The digital review | (digital) performance

Reconstructing Stuart Moulthrop’s Victory Garden

By Dene Grigar Director, Electronic Literature Lab

When I first discussed with Stuart Moulthrop the possibility of reconstructing his hypertext novel, Victory Garden (1991), he was not interested. In his artist statement for the exhibition Kathi Inman Berens and I mounted at the Library of Congress in 2013 Moulthrop provides a clue why: The novel was built for a specific type of experience that had been superseded by color, graphics, sound, animation, and touch and, so, may not be of interest to today’s audience. No amount of cajoling could convince him otherwise, not even when I showed him evidence that the novel has been the subject of 100 books, essays, and theses and dissertations over the last 30 years, close to 40% of which produced during the last 13 when the work was not even accessible to the public. [1] It was only when he saw the reconstruction my lab did for Richard Holeton’s Figurski at Findhorn on Acid in 2021 that he was convinced it was time to resurrect Victory Garden, and he asked us to help him with the project.

A year later Victory Garden 2022 was completed and available as an archival web-based version. Though he started the project thinking he would stay close the original version created with Storyspace and published by Eastgate Systems, Inc., he changed his mind once the project began. In the 2022 version, the writing and textlinks remain largely the same, but the interface varies dramatically from the original. As he states in the “Preface” to the work, readers will recognize the default Paths, the Labyrinth, and the Map but will find a new navigational structure that includes what he calls “Streams,” or “sequences of pages that present scenes, events, and riffs. . . as discrete units” (Moulthrop). [2] There are 43 Streams presented, functioning much like book chapters from which readers can choose for navigating the work. Besides the full color interface and over 50 images created by the artist, another feature that should stand out for those who remember the work is the striking menu, evoking the Storyspace toolbar, that gives easy access to the schematic map, Streams, navigation through the Streams and Paths, and restart. Those who fondly remember what a Janespace is and wonder if translating Victory Garden from Storyspace, where it originated, to HTML [3] would retain this quirky feature, the answer is yes. You are challenged to find it. Moulthrop also included an easter egg, a lexia called “Machine.” Find either of these for a reward. [4]

Moulthrop conceptualized the new version, coded it, and produced the images for it. Assisting him from the Electronic Literature Lab were Arlo Ptolemy, who served as the Project Manager and Quality Assurance Tester. Andrew Thompson helped with coding and interface and created the element for the logo. Holly Slocum, the lab’s Senior Designer, was the Front-End Designer for the project. Austin Gohl, a spring graduate of the Creative Media & Digital Culture Program, designed the archival website that hosts the game for his capstone project.


[1] I document the use of Victory Garden in theses, dissertations, articles, and books from around the world in “The Persistence of Genius: The Case for Stuart Moulthrop’s Victory Garden” in Rebooting Electronic Literature: Volume 3. August 2020. DOI:

[2] See Moulthrop’s “Preface” at

[3] Mariusz Pisarski and I argue in our forthcoming book, The Challenges of Born-Digital Fiction: Editions, Translations, and Emulations, for Cambridge University Press that reconstructions like the lab undertook for Holeton’s and Moulthrop’s novels constitute what we call, media translation-that is, the transformation of a work, potentially, between formats, software, platforms, hardware, computer languages, and/or digital qualities in a way that impacts the human experience with such works. It may or may not involve linguistic transformation, but always the underlying code is affected and may or may not result in changes to functionality and presentation.

[4] Your name will be emblazoned in glory on the archival site.