There is much to discuss and celebrate, such as the conclusion of the IF Comp – congrats to Sean M. Shore for his 1st place game Hunger Daemon, and to all the other winners. Besides that there’s the recent release of Hadean Lands by PR-IF stalwart Andew Plotkin. And, today there’s a front-page New York Times article about IF, and Twine games specifically. I’m sure I forgot some things we have to celebrate, so come by to see what those things are.
Here’s a conference coming up in April, with a January 1 deadline:
April 18, 2015
The University of Georgia
Janet MURRAY, Professor at the School of Literature, Media and Communication at the Georgia Institute of Technology and interaction designer.
Serge BOUCHARDON, Professor at the University of Technology of Compiegne and author of interactive fictions.
Themes and topics
“Textual Machines” is an international symposium exploring literary objects that produce texts through the material interaction with mechanical devices or procedures. We define “textual machines” as a perspective on literature and book objects where text is “a mechanical device for the production and consumption of verbal signs” (Espen J. Aarseth). From the symposium’s perspective, textual machines are not limited to a specific media or epoch, and include literary objects ranging from early modern movable books, to modern pop-up books, artist’s books, game books, concrete poetry, combinatory literature, electronic literature and interactive fictions. A distinctive feature of textual machines is that they invite readers to traverse text through the non-trivial manipulation of mechanistic devices or procedures: by navigating through hyperlinks, footnotes, marginalia or other semiotic cues, or by answering to configurational, exploratory or writing prompts.
Possible areas of inquiry include, but are not limited to:
Reading textual machines. What common reading functions are shared by textual machines? How do readers navigate, maneuver, explore, configure, probe, play or collate textual machines and their outcomes? What theoretical concepts and analytical tools are best suited to describe the textuality of such objects? How can readings of such objects be recorded, shared, visualized and taught?
Situating textual machines. Beyond the cultural split between analog and digital media, how do the mechanics and affordances of textual machines relate to one another? What communities of readers and authors produce and perform textual machines?
Preserving textual machines. What can media archaeology labs, museums and rare book collections learn from one another in the process of preserving, curating and making textual machines accessible?
The Symposium “Textual Machines” will take place on April 18, 2015 at the Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Georgia, Athens, Ga. In parallel to the symposium, the Main Library of the University of Georgia will be hosting the “Textual Machines” exhibit, featuring works of electronic literature from the Digital Arts Library and rare books from the Hargrett Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
Proposals are expected by January 1, 2015. They must be sent as an abstract of 800 – 1,000 words (excluding bibliography). Each proposal must indicate the author’s full name, status and institutional affiliation. Proposals should be sent to email@example.com.
A correspondent in Brazil sends news of a new call for papers in the journal Texto Digital. The recent issues have been almost entirely in Portuguese, but the journal is reaching out and seeking submissions in several languages. I think you can tell from the title (even if your Portuguese is a bit rusty) that this publication focuses on some very Post Position (and Grand Texto Auto) sorts of topics. Here’s the call:
Texto Digital is a peer-reviewed electronic academic journal, published twice annually in June and December by the Center for Research in Informatics, Literature and Linguistics – NuPILL (http://www.nupill.org/), linked to the Postgraduate Program in Literature, the Department of Vernacular Language and Literatures and the Center of Communication and Expression at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), Brazil.
Texto Digital publishes original articles in Portuguese, English, Spanish, French, Italian and Catalan which discuss several theoretical implications related to the texts created/inserted in electronic and digital media.
Interdisciplinary by nature and range, as implied in its title with the words “text” and “digital”, the journal embraces the fields of Literature, Linguistics, Education, Arts, Computing and others, in their relation to the digital medium, yet without privileging any specific critical approach or methodology.
In addition to the Articles Section, Texto Digital presents specific sections destined on publishing digital works of art, as well as interviews with recognized researchers and / or digital artists.
Once submitted, all articles that meet the general scope of the journal and its guidelines will be considered for peer-review publication, even in case of issues that may favor some particular subject-matter.
CALL FOR PAPERS – TEXTO DIGITAL
Texto Digital, the electronic journal published by the Center for Research in Informatics, Literature and Linguistics (NuPILL) at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), Brazil, informs that submissions for articles are open until October 15th, 2014.
We accept papers that analyse the relationships of digital media with one or more of the following subjects: Literature, teaching processes (reading and writing in particular, but not restricted to), language studies and arts in general. Accepted papers will be published in our our December issue (n.2/2014).
Submissions for our journal are open on a continuous flow basis since September 1st, 2014, for academic papers that fit its scope. Our publication standards and guidelines are available at:. https://periodicos.ufsc.br/index.php/textodigital/about/submissions#authorGuidelines. Only papers in accordance with such criteria will be accepted.
USgamer features a new interview with Zork co-author and all-around Infocom implementor Dave Lebling. Very nice!
The opening flourish of the article, though, implies that in the days of Adventure, people used either green-on-black or amber-on-black video terminals to access computers, and players would see glowing letters and the “darkness of an empty command line.”
This is actually fantasy, not history. As I’ve written about in “Continuous Paper: Print interfaces and early computer writing,” as others have experienced and noted, and an amazing binder of print terminal output from an MIT student testified to me, a great deal of very early interactive fiction interaction was done on print terminals, including but not limited to the famous name-brand “Teletype.” A few people (including Lebling!) had access to top-notch video terminals, but lots of interaction was done on paper.
Will Crowther even wrote the original version of Adventure in Fortran on an ASR-33 Teletype.
So, when writing and first playing Adventure, perhaps the space that you would see on the paper is intentionally left blank – but you aren’t likely to be eaten by a grue.
The New York Times has an article (online today, in print tomorrow) entitled “Text Games in a New Era of Stories,” about ye olde interactive fiction and new-fangled manifestations of it, including Ms. Porpentine’s Howling Dogs and Ms. Short’s Blood & Laurels.
(Okay, it must be admitted that even The New York Times didn’t refer to the author of Howling Dogs as “Ms. Porpentine.”)
If you felt like you missed your chance to … profit! … from the ascendance of Bitcoin, try the new, shiny Advanced Bitcoin Simulator, an interactive fiction by a sekrit author. It’s built with yui3, Inform 7, and parchment, but also builds on the simulation of online forums found in Judith Pintar’s CosmoServe, incorporates some of the audacity of several recent Twine games, and offers a bit (no pun intended) of the Ayn Rand pillory found in Bioshock.
It’s not quite Thy Dungeonman, but you can now play POET The Game, which pokes at the life of an MFA student poet in a browser-based roll-your-own-parser experience that is meant to recall the text adventures of yore.
Slavoj Žižek did not write a twine game, but Alan DeNiro did. It’s called We Are the Firewall, and it has more rodents than Rat Chaos. It twists and communicates with the whole category of Twine games quite well, and the writing is quite compelling, and it’s well worth reading/solving.
DeNiro, by the way, is the author of (in addition to short stories and novels) the uncanny interactive fiction Deadline Enchanter, which I also recommend.
Hello from Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I’m currently dressed as a grue. The streets are unnervingly lit up tonight for some reason and many people are about. Perhaps my quest to find a dark, quiet place will lead me to Fenway Park.
There is a lot of news about upcoming interactive fiction events, and the first part of a two-part article by Illya Szilak, “A Book Itself Is a Little Machine: Emily Short’s Interactive Fiction,” is just out in The Huffington Post.
If you weren’t there, you missed Arden Kehoe presenting on her visual novel Kindness Coins at Women in Games Boston on October 29, but you can read a bit about her work at the page for the event.
There will be another reading of Lost Pig (the award-winning game by Admiral Jota) on Sunday, November 3, at 6pm, at Pandemonium Books in Central Square.
There will be a reading of Adam Cadre’s award-winning Photopia on Tuesday, November 5, at 5pm in University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Olsen Hall, room 311. Adam won’t be at this reading, and I don’t believe Admiral Jota will be at Pandemonium Books event. Adam did read from Photopia himself at this event in Boston way back in 2001.
The “People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction” (PR-IF) meetup for November will be on Saturday, November 9, 4:00 pm, in my lab, The Trope Tank, MIT room 14N-233. (We usually meet Monday or Tuesday at 6:30pm; this is an exception.) Special guest Emily Short will be demonstrating the authoring tools behind Versu. Emily will also be speaking on Versu in New York City on Wednesday November 13.
PR-IF now is on teh Twitter, as @IFinBoston, which is a good thing since there’s so much going on. Our Twitter presence is backed by the amazing technology known as Jason McIntosh.
An introduction to writing interactive fiction will be offered one week after the Photopia reading, on Tuesday, November 12, same time, same place: 5pm in University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Olsen Hall, room 311. These two events at UMass Lowell are sponsored by that school’s Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).
Finally, the 2013 IF Comp is currently going on. There are 35 entries. You can download, play, and vote on the games, with votes due November 15.
Gamebook guru Demian Katz is putting on a conference on interactive fiction, print and online, in Villanova’s Popular Culture Series. The conference does have an academic focus, but also seeks to introduce new sorts of academics to IF.
Aha – and the deadline for submitting something is November 1!
Michael Mateas gave the keynote today at Intelligent Narrative Technologies 6. With reference (early on) to the Hero’s Journey, he presented a sort of “developer’s journey,” noting that indie developers (as seen at Indiecade) have been turning away from concern with structure and mechanics and toward narrative. He similarly encouraged those working in AI and narrative to turn from structuralist narratology and look at concrete traditions of narrative based in communities of practice.
I thought his repudiation of structuralist narratology was in some ways similar to someone in computer graphics objecting to the pixel or the polygon becuase pixels and polygons do not provide any guidance as to how to create beautiful images. He’s right, and if people are missing this, it’s worth pointing out. But the core problem is with one’s expectation for structural understanding. If people are interested (as Michael is) in modeling “internal processes and conflicts” mapping to “external conflicts” … what are these external conflicts made of? Aren’t they made of events? And wouldn’t it be great to have a solid model of events so more complex narrative phenomena can be built up out of them?
Michael gave us an array of options for work motivated by specific poetic ideas, and these (in keeping with his practice) were extremely grand plans, with a panpoly of dissertations needed to make real progress. His suggestions were that we build huge AI systems, implementing Beckett, Boal, detective novels, flash fiction, and the levels of intentionality in Virgina Woolf. I don’t object to attempting to deal with goals of this sort, but this tour of the interactive narrative candy store seemed to be proposing 23 different manned space missions.
My idea: Why not create & compose simple models of narrative aspects that are indeed culturally grounded and for which there is a poetics, but which seem lower-level (or easier to start on) than the ideas Michael has – aspects such as repetition (seen in Beckett, of course), ellipsis (and its relationship to suspense, as treated in Michael Young’s research), and the like?
These sorts of questions seem to have easier starting points and offer the potential to generalize to some extent across genres, while yielding specific insights as well.
A repetition or ellipsis system would be as culturally grounded as any one that Michael suggested, and it too could be “fully realized” and produce outputs.
My very simple system “Through the Park,” described in “Small-Scale Systems and Computational Creativity,” is an attempt to show how low the stairs are for those interested in investigating ellipsis. Although extremely simple, it is a real model of an aspect of narrative and has been useful to me in thinking about it.
Ian Horswill pointed out in the discussion after the talk that understanding repetition may not be easier than generating romance novels, flash fiction, or work like that of specific authors. This is true, but with repetition there are more concrete starting points. One can certainly start with a lightweight simulation of the world, and of narration, and then elaborate.
Richard Evans mentioned that the repetition in The Odyssey and in Beckett’s plays doesn’t have much in common. I would say that this is true, but that they have something in common – creating a coherent and distinctive texture of language. On the other hand, even within the same work, or work by the same author, there will be different types of repetition that do different things. That’s what makes this aspect of narrative (or, really, textuality) a rich one. It seems to me that these different uses, within a single work or across different works, could be understood analytically and modeled computationally in useful ways. The focus on a single aspect, rather than a genre or community of practice, would make this more tractable and offer a foothold.
Here’s an intriguing feline adventure, pleasingly illustrated and narrated. This brings a lot together: It’s the Kickstarter-funded book version of a Web comic in which readers were asked to provide interactive-fiction- or tabletop-RPG-style commands for each situation; the one readers voted up was then chosen and the story proceeded from there. Perhaps I’ve been primed for this, but I thought the book’s presenation of this rather elaborate process was effective. I thought at first that page numbers would help, but perhaps these might have suggested a CYOA-style book, which this is not. While decisionmaking by mob is not always best, and can rule out nuanced plans, it works well enough in this case. And while the freely-available Web version of the story is good, the print presentation also sets the illustrations well. The text narration is consistently set on the recto, with commands below. Other IF transcripts (or the like) could be treated this way, too …
Thanks to Dr. Clara Fernández-Vara, the Trope Tank has a new technical report, TROPE-13-01: “Electronic Literature for All: Performance in Exhibits and Public Readings.”
This report covers readings of interactive fiction done by the People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction, the Boston area IF group, and the exhibit Games by the Book, discussed previously on here. But there is much more detail in this report about how these attempts managed to share computational works (works that are both games and e-lit) with the public. If you are interested in outreach and presentations of this sort, please take a look.
Here is the call for artistic proposals for the ELO 2013 “Chercher le Text” in Paris!
The “chercher le texte” event deals with literary issues and text-oriented multimedia practices on digital devices: digital books, texts generated or animated through programming, fiction hypertexts, “manipulable”, playable works, or on the contrary works whose very program embraces literariness. The considered devices range from computers to mobile devices, including social networks. They can be used in various contexts: installations, performances, personal devices designed for digital reading. These contexts range from solo reading to collaborative or participative reading.
This event will represent an opportunity to showcase young artists and bring together two worlds, which otherwise barely come into contact with one another: that of the experimental digital literature forms deriving from the second half of the 20th century avant-garde movements and that of the digital writings, as used by authors coming from the book world and who have taken over the digital technologies, namely blogs and e-books. In this context, the Musique et Informatique de Marseille (MIM) laboratory associates with team Écritures Numériques from Paris 8 Paragraphe laboratory, the digital literature European network Digital Digital Digital Littérature (DDDL), the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO), the Bibliothèque Publique d’Information (BPI), the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF), the Cube, the Labex Art-H2H coordinated by Paris 8 and the École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (EnsAD) to organize the following events:
- An online virtual gallery on the DDDL network website.
- Four events consisting of performances and projections of works, from September 23 to 26, 2013, in the small room of the Centre Pompidou, the big auditorium of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the Cube amphitheater.
- A six-week exhibition on “digital literatures from the past and future” in the BNF lab room of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, which will be launched on September 24, 2013. This exhibition will feature the virtual gallery and a selection of digital literary works with emphasis on the works designed for touch-pads and e-readers.
Artists, especially young ones, are invited to propose one or several work(s). Please send your proposals to firstname.lastname@example.org before February 18.
This is a summary of the call – see www.chercherletexte.org for full details.
What is it that those who have it hate it and oppose it, but those who lack it desperately want it and imagine it?
Deb Chachra called my attention to Infovore’s new canonical list of “hypertext literature / interactive fiction / digital narrative.”
I certainly don’t object to the exercise of blog-based canon development. Back in 2004 I presented a canon-like list of Atari VCS games. Thinking up the list and discussing it online were very useful to me as I started formulating the book I’d later write with Ian Bogost, Racing the Beam. Some of the discussion was “what about this game, why not that game?,” as one commenter noted, but really not much of it – more often we ended up discussing why the focus on the Atari VCS, or what qualities make a game worth studying, or how gameplay and graphics/sound interact, etc.
So, instead of offering any substitute items for the list provided, I’ll just try to mention an aspect of “canon” that Infovore has already picked up on. The best idea in developing such lists seems to be not to pick the greatest hits or the first at doing something or the most widely cited, but rather to choose those productions that are interesting to compare to others.
A canon is a standard, as the OED offers: “c. A standard of judgement or authority; a test, criterion, means of discrimination.” So, it would make sense to me to select works that are, for example, the best at political discourse, or engagement with language, or formal innovation, or critique and transformation of existing work – or whatever aspects of interactive literature one values. What would you hold up as an example of avant-garde writing practices meeting interactivity, for instance, after 1961? What’s the standard for work that engages with contemporary political issues?
Thanks to the good work of guest organizer Gretchen Henderson, the Purple Blurb schedule for Spring 2013 is already set! I hope to see you locals at some or all of them.
All Spring 2013 events are Mondays at 5:30pm in MIT’s room 14E-310. This is in the East wing of Building 14, across the building’s courtyard from the Hayden Library. Building 14 is not part of the Media Lab Complex. The Spring 2013 schedule is thanks to guest organizer Gretchen Henderson.
February 11, 5:30pm in 14E-310
Presents the Interactive Fiction “The Warbler’s Nest”
Jason McIntosh is an independent games critic, designer, and scholar. During the previous decade, he produced “The Gameshelf”, a public-access TV series examining both tabletop and digital games, and “Jmac’s Arcade,” a set of video monologues on growing up within the arcade culture of the 1980s. More recently, he’s taught a game-studies lab at Northeastern University, published the XYZZY Award-winning work of interactive fiction “The Warbler’s Nest”, crafted the iPad edition of the tabletop game “Sixis” by Chris Cieslik, and worked as a game-design consultant for other clients. He continues to write game-criticism essays on The Gameshelf’s blog, and produces the occasional episode of the podcast series “Play of the Light”, which he co-hosts with Matthew Weise. His website collecting all this stuff may be found at jmac.org
March 11, 5:30pm in 14E-310
Debra Di Blasi
“Skin of the Sun: Five Iterations Toward Human As Novel”
Followed by a discussion of the literary publisher’s role in the 21st Century
Debra Di Blasi is a multi-genre, multimedia author of six books, including The Jirí Chronicles & Other Fictions, Drought & Say What You Like, and Skin of the Sun. Awards include a James C. McCormick Fellowship in Fiction from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, Thorpe Menn Book Award, Cinovation Screenwriting Award, and Diagram Innovative Fiction Award. Her fiction is included in a many leading anthologies of innovative writing and has been adapted to film, radio, theatre, and audio CD in the U.S. and abroad. Her essays, art reviews and articles can be found in a variety of international, national and regional publications. She frequently lectures on the intersection of literature and technology and is working on a nonfiction book on related topics.
April 8, 5:30pm in 14E-310
Gretchen E. Henderson
“Galerie de Difformité:The Book as Body, The Body as Book”
Followed by an OPEN MIC!
Gretchen E. Henderson is a Mellon postdoctoral fellow at MIT and a metaLAB fellow at Harvard, who writes across genres, the arts, and music to invigorate her critical and creative practices. She is the author of two novels, The House Enters the Street and Galerie de Difformité (winner of the Madeleine Plonsker Prize), a collection of nonfiction, On Marvellous Things Heard, and a poetry chapbook, Wreckage: By Land & By Sea. Among other projects at MIT, she is working on Ugliness: A Cultural History (for Reaktion Books), while continuing the collaborative deformation of Galerie de Difformité: a print book that is interfacing with the history and future of the book, networked online, inviting readers to participate in its (de)formation across media.