Who are you?

I thought it might be fun to learn some more about the people that frequent these forums- and in particular, how who you are and your experiences colours your work. You pick up on a little of this through threads, especially from long-term, in-depth reviewers: but it’s also deeply fascinating to see how people describe themselves. I think it’s why I love memoirs so much.

I’ll start!

I’ve mentioned often before that I consider myself a poet, writer, artist, and general creative in that order. I flit between genres, but the gothic (whether paired with proper subgenres like gothic horror or gothic romance, or just as a shorthand for the style of prose and narrative as applied to other things, like rambling on about the ethical nightmarescape of sentient robots) has been a lifelong love of mine. I’ve studied literature somewhat formally (undergraduate university classes) but more so in my spare time.

Poetry means a lot to me- it’s the first medium in which I ever felt truly seen. I cried like a baby the first time I ever read Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese, and Albert Goldbarth’s The Sciences Sing a Lullabye is what inspired me in part to pursue life sciences, as well as exploring the intersections of science and the arts in my creative writing. It’s ironic that someone so inclined to longwinded essays on the daily loves poetry for the way it distills language: but I think the way it can cut so cleanly to the quick is a huge part of it’s allure for me. I love it for the same reasons I love Post-Impressionism and Fauvism: because it’s about the feeling resonating from a drive-by glimpse, rather than true-to-life fidelity in every meandering word or hair. You don’t have the space to waffle on at length. You pick out the most striking bits and go from there.

I’ve had a lifelong knack for writing- which is balanced out in my silly little character stat sheet by my aphantasia (inability to visualize, particularly faces) and dyscalculia (learning disability with regards to mathematics.) Educationally, I’ve been considered ‘twice exceptional,’ which is a polite way of saying ‘how on earth are you dumb as a rock with math to the extent you couldn’t do basic algebra in your junior year of highschool and instead brute-force memorized all your physics variations and yet we also wanted to push you into fourth grade instead of leaving you in junior kindergarten because boy golly can this kid write and you’ve swept the place clean of scholarships and awards for writing???’ I’m also physically disabled, (I have an incurable genetic disorder that leads to my blood being unable to clot properly, and at the severity it manifests, I have spontaneous internal hemorrhaging and coagulation dissolution: I joke cheekily it’s like going to bed and never knowing if you’re going to wake up after having been beat soundly with a baseball bat). I creak, like a haunted house. It’s pretty funny to me, considering how much I love the gothic.

All of that informs my writing: in my edgier poems, there’s a lot of hurt and despair in the little ‘self portraits’ I write, where I sit frankly with myself and sketch out who I am in that moment. It’s not all doom and gloom- in many respects, it makes me a more interesting writer, I think: the visuals of my prose are often highlighted, but they come from having to put that much more effort into trying to catalogue, remember, and describe the world around me where pictures fail. When you love someone, and you can’t remember what their face looks like: the world opens up in the soft sigh at the back of their throat, the smell of high notes of citrus and the smoky aftertaste of cologne barely masking cigarettes and cold air, the way they hold you so gently, warmly tucked close against their chest.

There’s also sillier things. I often will paint hands backwards, (as I usually end up referencing my own while painting, but forget to account for having to flip them the other way around, especially the thumbs as I can’t ‘see’ that rotation in my head) or omit, or duplicate things: fingers are especially bad for this. That slight body weirdness is part of why I like body horror so much: something is wrong with the vessel, and it’s slightly offputting beneath the pastel softness of my rendering the same way some dude’s eye smearing casually over his cheekbone is unsettling as he treats it like it’s just another Tuesday.

The intense heights of emotionality running beneath the gothic are very appealing. I like bouncing between the tightrope of hysterically gaudy, glittering camp, and the quiet unease of light spilling into the corridor when you’re meant to be home alone. It’s a genre that takes mundane elements and distorts them terrifically: weaving the supernatural ghosts and ghouls with women wearing their mother’s faces. The legacy of the past, the unrelenting forces of fate- plumbing emotional depths while pitting teeny tiny little characters against a maelstrom of things bigger than them: that’s a good time. For similar reasons, I like romance, horror, westerns, noir, and science fiction.

All of that is to say- I approach nearly all of my creative projects, interactive fiction included, as more of a poet and writer than a programmer. I think IF is a very cool little corner of the internet I had no idea existed- where writing takes more of a prominent role than in other videogame inclined spaces, and that rocks! I wish I could get more into the puzzles, but it’s very cool seeing what such a melange of creatives come up with and release for free.

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I am a white man pushing 50, and I live in the Acadiana region of the United States.

My BA is in English and Philosophy, but I felt disenchanted with the arts and decided to chase a career in information technology instead. Those were the boom years of the late 90s, and there were tons of jobs out there. Since I had neither training nor education in the field, I accepted a gig doing lease replacements: taking away old computers and moving their data, applications, and user environment to shiny new machines. I also had to replace printers, which sometimes involved carrying large machines up stairs. In a mailroom to boardroom story, this was the mailroom of IT jobs. I later got a bunch of Microsoft certifications, but never actually did much administration beyond managing security updates.

I ultimately found a niche for myself dealing with computers that interfaced with machines (this was an automobile manufacturing plant): robots, conveyors, presses, etc. Since these systems were critical for plant operations, it was a high visibility position. Since I never broke anything important (I’m sure there were other reasons), I ultimately became a manager. I first managed a team, and then I managed the managers of teams.

That all ended in 2012 when I lost my mind. I had to give all of that up. The SSA recognized me as a disabled person. If you’re familiar with that process, you know that it is almost impossible for a coherent, able-bodied person to be awarded disability, let alone without a hearing. I guess I’ve always been the precocious sort.

It’s not an awkward thing to talk about. Since there remains a stigma surrounding mental illness, I just put it out there whenever I can. I am privileged enough to take it. Not everyone is so lucky.

Wanting to find something to do with myself, I wrote a manuscript of poems and got into an MFA program. There, I wrote a second manuscript and taught a little creative writing at then college level. I also got involved with editorial work at a small (but high quality) poetry press, and edited two volumes there. So far as my own poems go: I received many “tiered” rejections (instead of the form letter, the editor sends a note, usually encouraging you to resubmit) but I could not find a home for either manuscript.

Over the years, I did home a handful of poems in decent journals. It’s a great feeling.

My spouse and I moved to Cajun country four years ago. We were both PhD students and paid our way teaching college composition. I eventually dropped out because it was affecting my mental health. Wanting something else to do and discouraged by my lack of success with my manuscripts, I started on a novel.

I got tired of that, and started Gold Machine. That led me to hanging out here, which has led to me working on the game, which is a repurposing of the abandoned novel.

I have been a lot of things and have lived in a few places. My favorite novelist is Robert Stone, who does not seem destined to become canonical–much to my sadness. So far as contemporary poets go… I’m not sure. Maybe Simone White? To name an older poet, I like John Berryman even though he is quite problematic. It’s very hard to find identifiable portrayals of a certain type of mental illness.

I play a lot of non-IF video games (though less since I’ve gotten mixed up with IF). I enjoy RPGs, FROM software titles, and the Resident Evil series.

EDIT: I really should have mentioned our cats Moxie, Lux, and Lemur, since they are a big part of our lives.

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I am Negan.

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I just wanted to highlight that I really appreciate your openness about this. As someone who lives with PTSD from surviving an attempted homicide- (among other things, though that’s the official inciting incident in the reams of paperwork) it’s really hard to be able to speak about mental illness sometimes. Not so much because of the subject matter itself, (though sometimes that is a factor) but largely because of how people treat you after the fact.

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I’ve reached a point in my life where I can just write people off if they have a problem with it. That wasn’t always the case, of course. When I was at work, I didn’t want anyone to know because it could have (would have) affected my career. That’s true for other times, too. In college and post-college, I wanted to make professional connections and that would have interfered.

Honestly, it still bothers me when people act weird about it, but I can deal with it and other people aren’t always able to due to work, family, and other life circumstances.

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So far, I’m partway through my first work of IF, Budacanta, (there is a demo on Spring Thing’s 2021 section; the latest demo version is currently not available on itch.io due to trying to add several additional languages onto the demo). I suspect that after I’ve done several pieces of IF, I’d be able to do a rounder portrait of how my experiences inform my IF. However, I will try to answer as best I can:

I’m a cheerful autistic IT technician, former librarian and an amateur athlete on hiatus. So far, they appear to be colouring my IF as follows:

  • cheerful: my writing instincts don’t seem to like me dwelling in sad or scary. Going there is one thing, staying there is difficult. I’ve had one tester feed back to me that this may make it easier to cover certain territory that I will have to get to later in the game.

  • autistic: well, it provided half of the theme (Budacanta is about travelling abroad while autistic) and it does colour the entire production process, though it can get hard to articulate how at times. I would definitely have been regarded as “twice exceptional” if my education system had recognised the term, because the social curriculum was so challenging for me at school (so was PE but that’s another story). I don’t have huge numbers of friends, and many of those I do have live abroad. The visit to one of them to go and watch a race together prompted the story’s existence.

Some of my friends abroad volunteered to be testers, which made me want to write IF in an easily-translatable format. Even if that has somewhat derailed production of the full game due to translations arriving!

(Please bear in mind that I can’t answer this part fully - either about my autism or certain other elements of how my brain works/has worked - because I would risk self-spoilering the entire unwritten part of Budacanta. I know we have spoiler tags but that seems a bit much :smiley: )

  • IT technician: the first computer in my family arrived when I was 2, and I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. Perhaps because if you follow the instructions for how to communicate with it, the computer usually understands (until I tried learning to program, of which more later). Before long, I was using it for creative endeavours, not just games. Writing and MIDI music, which could largely be done by keyboard, suited my input preferences best. So when I ended up writing software, it made sense to go for something that had both writing and music - as well as making sure it got tested a lot. (The current version is in the middle of testing cycle 6, although that’s a pretty diffuse concept as different languages are being added mid-cycle). I am happy to try computer art too, although there is more enthusiasm than quality in my current standard of illustration. This is why my visual novel is unusual in that it has no character sprites.

I still play lots of computer games (the Civilization series and Sims 2 probably get the most hours, though I also play lots of IF and a fair range of non-IF games) and try my hand at various forms of creative expression.

  • librarian: I always read a lot, and at a bit of an impasse for what career to recommend someone like me, my school suggested I become a librarian. I pursued it, got a degree in Information Management (which I have had to tell many people is an accredited librarianship qualification and not Computer Science For Theorists) and became one… …for 6 months before the economy went spelunking. I still tend to think of myself as a former librarian, and Budacanta started life as a short story. The reason it’s not now a published book was because I couldn’t find an artist to collaborate with that was able to work with me. (Turns out that “references” aren’t something I can just guess, and I can’t take usable photos for toffee), and in that format the book was too short to publish as just text. So that was when I decided to find a form of expression that did not require other people for its main creative force…

  • amateur athlete: PE was my second-worst subject at school, after the social curriculum, and I was the worst student at school at it. (There was a joke that I got more tennis balls on the school roof than in the part of the court I was aiming at…) At the same time, I was winning gold medals for England in disability swimming (a sport that was part of the PE curriculum…) This resulted in many confused students and teachers, as well as a lot of stubbornness (just in case I wasn’t born with enough of that in the first place). Since my swimming club closed, I’ve represented my former company in three other sports (dragon boat racing, running, karting) despite being told I was in the wrong shape (for different reasons!) for all of them.

This came in handy when learning to program. My first few attempts to learn it ended in failure. (The teacher of programming at my former company would probably pay good money to understand how I managed to break Scratch). Selecting Ren’Py was a roundabout way to learn Python and finally learn a programming language (as well as something that made sense to me, because it was Long Live The Queen - written in Ren’Py - that convinced me that interactive fiction was a viable method for me to make the Budacanta story something that could be experienced by others).

Hope this helps.

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First, let me say just how much I’ve enjoyed all your threads on people’s personal lives! This little jimmy of a website is (most of the time) a lovely calm, quiet corner of the internet that I enjoy visiting daily.

I’m afraid, though, that my life doesn’t really influence my work too much, other than the fact that IF (books predominately, not the Zork/parser games) brought me a lot of joy when I was a kid, and so knitting together game-stories rekindles a bit of that spirit in my soul, even if my authorial talents are pretty subpar :grin:

Recently, I picked up a new writing gig that required me to pen a miniature biography, and that got me to thinking a lot about the subject of summarizing my life.

Not wanting to go on too much of a ramble, I’ve noticed there’s a strange disconnect between the hypothetical memoirs I’d write about my own life and how others would describe me and my experiences.

In my own head, I’m a rather unremarkable person, in a good way. I live in a modest house with my wife, who is an elementary school teacher, and we enjoy working in our garden, taking the dog for a walk, and the simple pleasure of having a cat curled up on your lap while you read a book. I don’t own a car (or bike, truck, etc.) and work from home, so the most exciting thing that happens on a quotidian basis is when I walk to the grocery store.

Somehow, though, others (although not here on int-fiction, thank goodness) have some rather grandiose ideas of who I am, which leads to some pretty comical situations. Other times, it’s a little less humorous, but all in all, I mostly just shrug it off as a harmless case of people getting excited by the stories they want to tell themselves about me.

What else can I say? I’ve met a lot of interesting folks, and I’ve been to some interesting places. But I’m very happy to live my simple little life in a little town and consider my quiet life more than sufficient. :peace_symbol:

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librarian: I always read a lot, and at a bit of an impasse for what career to recommend someone like me, my school suggested I become a librarian. I pursued it, got a degree in Information Management (which I have had to tell many people is an accredited librarianship qualification and not Computer Science For Theorists) and became one… …for 6 months before the economy went spelunking. I still tend to think of myself as a former librarian, and Budacanta started life as a short story.

I also have a diploma in Library Tech and ended up never really using it. I also worked as a student in libraries for several years before getting it.

It seems the field is outsourcing a lot of work now, and there is less need for manual cataloguing, processing, etc. Plus all the online resources mean there is less need for people behind the desks. There is a lot of temp work rather than full time work where I am. At least in public and academic libraries.

I just played through Budacanta…the art is simple (as you probably intended it to be if I understand correctly) but the transition to color at the end is a nice effect that caps off the story well.

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Where I am, the library work got deprofessionalised, so people with 6 months’ training in a coffee shop are getting hired ahead of trained librarians because they cost less money in wages, and people retiring are often not being replaced. (Cataloguing and processing is still as manual as ever it was, but that was never a large part of the job in my area).

Thank you for the compliment about Budacanta! I meant for the art to be simple but not as simple as it ended up being :smiley:

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I guess I’ll chip in. I’m not the sort of person who generally thrusts myself to the front of conversations. Apparently some people find me stuck-up because of it, and I am in a way, because small talk drains me quickly. So this will be … opaque.

I just want to say first I’m grateful for others’ discussions of mental illness. It helps me feel less ashamed of things in the past, things I don’t need to be ashamed about. They may be big or small. And I don’t need to make any big confessions. But I’m glad I could, if I wanted to.

So I’m just glad to be here and be able to have written so much, regardless of the quality. I said when I was a kid I wanted to write an Infocom-style game when I grew up, and I did and then some.

I think always wanted to Write Stuff but was never encouraged to by my family. So I found other outlets, eventually. I know I was encouraged to Go Into Computers, and for a long while I did tolerably at it, but I didn’t really enjoy the culture. Fortunately I was able to ignore it.

I remember not doing well in advanced placement computer science in high school and not doing great in college courses, either, but I had a math degree, and apparently that showed I had potential. Certainly I felt as though I didn’t have “it” as I didn’t care about heap sorts and algorithms and such but I just wanted to Program Cool Stuff. And I felt bad about that, and I should not have, because, well, not everyone can be a cutting-edge programmer. I think people assumed I could/should be because I was on the math and chess teams and did not act creative. But looking back I see a lot of future tech bros in my classes, college and high school, and a lot of elitism. I think I was supposed to be one of them, but I never felt like I fit in, and I got called lazy for that. I’d like to think a lot of my doing poorly in classes I should’ve done well in on paper was that I didn’t want to do things just for grades, but everyone says that. But I also think there was a side of me that was interested in fiction, etc., and it was an itch to scratch. Also I just wasn’t as ruthlessly ambitious as others. I think. I hope.

I’d forgotten about writing in high school and early college and for some reason I was scared of the writing-intensive requirements, but my last year of college I had time for electives, and I took intro fiction writing, and I still remember half-hoping my work would be read in class and half-hoping it wouldn’t. I was disappointed it (along with a few other people’s) wasn’t, and I was even more disappointed nobody left criticism for me even though I put papers in others’ cubbyholes at the student mail depot, where you had your own small box with a key. (This was back before email, so we rolled up the short stories into envelopes, wrote the “Address” on it, and dropped it down the chute.) Missing that has been a driving force for me, and I’ve found places to write, though I’ve always wanted to do more.

Being here and being able to write and test stuff helps me achieve some of the goals I wish I’d worked towards more back in high school and college. I remember some writing majors really backhanding my work and looking back, it doesn’t matter if they were better than I was or not. They just saw me as someone to push out, someone who didn’t deserve to have any talent. So I think of them and how to bury that memory, or at least the pain, so I can say–I don’t want to be that person.

I have weekly writing goals and a writing file, and I think these goals have grown over the years. I write limericks for fun and also for therapy. Some may be angsty, but it always feels good to write them. It also feels good to read them a few months later and genuinely be pleased I noted it.

I still feel like I have a lot to write. A lot of what I’ve written here is … well, technical and even mathy, but it discusses disappointments and pet peeves I have opaquely and hopefully with humor. I’m just someone who’s glad they have a chance to write and have given themselves that chance, and I can be surrounded with other people who find it important, too, even if we may only be loosely connected.

I guess I still have a lot of the same questions I had at 18. But at least I have something resembling answers. And I’m still blown away by how other people feel this way too and look for answers, and I can see that, because of the Internet. One favorite thing people my age like to harp on is “Hey, it’s 20xx, I thought we’d have jetpacks by now!” We have a lot of other neat stuff, though.

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