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Author Interview: Eleanor Hingley
2019-07-31 · by Stewart C Baker
Eleanor Hingley has been writing and gaming, and writing about gaming, for longer than she cares to remember. Find more of her interactive fiction at https://magpie-elle.itch.io/ and non-interactive fiction at https://shadowplaytheatre.wordpress.com/. She writes reviews of role-playing games and comment on gaming culture at https://theanxiousgamer.wordpress.com/. Eleanor is the author of “A Tragedy of Manners,” from our August 2019 issue.
This interview was conducted via e-mail in July of 2019.
Sub-Q Magazine: What does Interactive Fiction mean to you?
Eleanor Hingley: I’ve loved gamebooks and story-rich computer games for a long time now, but I focused entirely on writing non-interactive fiction for over a decade. Now that I’m learning about interactive fiction, I’m constantly surprised by how playful the process of writing it is, and how much resonance stories can have when the reader has made choices shaping their own experience. I feel that I’m just scratching the surface of what the form can do, and I’m so excited to explore it further!
Sub-Q: One thing that really made this game stand out to us is the deftness with which you use minor details to call up a galaxy-spanning setting. Which came first when you thought up this game: the details, or the setting?
Eleanor: The details were a huge part of what inspired me to write this game. I wanted to take the time to convey richness and luxury, but also to use references to the wider setting to make it seem vast and storied. I say ‘seem’ because the details often led to making up setting elements as I went along! In a novel like ‘Dune’, you get a sense that you’re just at the tip of the iceberg and there’s so much more to explore — a lot of the joy of writing this game was discovering the stories of my own universe as I went.
Sub-Q: We love a good space opera. What are some of your favourites–whether in fiction or in games?
Eleanor: I grew up watching ‘Star Wars’, so my heart will always be with the scoundrels, rebels and space knights! I love anything with dashing space adventures and distant galaxies. Recently I’ve fallen in love with ‘Killjoys’ and ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ for their wit, heart and style. For my game, I particularly drew on ‘Dune’, the ‘Metabarons’ comics, ‘The Chronicles of Riddick’, and ‘The Collapsing Empire’ by John Scalzi.
Sub-Q: The title of this game seems like a pretty clear reference to the dramatic genre of “Comedy of Manners.” Other than the social setting and the title, did you draw any inspiration from that genre?
Eleanor: Absolutely! I love the absurd overreactions characters have in comedies of manners, particularly to breaches in etiquette, so I thought it would be interesting to combine that with a baroque space opera setting where social dilemmas could lead to literal death. Using a light-hearted genre for quite a grim setting appealed to me, and I liked the idea of trying to convey some of the frantic pressure-cooker feel of a farcical plot through an interactive genre.
Sub-Q: What are you working on next?
Eleanor: I tend to write lots of different forms at once: interactive fiction, role-playing games, blogging and novels. Right now I’m working with some amazing teams on independent Dungeons & Dragons adventure anthologies, such as the Uncaged Anthology on the Dungeon Master’s Guild. I’m keen to go back and expand some of my other pieces of interactive fiction on itch.io — I wrote them for game jams under time pressure, so I’d love to expand them beyond their original scope. Beyond that, I’m enjoying plotting a traditional English ghost story in the style of M.R. James as a piece of interactive fiction, though it is proving to be quite the challenge!