Post Mortem: origin of love and VESPERTINE
Talking about the development process for a heretical homoerotic vampire love poem (origin of love) and an annotated short story about the greatest homoerotic mafia movie* that never existed (VESPERTINE) seemed like a nobrainer, especially since they’re quite similar in presentation and theming device.
*If you aren’t aware of the Goncharov (1973) joke, basically, Tumblr has been collectively making up a movie and fan content for it based off of a silly shoe picture from a few years ago. It’s kind of incredible.
What did I set out to make?
Both origin of love and VESPERTINE lift a quote from the bible, of which the piece is fitted around. For origin of love, it actually was quite far from my original idea for Ectocomp: I had wanted to submit a psychological horror, a genre I haven’t dabbled in much before, sort of riffing off of Hannibal. Time crunched, life got in the way- and I figured I could whip together something beautiful in a few hours if I focused on what I feel is a strength of mine: poetry. It was after some mulling on the bible quote I’d chosen that I decided vampires would be the way to go, and after flipping through some old cover art I had lying around, decided it would be a fitting repurposing.
As for VESPERTINE, I had wanted to use a similar way of formulating the concept- flipping through bible verses that seemed appealing, and thinking of a way to incorporate my own style into it- (I would like to think that the body of work I’ve produced in IF leans gothic, heavy on figurative language that I hope is pretty enough to justify the purple, and offers LGBT representation, as a member of the community myself). I quite enjoy epistolary content, (no surprise, seeing as I enjoy the gothic) and wanted to try presenting it. Many of my projects churning around in the WIP pile feature emails in lieu of actual letters, but some feedback for origin of love pushed me to try exploring the art of annotation. I also wanted to try writing some long-form prose again, since most of what I’ve written as of late has been poetry- including all of my silly little Bitsy games.
How did feedback play a role in development?
I made VESPERTINE quite shortly after making origin of love- there’s a pleasure in banging out something quickly, and seeing it take shape before you: plus, I’ve been riding a bit of a creative surge as of late. My cycles of production tend to wax and wane, and fingers crossed- it persists into the holiday season, as I have a month off after exams and some medical appointments have concluded to hopefully make some cool stuff.
Anyway- two bits of feedback stuck out to me while reading through reviews. (I have been trying, and try to, thank every reviewer who sets out the time in their day to both experience and analyze my games -what a treat for any author to receive!- but sometimes things fall through.) One, that it would be nice for the player to have the option to tab back and forth between reading pages due to the way they were reading the piece (several passes through, clicking on buttons afterwards), and two, that they could see origin of love being published as a linear poem with more traditional annotation and footnotes.
It hadn’t occurred to me that people might not interact with the pieces as I do, when reading annotated works- I jump immediately to the referenced bit, and then carry on with the rest of the main body of text. With this in mind, I wrote VESPERTINE’s main body of text as a linear shot through- so you could just read that and take away the bulk of the story, and wrote the annotated bits as things you could optionally tab through to see more of their relationship through memories, and more interestingly to me, anyways: read through some of the other party’s perspective.
Switching to a 1st POV is a bit of a… embarrassing thing to write, sometimes, especially when you’re writing with the passion behind excerpts like “I love you the way the dead sea loves: caustic, catastrophic, and still- halophilic archaea persist in those blue, blue waters,” because, well, that’s a bit intense, isn’t it? I felt like it fit, though, especially when the framing of the piece was that Andrey carried around this little journal- I’m a diarist, a fountain pen aficionado, and a stationery enthusiast, so perhaps not a big surprise. So if his lover was writing in it for him, it probably would be deeply intimate.
There’s a special intimacy in having someone gift you items for something that occupies so much space in my life as writing, but especially when I consider my diary as a sort of- extension of my mind, a place that is incredibly personal and vulnerable in the lack of proofreading, editing for sensibilities, or holding back on things I might not necessarily want to dredge up for fear of conflict. My diary is my unfiltered self, for better or for worse.
I have never been close enough to someone to share that space, (though the idea of swapping a book back and forth sounds like a really wonderful connection), and the idea of a spy- who by the nature of his work, cannot really go gallivanting around as himself, and who would be incredibly paranoid about leaving behind proof of his identity, being given a book that- was filled out for him, by someone who loved him with a burning ardor, making space for the history of their relationship and putting into words what he couldn’t articulate himself: well, given that the movie is tongue-in-cheek known for having really strong homoerotic subtext, I thought it made a good framing device.
I also just really like annotations. I think they’re fun. They reflect quite well my own habit of rabbiting on petering off side tangents, without derailing too much from the main thread of the conversation.
What am I thinking of, looking into the future?
I’ve been bandying about the idea in the IF Discord, but one of my New Year’s Eve resolutions for 2023, (asides from working to finish my degree, of course) is to submit something into SpringThing when that rolls around. I might make something new entirely, but two projects that are up in the queue somewhere for completion at some point are: a chat-log / spliced with prose game following members of a guild in a MMORPG they all play together, and the psychological horror with the serial killer surgeon husband.
In vague goals I have floating around as well: I’d like to complete a small project in Ink, and another in Inform 7, because I’ve already achieved my goal of learning some of the Sugarcube syntax for Twine (in addition to Harlowe) and making a completed project using Ren’py. Puzzleless parser games are really fucking hard to write, y’all. But it’s a good challenge to tinker with over the holiday breaks…