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"Lost" and the Emergence of Hypertext Storytelling 170

Posted by Soulskill
from the new-buzzwords-for-hollywood dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The TV series 'Lost' involves a large cast of characters marooned on a tropical island after a plane crash, with episodes that thread lengthy flashbacks of characters' backstories with immediate plots of day-to-day survival and interpersonal relationships, and a larger 'mythos' involving the strange and apparently supernatural (or science-fictional) happenings on the island. Independent scholar Amelia Beamer writes that the series works as an example of a recent cultural creation: that of the hypertext narrative. 'In Lost, the connections between characters form the essential hypertext content, which is emphasized by the structure of flashbacks that give the viewer privileged information about characters,' writes Beamer. 'Paramount are the connections unfolding between characters, ranging from mundane, apparently coincidental meetings in the airport, to more unlikely and in-depth meetings, reaching back through their entire lives and the lives of their families.' Beamer writes that the series also pays tribute to video games, another relatively recent interactive means of storytelling."
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"Lost" and the Emergence of Hypertext Storytelling

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  • Right. (Score:5, Informative)

    by julesh (229690) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @09:23AM (#32063316)

    Because nobody ever told stories with large amounts of flashback before the advent of hypertext.

    • by DrYak (748999)

      Indeed. Could cite Odyssey as an example of classical non-linear story telling to your argument.

      The fact is that most of the current TV shows tend to be dumbed down idiotic stuff. Only in a few situation, the producers happen to be less coward and green-light something a little bit more intellectual and hope that the eyeballs won't be bored aways from the advertisers to which they attempt to sell them.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by MrNaz (730548)

        Umm... I remember reading "Choose Your Own Adventure" books when I was 7. Circa 1987.

        • by DrYak (748999) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @10:30AM (#32063708) Homepage

          Although they are written in a random order to avoid spoiling the plot, while playing "Choose Your Own Adventure" books you still have a story starting with its beginning, finishing with its end, and in between told chronologically. The story happens in-order of the reading order (even if the reading order itself is a little bit complex).

          Whereas with Lost, most of what would be an introduction and put into the beginning of the show, is told during the show in flashbacks. What is chronologically the beginning is spread all over the season. In turn what is the first episode happens only later in the story (the crash and following events).

          To go back to my classical example, the Odyssey begins telling the end of the story (the gods deciding to let Odysseus go home) and the biggest part of the story is told through flashbacks and characters telling what happened to them before, sometime with several such layers of indirection. (Imagine flashback-in-a-flashback). The begging of the story (War against Troy) is told in a such several-layered indirection somewhere in the middle of the text. This leads to a great complexity in story telling. The story doesn't happen in the same order as one reads the chapters.

          Probably other even older epic poem feature similar out-of-order telling. But Odyssey is the oldest I've studied. As the top-parent sarcastically said, it's nothing new and it's not something specific of Lost or of Hypertext. Human mind works in non linear manner, so out-of-order story telling is probably as old as story telling around a fire in some cave.

          • I kind-of think "Lost" is the dumbed down version. A chance meeting five years ago might have relevance to the current storyline, but you don't find out about the five-year-old chance meeting until you're already in the middle of the story where it's relevant.

            And lately, apparently, there's a whole flash-sideways thing going on that so far appears to be impossible to be relevant to anything in the actual story....

            • by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @05:40PM (#32066644)
              I thought it was because the writers didn't know what they were doing, so they used flashbacks to make it seem like they had it planned all along. It's like an attempt to make the stupidly implausible plot line seem more integrated. "The island" wanted them (with The Island being a different character than Jacob) then having it switch to Jacob doing it, then hinting that The Island did it and Jacob is as much a pawn as the Monster, though much happier to live forever on the island. Or I guess the better analogy, since I'm using chess terms, is that the unnamed (not on cave) characters are pawns, the named characters are non-pawn pieces (rooks and such) and Jacob and the Monster are kings. The Island is the board, setting the rules and allowing mulligans and such with the pieces, though, unlike chess, has a mind of its own.
          • by nextekcarl (1402899) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @12:12PM (#32064388)

            Although they are written in a random order to avoid spoiling the plot, while playing "Choose Your Own Adventure" books you still have a story starting with its beginning, finishing with its end, and in between told chronologically. The story happens in-order of the reading order (even if the reading order itself is a little bit complex)...

            That would have been helpful to know before reading them, Dammit! I knew I was doing something wrong. ;^)

        • Do you mean the ones that go: "If you choose to run away from the dragon, turn to page 37; if you choose to fight it, turn to page 2D6 + 37"?

          I was never into them, but my brother was - and he'd have been too old by 1987 so they weren't new even then. Did I tell you about this belt, and the onion I used to wear on it...

        • maybe they could have 1st person view TV shows and movies that changed based on what number you pressed on your remote control...
      • Wow, you sure zinged those cowardly and idiotic producers with that horrible run-on sentence. I'm sure all of Hollywood is scrambling to find out who DrYak is so they can hire them up some gal-dang talent.

    • Re:Right. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by julesh (229690) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @09:34AM (#32063386)

      I wrote: Because nobody ever told stories with large amounts of flashback before the advent of hypertext.

      To emphasise this: what exactly does the author in the article that couldn't be applied to a story that clearly was not influenced by hypertext storytelling because it hadn't been invented, e.g. Joseph Heller's Catch 22: a highly nonlinear story which switches attention between numerous different points in its protagonist's career as the reader needs to learn more about the character's history in order to understand what comes next (or before). What the author describes as "levelling up" is generally called "raising the stakes" by most writers and is a widely used trick to keep readers/viewers interested in a long story. See, for example, Lord of the Rings, where it occurs several times: when Frodo et al reach Rivendell, in Moria, when the Fellowship splits. Allusion is a very widely used technique, and has a very long history in filmmaking. A good example of a pre-hypertext film with a lot of allusion is Blade Runner.

      What is perhaps interesting is that Lost has a lot more popular appeal than the examples I quote above, so maybe this type of storytelling is becoming more appealing to the average TV viewer?

      • Re:Right. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by houghi (78078) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @10:18AM (#32063624)

        What is perhaps interesting is that Lost has a lot more popular appeal than the examples I quote above, so maybe this type of storytelling is becoming more appealing to the average TV viewer?

        That would be more thee marketing then the storytelling. If anything it was exactly that storytelling (well the lack of a good story) that put me off Lost. First season was ok. After that it felt just like "how long can we milk this?".

        Same happened for me with Heroes. All the flashbacks and jumps are not really an integrated part of the story. They are placed there as an afterthought so they can milk it a bit more.

        • Re:Right. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by slim (1652) <john@ha[ ]up.net ['rtn' in gap]> on Sunday May 02, 2010 @11:08AM (#32063974) Homepage

          I think you're doing Lost a disservice. Sure, it's not the first to do non-linear storytelling, and the article is daft to suggest it does.

          But I think Lost is a fascinating form. An epic story told over the course of 121 hours (OK, ~90 hours + ad breaks), with an overall structure, a proper beginning, middle and end, and a kind of fractal-ness, in that each series also has a story arc, and to some extent so does each episode.

          I have trouble thinking of anything else that's achieved this. Other TV series and comics tend to have an open ended structure, so it's beginning followed by endless "middle", and maybe a tacked on "end" when it gets cancelled (e.g. The Sopranos). Things like the X Factor, Prison Break, Heroes tease us with some kind of big potential denouement, but in reality the writers don't know what it is, and will churn out episodes until they're told to wrap it up. Novels are usually much shorter. Even the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy has less plot than Lost.

          It's especially not fair to compare Lost with Heroes. Lost's writers claim to have always known how the overall story would work out -- and that appears to be true. With Heroes, it's pretty clear that they make it up as they go along.

          Comics *usually* have the same open-endedness that TV series do. I'm sure some comic geek will tell me of a great comic with 200 issues in which the writer clearly knew how it would end, as he was writing the first issue -- but I don't know of one off the top of my head.

          Oh, I would say The Shield pulled it off. So Lost is not quite unique.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by johny42 (1087173)

            I have trouble thinking of anything else that's achieved this.

            Babylon 5's Michael Straczynsky also had everything planned from the beginning. And it had quite a lot of plot. And humor.

            Except they then told him not to wrap it up, thus the somewhat arbitrary fifth season.

          • Things like the X Factor, Prison Break, Heroes tease us with some kind of big potential denouement, but in reality the writers don't know what it is, and will churn out episodes until they're told to wrap it up.

            They're called "mini-series". See Band of Brothers or Angels in America. Yeah, they may not be as long as Lost, but they have a complete, well-though story.

            • by slim (1652)

              They're called "mini-series". See Band of Brothers or Angels in America. Yeah, they may not be as long as Lost, but they have a complete, well-though story.

              I'd say a miniseries was similar in scope to a novel, and often they're adapted from them. In the UK, for example, Pride and Prejudice or Brideshead Revisited. A novel adapted into 11 TV episodes.

              Lost is an example of something more than 6 times longer than that, and with that format comes extra responsibility. If we think of a piece as having fractal layers (e.g. in Lord of the rings: series, book, chapter, paragraph, sentence) -- the longer the piece, the more layers it needs in order that the reader/view

          • by gmhowell (26755)

            Lost's writers claim to have always known how the overall story would work out

            I could claim to be fucking Megan Fox. That doesn't make it true.

          • by mestar (121800)

            "But I think Lost is a fascinating form. An epic story told over the course of 121 hours (OK, ~90 hours + ad breaks), with an overall structure, a proper beginning, middle and end,"

            One question, (I just watched a couple of episodes in the first season), how can it have the end when it is still in a middle of a season? Is this the last season?

        • by T Murphy (1054674)
          I propose long-arc series should get two run-throughs: the first one is over-milked to satisfy the suits and their desire to ruin everything for a profit. The second run-through (possibly filmed concurrently, using some of the same footage) is the story as the writers want it, with no unsolicited input, made purely to tell a good story. Because the suits already got what they wanted, they should be fine with simply getting even more money out of the series, and the people who lost interest halfway through t
        • by mrmeval (662166)

          All the whine of the latest Heroes is making me MEGO. Hell a good 1/4 of an episode is showing flip backs of the last episode. Worse than milking it they're reducing content.

      • Catch 22... Lord of the Rings... Blade Runner

        I'd just like to add to that list Pulp Fiction and Slaughterhouse Five. Hell all of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonlinear_(arts) [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by farlukar (225243)

      Because nobody ever told stories with large amounts of flashback before the advent of hypertext.

      But if you tie it to a fancy buzzword, it's all new and exciting!

    • by astrashe (7452)

      Exactly.

      One counter-example is "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman", which came out in volumes between 1759 and 1769.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Life_and_Opinions_of_Tristram_Shandy,_Gentleman [wikipedia.org]

    • Film at 11 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hognoxious (631665)

      In other news: current generation also think they invented sex, drugs & rock and roll.

    • Re:Metaphor (Score:3, Informative)

      by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

      Scholarly attribution of cultural shifts often use cotemporal shifts in alternate media to describe anything sufficiently novel that it can be distinguished from the previous generation. People make labels and associations out of stuff in order to categorize and examine and study, and it isn't necessarily a literal equivalence. In this case it is merely the codification of an emerging trend using an easily understandable metaphor borrowed from something most people are at least familiar with.

      In other word

      • In other words, this has exceeded the nominal number of flashbacks for a television show, now someone is looking around for a relevant explanation and nomenclature so that people studying this can use a common understanding. "The storytelling works a lot like hypertext" is a metaphor. If it really were hypertext, it would be a choose your own adventure book.

        It's not a very good metaphor, as you point out. Hypertext is the equivalent of "see also" at the end of (paper) encyclopedia articles, combined with "see X" in the midst of the article when reference is made to another major topic. The important point here is that one doesn't need to follow those links in order to read the article, just like one doesn't need to click on a linked word in a Wikipedia article.

        But the present example in Lost is about narrative, which implicitly requires a continuous forwar

        • Oh, and I forgot to say that your comparison to Cubism seems strange as well. I've heard Cubism compared to various musical trends -- usually free-atonal works of the early 20th century (which often relied on distortions or extreme versions of tonal gestures), and sometimes 12-tone music (which deconstructed the pieces of music and put them back together in a way that allowed a new order -- the tone row -- to be viewed from various perspectives) -- but what we usually think of musical "Impressionism" wasn'
        • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

          I can't believe you're comparing some crap metaphor about a single TV series to a major artistic movement that altered the trajectory of the history of art.

          When I use too many words, you miss the point. When I use too few you think I missed the point. I didn't compare a show to an unrelated movement in an unrelated medium. People put names on things, and they don't always choose good names. That's the point.

          I used the difficulties and lack of sense in art movement naming bacause it's fairly well known,

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      It also has flashforwards, flashsideways and jumpbackwards and jumpforwards.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Tony Stark (1391845)
      How about Rashomon? Viewers will actually put together several different equally plausible results for the same scenario, based on flashbacks from each of the different characters. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rashomon_(film) [wikipedia.org]
    • In my eyes, nobody has ever surpassed Roger Zelazny's "Roadmarks" (published in 1979) when it comes to non-linear writing.

  • This so-called hyptertext story telling isn't new. A number of authors have used flashback, story-in-story etc. for ages. There were a number of 40's and 50's war films that used the technique. However, I think that its use on TV in a maxi (as opposed to mini) series, is innovative.

    That said, I'm hoping that it doesn't become the defacto method of story telling for television. It can be over done.

  • by carlhaagen (1021273) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @09:29AM (#32063354)

    ...and problems holding on to the "red thread", not really knowing what direction to go with it all. The writing started showing escalating signs of "crackelation" and inconsistency somewhere in the middle of the 3rd season - and by this I don't mean the "hypertext narrative" that was obvious already from the first few episodes. I tried to watch the current season recently, and I was truly more lost than ever.

    • by WED Fan (911325)

      I tried to watch the current season recently, and I was truly more lost than ever.

      I'm going to assume, then, because of how you phrased your post, that you have not been watching everything.

      My wife is a bit confused with this last season. I am not. But, there is a difference and I think its because I pay attention to the story, the characters, and the sources (presumed sources) of the writers. I read "Lostpedia" in between episodes. I understand that the characters are changing and how they are changing. I

      • I have actually followed the entire series up until the current season. I have no attention span deficit, I am not an impatient watcher, I am not hard to entertain etc. Lost is on many levels very simple entertainment. Compare it to anything from eastern or southern Europe, f.e.. I maintain that it's a dead story they've been trying to keep alive longer than should be allowed, resulting in problems of escalating "loose ends" from early on.

        • by maxume (22995)

          I haven't watched the whole series, but the fact that they are still introducing new characters in the last 12 episodes screams of sloppiness (to me anyway).

          • by Culture20 (968837)

            the fact that they are still introducing new characters in the last 12 episodes screams of sloppiness

            That seems pretty real to me. In the last page of your life, you'll probably have a few new characters like nurses, doctors, etc. A story that has no new characters in the last season seems too well crafted; plastic.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by maxume (22995)

              They haven't made any effort to constrain their point of view. God mode is on. So god should know what those people were up to the rest of the time. If they are introduced at the end in order to resolve the story, it smacks of hand of god.

              (I suppose they might be drawing some very careful lines about what characters they show, but my viewing doesn't make it seem like that is the case)

          • Don't worry, all those new characters are incidentals who will be dead shortly.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I don't think Lost would be possible to follow at all without the Lostpedia. I do the same thing as you - watch the episodes then go back and read the Lostpedia entries to figure out what I missed (there's always something). Understanding everything in Lost requires you to store an incredibly complicated story with dozens of characters (or are we up to hundreds by now?) over a period of around 6 years and minimal if any helpful repetitions of what happened previously. The fact that the story requires a fri

        • by Mashiki (184564)

          Using external site references in order to "fill in the blanks" doesn't make a good show, it does however make up for a poor narrative. Flashbacks within a story aren't difficult to write, the problem only happens when you base an entire show on it.

        • by slim (1652)

          I don't think Lost would be possible to follow at all without the Lostpedia.

          I don't think that's true at all. You could follow Lost perfectly well simply by watching it and paying attention.

          Of course you get more from it by seeing what other people noticed - just like anything else with any depth at all.

        • That's just the nature of a big story. Most people can't read a work like Lord of the Rings or the Harry Potter series for the first time without having to go back to remind themselves of some back story occasionally. When my wife read Steinbeck's East of Eden for the first time, she had to draw out family trees to refer to as she went.

      • A maxi-series is a TV series that will last for more than 1 season and have a definitive end point.

        I know this is a terrible thing to say, but you may find that you'd enjoy Anime. Anime typically has a consistent, overarching storyline. A lot of it really is trash, like most TV, so watch out. Try Samurai Champloo [wikipedia.org] or FLCL [wikipedia.org] for good starters. Cowboy Bebop [wikipedia.org] is also quite good, but shows its age.

        • Cowboy Bebop won me with its opening music.

        • by DavidTC (10147)

          As I mentioned above, anime's been doing this sort of thing for a while. As have video games, aka, Planescape: Torment.

          But there's a very large difference between an imported TV show that maybe a hundred thousand Americans see vs. a show with ratings of 12 million. The later demonstrates that this sort of thing can be popular outside of small genres with dedicated fans.

          Lost is the 'format definer' for a new generation of shows.

          Not the inventor, possibly not the best already, and certainly not the best f

    • When I was at Beloit College I had a writing teacher who used the "red thread" in a Band Aid wrapper as a metaphor for the idea that ties an essay or story together. I had not heard that metaphor before, nor since. Where did you hear of it? Thanks.

      • by kvezach (1199717)
        I think the source of the term is from ropes made by the British Navy. These ropes had a red thread going through them (one of the many used to make the rope), so that whenever the rope was cut, its origin would be obvious, and so that feature would deter theft. The idea was then used in a metaphorical sense for something that was an integral part of some work ("the easily identifiable thread running through the rope"), and from there to the meaning of the idea that ties a story together (since that is the
  • by carlhaagen (1021273) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @09:33AM (#32063382)

    'Coz it seems as if she can't, or refuses to look backwards in history - the "flashback" occurance in story-telling is older than the pen and paper. Is she really implying that this is something new that popped up after the web? :D To me, her writing appears to be just vacuous bollox in fancy phrasing making it appear bigger than it is.

  • As said above, this is not new at all. What might be new is:

    1) Interpreting flashbacks as Hypertext
    2) Doing that^^^ to get attention
  • Watchmen is a perfect example of this, written in 1986. As someone else mentioned, the practice of excessive flashbacks showing character interactions over time (and related side stories) dates back to ancient Greece.
  • Do not want (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I'm actually, as they put it, a fan of the series but I strongly disagree that this "hypertext" narrative based on flashbacks and other similar constructs brings any value to the story. I mean, whenever the episode was dedicated to a flashback or the insight on a character... Well, it sucked to high heavens. To me, the flashback abuse and the over-reliance on episodes dedicated to carve a profile on a character or even to sum what the hell was going on seemed as clear signals the writers didn't knew what

    • ... I mean, whenever the episode was dedicated to a flashback or the insight on a character... Well, it sucked to high heavens....

      Actually, S06-E09 [wikia.com] was most probably my favourite episode ever. :-)

  • This is silly. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @09:46AM (#32063460)

    I'm sorry, but this is your typical over-analyzed and pretentious lit crit type nonsense. Tribute to video games... because it heavily foreshadows stuff? "Hypertext?" A heavy focus on characters and their relationships is nothing new, that's done in soap operas even. That was also one of the main focuses of Battlestar Galactica up until the end when suddenly it was just some John Zerzan fantasy instead.

    There's no tribute to foreshadowing going on. Sure, while there are a lot of flashbacks in LOST, more than many other shows, but that doesn't mean LOST provides a revolutionary new way of storytelling.

    Again, this is all just your standard humanities-inspired blahblahblah affair. Throw a bunch of shit out there, see what the readers buy, and use jargon and hope that enough people buy it that you get credited with created a new concept that is actually only marginally different from other concepts already out there. Give me a fucking break.

    • by Culture20 (968837)

      A heavy focus on characters and their relationships is nothing new, that's done in soap operas even. That was also one of the main focuses of Battlestar Galactica up until the end when suddenly it was just some John Zerzan fantasy instead.

      I don't know what Battlestar Galactica you've been watching, but I remember it as a campy Sci-Fi series with evil robots which took their name from the reptile race that built them: the Cylons. ...which turned into an angelic sci-fi fantasy and eventually an even worse Sci-Fi show with a half-angel half human usurping Adama's command. [wikipedia.org]

  • New? Seriously? One Thousand and One Nights has stories in stories in stories (in stories, ...), with flashbacks and story-level spanning references and all.
    It's roughly a thousand years old.
  • I don't think... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CarpetShark (865376) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @10:04AM (#32063534)

    ...hypertext means what you think it means :)

  • by Jonathan (5011) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @10:07AM (#32063550) Homepage

    'Lost' requires the viewers to *infer* what is a flashback, flashforward, or alternative universe. Typically, these things are labeled in other movies or fiction. For example, they'll say "Twenty Years ago..." or in a movie, making the screen go all wavy or something similar. 'Lost' just jumps in and hopes the fans figure it out. About the only earlier example that I can think of is Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five" , which obviously the scriptwriters of 'Lost' have read

  • A loss, not a gain (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pz (113803) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @10:21AM (#32063650) Journal

    Independent scholar Amelia Beamer writes that the series works as an example of a recent cultural creation: that of the hypertext narrative.

    I disagree. It is the loss of the ability for people to write the narrative form. Hypertext-like writing is a convenient crutch for writers who cannot integrate ideas into the normal flow of their work.
     

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eulernet (1132389)

      Hypertext-like writing is a convenient crutch for writers who cannot integrate ideas into the normal flow of their work.

      You are right, but not for the reason you thought...

      In fact, the recent movies and series are written with story writing software, like Dramatica Pro.
      This allows to build complex stories, and most importantly, the story remains consistent even if the writers change !

      You might have heard about the Writers Guild of America strike, or strikes before: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Hollywood_strikes [wikipedia.org]

      The idea of the studios is to have writers being disposable, or at least they could be changed during the li

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        In fact, the recent movies and series are written with story writing software, like Dramatica Pro.

        Proof right there that 10,000 monkey's still produce shit.

    • I disagree. It is the loss of the ability for people to write the narrative form. Hypertext-like writing is a convenient crutch for writers who cannot integrate ideas into the normal flow of their work.

      Agreed. It's lazy writing. BSG was an atrocious offender here. B5 had flaws but really stands up, especially upon repeated viewings.

      In real life, one man follows another man into a room intent on killing him. He has a motive, of course, and it was more than likely established a long time ago. What happens in that room is anyone's guess. Anything could happen.

      Writing needs to be like that. The outcome in the room could be anything. Perhaps the killer has second thoughts. Perhaps the would-be victim turns the

  • Triple unity (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It's even worse than that. For a long time stories and books were written like russian dolls a character of the main story would tell another story that would span entire chapters and inside this story another character would then tell another story that would also span entire chapters. So it's nothing new, it went so out of hand that it lead to the adoption by many writers of the triple unity: unity of time, unity of space and unity of plot. A story should all happen in 24 hours at a single place and have

  • Lost Story Telling (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Xoc-S (645831)
    The best way to describe Lost is in the words of one of its main actors, Terry O'Quinn [wikipedia.org]. He called it The Mysterious Gilligan's Island of Dr. Moreau. (An allusion to The Mysterious Island [wikipedia.org], Gilligan's Island [wikipedia.org], and The Island of Dr. Moreau [wikipedia.org].) Flashbacks and flashforwards in story telling is not new. The Mahabharata [wikipedia.org] and Arabian Nights [wikipedia.org] used it.
    • by DavidTC (10147)

      Arabian Nights did not use flashbacks, you idjit. Arabian Nights used a framing story to tell multiple short stories.

      And googling things that other people have mentioned is not actually a useful post, you karma whore. Luckily, no one seems to have fallen for it.

  • Tough to Top (Score:4, Informative)

    by adosch (1397357) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @11:28AM (#32064106)

    Lost has been probably one of the most influential television shows in the past 10-20 years, easily. Especially with the cult following it's created by its story-telling has been pretty niche so far in this era of TV-movie-saga-shows.

    Lost, for me, has equated to reading 'The Hobbit' + 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy as a young kid: Everything from that point on has extreme potential to copy-cat, suck and lose my interest very quickly because there's such strong intention to try and top the topper.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You need to read more, it had no coherent plot and was cobbled together as each season was renewed.

    • by mmaniaci (1200061)

      Lost, for me, has equated to reading 'The Hobbit' + 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy as a young kid

      That's really, really sad. I can't believe you compare a megabudget corporate TV production to a true work of art.

      Everything from that point on has extreme potential to copy-cat

      Only a fool would think Lost wasn't already a copy-cat show. All they (the producers/writers of Lost) are trying to do is cash in on the end of the reality show fad that has plagued the US for the past decade or so. They just mashed up Survivor and Real World with the style of 24, Prison Break, and other serial TV shows. I for one am not the least bit impressed.

    • Lost, for me, has equated to reading 'The Hobbit' + 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy as a young kid

      Lost, for me, has equated to reading Vogon poetry. I really tried getting into it, but it was just ... blah. Never got past season one, simply because it seemed like a complete waste of time.

  • Large cast of characters with no single protagonist, non linear storytelling, several parallel story lines which cross in interesting ways - it was all there in Pulp fiction. And it's not like pulp fiction was unique in any of this - multiple storylines exist in almost every Robert Altman film, and non-linear storytelling with flashbacks goes at least as far back as 1941 and Citizen Kane. And that's just in film! In literature these things had been done literally centuries ago.
  • by rothstei (1357055) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @12:16PM (#32064422)
    My academic work in semiotics pays off; finally, I'm the one with the credentials in a Slashdot thread! Basically: no. A long, winding story with many characters, capable of self-reference, does not qualify as hypertext. Hypertext is the use of the written text itself as an interface for accessing other files of text. The ability to abstract a particular meaningful concept with another (like, say, compare character A to character B) is a factor of human consciousness, not a feature of the narrative. Basically, what Lost does is introduce a wide-variety of (granted, typically unexpected) characters and and narrative elements, and just keep adding them, not always resolving them in the way we're used to. Because of all this excess narrative (read: crap) it's easy enough for a creative audience to make all of these concept abstractions themselves. Takeaway: the technology the narrative (the media, the story, and the concepts) don't enable any "hypertexting", just our good old fashioned human capacity for abstraction.
  • by tunapez (1161697) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @12:22PM (#32064478)

    There I was reading about a TV show I've never seen, yet know way too much about.

    Flash back 4 years ago and there I am stuck in seat B on a runway in Chicago. A and C excitedly talking about the "new season". Imagine my surprise when C asked if we could set the laptop on my table so everybody in our row could enjoy Season 2 on DVD. I finagle the aisle seat out of the deal. GOAL!!!!!!!

    Fast forward to last year, and a radio program comes on talking about a TV show, and how they split the fabric of time by triggering a nuclear bomb, while stranded on an island. I recall my four hour flight in the aisle seat and thank my stars we did not crash on a deserted island, carrying nukes.

    Fast forward once again to this moment in time, and beyond, and I'm hoping those crazy bastards never get off that island. If they do they'll pollute the others in the chain and eventually kill a tourist in a drunken UTV crash.

    /emerging hypertext storyline ©
    /bleading edge sarcasm ©

  • 2.5 cents (Score:4, Informative)

    by AnAdventurer (1548515) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @12:44PM (#32064652)
    Lost Jumped the Shark so long ago, I don't think the writers could even keep up and just made up plot devices as they went on, "hypertexting" as they pleased to fit those "devices" in.
  • *boring*

    (Don't say its popular, its less than 5 percent of the US population who can be bothered to watch)

  • We all know the basic definition of a hypertext narrative1.

    The footnote "1" is missing, so this text appears to have been lifted from somewhere else. And I'm pretty sure that there is no definition of "hypertext" nor "narrative" which is universally agreed upon.

    This way of storytelling does not seem to be particularly new, either. Gravity's Rainbow was published nearly 40 years ago.

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Sunday May 02, 2010 @04:52PM (#32066372)

    That's how it seems to me anyway. Practically every episode means more characters, more mysteries, more loose ends created, and none of the 150 other major loose ends resolvedeven, and more incoherency. It seems like the writers just make things up as they go along.

    It reminds of the way a small child might make up a story: "and then, the invisible guy is no longer invisible, and then the dead guy is no longer dead, and then a nuclear bomb explodes, and then they find a hidden Chinese temple, and then a smoke monster kills everybody in the temple, and then they find a secret lighthouse, and then they find a secret cave, and then this little kid keeps appearing and disappearing, and then . . . "

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