Author Guest Post: Hannah Powell-Smith

2018-04-24 · by Hannah Powell-Smith
tagged Blog / Interviews

Hannah Powell-Smith‘s interactive work focuses on fraught relationships, unreliability, and unknowable entities. As well as publishing interactive short stories in sub-Q, and self-publishing at, she is developing a dark fantasy game with Choice of Games about a mob necromancer. She lives in the UK with her wife and son.
In this post, she talks about the process of writing our April story, Nine Moments in Fairyland.
Author photo of Hannah Powell-Smith.

Hannah Powell-Smith

Nine Moments in Fairyland contains themes I often return to. A protagonist who simultaneously captivates and is captivated by an ambiguous figure. A choice between mundane and extraordinary. Dusty roads. Entities so far removed from the protagonist that they are unfathomable, but with hungers that are disconcertingly human. How can a protagonist understand or interact with such a creature?

The piece began at a point in 2016 when, exhausted by outlining long projects, I was struggling to write anything at all. When I’m stuck in a rut, constraints are perfect to fire up some creative action, so I used a word generator created by my friend and fellow game designer Grant Howitt for inspiration, and restricted myself to standalone flash fiction stories, each the length of a post-it note.

It worked. Writing something small in scope, and low-stakes, helped get my brain back in gear. I wrote a selection of tiny stories depicting various characters at crisis points. A quarantined patient clawing at their friend’s door; a warrior removing an organ from a crystalline monster; an injured but ferocious rebel learning to fly. And the story that seeded Nine Moments, originally Glamour/Dirt/Teeth.
Handwritten note held by a partially visible hand. Underlined title: Glamour Dirt Teeth.


After many months of the stories lying dormant, I wanted to do something else with them. At first I considered an entirely non-linear piece with many more word combinations similar to the splendid 500 Apocalypses by Phantom Williams, but quickly recognised that the scope creep would become outrageous – it would be the very definition of combinatorial explosion! If I continued on that path, I’d risk never finishing.

And so I narrowed the stories down to four words – glamour, fracture, dirt, teeth – and the combinations therein.

Interactive fiction lends itself to non-linear storytelling, and exploring how the play order affects interpretation; unlike some of my other pieces, I gave greater freedom for the reader to piece the story fragments together. My aim is that the order in which the vignettes are revealed affects how the player feels about the fae, the protagonist, or the situation they have found themselves in.

My favourite IF stories to write and play show the protagonist irrevocably changed by their experience, and the endings for Nine Moments allow a degree of interpretation too. Where is the protagonist, whether they stay in fairyland or return back down to earth? What will their existence be, now? After a brief, rarefied trip, it’s up to the player to figure that out.

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