sub-Q’s 2018 in review!

2019-01-16 · by Stewart C Baker
tagged Blog / News

Wow, so.

2019, huh?

We have a lot of fun things planned for this year–including the winning entries from our first ever game jam, and two new original pieces to join them in February, a few additional non-fiction columns every month, and the possibility of issue-wide cover art too.

But before we get all starry-eyed about the future, I’d like to take a moment and review the amazing games we published last year, in 2018! (If you’re eyeing this post with the new Nebula for Game Writing in mind, I’ve listed whether each piece is original to us or not, with its original publication date/place if it’s not.)

We were also lucky enough to publish an original essay on making interactive fiction by Bruno Dias every month starting in February, as well as several essays by Anya Johanna DeNiro. These essays have been a pleasure to read, and have given me a lot of insight into making my own fiction–whether it’s interactive or not–as well as reading/playing other people’s, so definitely check them out if you missed them last year!



January started the year off with a bang, with a piece from now-sub-Q-editor Natalia Theodoridou titled “All Those Parties We Didn’t Cry At.” Atmospheric and ponderous in the best possible way, “All Those Parties” will have you thinking about your own relationship with tears–and the people in your life.

Remember when we could cry at every little thing?

(Interactivity original to sub-Q, January 16 2018; prose reprinted from Daily Science Fiction, 2016)


Written by game designer, artist, writer, and budding digital xenobiologist Gareth Damian Martin and featuring the sounds of Paws Menu, February’s game was the meditative swimming game “Salt.” (If you like this one, check out Gareth’s upcoming In Other Waters.)

A game about swimming, thinking and the distant possibility of escape.

(Reprinted from 2017’s IFComp)

Our February “Making Interactive Fiction” column from Bruno Dias focused on determining scope for new projects.

We also ran an essay by Anya Johanna Deniro in Febrary which reviewed Emily Short’s “Pytho’s Mask” as an IF Romance.


In March, we brought you “Lost Ones” by Jac Colvin, an original piece that transports you to the watery realm of the Russalka. Will you try to fight your dreams? Or step willingly into them?

Sometimes even dreams can be dangerous.

(Original to sub-Q, March 20, 2018)

Our March “Making Interactive Fiction” column from Bruno Dias was all about branching–why to do it, and how.


April showers bring spring flowers. Another thing they brought us was “Nine Moments in Fairyland” by Hannah Powell-Smith, a short, sharp scattering of a game about catastrophe and the fair folk.

He wanted me to stay.

(Original to sub-Q, April 17th, 2018)

Our April “Making Interactive Fiction” column from Bruno Dias dug into testing, with suggestions and how to go beyond the basics.


In May we ventured into the world of contract-based quality assurance with “Human Error” by Katherine Morayati. Players take on the role of a new contractor fielding error reports for a company who may have a… less than benign approach to product testing.

The greatest threat to any system is its users.

(Original to sub-Q, May 15th, 2018)

Our May “Making Interactive Fiction” column from Bruno Dias was all about procedural generation.

We also ran a piece by Anya Johanna DeNiro in May which talked about interactive poetry and Andrew Plotkin’s “The Space Under the Window.”


In June, we went far beyond the bounds of any one world with Andrew Plotkin’s “Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home,” a parser-based adventure set in a faraway galaxy.

When you weary of everything in the world…

(Reprinted from @party, June 2010)

Our June “Making Interactive Fiction” column from Bruno Dias was part one of a 2-part essay on narrative design for writers.


July’s game, “The Hidden King” by dcsross, swapped out boundless space for confinement, as reality and fantasy blur. Is the narrator a lycanthrope? Just disoriented? Which is worse?

The city makes kings of wolves, and wolves of kings.

(Original to sub-Q, July 17, 2018)

Our July “Making Interactive Fiction” column from Bruno Dias was the second part of the narrative design essay.


John Kills Jenny” by S Dean puts you in the place of a convicted murderer. Why did John kill Jenny, though? And will the form of rehabilitation he’s been assigned to by the court ever really help?

Every choice matters, so pick your options carefully.

(Original to sub-Q, August 14, 2018)

Our August “Making Interactive Fiction” column from Bruno Dias talked about scenes as a unit of structure in interactive narratives.


“Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station | Hours Since Last Patient Death: 0” by Caroline M. Yoachim was our September game. Take a chance and try to survive a trip to the clinic in this hilarious jab at Choose Your Own Adventure stories. (Don’t forget to read the FAQ.)

If this is an emergency, we’re sorry—you’re probably screwed.

(Reprinted from Lightspeed Magazine, March 2016)

Our September “Making Interactive Fiction” column from Bruno Dias talked about how, when, and why to adapt from other genres.


In October, we published “Queers in Love at the End of the World” by Anna Anthropy. You have just ten seconds to act in this essential piece of contemporary IF. How do you show your loved one you care?

Everything is wiped away.

(Reprinted from, March 2013)

Our October “Making Interactive Fiction” column from Bruno Dias returned to branching for a more in-depth look, with a focus on branching and then merging again.


November’s game was “Ocean’s Call,” the second original piece of interactive fiction we published in 2018 from Jac Colvin. This one takes a more sustained dive into the water than “Lost Ones,” exploring our connection with the ocean and what lies deep beneath.

The ocean calls… Will you answer?

(Original to sub-Q, publication date November 20, 2018)

Our November “Making Interactive Fiction” column from Bruno Dias also dove beneath the surface to look at character interiority.


In December, we published “Thanks for the Memories” by Erin Roberts. In a world where memories are bought and sold, what does it mean to remember yourself? What does it mean to even have a “yourself”? Can you regain it once you’ve lost everything?

Could you piece your life together one memory at a time?

(Original to sub-Q, publication date December 18, 2018)

Our December “Making Interactive Fiction” column from Bruno Dias talked about some of the benefits and drawbacks of interactive anthologies.

December also saw the completion of our first annual subQJam over on We had 28 fantastic entries of very short IF on the theme of love, and will be publishing several of them in February.

You can check out the entries over on now, though!


2018, dang.

Phew–quite a year!

What was your favourite game? Your favourite essay?  Did you take part in our game jam?

Take a moment to think back and share your thoughts with us on TwitterFacebook, or Discord–we’d love to hear from you!

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