Twine icon

In 2015, You Will Read Interactive Fiction… and Maybe Write It

This post first appeared as a Chick on the Draw Column at Luna Station Quarterly, January 9, 2015.

You may not know it when it happens, because it will sneak up on you in your browser or Kindle or mobile device. You were reading a thing, and then it gave you some kind of choice, and you clicked a link, and BAM: interactive fiction.

There may have been picture. There may have been sound. But mostly there was story that you, the reader, took a role in telling.

It may have already happened. You may have played some Professor Layton or Phoenix Wright… or both. You may have already read Michael Lutz’s My Father’s Long, Long Legs or Lydia Neon’s Reset. You may have picked up Dragon Age: Inquisition because Solasmance was all over your Tumblr.

You may be way ahead of me. You may be signed up for Ludum Dare 32 and IndieCade East and taking code binge breaks to check for updates from Porpentine and anna anthropy.

Wherever you’re at or want to be, the party is ready for you.

What is interactive fiction? Is it a game? Is it a story? Is it the democratized, digital reincarnation of Edward Packard’s Choose Your Own Adventure novels?

Yes, yes, and yes, and it’s poised to explode this year.

 

The Demand is Massive

Want a main character with the gender, color, or other character traits that interest you? IF lets you choose.

Enjoy cities named Rha’athal? Can’t stand cities named Rha’athal? IF lets you name.

Prefer metric over US customary? Prefer US customary over metric? IF lets you decide.

Want to participate in the characters’ problem-solving? IF lets you solve the mysteries.

Want the The Princess Bride, but with the chance to romance Inigo? IF says “viva España.”

Romance will be a big part of the IF boom, and women will be the driving demographic. According to the International Business Times and The Daily Dot, 22 million women worldwide play otome apps–a dating sim for mobile devices–whose model offers the first chapter for free and the remainder for $5. BioWare’s been incorporating story, game and romance since 1998, with the combined sales of last year’s Dragon Age: Inquisition topping 2 million.
Obscurasoft‘s Kickstarter-funded sexy, funny gay dating sim “Coming Out On Top” raised over seven times its $5000 goal and was released to critical and consumer acclaim. Fiction, games, and dating sims on devices are expanding westward, and anyone can play.

 

The Devices are Ready

If you have a computer or a mobile device, you can read IF. According to the Pew Internet Project, as of this time last year:

  • 58% of American adults have a smartphone, skewing strongly toward young people (83% of those age 18-29 vs. 49% of those age 50-64, moderately toward people of color (61% of Hispanic Americans, 59% African-Americans, 53% white), and slightly toward men (61% of men vs. 57% of women)
  • 32% of American adults own an e-reader
  • 42% of American adults own a tablet computer

Downloading text-based IF takes little bandwidth, and content can easily be stored on the device for offline reading. Fiction can go everywhere the reader does.

 

Creators Wanted

Interactive fiction combines the efficiency of the written word with the showmanship of film. You can make a big impact on a smaller budget.

If you’re a writer, you may not think of yourself as a programmer. You may see a semicolon or curly braces and run for the hills. Fortunately we’re in a golden age of tools to turn writers into programmers. The lists below are by no means comprehensive.

For text-based games:

  • Twine: Flexible and powerful. Anything you can do in a browser, you can do with Twine. Open source, gratis and libre. No central publisher, but a robust community of creators and supporters.
  • ChoiceScript: Simple and streamlined. Central publisher Choice of Games has interesting royalty- or commission-based payment options. Good choice for writing Choose Your Own Adventure-type stories for pay.
  • Inform 7: Builds story environments via human-readable descriptions. I haven’t tangled with it too much, but Rock, Paper, Shotgun has.
  • Failbetter Games is a studio that occasionally seeks contributors

For picture-based games (e.g. visual novels, the Professor Layton series), there’s Ren’Py.

If you’re feeling energized, you may even enjoy PuzzleScript for making Sokoban-type transportation games–you know, stuff like Rodent’s Revenge (90s PC game alongside Ski Free.) I mention PuzzleScript only because scripting with it is very, very fun.

 

Find Out More

If you’d like to talk more about the future of IF, reach out on Twitter @toryhoke or through my blog. If you want to see what I’m doing, visit my games on itch.io.

Goldfish Grimm’s Issue 20 is out! Includes “The Call of Gold Cat”

Issue 20 of Goldfish Grimm’s Spicy Fiction Sushi is out! Includes my weird short story “The Call of Gold Cat”, plus an interview. This short story was heavily workshopped at Scribophile. Thank you to all the readers who provided guidance.

Issue also includes new flash fiction from Mari Ness, “Survival.”

Holy Table-of-Contents mates!

I hope you enjoy this raw fresh fiction. It’s good for you!

John W Campbell

3 Reasons to Nominate Me for the 2014 John W. Campbell Award

John W Campbell

If you are a member of Worldcon and all dressed up for the 2014 John W. Campbell Award with no one to nominate, I submit for your consideration… me. Tory Hoke. I got three rad reasons.

1) I have no chance of winning the thing.

I mean, Hugh Howey is eligible this year. You know Wool? The runaway NYT Bestseller? The spec-fic answer to Gone Girl? He wrote that. Eligible.

Plus there’s a slew of new writers in the field with all kinds of stirring, sweeping, harrowing and upsetting-but-satisfying stories. It’s a good, dense field for a good, dense year.

Let’s just say I pose no threat to whatever candidate you are personally rooting for.

2) My Campbell-qualifying publication was edited by the best.

Baden Chant and Ethan Fode of Crowded Magazine edited “The Baby Mimic” (Issue #2, August 2013), and working with them was a treat and an education. Crowded is an Australian speculative fiction magazine that lets authors and subscribers select the content. Lucky for me they do, because an ooky contemporary sci-fi family drama like “The Baby Mimic” doesn’t fit many markets.

They also feature the highest production standards and finest art I’ve seen in a semipro ‘zine, so there’s that.

3) My work this year has something for everyone.

What the hey is a Campbell Award?

You may have some questions. This is normal and healthy.

Sponsored by Dell Magazines, the John W. Campbell Award is given to the best writer whose first work of science fiction or fantasy was published for a greater-than-nominal rate in the previous two years.

In other words, anyone who has had made their first spec-fic pro sale in the last two years is eligible for the Campbell. Writertopia is compiling the list of candidates. If you qualify, please contact them ASAP to be added to the list.

Nominations remain open until March 31, 2014.

While I don’t dream of winning, I’m enjoying being part of the process.

Put me in, coach.

fabulist

fabulist

No Comments on fabulist

n. recounter of fables; liar

He’s an infamous fabulist. Take what you hear with a grain of salt.

“Demeter Gyro Disaster” is out in Isotropic Fiction 10

Isotropic Fiction 10 Michael Ellis Tory Hoke

Isotropic Fiction 10 is out, featuring my sci-fi short story “The Demeter Gyro Disaster”:

The gyro caught fire. Not the whole station, strictly speaking, but the compartments with air and climate control and other things Dennis was partial to. At the kitchenette’s canopy window, he watched it burn. Smoke puffed out of the opposite inner rim as if a passing giant had stumbled onto their big spinning wheel and stuck a cosmic cigar butt in it.

Cover art by Michael Ellis of New Mexico’s 7000 BC art collective.

Available for Kindle.

A thousand thanks to Managing Editor Lucas Ahlsen and to Joseph Thompson for inviting me to onto their spinning life raft. It’s a treat to be aboard.

“Lysistrata of Mars” accepted by Strange Horizons

JPL Mars Rover Twin Peaks

“Lysistrata of Mars” will appear in a winter issue of Strange Horizons.

I am pretty freaked out by this.

This story would not have gone anywhere without the guidance of an Extremely Handsome Man and critiques from the Scribophile community, which continues to help me overcome bad habits and excessive word counts. If you are there, come by and say ‘hey.’

Duotrope has been invaluable for tracking submissions, for there have been a lot of submissions. A lot.

If you have an idea and are thinking about writing… if you have a story and are thinking about showing it to someone… if you have shown it to someone and are thinking about submitting it… DO IT.

DO IT TODAY.

Shaka Bars in Luna Station Quarterly #14

Jennifer Parson’s Luna Station Quarterly features speculative fiction from female writers.

In Issue 14, my sci-fi short “Shaka Bars” joins LSQ: a shy fat woman discovers the food bar that can solve all her problems for a price.

Read Shaka Bars.

I hope that you will dig it.

The Baby Mimic in Crowded Magazine #2

Australia-based, crowd-sourced digital and print-on-demand Crowded Magazine released its second issue of speculative fiction on Saturday.

The issue includes my contemporary sci-fi story “The Baby Mimic”: a couple struggling to adopt are approached for a high-tech experiment.

Be advised reading Crowded Magazine may cause feelings of euphoria, inspiration and desire to participate.

I hope that you will dig it.