Cinderella and the Magic Conversation

Glass, by Emily Short is an adaptation of Cinderella, which plays out as a conversation-oriented work of Interactive Fiction. Created in Inform 7 in 2006, Short focuses on the all important conversation between the Prince, searching for his bride, and Cinderella’s Stepmother, working to block the Prince from her step-daughter. The entire narrative takes place in one room, and Short assigns her readers a very small, but equally impactful, role in the direction of the narrative. 

Like in all works of Interactive Fiction, readers are able to interact in the world around them, and with each turn readers take, the conversation between Prince and Stepmother and her family moves forward. By this stipulation, readers are in stuck in a time crunch of sorts to get Cinderella to her Prince- just like Cinderella was in leaving the Ball precisely at Midnight. In Short’s version of Cinderella, readers take on the Stepmother’s talkative (but not alway bright) parrot. This isn’t obvious at first, but Short makes this position clear after a few interactions to her readers by. It’s following this discovery that most of the fun of this work is opened up. Armed with their role, readers move to discover what they as a parrot can and cannot accomplish in order to bring about the classic fairy tale ending of Cinderella- it’s a surprisingly difficult quest!


By Short’s descriptions and how the parser responds to reader’s decisions is what makes the reader’s role as a pet parrot clear.


Initially, the actions readers may take feel as if they barely make a dent in changing the narrative presented by Short. The Prince and Stepmother give the parrot passing glances and occasional comments, but never speak or act directly to it. This is a frustrating fact for players used to IF works bending to their exact will! This frustration could be considered one of the driving forces that pushes Glass readers along, as they work to make their parrot as impactful as possible- while still remaining just a parrot.


Fortunately for readers, Glass is notably short in length, allowing second, third, and seventeenth replays to go quickly. The entire conversation hardly ever lasts more than fifteen minutes with each play-through. Although because of the quick nature of this work, replays can feel a tad repetitive as the conversation cycle does not change often. However, It is thanks to the length and repetition that Short’s work gives readers the opportunity to discover openings to insert themselves (as best a parrot can) and change the overall direction of the conversation. By these forced twists in the narrative, controlled by the reader, the multiple endings (seven in total) arise. The less than optimal endings are easily reached by the reader’s passive parrot, but with some skill and meddling, Cinderella can marry her Prince. Although, I’d argue that it’s thanks to the ‘bad’ endings that readers can better understand the best outcome for Cindy and her one true love.


Directing topics at hand is how the reader is able ultimately able to influence the narrative of Glass.


Short’s decision to set her work’s focus around a conversation is a challenging one, as the conversation between the Prince, Stepmother, Cinderella and occasional interjections from the stepsisters and the reader’s own Parrot, become the landscape Short’s readers are forced to explore. The established conversation can feel repetitive, but as Short explains in her look behind the scenes at Glass this was purposeful as the subjects within the conversation act as rooms- allowing the reader to make decisions on how to interact with the subject at hand. The choice to consider a conversation in this lens allows Short to push her readers into goal-seeking behavior, as they decide what they wish to accomplish within a conversation. Changes in topics in Glass are used to replace the standard IF cardinal directions to drive the narrative along.


With each ending Short not only puts her own personal twist on the classic fairy tale she also challenges what IF can accomplish as Glass exclusively focuses on conversation. She changes villains into heroes, magic into the enemy, and repetitive conversations into an explorable landscape. With quick replay-ability Glass is a work of IF that’s easy to get into, but equally challenging as readers work to find how they can best alter the world around them as a parrot become fairy-godmother. 





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