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500 Apocalypses: An Alien Interactive Fiction Memorial

Following Emily’s reminder that this year’s Interactive Fiction Competition entries are now playable I started to browse and found a curious and enjoyable piece called 500 Apocalypses [entry page] by Phantom Williams. It’s a fictional in-browser museum/garden curating the apocalypses of various societies as translated from an extraterrestrial resource. There’s also a cool FAQ which augments the experience nicely, toying with the fact/fiction distinction.

“500 Apocalypses is a web installation memorializing collapsed civilizations from across our universe. This interactive space is designed to allow contemplative engagement with five hundred curated entries from the Encyclopedia Apocalyptica.”

The garden is in the form of arrangements of dots, some of which are clickable. Those are marked with blue and turn red once you’ve accessed them. I’ve been dipping in at odd moments rather than going on a story binge so I’ve only read maybe half a dozen entries and their accompanying linked histories but so far it’s been this thoughtful, evocative meander and it’s been really rewarding. I don’t want to spoil things for you but I did want to share a favourite find so here’s a snippet:

“They saw the constellations as depictions of the greatest feats of their heroic leaders and, in time, built holographic projection machines to cast their treasured scenes up into the night sky. This way, no one would have to look at the stars naked and simply imagine; the heavens were animated, nightly, with their histories.

They’ve been dead for ages now but one of these devices, unbelievably, still groans to life from time to time, seemingly of its own volition. The rotator-mechanism is broken; it’s jammed in one position and can’t move, and the stories in the sky have come unstuck from the stars and spill over the heavens in a jumble.”

I love the imagery this conjures – a projection out of sync with the universe and unmoored in time, playing out its animations to stars long-since moved.

500 Apocalypses is here and the full list of IF Comp 2016 entries is here.

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Philippa Warr

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