Old story, newly found

15 December 2007

Nearly 10 years ago, Ellen Datlow (in her role as the fiction editor of Omni Internet) invited me into an online round robin storytelling event. From the time I began writing in my 20′s, Ellen was “the editor” for me, the person I always wanted to sell to. (And I did — Ellen published the first two Mars stories, and I’ve always been particularly grateful because those stories are so close to my heart.) So when she said Do you wanna, I said yes.

Here’s how it worked. Ellen put together a group of four writers — me, Graham Joyce, Kathe Koja and Ed Bryant — to take turns writing installments of a story that were posted online as they were written. We were meant to write quickly, so that a new installment could be published every few days, and of course we had to build off what had come before — the point was to write an actual story, not just get wacky on the internet.

We got together through email and settled on a loose structure — the order of posting, and the general framework of the story. I’m not sure whose idea it was to do a Shirley Jackson hommage, but we all fell on it with glee (and if you haven’t read Jackson, please, please go do so immediately! She rocks. The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and the stories, oh my god….).

And so our round robin story became a sort of flash-Jackson — we’d show up on the interweb, see what the person before us had done, and then do our own thing with it. I don’t know how it was for the others, but for me it went like this: come home from the corporate job, kiss my sweetie, grab a beer on the way downstairs to my basement workspace, and… just do it. Write the damn thing by the time the beer was finished. Let it sit overnight, fix it the next day, send it off.

It was a rush. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and more to the point, I found out I didn’t have to get all precious or superstitious about writing — I could just do it.

I was sad when Omni went dark months later. And after several years, the archives disappeared as well. Ah well, I thought, there goes the story.

And then today I found it online, on Pamela Weintraub’s site. She was the Editor-in-Chief of Omni Internet, and I’m thrilled that she’s preserved all four of the round robin stories. This is a huge thing — you can read collaborative fiction from some of the best writers in the field: James Patrick Kelly, Rachel Pollack, Pat Cadigan, Nancy Kress, Karen Joy Fowler, Maureen McHugh, Roasaleen Love, Terry Bisson, Kathleen Ann Goonan, John Clute, Elizabeth Hand, Kim Newman and Jonathan Lethem. I’m so glad I got to be a part of this, and that I can point other people to a part of SF history that wasn’t always so easy to find.

The writer does the happy dance.

And here’s our story. Enjoy.

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