This article argues that interactional metalepsis is a device that is inherently built into ergodic digital fiction and thus that ergodic digital fiction is necessarily unnatural. Offering a definition and associated typology of interactional metalepsis as it occurs in digital fiction, it explores the ways in which these media-specific and unnatural forms of metalepsis manifest in that medium. It defines interactional metalepsis as a form of metalepsis which takes place across the actual to storyworld boundary and that exploits the interactive nature of digital technology via the hardware through which the reader accesses the text, such as the mouse, keyboard, or other navigational devices, and/or via media-specific interactive modes of expression such as hyperlinks or avatars. It argues that because interactional metalepses are inherently unnatural both in terms of physically and logical impossibility and also because interactional metalepsis is a device that is intrinsically built into ergodic digital fiction, digital fictions are inherently unnatural. Exploring the ways in which these media-specific and unnatural forms of metalepsis manifest in digital fiction, I offer a typology of interactional metalepsis which incorporates the following: metaleptic navigational devices, metaleptic hyperlinks, metaleptic webcams, and metaleptic breath. The article shows that digital fiction allows unnatural narrative to manifest in ways that must be analyzed media-specifically and therefore according to the affordances of a particular medium. I argue further that different forms of metalepsis are likely to be conventionalized by readers of digital fiction to varying degrees which depend upon the wider digital, cultural context to which they belong and also that, unlike most metalepses in print which are typically defamiliarizing, some forms of interactional metalepsis can have the opposite, immersive effect. This article shows that some of the theoretical underpinnings of unnatural narrative need to be reconsidered in light of the unnatural’s manifestation in digital fiction. It thus contributes to the development of unnatural narratology as a transmedial approach.


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pp. 294-310
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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