NEH Grant to Study Portsmouth Author's Novel

A 1993 hypertext novel by Portsmouth science fiction writer John G. McDaid is among the works to be studied under a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant.


A Portsmouth resident's 1993 hypertext novel will be studied under a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant awarded to the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO), the group announced on their Web site last Friday.

According to ELO, the NEH awarded a $52,000 digital humanities grant to explore and preserve the first generation of digital texts, many of which preceded the World Wide Web.

Among the works chosen were Portsmouth science fiction writer John G. McDaid's "Uncle Buddy's Phantom Funhouse" (1993).

"I'm delighted to see the Funhouse included," said McDaid. "This was written on the Macintosh using multimedia software called HyperCard, and it was an attempt create a new kind of non-linear fiction entirely through artifacts. The premise is that you, as the reader, have come into possession of a vanished science fiction writer's hard drive, and you need to piece together the story."

The NEH-funded project is led by ELO President-elect Dene Grigar (Washington State University Vancouver) and ELO board member Stuart Moulthrop (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), and aims to build an archive of readings in which the authors and volunteer readers, using computers and software from the period, explore these early texts. The sessions will be recorded and made available through an ELO database to determine the best strategies for representing and preserving computer-mediated writing. The research will take place in the E-Lit Laboratory of Washington State University, Vancouver, beginning this spring.

"The early 90s were a rich time for hypertext," said McDaid. "There was a lot of experimentation in the days before the Web, and I was fortunate to have a publisher, Mark Bernstein of Eastgate Systems in Boston, who saw the possibilities of the medium."

Set in the fictional Rhode Island town of Pirate Cove, the Funhouse comprises a digital notebook, a screenplay, a set of hand-drawn fortune-telling cards, a "dictionary," the manuscript of an unpublished story, and an audio cassette, among other artifacts. The frame for the fiction is that all these have been passed into the reader's hands by an attorney for the vanished author, Arthur "Buddy" Newkirk.

John McDaid is a science fiction writer and citizen journalist whose fiction has appeared in "Asimov's" and "The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction."

He won the 1995 Theodore Sturgeon Award for his first published short story, "Jigoku no Mokushiroku (The Symbolic Revelation of the Apocalypse)."

The Funhouse was among the early hypertext fictions reviewed by Brown professor Robert Coover in the Sunday New York Times in 1993. 

TAMORI May 22, 2013 at 03:31 PM
We all know that the “early 90s” was not before "the web." Al Gore invented it a few years earlier.


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