Fiction is a Three-Edged Sword

Fiction, interactive fiction and narrative


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Cracks @ Black Static #28

I seem to have accidentally written a horror story, or close enough to one that it’s coming out in Black Static‘s latest issue, in a week or so. Here’s the cover splash, courtesy of TTA.

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For fans of the genre, Black Static gets consistently great reviews from around the horror zine scene, so it’s an honour to appear there. The big question will be, will I have the nerve to read the rest of the issue?

In other fiction-writing news, my story from last year Sleepers has been picked up to appear… elsewhere. Details on that when it comes out.


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An exposition about exposition

Starting on a new project has got me thinking about how games handle the business of exposition.

All stories need some exposition, and generally is serves to enrich the world and setting and save your from reader from the curse of generica. In a game, your exposition has also got to tell the player what to do next – usually in no uncertain terms – and how to set about it.

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Set-pieces, pacing, flow, and finally, Vorple

Recently, I’ve been writing a lot of selection-based hyperfiction. There are two reasons: firstly, it’s a lot faster to go from idea to playable game, and secondly, I can show it to people who “can’t” play text games and they get it.

The first of these isn’t really a problem, if your idea is good enough. The second is something we’re working on, with extensions for making IF easier to get into, and good general design.

Then there’s the third problem: pacing. And that one’s hard.

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Planning to programming

For a new hypertext story I decided to try and actually plan the whole thing before starting out on writing. Partly because the story is going to be complex, with multiple protagonists and plots with twists, turns and reveals, and partly to try and ensure a solid level of interactivity throughout.

This is a big deal for me. I rarely plan stories. I let them grow and then pummel them into shape. But when you’re coding something as well as writing, that takes a lot more time and you throw a lot away. (And you father many, many bugs.)

That iteration is healthy if you’re finding your feet; with a new interface, say, or a narrative gimmick. But in this case, I know what I’m writing – an Undum-based hypertext along the lines of the (as yet unreleased) No Space to Breathe. So instead the experiment is in taking a more organised approach to story development.

Here’s how it went.

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“Flaws”: an interactive story for Kindle

Flaws

Flaws, for Kindle

In the last few weeks I’ve been reading up on what kind of IF possibilities the Kindle opens up. The short answer is, “anything” – well, anything without too much animation. The Kindle is a computer like any other. But the more app your thing becomes, the less e-booky it feels. So what can the lowest-tech approach achieve?

The short answer is: here’s my attempt. (US link here). It’s a rework of my science-fiction short-Undum-story Flaws as a Kindle ebook. A longer discussion follows after the cut.

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A quick look at strange sci-fi

Short Fiction in Theory and Practice coverIssue 1 of a new journal, Short Fiction in Theory and Practice, has been published and includes an interesting article by the co-editor of Interzone, Andy Hedgecock, on a perceived new wave of SF called “Sci-fi Strange“.

While I’m not sure about the movement – and I’m really not sure about the name, because there’s not necessarily anything strange about it – I certainly think the stated features of Strange stories sound like good things to be aiming for.

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The long way round

Sometimes, I think I start too many projects and leave them unfinished – or more often, leave them barely begun. I have on various computers about six text-games, three hypertext stories, two half-written novels and a pile of semi-decent short stories.

Other times – when I dig something up from the pile and realise that, with just a little more work, it could be really good, I wish I’d spent more time when I had more time knocking out bad stories, ready for a future version of myself to pummel remorselessly into shape.

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IF Reader Published!

I’ve been looking for a worthy enough occasion to start a blog for a while, and now here oneIF Theory Reader is: the IF Theory Reader has been published and can be ordered from today. It’s free to download as a PDF, and costs around $12 or £10 from the US or UK to have printed and delivered as a paperback.

My own article, Thinking Into the Box: On the Use and Deployment of Puzzles, was quite a late addition, despite being written nearly 10 years ago when the idea of the book was first put forward. Kevin Jackson-Mead revived the project last autumn and emailed all the original authors, but real life got in the way and by the time I finally replied in January, it was to apologise, as I assumed I was too late.

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