Author Archives: Katherine Morayati

And Your 2014 XYZZY Awards Go To…

Another year has come and gone, and with it have come a year’s worth of interactive fiction works, across more mediums and formats than ever. But only a few can become XYZZY nominees, and of those, only a few of those can take home the GRAND PRIZE.

SPAG will have further details, quotes and statistics on the XYZZYs in Issue 62 — look for it out next week! — but for now, here’s what you’re really here for: the list of winners, after the cut. Congratulations again to all who were awarded and nominated, as well as all this year’s voters! Continue reading

SPAGreads: April 2015

Hi folks! Spring is always a busy time in IF, and this year is no exception:

  • Spring Thing 2015 has sprung, with a bounty of works from IF authors new and veteran.
  • The 2014 XYZZY Award finalists have been announced; you can vote until April 25, the awards ceremony is on the 26th, and we encourage you to get involved with both!
  • Speaking of late April: issue 62 of SPAG will come out the week of April 26th. Expect coverage of the XYZZYs, reviews of ParserComp and Spring Thing, features on translation, IF and music videos, and more! We’re very proud of all our contributors and their work. (Want to join them? Email us! Full submission guidelines will run next issue, but if you have an idea you want to happen, let’s talk and make it happen.)

In the meantime, please check out some of the IF-related reads I’ve enjoyed most over the past month.


Continue reading

SPAGreads: March 2015

Hello everyone! April’s issue is coming along nicely, and while we’ve got a lot of great content in the works, there is still room for you! We are especially seeking out reviewers for ParserComp, and artists. If this is you, please get in touch. If this isn’t you, get in touch anyway! Submission guidelines are here.

In the meantime, I’d like to kick off a new feature I’m tentatively calling SPAGreads! This will be a monthly feature, between issues, highlighting the best IF-related writing I’ve come across in the interim. Part of SPAG’S mission — the P for Preservation, if you will — is to perpetuate the tradition of IF criticism. It’s particularly important nowadays, as IF is receiving more attention than it has in years, yet attention so diffuse it’s easy to encounter only slivers of it. The bulk of these links will be new, but I’ll also include a section for older pieces worth your time, as part of “preservation” is keeping alive work from the past. Each piece will come with some commentary, as not to be a straight-up linkdump.

If you have a suggestion for a piece you think we should feature, email us! As always, we particularly welcome pieces from outside the mainstream IF press, on undercovered topics or by underrepresented authors. We accept everything from a Serious Longform Piece in the New York Times to a blurt on your blog written mostly in emoji, from the beginnings of IF to a piece so cutting-edge IT HASN’T EVEN BEEN RELEASED YET (good luck pulling that one off). Format is irrelevant, venue is irrelevant; all we care about is that it is worth our readers time.

Katherine Continue reading

My SPAG Valentines!

Yes, that’s right — your Valentines are finally* in! (Love has no season, why’s there gotta be a separate day for it, grumblegrumpexcuse.) Thanks for the response! We have three entries, and befitting the broad nature of modern-day IF, they are all in different forms: one in Twine, one in Inform, and one in text. They are below:

Valentines are hosted via Dropbox, except which is in sonnet form, and below:

Bravo to the scribes of Inform 7:
like Prometheus’ theft of fire,
such a gift could be sent down from heaven —
advent crowed by troubadour and crier.

Thinking thoughts out loud is all one’s needing
to create a universe uniquely
yours — and all your furtive fruitful seeding
blooms in others’ gamboling obliquely.

Now must I kowtow upon the floor.  You
gave us all the tools for work and playing
freely and without a catch, therefore: to
Mister Nelson’s crew, here’s much hooraying!

For a gift, you see, that keeps on giving;
text adventures’ triage back to living.

Thanks everyone! We hope to see you again next Valentine’s Day, with even more author and developer love.

* Your editor is clearly the Gretchen Weiners in this scenario.

My Compy Valentine: A Valentine’s Mini-Festival, Sponsored by SPAG!

Valentine’s Day is a time for giving thanks! Kind of like Thanksgiving, but with more baby animals, puns, and painful rhyming verse.

That’s why we’re seeking “SPAG Valentines”: very short IF works in which IF WRITERS show their appreciation to the DEVELOPERS who make their creative works possible. Think of it like a cross between a mini-comp and a speed-IF.

Here are your instructions:

Choose your Valentine: anyone in the community who helped create your favorite IF language, interpreter, development interface, extension, script, macro, CSS theme or any other component you’ve used in your IF work (including works in progress)
Use IF tools to create a Valentine’s Day greeting for your Valentine
Use your development system / language of choice
Use your dubious poetic skills to praise the fruits of your Valentine’s programming labor
Somehow incorporate your Valentine’s work into the greeting itself, if possible
Send your completed Valentine’s Day greeting or a link to by February 15 (as we know, the big day itself is not one for scrambling for deadlines)

Objectify your Valentine
Reveal long-hidden romantic passion for your Valentine
Miss the Feb. 15 deadline to submit your Valentine’s Day greeting!

Issue 61.5: Letter from the Editor, Masthead, and Call for Submissions!

Today is Groundhog Day. I’ve been holed up in a coffee shop in New York all day, and for the past several hours all that’s been visible out the window is static-thick snow; I can’t imagine what a groundhog, with its slush-eye view, would see. Now Groundhog Day, the movie, is a rather IF-like conceit: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try forever until you win the story; perhaps no movie except Run Lola Run has been the source of more IF comparisons. So really there was no better day to officially relaunch SPAG!

We’re biased at SPAG, in that we’ve worked for several decades(!) now toward the preservation of IF; but we believe that interactive fiction is one of the most dynamic artforms out there now. Never before have there been so many authors working in so many different forms, pushing the limits of what IF can be and how it can reach people. The medium truly is, in the perhaps regrettable words of the New York Times, “having a moment”; and we want to be there to help shape and document it.

For our relaunch, we’re bringing you a mini-issue, containing:

a SPAG Specifics entry by the ever-thoughtful Victor Gijsbers!

a brief review of the Year that Was by your editor-in-chief!

– The letter from the editor you’re currently reading. Mathematically speaking, that means my verbiage takes up a whopping two-thirds of this issue, so without further editorial ado I’ll turn it over to the part you’re really here for.


SPAG has been a one-man show for most of its existence, an era that ends today. If you’d like to get involved in SPAG on the editorial level, please get in touch! Here’s who you’ll be working with, either way:

Editor-in-Chief: Katherine Morayati

Katherine Morayati is an IF author and critic; her credits include Broken Legs (second place, 2009 IF Competition) and a swath of other, smaller works and reviews. In her other life, she’s a music critic who writes as Katherine St. Asaph and helps run a mini-constellation of blogs.

Managing Editor: Matt Carey

Matt Carey is a longtime IF follower and the author of a number of acclaimed (pseudonymous) works, both parser and Twine; he’s also the former editor of the science-fiction zine Labyrinth Inhabitant.

Senior Editor/Webmaster: Dannii Willis

Dannii Willis is the previous editor of SPAG, the maintainer of Parchment and the developer of Kerkerkruip. He hopes to one day produce a work of IF himself, but for now his creativity is directed toward the ones and zeros of technology.


The next full issue of SPAG will come out in April! and its theme will be: Society/Preservation/Text/Adventure. Interpret this theme as strictly or as loosely as you’d like, and feel free to deviate, or not, as you will. Some ideas, to guide you — perhaps you’ll think of more:

SOCIETY: Interviews with IF figures, prominent, niche or otherwise interesting; guides to setting up IF-related events in your city; outreach; coverage of local events; parts or whole of the IF community, whether writing or dev communities; compelling personal essays if you’ve got those sort of chops.

PRESERVATION: The storage and rediscovery of older IF works, either within the IF community or Internet archival efforts; the canon, and everything surrounding; efforts to re-release adventure and/or IF works; replayability/rereadability.

TEXT: IF’s crossover into other literary forms, such as poetry, flash fiction, scriptwriting or traditional hypertext; the art and science of writing IF prose; IF in translation; books and IF; static fiction authors’ involvement, hypothetical or not, in IF.

ADVENTURE: Puzzle design; design tutorials; IF and the graphic adventure community; experimental IF; adventures in the still-largely-uncharted land that is commercial IF; generally, a catch-all for whatever weird, niche or enthusiast ideas you may have.

OTHER, NON-THEME STUFF: Did I mention “design tutorials”? We want those. Another thing we want: traditionally, since its inception in 1996, SPAG has run reviews of interactive fiction, particularly the entrants in the annual IF Competition. It’s never been the only contender in this arena; Usenet gave way to IFDB gave way to forums and blogs. So to avoid spewing into a flood of spew, we are going to look for two specific kinds of reviews:

  • SPAG Specifics. In-depth reviews of a piece, preferably about one salient aspect. Why is this good? How does it work? Victor’s piece, in this mini-issue, is a nice guide.
  • Super-brief capsule reviews of the comp field. Fun is good, irreverent is good, supportive is good. Christopher Huang’s Breakfast Review is the crème de la crème (in coffee, with a pastry) of this sort of thing; while I don’t advise you rip off his gimmick, that’s what we’re looking for here.

Send all pitches to, along with a brief bio of yourself, and writing samples if you prefer. Also appreciated: a rough sense of word count (we’re an online publication and flexible, but we’re probably not gonna run 50,000-word novellas, nor 140-character tweets, unless stated above) and an estimated time of completion (aim for February or March, leave time for line edits, follow your gut.)

We highly encourage submissions from experienced IF critics as well as newcomers, and we are particularly interested in applicants who are under-represented in IF writing. However, all are welcome, including those who have previously expressed interest in writing for the website. To paraphrase a call for submissions from one of my old haunts: We are not so interested in anything you have ever written anywhere ever. All we care about is how well you can play our game.


There’s really no place to plug social media links while maintaining the flow of an article, so I’ll put it here: we are on Twitter, at @spagazine! Follow us, retweet us, swell our numbers to the trending heavens.

The Year that Was

Sentiment on the Internet seems to be that 2014 was a bad year. Perhaps so. In IF-land, however, 2014 was one of the most exciting years in a decade that’s been full of them. Simply put, IF’s hasn’t had this large an audience and this vibrant a field of creators since the 1980s. A brief rundown of The Year that Was:

February 14: IndieCade East enters its second year at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. (The author, who lived in Astoria for years, takes a perverse sort of pride in the fact that New York’s IF events these days, largely take place in Manhattan and Queens, and not in Brooklyn.) While not an IF-only event, interactive fiction or IF-adjacent works showcased included Elegy for a Dead World, Ice-Bound and the excellently titled Sext Adventure.

April 6: The 18th annual XYZZY Awards ceremony was held, as always, on ifMUD! Some facts about the 2013 XYZZYs:

2013 is the second year in a row, after 2012, in which the majority of XYZZY Award winners were women. Part of this can be attributed to the rise of Twine – but not all; Coloratura and Olly Olly Oxen Free are both traditional parser works.

2013 is the year of the coolest thing ever: the acceptance speech for Trapped in Time, a PDF CYOA, was also a PDF CYOA. This is a fact. It is in no way opinion.

2013 has the best out-of-context Best Individual Puzzle, dethroning Violet’s  “disconnecting the Internet” (oh, how puzzling):  “creating the meat monster,” from Coloratura. This also is a fact. Indisputable, cold fact. Nothing about it is opinion.

May 11: Results came in for Spring Thing, an annual competition traditionally intended for longer, more experimental, critically meaty works – a preview of Aaron Reed’s epic Blue Lacuna lived there, as did Victor Gijsbers’ The Baron. 2014 was no exception: winner The Price of Freedom was polished, expansive in story, and part one of an ambitious trilogy — something surprisingly rare in the IF world. Spring Thing’s returning next year as a festival and showcase; and if you are reading this, there’s still time for you to concoct an idea!

July 6: Interactive fiction, according to The New York Times, has a moment. As we all know, interactive fiction has had a lot of moments! You’ve read about several here. But this year, IF was so presumably momentous to merit a mention in the Grey Lady; despite a baffling swipe at one author’s prose from a writer who thunk the clunker “Interactive fiction, which once went by the name ‘text adventure’,” it was a hard-won piece of visibility for IF in one of the most prestigious outlets in the world. And it wasn’t the NYT’s only time this year covering IF; the New York Times Magazine ran a full-length piece on Twine in November.

July 31: 80 Days, a piece by Inkle, is released for iOS (its Android counterpart arrived in December); it’s one of the rare IF works to receive widespread critical acclaim, even being praised by The Telegraph as one of the best novels of the year. (That’s novels. As in, DeFoe, James, Austen stuff.)

September 13: Boston’s Festival of Independent Games has traditionally been a haven for IF enthusiasts (who tend to be independent and into games); this year featured a live playthrough of IFcomp winner Coloratura and tutorials in Inform and Twine.

October 30: Hadean Lands, Andrew Plotkin’s five-years-in-the-making magnum opus, is finally released. It’s by far the most expansive piece of interactive fiction the scene’s seen in years, and the sort of alchemy of worldbuilding and puzzlecrafting that’s not just difficult, but Zarfian-difficult, to get this right.

November 8: WordPlay, run by the Hand Eye Society, enters its second year in Toronto. Every year the IF community has something like a summit, and this year Canada was it; the event featured a live reading of Aisle, premieres of works by Deirdra “Squinky” Kiai and Porpentine, a talk by Plotkin on the aforementioned Hadean Lands and an entire, usually-packed room showcasing IF and IF-adjacent works, of all kinds.

November 16: The Interactive Fiction Competition announces its winners. 42 authors entered – historically, a high-water mark – and the top five was remarkably diverse: Hunger Daemon, a traditional Lovecraftian-lampoon parser work; Creatures Such as We, a space dating sim using ChoiceScript; Jacqueline, Jungle Queen!, a parser romp made in Quest; AlethiCorp, a surveillance satire with an entire Web interface; and With Those We Love Alive, a multimedia-enhanced Twine piece. They’re all beyond worth your time.

December 22: Twine 2.0, the long-awaited second release of the hypertext tool, is released. Long in the works – it was previewed at No Show Conference in 2013 – the new system notably adds browser-based support for creating Twine pieces.


Hello, SPAG readers! No doubt you have been curious as to the future of this magazine and this space. Consider your curiosity sated! Not only will SPAG continue to publish, we’re very excited about what’s coming down the pipeline. Coming soon:

  • New editors!
  • New Content(tm)!
  • A way for you, the reader and potential writer/artist/person with skills not mentioned here, to get involved!

We’ll have more details on Feb. 1; for now, watch this space, and know that exciting things are to come.