What is: Crosslines

THE SHORT ANSWER

Crosslines is related to Low Fidelity — a novel I first conceived in late 1995 and did not update much after 1999. As work on Low Fidelity has resumed after a significant creative drought, Crosslines is now an online place which serves as introduction and ‘further reading’ of the world presented in the novel. It’s a sort of Chapter Zero, but since it cannot be described as being either a prologue or epilogue, I decided to use the term exologue, meaning ‘outside the narration’. In other words, the bits and pieces you’ll read in this website are not and will not be part of the novel Low Fidelity, but they’ll be useful to better understand it.

 

THE LONG ANSWER

Crosslines was first conceived on February 26, 2007. As I wrote back then:

The spark came at 3:20 AM. The first words were skein, and the variant skean. Also thread and yarn were considered. These are prime terms. These are all part of the backbone. Another term to be taken into consideration is crosslight (a light positioned to illuminate the parts of a photographic subject that the main lighting leaves in shade).

The idea was to create what I called an interactive webfiction, i.e. a project based on the principles of Interactive Fiction but without having a fixed adventure structure where a computer parses the commands given by the player (usually following a precise syntax). In the case of an interactive webfiction, the author takes the role of creator of the Story and becomes its so-called ‘Prime Mover’. From the original introduction I wrote in 2007:

The Story unfolds at an arbitrary pace. It may take many different, unpredictable threads. It is constantly in the making. RM is the Prime Mover, and is responsible of the Story as he gave birth to it and gave it its genetic code. Development proceeds by so-called states of suspension (the posts). Each state is like a node (or “crossline”) and it develops by external input (the comments). Inputs may come in many forms:

  • Suggested actions. Like good old text adventures and interactive fiction, a commenter can enter a “command”, but since there is no artificial intelligence here to parse such command(s), they can be anything from simple and direct (GO NORTH) to very complex sentences and series of actions (RUN OUT OF THE STUDY, TAKE THE STAIRS TO THE LIVING ROOM AND TURN OFF THE LIGHT. WAIT IN THE DARKNESS UNTIL SOMEONE TRIES THE MAIN DOOR).
  • Addition of details. It’s a story. It’s not just about some empty character moving in a fixed environment like a puppet or robot. Commenters can propose descriptions of the characters involved, flashbacks, memories, anything they feel may contribute to the Story’s setting and direction. The Prime Mover will be free to coordinate the various contributions, interact with them, stimulate a particularly interesting one, expand on it, reject it, challenge it.
  • Direct questions to the Prime Mover. Especially in the first stages of development, commenters will surely be confused about the lack of information provided in the posts. They can help shape characters and situations by “brainstorming” with the Prime Mover, asking questions, giving plot suggestions and the like. (Examples: “Is person X good at repairing vehicles?”, “How about person Y’s education?”, “I think we should create an episode in person Z’s past to justify his/her claustrophobia”, and so on).

If the project attracts many willing participants, it’s easy to imagine that, for each post, the comments section could grow as lengthy as an apparatus criticus. The Prime Mover will organise the various pieces of input by creating different pages for easier reading. This way, as the main characters and situations emerge, it won’t be necessary to hunt for crucial bits of information in the comment section of each post. Each character, each place, the general background, in other words the basic coordinates of the Story will be accessible from the main page. The main course of the Story will be followed by reading the posts (the main nodes or “crosslines”), and everything else (small details, parts of dialogue, digressions, etc.) will remain in the comments. Each post will be accurately tagged to facilitate reading and searches. This, at least, is the intent. It all really depends on what – and who – is going to happen.

After a few attempts at attracting participants and contributors — even by creating a Twitter account so as to engage people by using a more familiar interface — and receiving very little feedback or interest, the project was first put on hold, then in cold storage, to be rethought and restructured and possibly relaunched at a later date.

In early 2012, it was clear I didn’t want to restart Crosslines as interactive webfiction (though I still like the idea and may start a separate project with a simplified structure). In late 2012 I was exploring some ways to transform Crosslines into something connected with Minigrooves but I couldn’t find a powerful enough solution.

It’s March 2013, and Crosslines has become a part of Low Fidelity — another literary project I first conceived in late 1995 and did not update much after 1999. As work on Low Fidelity has resumed after a significant creative drought, Crosslines is now an online place which serves as introduction and ‘further reading’ of the world presented in the novel. It’s a sort of Chapter Zero, but since it cannot be described as being either a prologue or epilogue, I decided to use the term exologue, meaning ‘outside the narration’.

Riccardo Mori — March 2013