January’s Update: A Fragmentary Catalog

January was–and I wince at the past tense, as I barely noticed the last two days of the month passing–a rather fractured month. I spent it caught between a handful of larger obligations and projects, and thus didn’t have as much time to work on one overarching interactive narrative exploration as I’d wished. Instead, I bring a handful of updates and pieces of interest.

As a bit of a joke that suddenly became a fun project, I published the Void Catalog. (Currently, the only working password is “Boethius”; it’s deliberately meant to be difficult to access outside of word-of-mouth and arcane documentation on twitter, blogs, etc., as I wanted to convey the sense of having to do some digging to get at what one wants.) It only exists as an experimental fragment right now, but I’ve long conceived of an interactive fiction piece that was a living library, unfolding slowly over a period of time. I’ve never wanted to commit to monthly short projects on Patreon, because that doesn’t work with my creative model, but in this specific case, the idea sunk its teeth into me and wouldn’t let go. (The Catalog itself is called a variety of different things, depending on the position of the moon and the state of your heart when you access it.) It’s the sort of project I see adding to occasionally, when the inclination strikes and I have the free time to do it.

A lot of intriguing work was released this month that I haven’t yet had the time to dig into. In particular, “if not us” appears to be a fascinating experiment with perspective, and Narthex is a Global Game Jam 2018 project by storytellers whose work I have enjoyed in the past. (Some of the Narthex team also worked on Where the Water Tastes Like Wine.) And GENDERWRECKED, a visual novel about romance, gender, and feelings, is out! All three of these are sitting on my desktop, unopened, while I scowl at my to-do list.

Finally, I’ve been catching up on some of sub-Q’s most recently published stories, and wanted to write a short synopsis of one I found particularly compelling:

Natalia Theodoridou’s All Those Parties We Didn’t Cry At, published at sub-Q, is a speculative fiction story about a universe in which crying suddenly becomes impossible. The narrative flow is broken by interludes where the story asks readers to perform an action of stymied intimacy, weaving the fiction and the reader’s experience together by drawing on physicalized sensations brought on by the text’s prompts but not necessarily connected to the narrative thread of the story. In particular, what Theodoridou does with sound and place and visualization–asking players to listen, to go to a public place, and to visualize–draws on eroding the boundary between digital and physical, player and player character. All Those Parties We Didn’t Cry At plays at what it means to ‘interact’ in an interactive narrative, and seeks to evoke a heightened awareness of space and place while engaging with a relatively linear story and a player’s own memories, the very nature of which are nonlinear.