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Soap Operas With a Mouse

For years, Hollywood created characters you loved to hate. Now the entertainment capital lets you delete them.

In the still-young world of on-line soap operas, "The Spot" is the grizzled veteran - the first Web site where computer users could read, and offer input on, the exploits of seven fictional southern California 20-somethings. Launched here last June by local multimedia firm American Cybercast, the cybersoap became an instant hit, allowing viewers to e-mail the onscreen stars, suggest plot lines, and have unlimited access to prior episodes.

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"The Spot" spawned dozens of imitators, such as the detective series "Kapow" and "The East Village," a clone of the TV series "Friends." Now comes "EON-4," the Web's first science-fiction series, which was created by Rockne S. O'Bannon, whose credits include the film, "Alien Nation" and the TV series "seaQuest."

The "EON-4" plotline: Four years ago, radio telescopes at Harvard University made contact with aliens; communications and probes were exchanged, then rats, now humans.

Down the road, "EON-4" developers will introduce "streaming" audio and video (sound and pictures in "real time," no waiting for computers to download information); "shock waves" - animated movies in which viewer can move objects around or observe them in 3-D; "Java Scripts" (applications from scrolling words to games); and "quick-time virtual reality" (detailed areas that simulate spaces for viewers to move in).