Tech by VICE

Vesp: A History of Sapphic Scaphism

Presenting Terraform's first original piece of interactive fiction, an atmospheric head-trip that must be played rather than read.

by Porpentine Charity Heartscape
Feb 5 2016, 6:00pm

Art by Gustavo Torres.

At Terraform, we think fiction is boundless—not just in subject but in form. So this week, we're trying something new: we're giving you an original story, but it's not served as a single page of text. It's a piece of interactive fiction, a story that will require some hands-on activity from you in order to move from beginning to end. Or rather, to move from beginning, to middle, to fork in the story, to twisting passages, to dead-end, back to middle, and finally to end.

Interactive fiction falls somewhere between video game and novel. Some say it's like "playing a book," while game designer Graham Nelson compared it to "a crossword at war with a narrative." It's a relatively old form, and it's lived a few lives over the years. In the late 70s and 1980s, some of the earliest computer games were text adventures—maddening programs that borrowed liberally from mythology, fantasy literature, and classic paper-and-pencil roleplayers like Dungeons and Dragons. In the 1990s, cyberculture aficionados called non-linear stories linked together by hyperlinks "hypertext" fiction, and used software like Storyspace and HyperCard to invent a new interactive literature. Of course, the whole internet is basically a hypertext story now—all our texts endlessly interlinked and connected.

In 2009, a piece of open-source software called Twine came along and made it a whole lot easier to write and share interactive stories. Using Twine, a new generation of writers has bloomed, creating seriously surreal, affective, speculative, and highly personal playable fiction on subjects that don't normally get a lot of purchase in the games world: bodies, gender, sex, and depression. We've tapped one of our favorite voices in this medium, Porpentine Charity Heartscape, to create a speculative Twine game; the result is an atmospheric head-trip, what she calls a "vespo-sapphic pesticidepunk UV romance thriller." It's an adventure that must be read—or rather, played—to be appreciated. Click the image below to launch.

Vesp: A History of Sapphic Scaphism

Just don't get stung.

— The Eds.

This is Terraform, our online home for future fiction. Art by Gustavo Torres.