The Dutch Frame
Aaron A. Reed, always quietly up to something stunning on the West Coast of America, unexpectedly posted this post-mortem on the narrative mechanics of The Black Crown Project as part of his Moments Lost series on technique in IF. Auto-sycophantics aside, it was gratifying to see something positive and thoughtful come out of my decision to post the entire project’s archive online for free access. Even when it was a functioning work, Black Crown was really an exercise in maximum ruinenwert: designed to fall apart as artfully as possible, making its fragile reliance on a subsiding pile of APIs, proprietary code and web hosting an inevitable asset. I would be lying if I pretended that I wasn’t a little self-satisfied at Aaron’s reliance on his own skills as a researcher to even assemble the article.
I was particularly interested in how Aaron confronted the (to me) obvious disconnect between Black Crown and Storynexus, the platform for which it was written. I never made a secret of the fact that I struggled with the format, especially in having to place some parts of my narrative behind optional paywalls. It was 2012, and we were all at it (and Fallen London, the game for which Storynexus was created, still does it extremely well) but for me and the way I write it was still one of the most difficult, and probably least successful, elements of anything I have ever created. The Project did, I think emergently and oddly, mould to these difficulties that I was having, but Aaron really makes it sound like I knew what I was doing. I’m glad he didn’t mention my morning routine of crying, fist-clenching, and circular, angry walking. I tried to do it very quietly, so nobody on the other side of the Atlantic would hear.
Aaron, as well as having a much better-proportioned mouth than me, and frankly Proppian hair, has worked on an intimidating range of innovative interactive fiction and computational narrative projects. His latest, a tabletop collaborative storygame which uses phrases from the science fiction books on your bookshelf as play elements, has already gently chuntered past its Kickstarter goal with two weeks left to go.