Good afternoon! We’ve wrapped up what has proven to be an unusually historical month for IF:
- The XYZZY Awards, for the first time ever, were dominated by commercial IF, notably Meg Jayanth and Inkle’s excellent steampunk piece and Best Game winner 80 Days. Ever since the beginnings of the hobbyist IF boom, authors, readers and observers alike have speculated about whether commercial interactive fiction would ever resurface, let alone become as half ubiquitous — and financially viable — as it was during the ’80s. For years, people have argued that this day was approaching, slowly; several commercial publishers have come and gone, and increasingly come and stayed. And while commercial IF might not yet be a financial heavyweight (though it must be said that the creative economy is an entirely different thing in the 2010s than the 1980s), the past year has proven that for the first time in decades, it’s competing at the highest levels of acclaim.
- Going back in time a bit: what’s the first IF game ever written? Many of you likely answered Adventure — not so! Wander (1974), one of many mainframe games previously thought lost, was recently unearthed from the crumbling world of digital history, and soon after added to Github and compiled for Windows and Linux by the French IF community. Tantalizingly, it’s not merely a simple dungeon crawl like Colossal Cave, Zork or even Hunt the Wumpus, but includes a tool for prospective writers to create “non-deterministic fantasy stories” of their own. The spirit of collaboration is not a new thing; it’s baked in from the beginning.
- While we at SPAG are loath to call ourselves as historic as either of the previous, we are publishing our first issue in some time! And though I’m biased, I think it’s a great one. We’ve got a new online presence. We’ve got not one but two covers, both by J. Robinson Wheeler, and they deserve to be seen in high-res; check them out here and here. We’ve got plans to roll out SPAG in several new forms, from plaintext to a printable magazine, over the new few weeks and months. (Want to help? Get in touch!)
And last, but not least, we have pieces on each of the issue’s themes:
- Hugo Labrande, “>JUSTIFY, HEIGHTEN, SAY YES: Interactive Fiction as Improv“
IF is often described in theatrical metaphors — scenes, stages, props. Labrande makes a case for IF to be considered specifically as improvisational theater: a collaboration between performers and audience, working in tandem rather than at odds, to produce the idea that anything can happen.
- Marius Müller, “Poetry Is What Gets Lost in Translation: notes on translating PataNoir and Sunday Morning“
As prizes for several successive IFcomps, Müller offered translations of winners’ work from English into German, and the authors that chose the prize presented interesting challenges: a wordplay-based detective story, a historical Victorian epic. The process, and the resulting product, falls somewhere between preserving the original meaning and collaborating on an entirely new work.
- Rowan Lipkovits, “Choose Your Own Path: Taking CYOA IRL with the Active Fiction Project“
We travel to Vancouver, home of both a thriving indie development scene and many art devotees, to explore the intersection of IF and public art — namely, the Active Fiction Project, which turns public parks into explorable stories.
The cornerstone of each issue of SPAG, we have capsule blurbs as well as long-form reviews of the spring’s major releases, including:
- Capsule reviews of the games in ParserComp and Spring Thing’s main garden!
- “Macdougal and Me at the Spring Thing Fair”: a longer-form, fictionalized overview of Spring Thing, by longtime reviewer Christopher Huang!
- SPAG Specifics by Katherine Morayati: The Writer Will Do Something, by Matthew Burns!
And last, but not least, we have our…
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: ISSUE #63
ShuffleComp is nearly upon us, and we are looking for reviewers! Same idea as always: capsule reviews, quick and snappy, like a three-minute pop song. (Musical accompaniment optional.) We are also particularly interested in SPAG Specifics on the spring’s offerings, and especially the Spring Thing Back Garden — though, as always, we’re open to whatever you have something to say about!
As for longer-form pieces: befitting the news, the theme for issue #63 is WANDERING! As always this is semi-optional; interpret this as strictly or as loosely as you’d like — let your mind wander, if you will. If you need inspiration, some ideas might include: exploring story worlds, delving into IF developments around the world, in real life and on the ‘Net; wandering through the far reaches of what IF can do, or the history of what it’s done in the past; and hey, of course, there’s always the game itself.
As always, send all pitches to firstname.lastname@example.org, along with a brief bio of yourself, and writing samples if you prefer. Also appreciated: a rough sense of word count (see the pieces in this issue for a guideline) and an estimated time of completion (aim for June or July).
We highly encourage submissions from experienced IF critics as well as newcomers, and we are particularly interested in pitches by women, people of color and others who are under-represented in IF writing. However, all are welcome, including those who have previously expressed interest in writing for the website.
Thank you for reading and keeping us alive all these years! Let’s make #63, and the issues to come, just as strong.