Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1995-1996 index

Distributed June 28, 1996
Contact: Richard Morin

Hypertext fiction pioneer releases first interactive Internet-based novel

Bobby Rabyd releases Sunshine '69, the World Wide Web's first fully interactive novel. The novel contains text, graphics and sound as well as the opportunity for each reader to contribute to the never-ending story.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Hypertext fiction pioneer Bobby Rabyd has extended the scope of publishing with the release of Sunshine '69. The Internet-based novel incorporates text, pictures and sound to create what the author calls, "a Web-based time machine" that allows the reader to explore and contribute prose to the open-ended tale.

"No one has grasped the nature of this new thing called the 'Net with more supple-minded alacrity than the writer Bobby Rabyd," said Robert Coover, the noted hypertext proponent and English professor at Brown University, who served as editor for the work.

Sunshine '69 is being published on the World Wide Web by Sonicnet, a leading Internet source for alternative music and culture. Prospective readers can access the novel at without charge.

"Sunshine '69 is constructed to allow readers to become participants in the novel," said the author, a visiting lecturer at Brown University who has adopted the pseudonym Bobby Rabyd. "Through Web-based tools readers are given the ability to enter the novel via calendar dates from the summer of 1969. Readers can also choose to enter the novel through a clickable image map of the San Francisco Bay area or select from multiple points of view from the dozens of protagonists: a rock star, a Vietnam vet, a flower child or a CIA agent - even an odd, dotty dervish named Lucifer."

The novel chronicles the death of the 1960s through some of the major movements of what the author dubs the "Summer of Hate." It all starts where it ended: mass murders, rock festivals, moon landing and military actions. Some of the characters are real, some imagined. In Sunshine '69, the premium LSD known as Orange Sunshine is personified in a flower child who, in the midst of making sense of what's happening to her generation, is kidnapped by the CIA and turned into a deadly double-agent. Her infiltration into counter-culture happenings from Hell's Angels' runs to the Woodstock Festival transforms the tapestry of a decade in decline. The author hopes correspondents on the Internet will help him find redemptive stories in what he calls the "breaking of a counter culture."

"Sunshine '69 is not just one author's novel. The guest book lets everybody add their story - recollected or imagined - to a collective, organic document that will look very different by the fall. The result is an imaginative collaboration between author and reader that makes the creative process more democratic," said Rabyd, who, according to the New York Times Book Review, published the Internet's first hypertext magazine in the spring of 1992. "In 1948, George Orwell wrote 1984 to try to foresee how his future would become our present. The summer of '96 gives us the opportunity to make sense of what happened halfway."

The author chose the Internet as a home for his novel because the net facilitates serialization collaboration. "Seeing my fiction in print, although gratifying, yields a residue of ennui; it always looks so dead, flat, immutable. For several years, I have experienced an authorial rebirth through 'Net serialization - letting characters evolve, situations mature on the basis of an interactive audience's response. So when we were discussing publication options for Sunshine '69, I said to Coover, `Let's do it like Dickens did it.' "

Coover, whose published works include John's Wife, The Public Burning and The Origin of the Brunists, said, "Bobby Rabyd is that rare thing: an exceptional creative talent perfectly in tune with his own rapidly changing time."

Bobby Rabyd

Bobby Rabyd is the pseudonym of a visiting lecturer in English and modern culture and media at Brown University. He teaches courses about hypertext fiction and contemporary Cuba and is the publisher of the electronic magazines Albert Hofmann's Strange Mistake and Coven Pride. He plays guitar for the Indie rock band Palace, whose songwriter and singer Will Oldham collaborated on the soundtrack for Sunshine '69. Rabyd has lectured on interactive media and the future of creativity at the Sundance Film Festival, the National Writer's Conference, and at universities and art schools from coast to coast.