• Sixty years earlier, a precursor to Warren Ellis' _Lich House_. The terrors of the future are not those we have – the Cold War still looming large. But the depiction of the future is, whilst regimented and picket-fence-utopian… also charming. The childrens' bedroom, in particular, made me smile and want to visit; not nod knowingly at the cleverness. When we write stories about the future, it's important they're still stories.
  • "First Novel is not the first novel by Nicholas Royle. First Novel is the seventh novel by Nicholas Royle. The protagonist is a novelist called Paul Kinder who teaches Creative Writing in Manchester. Nicholas Royle is a novelist who teaches Creative Writing in Manchester. Paul Kinder is fascinated by first novels. Nicholas Royle is fascinated by first novels. Paul Kinder is friends with novelist and short story writer, Elizabeth Baines. Nicholas Royle is friends with novelist and short story writer, Elizabeth Baines. Paul Kinder has a fascination with the uncanny. Nicholas Royle has a fascination with the uncanny. In other words, First Novel is very much in danger of disappearing up its own arsehole." I greatly enjoyed First Novel – I'm somewhat a fan of Royle's work – and this is a nice interview, especially his comments on the various overlaps with reality.
  • "Had our correspondent developed the gift of foresight? No. He really had heard these stories before. Spend a few moments on Google and you will find that the tale of how Procter & Gamble developed the Swiffer is a staple of marketing literature. Bob Dylan is endlessly cited in discussions of innovation, and you can read about the struggles surrounding the release of “Like a Rolling Stone” in textbooks like “The Fundamentals of Marketing” (2007). As for 3M, the decades-long standing ovation for the company’s creativity can be traced all the way back to “In Search of Excellence” (1982), one of the most influential business books of all time. In fact, 3M’s accidental invention of the Post-it note is such a business-school chestnut that the ignorance of those who don’t know the tale is a joke in the 1997 movie “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.”" This is a brilliant article on the literature – and culture – of talking about 'creativity'.
  • "Why doesn’t popular fiction encourage writers as entertainingly skilful as this? Because we do not value the skillset itself, only the story it mediates. We long ago separated the skillset out and donated it to literary fiction. Danny MacAskill doesn’t tell a story. He just is. Indeed, by the look of it, he just is the skillset. As a result I cry every time I watch him perform, because the performance is so much more intense than anything I’ve ever made." Great writing, by a great writer, about a great performer. Perfect.
  • "In class I do this drawing of this big mountain, that I call Hemingway Mountain. And talk about how, early in my writing life, I just wanted to be up there near the top. And then I realized: Shit, even if I made it to the top, I'd still be a Hemingway Imitator. So then you trudge back down—and look, there's Kerouac Mountain! Hooray. And then it's rinse, lather, and repeat—until the day comes when you've completely burned yourself out on that, and you see this little dung heap with your name on it, and go: Oh, all right, I'll take that—better to be minor and myself. So that is painful. Especially at first. But it's also spiritual, in a sense—it's honest, you know. It’s a good thing to say: Let's look at the world as it is, as opposed to the way I'd like it to be. Let's see how the world seems to me—as opposed to the way it seems to me, filtered through the voice of Hemingway (or Faulkner, or Toni Morrison, or Bukowski—whoever)." This whole interview is great, but as a creator, I liked thinking about this.

Kim asked on Twitter:

“Is there a canon for digital narratives / interactive stories / hypertext literature yet? A list of accepted classics and forms?”

What followed was a lot of us going “we don’t know”. And I wasn’t exactly helpful, by pointing out that those three things are (in some ways) completely different.

But. Nobody got anywhere but not being helpful, and to do so, I’m going to express (a bit) of an opinion, and hopefully something a little absolute. I hate list posts, but let’s put something down for people to argue about.

So, specifically: if I had to draw up a Canon – a canon of the interactive-story-thingies (we all know what they are – “things that the reader/audience interpret differently by interacting” is my best explanation) what would I include?

The rough goals were: not necessarily the best, but important pillars; no bias to high- or low- brow; trying to cover all media appropriately; interpret the question as broadly as you would like; don’t take too long over it. Here’s where I am:

Things I wanted represented: pre-digital works; early, web-based hyperfiction; text-based IF, both classic and modern; things that are clearly videogames; an ARG (and the Beast still, in many ways, feels like the best); tabletop roleplaying; mechanical storytelling; a selection of Infocom writers (Moriarty, Meretzky).

I am not always picking things I like the most, nor things that are the “first” – so, for instance, Sleep No More probably is the most refined Punchdrunk work, and thus worth sharing here, but I’d swap it for one of their others easily.

What’s missing at the moment but shouldn’t be: the 1970s; more traditional hyperfiction (about which I don’t know enough); some big chronological gaps; boardgames/cardgames that touch on this (eg Once Upon A Time); anything pre-20th century; David Cage (I’m still not sure if I’d include him or not); no visual novels; no JRPGs (which are fascinating games, but there are few I’d include on this list); no Japanese adventure games (9/9/9 springs to mind, for instance).

There’s a bunch of thought that connects these; it’s not arbitrary, and like I said, not about favourites. Some things you might think to be obviously missing (especially: things from the world of videogames) are sometimes deliberate omissions (and sometimes accidental ones).

There’s definitely a particular thread I wanted to start stitching together, and these are the places I’d begin. Most items on this list are picked as representatives of categories; not as absolutes. This is definitely not the “n best interactive narratives list“.

Clearly a work in progress. But: if I had to teach this, or start writing some kind of giant thesis, I could do worse than begin here.