Thanks Jill! I think creating a history of every new media arts type is a rite of passage for elit teachers! God knows I’ve gone through this process for just about every arts type too! Thankyou very much for linking your post to this one, it helpsgatherthe collective intelligence!

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