In a provocatively titled interview with hypertext author Shelley Jackson, 'Stitch Bitch: The Hypertext Author As Cyborg-Femme Narrator,' Mark America states: "Some of the most interesting hypertext work of the present moment is emerging from the computers of masterful women who develop their work outside the normal channels of institutional support."

Ever since the mathematician and programmer Ada Lovelace (the daughter of Lord Byron) lent her genius to improve on Charles Babbage's Difference Engine with the Analytical Engine in the 1840's and then her name to the United States Defense Department's programming language ADA (Plant 135), women have occupied an important place in the margins of computing history. I say margins because there is no doubt that many women have been integral to the development and evolution of computing technology and thought, particularly in the last decade, but few if any of these names are well-known or acknowledged by anyone except specialists in a host of different areas of technological specialization. While Babbage and Lovelace drew their inspiration for the Engine from mechanized weaving technology (and the designers of MACH 1, the mother of modern computers, from Babbage and Lovelace; see Plant), twentieth century computing owes more to the military than to the female arts. Hypertext, however, seems to be different. Hypertext seems to be an architecture and form that is wide-open to women, especially to independently-minded feminist artists and programmers.

Lesbian author and theorist Nicole Brossard says, "To write now and in the year 2000 means: to write what has never before been thought in the history of Man's memory" (1988, 99). She sees the revolutionary change that Western society and media is undergoing as a birth of new metaphors connected with gender and with the computer (99). This is a spatial change integrally connected to the senses, to women and to women's discourse. As a part of this, she sees narrative form--since it is constructed, it is inherently 'technological' -- undergoing an evolution and, "if," she says, "there is a term for fiction, it surely has yet to be invented" (100). Women have always been at the forefront of the development of fictional forms and now they are combining those forms with hypertext and with a wide variety of political discourses in radical ways.


Carolyn Guertin