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Interactive Fiction

(For All My Digital Literary Art, See Computational Poems)

Nick Montfort

Highlights ... Books & Articles ... Free Advice ... Presentations ... Reviews ... Misc.

My Interactive Fiction

Amazing Quest. IF Comp Entry, with post-Comp notes from the author, 2020.

Book and Volume. An [auto mata] release, 2005.

Mystery House Taken Over. With Dan Shiovitz, Emily Short, and the Mystery House Occupation Force. Includes web-based and downloadable mod kits; my Mystery House Kracked by the Flippy Disk; and other people's versions of Mystery House. Commissioned by Turbulence. 2005.

Dead Reckoning. My translation of Olvido Mortal by Andrés Viedma Peláez. 2003.

“The Girl and the Wolf.” A hypertext-like variable tale. Beehive 4:1, 2001. [Local copy.] [Spanish translation, “La Muchacha y el Lobo,” by Ruber Eaglenest.]

Ad Verbum. Winner, XYZZY Award for Best Puzzles; 1st place pick of authors in the Sixth IF Competition. 2000. [Video trailer for the Spanish translation/adaptation, Venearius Verborum, by Jarel.]

Winchester's Nightmare. The first IF "hardback." 1999.

More digital writing can be found on my poems page.

My IF System

The Curveship site has the system itself, a reference and other documentation, and links to publications. Here are two of the publications:

"Curveship's Automatic Narrative Style," Foundations of Digital Games, Bordeaux, 1 July 2011.

"Generating Narrative Variation in Interactive Fiction." Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 2007.

Curveship is now being used to provide text generation in the story-generation system Slant, a large-scale, international collaboration. The first publication on Slant is:

“Slant: A Blackboard System to Generate Plot, Figuration, and Narrative Discourse Aspects of Stories,” by Nick Montfort, Rafael Pérez y Pérez, D. Fox Harrell, and Andrew Campana. International Conference on Computational Creativity (ICCC) 2013, Sydney, 14 June 2013.

Writing about Interactive Fiction & Related Digital Media

Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction. The first book-length history of interactive fiction of the text adventure sort, with literary and game-based criticism of important works and proposals for how to understand the form. MIT Press, 2003.

"Small-Scale Systems and Computational Creativity" by Nick Montfort and Natalia Fedorova, International Conference on Computational Creativity, Dublin, 30 May 2012.

"Curveship's Automatic Narrative Style," Foundations of Digital Games, Bordeaux, 1 July 2011.

"Integrating a Plot Generator and an Automatic Narrator to Create and Tell Stories" by Nick Montfort and Rafael Pérez y Pérez, Proceedings of the International Joint Workshop on Computational Creativity 2008 (IJWCC08), Madrid, 17-19 September 2008, pp. 61-70. Posted 20 September 2008.

"My Generation about Talking," a talk at the UCSD Software Studies Workshop, 21 May 2008, which was accompanied by the execution of

"Generating Narrative Variation in Interactive Fiction," a dissertation in computer and information science, University of Pennsylvania. Advisors: Mitchell P. Marcus and Gerald Prince. 2007.

"Ordering Events in Interactive Fiction Narratives," a paper for the Intelligent Narrative Technologies AAAI Fall Symposium , November 9-11, 2007 in Washington, DC. This covers how my system, nn, orders events so they can be narrated in different, non-chronological ways. Posted 27 August 2007.

"Natural Language Generation and Narrative Variation in Interactive Fiction," a paper for the Computational Aesthetics Workshop at AAAI 2006, July 16, 2006 in Boston, Massachusetts. This explains the architecture of the IF system I am developing. While the implementation shown in this paper is preliminary, it is used to provide some examples of how natural language generation and narrative variation can work in IF. Posted 21 May 2006.

"Toward a Theory of Interactive Fiction." Proposing concepts that allow IF to be discussed precisely as a program, a simulated world, a generator of narratives, and a game, this essay seeks to bring some insights from narratology and game studies to IF and to separate the formal aspects of IF from matters of the interactor's interpretation. Definitions of character, room, and puzzle are given, and metalepsis and other concepts from narratology, along with concepts particular to IF, are used to explain some of the unusual aspects of certain IF works. Version 3.5 (intended to be final) was posted 19 December 2003.

"Continuous Paper: Print interfaces and early computer writing." Text of talk about the material experience of Eliza, Hunt the Wumpus, and Adventure, presented at ISEA in Helsinki, 20 August 2004.

"Interactive Fiction as 'Story,' 'Game,' 'Storygame,' 'Novel,' 'World,' 'Literature,' 'Puzzle,' 'Problem,' 'Riddle,' and 'Machine'" In First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game, eds. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan, pp. 310-317, MIT Press, 2004. Online at ebr (Electronic Book Review.)

"Continuous Paper." Text of talk about the material experience of interactive fiction (and other computer writing) that I gave in the History of Material Texts Seminar, University of Pennsylvania; Posted 23 Feb 2004.

"Face It, Tiger, You Just Hit the Jackpot: Reading and Playing Cadre's Varicella." Paper about Adam Cadre's Varicella, treating it as something that must be understood to work simultaneously as literature and as a game. MelbourneDAC 2003 — Digital Arts and Culture, Melbourne, Australia, 19-23 May 2003. HTML version published in Fineart Forum 17:8, Aug 2003. (Offiline as of 2008, see an Internet Archive snapshot.) PDF from conference proceedings. Written with Stuart Moulthrop.

"ifMap: A Mapping System for Cooperatively Playing Interactive Fiction Online." In Proceedings of the Technologies for Interactive Digital Storytelling and Entertainment (TIDSE) Conference, Darmstadt, Germany, March 24-26, pp. 364-369, Fraunhofer IRB Verlag, 2003, ISBN 3-8167-6276-X. Written with Jessica Rubart.

"Cybertext Killed the Hypertext Star" A review of Espen Aarseth's Cybertext in ebr (Electronic Book Review) 11, Winter 2000/2001. Includes an implementation of Eliza and an interactive excerpt from Deadline.

"Interactor's Nightmare." Media-critical humor column about interactive fiction in, 27 Jan 1997.

"Interfacing with Computer Narratives: Literary Possibilities for Interactive Fiction." Thesis for B.A. in liberal arts, Plan II Honors Program, University of Texas at Austin, May 1995.

Free Advice on Reading & Teaching IF

This is all antiquated at this point...

Two starter kits for interactive fiction in Inform (specifically, Inform 6) that I put together and used when I had the chance to teach IF. In December 2005 I finally packed them up and put them online.

The Interactive Fiction FAQ, written on ifwiki, provides some concise answers for those new to IF.

Interactive Fiction Recommendations for those new to IF.

Sample syllabi for a semester-long "Workshop in Interactive Fiction" university course and for a similar one-month intensive course with some different selections.

Presentation Notes and Slides Related to IF

"On Authorship, E-lit, and Blogs." Talk by videoconference to the Atelier-Auteur (the Authorship Workshop) of RTP-DOC. 17 March 2005. Also online: Video of the talk in Real format.

"Underground Adventures: Interactive Fiction." A few slides I used in a proseminar, a one-meeting class at the University of Pennsylvania, 2 September 2003. The handout from that class, with URLs, is also online.

"Further Reading: Interpreters & Emulators for Electronic Literature." Slides shown with my presentation at e(X)literature, University of California at Santa Barbara, 4 Apr 2003.

"Interactive Fiction as New Media." Slides shown with my presentation to Mitch Marcus's CSE 100 class at the University of Pennsylvania, Fall 2002.

"The Line / The Line: Interactive Fiction and Symmetry in Human-Computer Text Exchange." Presentation at the ACM SIGGRAPH Art Gallery, Los Angeles, 14 Aug 2001. The full text of my presentation and my HTML slides from it are both online.

"Computer Co-Authors for Fiction." Presentation at Computers and Writing 2000, Fort Worth, Texas, 27 May 2000. The abstract and the full text are both online.

Reviews of Interactive Fiction and Electronic Literature

Review of Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern's Façade. SPAG #41, Jul 15, 2005.

"A Bad Machine Made of Words." Review of Dan Shiovitz's Bad Machine on the trAce site. 17 Aug 2004. Review award winner, New Media Article Writing Competition, trAce/Writers for the Future.

"Memorious Marker." Review of Chris Marker's Immemory in Grand Text Auto. 16 Aug 2003.

"Blue My Mind." Review of Scott Rettberg's Kind of Blue in Grand Text Auto. 13 Aug 2003.

Review of The Ed Report in Academic Writing. A glowing review, of course, since I wrote it and also co-wrote The Ed Report. 17 Oct 2000.

Review of Greg Troutman's Dark Mage. SPAG #22, Sep 15, 2000.

"The Tome of the Unknown Authors." Review of The Unknown (by William Gillespie, Scott Rettberg, Dirk Stratton, et al.) in Technology Review, May-Jun 2000.

Review of Gareth Rees's Christminster. SPAG #20, Mar 15, 2000.

"Digital Decay." Review of Mary Flanagan's [phage] and The Impermanence Agent (by Noah Wardrip-Fruin et al.) in Technology Review, Jan-Feb 2000.

Relevant Miscellany

A modifiable narrative generator that I developed for the 2nd African Electronic Literature Alliance International Workshop Conference (AELAIWC2022).

Purple Blurb, a series where authors read and discussed their digital writing (including IF) at MIT.

Perform (Perceptron Classifier in Inform) for fellow users of Graham Nelson's IF development system.

Reading notes, "The Art of Code" by Maurice J. Black My notes from reading this intriguing dissertation which considers the literary turn in computer programming, and which reads Finnegan's Wake via object-oriented programming. 18 May 2005.

Video (Real format) of my talk "On Authorship, E-lit, and Blogs," which I gave to the Atelier-Auteur of RTP-DOC on 17 March 2005.

Interactive Fiction Walkthroughs. A reading of IF with Star C. Foster, Nick Montfort, Daniel Ravipinto, and Emily Short. Hosted by Scott Rettberg. To take place at the Kelly Writers House, 27 October 2004.

Grand Text Auto. A group blog by Michael Mateas, Nick Montfort, Scott Rettberg, Andrew Stern, and Noah Wardrip-Fruin — the principals are listed alphabetically. We discuss interactive fiction and computer literature alongside many kindred topics. Grand Text Auto began in May 2003.

>MEMORY, SPEAK. 19 September 2004.

Acid-Free Bits: Recommendations for Long-Lasting Electronic Literature. (By Nick Montfort and Noah Wardrip-Fruin.) A pamphlet relevant to IF and other e-lit, published by the Electronic Literature Organization, 14 June 2004. This is a mirror of the Web pamphlet available at the ELO site.

Joint Work. A reading of three collaborative literary works at the Kelly Writers House, 14 February 2004.

Reading notes, Composition No. 1 by Marc Saporta. My notes from reading this novel (printed on 150 loose pages) in English translation in December 2002.

"DAC 2000: A Choose-Your-Own-Trip-Report!" Some comments on Digital Arts and Culture 2000, from both interactive fiction and hypertext fiction perspectives.

Digital Intercourse. A reading of interactive fiction and hypertext fiction at the New School on 19 November 2001.

A Night at the Cybertexts. A reading that took place during DAC 2001 at Brown University on 27 April 2001.

The Boston T1 Party: Electronic Literature in Performance. A reading that took place at the Boston Public Library on 25 April 2001.

The IFNYC Web page with information about a reading and discussion group that met monthly from November 1999 - June 2000. Links related to the reading selections are available on that page.

An e-List, that is, a list of bunch of computer literature works I read from for a UB literature class in early May 2002.

"A Conversational Computer Character to Help Children Write Stories." Thesis for S.M. in media arts and sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jun 1998.

January 2024