m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...

No Heliosphere

Heliosphere has been cancelled along with everything else. But, despite the fact that everyone is now on the viral news train and talking coronavirus all the time, PlagueBlog goes on. Today is Day 47 of COVID-19 in Boston.

For those of you stuck at home and/or nervous about take-out, I’ve updated the cookbook.


I’m still nominally planning to attend Heliosphere for the first time this April, but I’m not really expecting it to still be on by then, due to plague. (Tarrytown is near quarantined New Rochelle, NY.) PlagueBlog, my disease blog, is currently up to Day 40 of novel coronavirus (yesterday) in Boston, at least until I write up some Day 41 news later today.


I used to have another, non-writing blog: PlagueBlog, the disease blog. It’s been moribund for a while, but it comes back out for any epidemic excitement. I’m currently on Day 5 of novel coronavirus here in Boston (and elsewhere).

Boskone 57

Boskone, New England’s longest-running science fiction and fantasy convention, begins in a week and a half. February 14–16 will be a fun weekend filled with discussions of books, science, art, games, music, and more. Visit the Boskone website, the schedule, the Boskone Blog, Twitter, or Facebook for more details!

I’m on the schedule again this Boskone, where I’ll be talking about Star Trek and games of all sorts.


Via Reddit: a new hyperfiction platform, Novelyze, is in a beta state of some sort suspiciously like the old closed beta of Decision Fiction, before their website got even less informative. The (new?) name is also unfortunately similar to Novelize, a Scrivener-like subscription-based online writing app.

Gentlebeings, start your novels!

NB: The NaNoWriMo forums have moved to Discourse, which seems to be mostly an improvement in speed and usability.

Entwee/Enscree 1.1.1

I’ve bumped Entwee and Enscree, my Twee and Multimarkdown exporters for Twine (respectively), with a bug fix for buggy brackets (reported by AnotherRPGEnthusiast in the Discord). Unfortunately, bigger Twine bugs exist in proofing formats than the one I fixed, which make my changes rather academic at this point.

On the bright side, there’s a beta/preview of DotGraph as a Service that got rolled along with the above changes. The corresponding version of DotGraph isn’t out yet, but enterprising graphers can build it themselves off the dgaas branch in BitBucket, if they can’t wait.


I was inspired by a reddit post about gamebook software to update my list of hyperfiction tools again, this time moving it from the old blog post into two freestanding pages: the thesaurus (and reading list) and the software list.

The most interesting software suggestion to me was gamebookformat, with its extensive handling of paragraph numbers for gamebooks. I’m curious whether randomizing paragraph numbers will feel right to a reader who’s used to manually-assembled gamebooks. I also stumbled across some Twine vaporware called Spiner whose goals look similar to those of my PrePub.

Boskone 56

Boskone, New England’s longest-running science fiction and fantasy convention, begins tomorrow afternoon at 2pm, with an afternoon slate of free programming and gaming. As usual, you can find out more about Boskone at The Boskone Blog, Twitter, Facebook, and the Boskone website.

I’m on the schedule again this Boskone, where I’ll be talking about games, interactive fiction, free will, and Star Trek.

Correlation Causation

Because it’s intimately linked to BoardGameGeek data, yet another blog post appears only in my BGG blog, 40 Graphs. Post #2 is about a BGG correlation tool.

Pnut Botter Talks Back

Yesterday I made a little bot (Twiki) with a glitch back end (pnut-botter); today he learned to reply to mentions.

pnut botter

I made a little bot (Twiki) with a glitch back end (pnut-botter) for the most recent pnut.io hackathon:

40 Graphs

Because it’s intimately linked to BoardGameGeek data, my latest blog post is in my BGG blog, 40 Graphs. It is an inaugural post about counting the games I played in 2018.

I have a little G. K. Chesterton page with quotes that I first put online back before many of the people his quotes apply to today were even born. But then, he said them long before I was born, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at his staying power. I just didn’t expect him to become more relevant, and to find myself quoting him even more frequently:

I’m still a liberal. It’s those people who aren’t liberals.

Clan Correction

During NaNoWriMo 2013, I wrote a Random Family Tree Generator in order to auto-generate characters, and later expanded it in 2014. I opened it up this NaNoWriMo and immediately noticed a bug involving the clan dropdowns (for those humans and fantasy species with clans), which I never noticed before because I either go straight to my custom species or I use random clans—and which would never have happened if I had just started fresh on it with a framework rather than basing it on even older code. The bug is now fixed.

Kids' Choice

Publishers Weekly reports on a recent increase in Choose Your Own Adventure-style books, including some interactive graphic novels, on the market: Kids in Charge: Choose-Your-Fate Fiction Kicks into High Gear


I’m using Scrivener 3 with Scree this NaNoWriMo (and yes, I’m behind already), but I’ve always dreamed of a Scrivener with a plain-text backend. There are ways to work around Scrivener’s RTF file format, and it has features I can’t give up (yet), but I’m still taking a longing look at Manuskript, a Linux-first open source Scrivener-style editor that uses a plain-text file format.

Gentlemen, start your novels!

Horizontal Paloma

In response to a request on Discord, I’ve provided some user CSS and JavaScript for my Twine story format Paloma, a non-drop-in replacement for the popular Twine 1 stretchtext story format Jonah, to make it imitate Leon Arnott’s horizontally-scrolling Jonah variant Journal. (I also added Journal to the story format catalog.) I found the scrolling a bit too slow for my tastes, but dealing with that would probably mean some internal changes to the story format, or going the way Leon went with a separate story format (which, of course, I would have to name Palomar).

In any event, the fiddling uncovered some Twine 1 bugs in Paloma, probably having to do with the initial refactoring to make the same codebase handle Twine 1 and 2, and hence to a newly repaired version of Paloma: 1.1.2. Twine 2 users should be unaffected either way.

Sub-Q's Interactive Flash Love Jam

The announcement from Sub-Q includes two options, the actual game jam at itch.io, or a proposal option similar to their usual proposal submission process. The theme is love of any sort, and there’s a word limit: the interactive stories can present only 1000 words of content to the user.

I’m thinking of it as a flash fiction market on that account, and I’m hoping it also means that the usual structural requirements (or heavy-handed suggestions, if you prefer) one finds in hypertext markets like Sub-Q and Choice of Games won’t apply—so I may even submit. If you’re new to interactive fiction, they sound quite supportive and you should probably try it, too.