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Interactive Fiction

Last Friday night (three days ago), I stumbled across Twine, the open-source tool for creating interactive stories. How did I land myself there? I was reading Unstuck’s Twitter. Came across this tweet:

Clicked over to that article, and then on to the official website for Choosatron. I skimmed the website and clicked on Writing Guide, which provides you with an overview of how to create your own stories—using Twine.

Twine’s main page showcases a revolving sample of interactive stories that are listed with the Interactive Fiction Database. AMAAAAAZINNG!

Suddenly I’m falling down a rabbit hole of interactive fiction. I bookmark a bunch to read in the morning. I especially liked these: “Howling Dogs”, “Town”, “a kiss” (be sure to check out The Map link in the side menu), “Alice Falling”, and “Corvidia”.

Then on Saturday morning, the rain wakes me up early. I start exploring Twine some more, and this time, one of the stories listed on the front page is “Inheritance” by Andrea Corbin. Here’s an excerpt from the starting passage:

The ring Yulia’s grandmother gave her wasn’t very pretty — an overworked silver band, rough black stone surrounded by an ill-thought combination of colored gems — but she wears it while Grandma Eva is in town.

Little presents from Grandma Eva make Yulia happy; a reminder that although Eva is impossible to please, Yulia is her favorite. Eva is Yulia’s favorite too. Eva always told Yulia the strangest old fairy stories when she was little.

Oooomph. I love this story. I only wish there was more of it! I won’t describe it because that would just be spoiling the experience. All I can say is: Go read/play it now.

Andrea Corbin’s other interactive story, “Digital Witnesses”, is even more involved and expansive. The flow in this piece is particularly remarkable because there’s a consistent path forward, but all the other links serve to reach backward and around, fleshing out the context and characters. So you could read straight ahead without deviation and still enjoy the narrative arc, but it’s those asides that really make this story memorable for me. Fun fact: “Digital Witnesses” was written in about 18 hours with only 23 passages.

Since Friday, my mind’s been wrapped up in interactive stories/hypertext fiction. I’ve browsing the IFDB, starting with going through user created recommendation lists, and I’m learning just how many different approaches there are to working with this form. My mind is boggling. It’s a whole new world for me.

From one list, I found “Bee” by Emily Short. Read it! And then check out the author’s blog because it is an astounding resource for interactive fiction. TREASURE. TROVE.

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The Surrealist Compliment Generator

The Surrealist Compliment Generator has been around the Internet for some time, but I just got around to playing with it this morning.

Most of the compliments are rather diminishing, but here are my favorites:

The tiny sounds of ancient bees resound forth from the forrested coercions between your toes.

Your presence reminds one of a blind jackal, eternally dependent upon misguided archbishops to provide instruction in bowling.

Your eyes are much like milky pools of pantyhose.

Ever do your tears shed forth an peal of epidermal thunder!

What beautiful negligence you wear!

Flies dance operas to your wisdom.

You have no socially redeeming value.

In your presence even my shadow acquires the sensation of touch.

You have the intrepid appeal of a carnivorous apple on its way to a pile of cadaveric stones.

Your tears evoke a taste as memorable as honey.

You enter while seven exits.

You foment graciously, as ever any dying monster did rot.

Ah! how the play of light upon your shoulders does bring one to reminisce of fallen lighthorsemen and gaseous trenches.

Fast blinking reveals the true visage of time pieces hidden within your eyes.

I see your loves in cloves.

You look like a million paces tonight.

You meander through love as a river delta contemplating levitation.

Luminescence breeds in your finest moments of desperation.

Your unexpected explosion entangles us in a web of premature umbrellas and precocious timepieces.

You are a banana moon subverting the sun.

Be still, my love, my watermelon rind. I am consumed with your collection of agile fans and pocked blades.

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“Sustenance”

Bitterzoet is a press that publishes a print magazine twice a year, monthly web issues, and “bonbon” chapbooks throughout the year, all chock-full of bittersweet work.

The first print issue is out, and it’s beautifully made. I’m delighted that my tiny story “Sustenance” appears in it!

Here’s an excerpt:

The border is obscure and very tenuous. Sometimes I find it when I am passing through a black forest with the trees on either side of me lengthening into the sky. Other times I land on it when I have driven into a neighborhood where the houses are divided by tall, impenetrable hedges, and smoke is continuously rising and unspooling on the wind. Once as I rounded an immense lake, its surface bare. Perhaps it is only accessible at five in the morning for people who are driving northeast.

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“The Pocket Watch Prince” to appear on Toasted Cake

My first published short story, “The Pocket Watch Prince” (it originally appeared in Hogglepot), will be reprinted as a podcast at Toasted Cake! I cannot even begin to describe how excited I am by this.

Toasted Cake is an idiosyncratic flash fiction podcast from Tina Connolly, author of Ironskin—and one of my favorite publications. The stories (many of them SF/F) are fantastic, and Tina is an amazing storyteller.

If you’re looking for a place to start, check out a few of my favorites: “Safe Road” and “Pageant Girls” by Caroline M. Yoachim, “The Hungry Child” by Romie Stott, “The Tides” by Ken Liu, and “Again and Again and Again” by Rachel Swirsky.

You can subscribe to Toasted Cake here.

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Friday Fiction: “Beyond, Behind, Below”

This week’s Friday Fiction is actually something I read last Friday and forgot to post here. It is “Beyond, Behind, Below” by Betsy Phillips, published in Issue 1 of Betwixt.

Out beyond the big house with its massive Greek columns, behind the brick kitchen, farther than the vegetable garden, below the slave quarters, past the new barn and the fallow lower fields, on the other side of the stacked stone wall, across a muddy lane, along a creek sat the old cabin—the first home place, now abandoned.

I love this story—so much so, I emailed the writer b/c I couldn’t contain myself. Basically, I love the way this story unfolds—the way it seems to dip in and out of time and feels like it is traveling a path that loops back. And the prose just hooks me some place vulnerable. Mostly I just found myself rereading it and feeling myself sink in time and then bobbing forward. It’s a witchy, beautiful, unsparing story.

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“Ascension”

My YA short story, “Ascension,” is out now in the new Suddenly Lost in Words Volume 4. There are 9 stories in Volume 4, including mine.

Here’s an excerpt:

Ink stains my fingers like irregular birthmarks. My hands smell strongly of lime juice, which only paled the marks instead of cleaning them out. My hair, the only feature I take pride in, hangs limply about my face. There is ink in it, too. I look nothing like the refined girls of Eben’s acquaintance, girls with lustrous, upswept hair and fat, honeyed curls that could coil twice around a boy’s wrist like well-fed snakes.

Two calls for submissions I want to highlight:

1) The Golden Key
Submissions for the Hungry Things issue are still ongoing and will run until March 31. Also, at the bottom of our recent “Submitting to The Golden Key” post, there’s a wish list of things we’d love to see come in.

2) THE SEA IS OURS Anthology
Rosarium Publishing is putting together an anthology of Southeast Asian steampunk. I’m very excited about this project—can’t wait to see what stories come out of it. It’s also inspired me to delve into Southeast Asian mythologies and folklore, so I’m currently falling down that rabbit hole.

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Friday Fiction: “Form”

Friday Fiction for January 24 comes from Gigantic’s new Winter 2014 issue: “Form” by André Babyn.

Beneath the moon the snow is so bright that the air above attains form. This luminance becomes a space that can be traversed. Before the woods, where the bare trees cast shadows and disrupt the light, my three dogs on their leashes.

Oof. I love this. Gigantic is one of my favorite magazines. It consistently publishes pieces that tangle me up.

The Golden Key will start reading submissions for Issue 4 soon. Fourth issue already! The theme calls for HUNGRY THINGS. I am very excited about this issue’s object.

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Happy 2014!

Hey, Happy New Year!

Writing goals for this year: Risk more—no mercy! Finish draft 1! And, don’t fall off the write every day wagon!

In reading news, things I’ve read lately: This thoughtful review of my friend Carlea Holl-Jensen’s wonderful piece, “The Hollow”, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, and The Color Master: Stories by Aimee Bender (still reading this one).

In writing news: I made my first pro sale of 2014 this week to Suddenly Lost in Words, a YA short fiction publication. “Ascension” will appear in Volume 4.

My short story, “Model Home” has been made available online at New Haven Review! Print edition is forthcoming in early February.

A review of NANO Fiction 7.1 makes a nice mention of my included piece.

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Friday Fiction: “Gargoyle”

This week’s Friday Fiction:

Isabel and I grew up in the village near Tivoli. I brought her oranges I stole from the Cardinal’s trees. She rolled her eyes at my crime but ate the fruit. I’d wanted to be a sculptor since I was a child. When I carved a rose the size of my palm to give to her, a sliver of stone flew into my right eye and carved it out. Well, I still had one eye and the feeling in two hands and heart.

“Gargoyle” by Cezarija Abartis on Burrow Press Review

My flash piece “Security” is up at First Stop Fiction! Here’s the first line: “The soldiers who came for us had their orders in the form of stamped papers out in their hands.”

Liz mailed me a wonderful surprise from New York: a stack of books, including Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which I’ve never read, updated with JRM on the cover. Thanks, Liz! You made my week!

I’m currently reading Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie, a directory of mini-biographies of various princesses—warriors, schemers, usurpers, and so forth. It was listed as one of the “Best Books Coming Out This Week” on NPR Book News, which is how I came by it. Unfortunately, I can’t pass on the recommendation. It’s a coffee table book, fun to flip through, but without real depth (or fine writing)—which is fine, I just wasn’t expecting history-lite. The mini-biographies are really mini. The tone goes for a casual flippancy that feels out of place and erodes my confidence in the writer as a serious researcher/historian. The language strives to be hip and funny but misses the mark. It’s disappointing to read a book that claims it’s trying to add dimension to the idea of “princess” as a fairy tale stereotype while discussing powerful characters in a trite, vapid tone. As a reader, I felt talked down to. The book did introduce me to a number of fascinating women I hadn’t come across before, even if several of them are figures of folklore or myth rather than actual history.

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Friday Fiction: “The Balcony” and the Unseen Issue

Two recommendations for Friday, November 15:

First:

In the lull before morning recess, David looked up to see his mother’s head framed in the window of the classroom door. She grimaced, peered in, pressed the mesh with her vivid mouth. David sat in the back row, but even from his distance, he could see that her cheeks were flushed. She caught David’s eye, pointed frantically down at something out of sight, and waved. Her red kerchief sat askew on her hair. David, heart pounding, bowed his head. He sat hoping to himself that it was still early enough in the day that she hadn’t become wild.

“The Balcony” by Amy Parker

Unstuck is teasing excerpts from their third issue. I really enjoyed Amy Parker’s “The Witch Almanac” so I went looking for more of her work.

That led me to “The Balcony” on FiveChapters. This story cut a swath through me. The people in it are in a state of distress that I got caught up in.

Second:

Happy 1-year anniversary to The Golden Key! Issue 3: Things Unseen was released on Wednesday. Ten writers tackle writing the invisible. It’s speculative, it’s unsettling, it’s sure to shadow you for days. Each piece is illustrated by my super talented friend, Stacy Nguyen.

Here’s one word from each of the ten pieces to whet your appetite: forked, steamer, Camembert, obsidian, spine, wraith-mother, limestone, peaches, séance, bouquet.