As some of you may know, I write interactive fiction. (Lately it’s a very loose definition of “write,” but news on this front will be forthcoming soon. As in, it really will this time.) The New York Times just published a front-page piece on IF. I like this and I don’t.
- When people ask what the fuck I do for a hobby, I can avoid being mired in impenetrable shop talk and/or ’80s nostalgia not everyone shares and just tell them “You know, that thing the New York Times put on C1.” (Well, maybe without mentioning C1.)
- All the IF writers mentioned are women. 15 years ago, this would be unthinkable. It’s not that there weren’t female IF authors 15 years ago, but they probably would not be the go-to names a NYT article mentioned, let alone all the go-to names. The piece doesn’t make a big deal of it, either; all the writers are women, because they just are. When was the last time you read a survey of a genre, that wasn’t specifically about women, where this was the case?
- Cara Ellison’s “Sacrilege" is mentioned. This cheers me, because it is fantastic. It reminds me of "Off" by Aimee Bender, which is one of my favorite stories ever (seriously, I kept waiting for her to write “I am a column of metal”). It feels true to life in many important ways, both in the “interpersonal relations, as a euphemism” sense and the “it is vaguely stupid that I’m here on this sticky party floor with these interchangeable dudes and anonymous dancing and overly loud music that by the way is fucking ‘Electric Feel’” sense. It’s also written around two separate Yeah Yeah Yeahs songs.
- If you subscribe to “no publicity is bad publicity,” it might seem like a good thing — it’s gotten people to the respective App Stores, certainly. THAT SAID:
- The sentence “Ms. Short is not a particularly fine writer of sentences,” which is bullshit. I’m not really unbiased here, but this is simply not true. I think there are two things going on, and if you want to be snotty three. Because I can be a snotty person I’ll be snotty first: this isn’t the first time, or even in the first hundred times, that male critics have rendered stony judgment down from on high onto women’s prose. (I mean, shit, if you want to judge being a “fine writer of sentences,” the screenshot of Device 6 has a glaring misplaced modifier right there, and yet the author is curiously silent about its its prose.)
Less snotty: Blood & Laurels' design uses a lot of generated text (one of the Sims 3 guys worked on the AI), which some reviewers have noted. I hate to use the “don’t criticize it if you can’t make it” canard, but if you’ve never tried to program random/semi-random text that also works as decent writing… good luck. Moderately more snotty: I’d bet a month’s rent on the author not being familiar with Short’s other work, because someone who’s played Galatea would not write that sentence.
- There’s a distinct whiff of the trendpiece: “The New Yorker just did a thing on A Dark Room, which is kinda like interactive fiction I guess? And there’s that Twitter bot that does hilarious inventory stuff? I dunno, there’s that Twine shit….” The template is almost laid bare: semi-compelling lead, three recent examples, vague contextualization about how this is a new thing, critickystuffs.
- There’s kind of a competition gearing up right now that might have merited a mention, maybe at the end. So I’ll make up for it by mentioning it here. There is a competition! Open for entries right now! With prizes that are attainable! You can enter! And if you’re reading this far, you might be the sort of person who might like to.