As a writing professor at Stanford University in 1995, Richard Holeton wrote a 500-word short story about Theodore Streleski, the Stanford graduate student who bludgeoned his faculty advisor to death with a hammer in the 1970s. He developed the story into a hypertext novel, “Figurski at Findhorn on Acid,” which for the last 12 years has been unavailable to the public due to outdated software — until now.
For the 20th anniversary of its publishing the hypertext novel was translated to the web by Holeton, Dene Grigar and a team at the Electronic Literature Lab at Washington State University, Vancouver, and is now available online free to the public. The project has also been adapted into a radio play that will debut on Jan. 17.
“The big thing for me was making it available for people to use,” said Holeton. “Those were long years in the wilderness until we got the rights back.”
The original short story, "Streleski at Findhorn on Acid," was a fictional account of the real-life person visiting an intentional community in Findhorn, Scotland, while high on LSD. Holeton’s story won the Grain magazine Short Grain Postcard Story Contest and inspired him to expand on the story.
“When I wrote the story, I imagined this guy going to Findhorn, on acid,” said Holeton. “That was the nugget with which I began to expand on that structure of somebody, somewhere, with something. Then I imagined a series of those. It became three characters, three places, and three artifacts.
“With my growing interest in composing in a hypertext environment, I imagined every possible combination of those characters, places, and artifacts,” he said.
Streleski was released from prison on parole after the publishing of the short story, so when Holeton decided to continue with the project he changed the character’s name to Frank Figurski, a copycat of Streleski.
Holeton’s structure includes the 147 combinations of the somebody, somewhere, something structure and a plot to carry the reader through all combinations. Hypertext fiction is a story written with internal hyperlinks and multiple reading paths and is designed to be read on a computer. Holeton became one of the pioneers of hypertext fiction when the novel was published in 2001 by Eastgate Systems.
“I was consciously trying to bring this esoteric thing of hypertext fiction and make it more popular, and I wanted to write something funny,” said Holeton.
Reading hypertext novels differs from the traditional form as it is interactive and nonlinear. Many of the first works in this format were difficult to navigate so Holeton wanted to create something easy for readers to understand.
“Figurski at Findhorn on Acid” follows Figurski, paroled after serving six years in prison for killing Professor Quentin Kingsley. Figurski discovers what appears to be an 18th century mechanical pig washed up on the beach at Findhorn Park and is determined to find out if it is authentic. Not only does he face competition from the No-Hands Cup Flipper and Fatima Michelle Vieuchanger, but he’s also on acid. The hypertext novel allows the reader to follow Figurski though trailer parks, strip malls and spaceships on his journey to prove the pig isn’t a forgery.
“I wanted to create a story with a strong plot to carry the reader through all the possible combinations that still allowed multiple ways to travel through the story,” said Holeton.
The new work has two versions, contemporary and classic. With the 147 possible combinations of the three characters, places and artifacts, Holeton created an interactive novel where readers can travel the author's imagined universe with Figurski in his search for Rosellini’s 1737 Mechanical Pig.
Holeton also embarked on the unprecedented project of adapting the hypertext novel into a radio play. In collaboration with Emmy award-winning sound artist Marc Rose and John Barber, who wrote the screenplay adaptation, the play will debut on Re-Imagined Radio. For more information about listening, visit the main webpage for the Re-Imagined Radio website, and check the How To Listen section.
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