Tagged / digital fiction

Lyle Skains wins Hayles Prize for monograph

Bournemouth University and FMC researcher Lyle Skains has been awarded the N. Katherine Hayles Award for Criticism of Electronic Literature for her book Neverending Stories: The Popular Emergence of Digital Fiction, released from Bloomsbury in January 2023. The award was announced at the annual Electronic Literature Organisation (ELO) Conference on 13 July 2023 in Coimbra, Portugal, alongside winners of the Robert Coover Award for a Work of Electronic Literature, the Marjorie C. Luesebrink Career Achievement Award, and the Maverick Award.

The ELO is the foremost international professional body for scholars and practitioners working in the field of electronic literature, and has been awarding works of scholarship on electronic literature since 2014. The organisation notes that “The N. Katherine Hayles Award for Criticism of Electronic Literature is an award given for the best work of criticism, of any length, on the topic of electronic literature… recognise[ing] excellence in the field.” The award includes a plaque, one-year’s associate membership of the ELO, and prize money of $1000USD.

In selecting Dr. Skains’ Neverending Stories for the Hayles Prize, the jury made the following statement:

The judges of the 2023 N. Katherine Hayles Award for Criticism of Electronic Literature have unanimously recognized Neverending Stories: The Popular Emergence of Digital Fiction by [R.] Lyle Skains as the winning entry. The book is a granular exploration of both the evolution of digital fiction and its impact on (and positioning in) popular culture. The author’s focus on marginalized authors/creators, as well as reframing accepted aspects of digital fiction, sets their work apart.

Skains does more than justice to a complex topic with her ambitious work spanning over half a century of digital literature development. Her analysis of multiple digital narrative forms – covering everything from text-based adventure games to creepypasta participatory fiction to ‘archontic’ fiction – is comprehensive and perceptive. The book navigates appreciable tensions between avant-garde and popular forms of digital fiction while seeking to recover hidden contributions of women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ authors. The included case studies also provide invaluable insights into trends that are shaping the future of digital fiction, making the book a must-read for scholars, creators, and fans.

The judges wish to express that the task of selecting the winners for this year’s N. Katherine Hayles Award for Criticism of Electronic Literature was exceptionally challenging due to the exemplary standard of entries received. The depth and diversity of perspectives presented in the entries made the deliberation process both stimulating and demanding. The judges extend our appreciation to all the entrants for contributing to the enrichment of the field, and for setting a remarkable benchmark for future submissions.

Portrait - Lyle SkainsDr. Skains joins Jessica Pressman, Mark Marino, Jeremy Douglass, and Lai-Tze Fan in winning this prestigious prize. She adds that, in addition to the acknowledgements made in the book, she wants to thank the support she’s had in the field from generous mentors and peers, including Astrid Ensslin, Dene Grigar, Caitlin Fisher, Mark Marino, Stuart Moulthrop, Anastasia Salter, John Murray, and María Mencía, who edited the fantastic collection #WomenTechLit that inspired so much of Neverending Stories.

New Book from BU Researcher: The Popular Emergence of Digital Fiction

Lyle Skains’ Neverending Stories: The Popular Emergence of Digital Fiction (Bloomsbury) has just been released, exploring the many ways narrative storytelling has evolved and risen to popular awareness since the “disruptive” innovation of the computer.

Digital fiction has long been perceived as an experimental niche of electronic literature. Yet born-digital narratives thrive in mainstream culture, as communities of practice create and share digital fiction, filling in the gaps between the media they are given and the stories they seek.

“By putting the work of authors historically marginalized in discussions of the ‘computational’ at the forefront, [R. Lyle Skains] offers an alternative history of digital fiction that points to an exciting and expansive future.” Anastasia Salter, Associate Professor of English, University of Central Florida, USA

Neverending Stories explores the influences of literature and computing on digital fiction and how the practices and cultures of each have impacted who makes and plays digital fiction. Popular creativity emerges from subordinated groups often excluded from producing cultural resources, accepting the materials of capitalism and inverting them for their own carnivalesque uses. Popular digital fiction goes by many different names: webnovels, adventure games, visual novels, Twitter fiction, webcomics, Twine games, walking sims, alternate reality games, virtual reality films, interactive movies, enhanced books, transmedia universes, and many more.

“Unlike many exclusionary scholarly works in the field, Neverending Stories celebrates inclusiveness and diversity by tracing the emergence and development of digital fiction variations in various languages and cultures around the world. As foundational and comprehensive, this book is indispensable for scholars and students interested in perceiving the creativity and versatility of popular culture and fiction in digital environments.” Reham Hosny, Digital Creative Writer and Assistant Professor of Literary Theory and Criticism, Minia University, Egypt

The book establishes digital fiction in a foundation of innovation, tracing its emergence in various guises around the world. It examines Infocom, whose commercial success with interactive fiction crumbled, in no small part, because of its failure to consider women as creators or consumers. It takes note of the brief flourish of commercial book apps and literary games. It connects practices of cognitive and conceptual interactivity, and textual multiplicity-dating to the origins of the print novel-to the feminine. It pushes into the technological future of narrative in immersive and mixed realities. It posits the transmedia franchises and the practices of fanfiction as examples of digital fiction that will continue indefinitely, regardless of academic notice or approval.