READ ME (and How)

User Interface Diagram With Labels

Quick Version

To read Victory Garden in the simplest way, press the UP arrow key on any page (or swipe up if you don't have keys). Other possibilities are explained below.

Reader Interface

The reader interface -- see the diagram at left -- has nine parts, labeled here in red. Here's a quick rundown; read following sections for further context.

At the top (A) is a link to a schematic map, a graphical table of contents. You can use it to find entry points into the fiction, though it is not the only way to do this. The next element (B) will take you to a list of Streams (a bit like chapters in a book), many of which are included in the map, along with a whole lot that aren't. Below these elements is a doubly bifurcated figure with five clickable points. Its upper arms hold two links, left and right. The lefthand point (C) moves you backward in whatever Stream you are currently reading. The righthand point (D) moves you forward. You can also use the LEFT and RIGHT arrow keys on your keyboard, if the device you are using has these. The square in the middle of the curved figure (E) will bring you to this page ("Read Me") -- so you can always find your way back if you need a refresher.

In the lower half of the interface is another pair of limbs holding click points for Paths (we're getting to those). As with the Stream controls above, the one on the left (F) takes you backward along whatever Path you're currently assigned, while the righthand option (G) advances through the sequence. Arrow keys may also be used here: UP for forward on a Path, DOWN for reverse. The square below the lower limbs (H) links to a list of all the possible Paths, if you're curious about them. the final element (I) links back to the arrival page on which you started. It's basically a RESTART button.

If you are reading Victory Garden on a device that allows touch input, swipe to the right to advance in a Stream or left to reverse; swipe up to advance on a Path and down to reverse.

Page Header (Path/Stream Indicators)

Once you move into the work you'll notice most pages have a headline resembling this:

garden · read me

There are two elements separated by a dot, indicating your currently assigned Path (here "GARDEN") and the Stream to which the current page belongs ("READ ME"). Most of the time, one of these elements will be in red. It will be the one on the left if you reached this page as part of a Path, the one on the right if you came via a Stream. If you followed a textlink to this page, both indicators will be in the default color.

The Stream name will change as you move through the work. The Path indication can also change, though that is less likely. There will always be an active Path, but not all pages belong to a Stream. If you've reached one of those pages, the Stream name will simply read "VICTORY GARDEN."

Each indicator is clickable. Doing this will take you back to the start of the respective sequence, either Path or Stream.

Paths and Streams

So what exactly are Paths and Streams? In a hypertext fiction there's no single, exclusive storyline. Instead there are vignettes, episodes, and fragments of text that can fit together in many ways. In the original version of Victory Garden there were only Paths (and textlinks of course; we're coming to those). You were intended to find your way to a Path through the Labyrinth, a section of the work in which you find your way to a completed sentence by choosing one of a pair of words. That structure remains in this version as an option. You can enter the Labyrinth from the textlink in the first paragraph of this page, or by choosing the link on the title page. Navigate the Labyrinth however you like -- and by the way, taking any "forward" option without clicking on a word allows the system to choose for you. When you exit the Labyrinth you'll have chosen a Path.


Strictly speaking, you'll have chosen another Path, because this version of Victory Garden assigns a default Path at startup with no need to go through the Labyrinth. This default Path is called "Garden." It offers a general, roughly chronological course through the work, comprising about 850 pages. To proceed along the "Garden" Path, just keep pressing the UP arrow key, or click the Path-advance button in the interface (G).

So is Victory Garden now basically an electronic book? Maybe, but there's a twist. All the Paths in Victory Garden are patient. A Path is a sequence of pages. Victory Garden keeps track of your place in this sequence. There are ways to break from the sequence -- following a textlink, for instance. You can do this at any point, wander off the Path as far as you want (so long as you don't come to an ending), and then return to the next page in your Path by using the UP arrow or Path-advance in the interface.

There are 52 Paths through Victory Garden. Except for the special "Garden" path, they do not constitute linear or coherent readings, but skip around the work in devious ways. They're a bit like opening a book at random -- or in one interesting case, turning the pages backward. If you're looking for something approximating conventional fiction, stick with the "Garden" path. If exploration is your thing, try some of the others. The Pathfinder page has links to all of them.


Streams, introduced in Victory Garden 2022, deliver something more coherent. The comparison to chapters isn't perfect, but it's roughly accurate. Generally, Streams work through identifiable themes or they follow characters in discrete situations. Each Stream starts with an illustration. You'll know you've reached the end of the Stream when you find yourself on a page called Streamlines, which is a bit like an illustrated table of contents.

There are 45 Streams listed on Streamlines (the last of these is actually a pointer to the Labyrinth). If you run through the 44 story Streams in order, you'll follow the same sequence as the "Garden" path. The Streams let you do this in chapter-like units. This ordering is more or less chronological, but time in Victory Garden is tricky. Events can be imaginary or counterfactual. Textlinks may lead to other versions of the story. Certain important aspects of the work are deliberately ambiguous. What happens to Boris Urquhart depends on which links you follow. What has happened to Emily Runbird may be a matter of belief. The Stream set and "Garden" Path are meant to be suggestive but not definitive.


There is another, literal sense in which Paths and Streams do not define the work. Victory Garden has roughly a thousand readable pages. The Streams and "Garden" Path include only about 85% of these. Some readable pages are not on any Stream or Path. Almost all these pages are reachable via textlinks from pages that do lie on Streams and Paths. There are, however, some exceptions.

Generally speaking, textlinks in Victory Garden represent departures. Most jump across the work, often on a principle of resonance or association. You can follow them digressively and return to a patient Path, or dive into a Stream and see where it leads.

Other Possibilities

Are you the kind of reader who likes to open a book to a random page and start there? You can do that here. (There's a link to that random-start script on the title page as well.)

Of course, the ultimate interface for Victory Garden is the World Wide Web with all its standards and practices. You can use the familiar features of your browser to retrace the steps of your reading (return to previous pages) or interrogate your history. Should you be minded to delve into deeper workings, the page markup, associated scripts, and data are all available if you know how to find them. You might even discover those unlinked bits.

Welcome to the Garden. Happy wandering.

As you were...