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Thursday, 14 May 2020

Coover story

I just read “The Babysitter”, a short story by Robert Coover which ought to be of interest to anybody who aspires to write interactive stories. I’ll begin with a confession: I’d never come across any of Coover’s work before, which is quite an omission seeing as he has spent his entire career experimenting in nonlinear and game-like fiction.

I won’t spoil “The Babysitter” except to say that it resembles the text of a gamebook with the choices removed. So you get to see a superposition of multiple overlapping possibilities. That’s actually one of the things I like about writing gamebooks – coming up with all the variations on a theme, all the outcomes that might flow from each story node – so it’s a little surprising I never published anything like this myself. (Even if I had, Coover would have got there way before me; "The Babysitter" was published in 1969.)

I’m going to be adding a lot more Coover to my already teetering to-read pile. If gamebooks and interactive fiction is your thing, do read “The Babysitter” before taking a look at any reviews that might spoil it. (There was a movie too, but I have a hunch it’s probably better to disregard that.)

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