Collaboration on Interactive Climate Fiction project

Hi! I’m looking for people who are willing to give feedback and/or collaborate on a project I’m working on.

This project is currently in the earliest stages. The idea is to create a website where multiple authors would post interactive fiction with climate change themes. In other words, it’s an interactive climate fiction project.

The basic premise is that the site itself is a bit of IF – a sci-fi reality that serves as a central hub for journeys into many individual stories. The individual stories can either be completely independent tales or choose to reference the shared reality of the site in small or big ways.

You can learn more about the project and help me decide on the name of the site by reading my most recent blog entry. I think I can’t link to my blog yet since I’m a new user, but you can find it easily by Googling my name or finding the link in my bio.

I don’t expect this to be a commercial project in the sense of selling books or paying authors for contributions. I do expect it to be a place where readers and authors can have fun exploring the intersections between IF and climate change – and authors can get exposure.

I would also like to know any feedback you have on how exactly to add IF to the site. Personally, for this particular project, I’m fond of the idea of having it all exist on WordPress pages.

I know this isn’t a particularly common way of doing IF, but it would lend itself well to the collaborative element. Low bar for entry, ease of letting multiple authors potentially edit the same IF page/story, etc.

I’m also considering adding support for other authoring tools that are easily compatible with WordPress. For example, there’s a Twine plugin for WordPress. Rather than being too attached to any one authoring tool, I might add support for several and just see what readers and authors like most.

Anyway, this is a bit of a side project currently, so I can’t guarantee swift responses to this message or swift movement on the project. But if you like the idea and have feedback to offer, collaboration interest, etc, let me know!

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Here’s the link to the blog post.

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It’s easiest if you accept entries in the form of zip files containing HTML/JS/CSS, and then unzip them as static files on your web site. Twine, Inform, and other web-capable IF tools can be used this way.

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Not to invalidate your project, but wouldn’t putting #climate tag on IFDB entries be easier?

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Good suggestion. It might be in addition to what Treesong is trying to accomplish actually, but is really useful in it’s own right.

I noticed that IFDB has 2 types of searches for tags.

1.) Searching for existing tags themselves (partial tag matching → only one tag contains “climate”).

https://ifdb.org/search?searchfor=climate&searchgo=Search+Tags&tag=1

2.) Searching for stories with specific tags (exact tag matching → “climate” returns nothing, “climate catastrophe” returns 3 games).

https://ifdb.org/search?searchfor=tag:climate%20catastrophe

Just searching the games for “climate” returns 17 games where the word is matched within the title, description AND/OR a partial match in the tags.

https://ifdb.org/search?searchfor=climate&searchgo=Search+Games

Hopefully this helps you, Treesong. Perhaps “climate catastrophe” is a tag to use, or adding “climate change” or “climate” to existing games would raise awareness and help others find games in the same vein.

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This reminds me of two climate-themed remarks I saw in reviews of Jusant – Adrian Hon’s assertion that “It is OK to care about environmental collapse, and it is understandable that artists will put that into their art, but doing this well is not easy and can end up compromising both the art and the message,” and Zarf’s point that “Single-player videogames are very biased towards the single-savior story. Of course! We still need to start thinking in bigger terms though.”

A collaborative approach seems like a constructive development. (And in the vein of collaborative climate projects, I’d also like to recommend David Finnigan’s New Rules for Storytelling newsletter.)

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Adding a #climate tag to IFDB, and finding new and existing stories to tag with that tag, is a good idea. I may work on that too.

But part of the point of this project is to create something immersive [but still text-based] and collaborative.

It won’t just be a listing of IF stories with a climate theme. The site itself will be a basic IF where the reader gets to explore a setting with doorways [and possibly other means of travel] that lead to the other stories on the site.

Depending on reader preference, we can either keep this sitewide IF really simple to make the site easy to navigate, or turn it into a very robust IF where you only find your way to certain stories if you really go searching for them.

For example, maybe any horror-themed stories [yes, those do exist in climate fiction, though they’re rare] could be down in a basement/dungeon, past some obstacles, etc. And when you complete that part of the sitewide IF, you are rewarded by discovering new stories.

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Yes, that’s very helpful! Thank you.

If I’m going to work on the IFDB tags, I would really like to see one that is general like “climate change” or just “climate.” Related tags like “climate catastrophe” are helpful too. But not all climate-related stories are about catastrophe. Some are about solutions like renewable energy, some are very character-driven but happen to include climate themes, etc.

Of course, it’s mostly a moot point currently since I’m not seeing many stories on there currently with any degree of climate themes. IF seems to be lagging behind published non-IF fiction a bit in this regard.

But there may be some I haven’t found yet that are untagged. And I know the one IF I’ve completed with climate themes isn’t on there yet (but hopefully will be when I get around to it).

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Did you check Tworld? It’s a server software for IF worlds, connected via portals. It is used for Beltani, which is about worlds from the game Myst. But Tworld is not specific to Myst/Beltani.

https://seltani.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Tworld

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Yes, this is a fair point. I’ve read a lot of climate fiction at this point. A fair bit of it ends up being a message or idea with a plot and characters attached almost as an afterthought – or plot and characters with a message attached almost as an afterthought.

But I’ve seen some wonderful, innovative, captivating climate storytelling in non-IF fiction. And if it can be done in non-IF, it can be done in IF too. And IF can bring new angles in that are lacking in non-IF.

Thinking outside the box is key. There are only so many good stories you can write about a flood or wildfire happening and then characters have to survive it. That gets old after a while, as the endless stream of blockbuster disaster movies illustrates. Many of them are just cheap thrills without much substance.

Which… is fine for entertainment. But climate storytelling can be something more than that with a bit of creativity and skill. And the collaborative angle can help by ensuring that it’s not just a one-note disaster fest, or stuck on any one other trope.

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I haven’t seen that yet. I’ll check it out. Thanks!

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Careful about putting climate content behind a barrier. If it’s something you want to raise awareness about, content should be easily accessible.

I’ve read a lot of climate fiction at this point. A fair bit of it ends up being a message or idea with a plot and characters attached almost as an afterthought – or plot and characters with a message attached almost as an afterthought.

Which… is fine for entertainment. But climate storytelling can be something more than that with a bit of creativity and skill.

I think you’re spot on. It’s one thing to say this is bad, it’s another thing to provide possible solutions through a story. I wonder what a climate change story would look like if the protagonist did something to prevent it? …or fix it? That sounds way more interesting than someone trying to simply survive it.

As you mentioned, authors can easily fall into the trap of the story being an afterthought to the message or vice versa. A lot of awareness focused content ends up being preachy. Don’t be put off by the title of the video I linked. It’s actually a very level headed look that focuses more about theme… which is what climate change should be treated as when creating IF.

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I recently stumbled over some new game/story genre. Dystopias have not lead to better behaviour, so some people came up with “hopepunk” with the idea that more positivity brings people to behave better. I don’t know if that works.

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Somehow “Hope” is more of a hero’s character rather than a whole genre.

journalist and author Annalee Newitz disputed that hopepunk is a genre, saying “Any kind of story can have elements of hopepunk”.

Unless the story is one long, continuous tragedy, it will have elements of hope embedded within it.

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This is actually a neat idea. The collaborative connected nature of a shared world has Fallen Londen vibes to it.

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