I wrote a serial e-mail story several years ago.
Gabriel and Etidorpha Orgrease were brother and sister. They are friends of the narrator. Their father Buck had brought home a fiberglass portable toilet with a hole in the side and Gab & Eti started out their life by my hiding their identity and sending out an e-mail to a list of 600 historic preservation practitioners with a request for advice on how best to restore the monumental artifact. This actually did happen, I did send this e-mail, it is not a fiction.
It all started when I was riding on a train from Chicago to New York so that I could ride through Horseshoe Curve. At the time this train ride was one of those pressing ambitions of my life.
This first e-mail caused several things to happen in short order. My poor mother got all sorts of weird e-mails and she had no clue why, seeing as I had disguised myself behind her e-mail address and not got around to tell her. She no longer uses her computer for anything, and I mean anything. A small band of people were delighted. A very large mass of people were outraged, and nasty. It seemed that 599 people on the list did not want to ever get any e-mails about anything even though they had subscribed to the list where nobody was supposed to say anything. The preservation they intended was the preservation of blank.
It was rough. Essentially if you are a young person in debt for having gone and got a Masters degree in fixing old buildings, and you can’t find a decent job, you will be very far above the mundane and vernacular study of outhouses. There are people with very heavy career investments in the religion of ancestor worship and they cannot truck any folderol in the midst of their well oiled world. In short as the e-mail series continued it gained fans, and it gained enemies.
The enemies and the fans both helped to encourage the project to continue. It did wander on for close to two years, with every week or few weeks or whatever a new e-mail that came along to play out the adventures of our two characters... and their dog Altuna.
The fans of the series would write in suggestions as to what the characters could be up to next... there was a lot of interest in shopping for shoes as I remember. It is one thing for characters to earn a living but readers seem to really want to read about characters that go shopping for weird stuff. I would meet readers in the real world, in the course of business (fixing old buildings) and they would talk about the characters. There was always a desire to know, “What next?”
The enemies of the series wrote death threats. Leastways they wanted the characters, and the series, dead. There is no telling how far unpleasantness that starts with words will go before there are shots in the night and burning Greek-Revival columns in our yards, let alone problems with freak flags.
The original has 42 installments, each section within the confine of a one to one-and-a-half page screen on a computer (eventually we sided with the anti-scroll down contingent) and people would have to wait days and weeks for more.
This all occurred on a listserv, a dynamic community exchange, an e-mail system that allowed broadcast, and feedback, and that was originated in part to sustain the life of the story, and also it established a worldwide community of histo presto deviants that has lasted in near daily contact with each other for 13 years now (give or take a few stragglers and lurkers).
In the grasp of an existential crisis I took on the name of one of my characters, Gabriel Orgrease and made it as my own a writer’s pseudonym. It is a name that I have worked steady and diligent to promote and brand as a distinct identity, as my real name has been previously used up in the market of books by a hack author that I need not mention here.
Well, this puts me in something of a fix if I want to do anything with the story, and I have decided that I do want to do something with it, like publish it as a book (a novella). For the longest time (10 years) I thought, well, this is fun but it is a bunch of crap... I have gotten far enough away from the heart of the mess to see it with new eyes and I am laughing. I like to share laughter, it is a very true and gut emotion and we need a whole lot more of it in our lives.
So, my problem is that in order to be the author [Gabriel Orgrease] and the friend of the brother and sister (and not the brother of the sister the author and the friend and the black dog too), I have to change the names of the characters. Henceforth they will be named Perveril and Etidorpha Farmsworth. In short, what has been known as SOS Gab & Eti will now be titled SOS Perv & Eti.
I anticipate and welcome heated and pungent argument. I am not inclined to put it up to a vote. I know that for some loyal fans and friends this will be a monumental change... but keep in mind your limited edition t-shirts will be worth more next week than they are today.
SOS Perv & Eti 1.3
"An ointment made of the juice, oil, and a little wax, is singularly good to rub cold and benumbed members." -- Nicholas Culpeper.
In line with the current topic we are reminded that a character in Ken Kesey's book Sometimes a Great Lotion (desperate in need at this point in the narrative) used pages torn out of the Tibetan Book of the Dead in practice of her daily constitution. Thank God that Old George did not, as far as GWSH (George Washington Shat Here) will confirm, likewise find himself compressed too often to rely upon signed paperwork that lay convenient at hand to assuage his constitution. Otherwise the population of Boston would probably still be stuck with soggy tea leaves, which, as I have heard rumored, causes one to remain consistently flushed and stiff in demeanor and is only moderated by a late-night flagon of Jamaican spiced-rum. Probably just another one of those bothersome urban myths to be Scoped.
Plugged up or otherwise defective plumbing is not of much good to a democracy and I would think the political scientists of academe would do well to contemplate the historical significance of single occupancy structures. There could be a whole new international movement, S. O. S. (Save Our Structures).
"We call a shack a shack and not a structure." -- Mies van der Rohe.
There are always detractors from any noble movements, and when they come down too abundantly, all conveniences have their inconveniences.
I'd be curious to know where Marco Polo stopped off in his travels. Bad enough he described a rhinoceros if he had also described a loo with a Ling Luk Loo busy in it. We might think it was a Saturn rocket prognosticated by the Tings, or the Tangs, or all those terra cotta guys, something slightly orange this way comes. I would not in the least be shocked, as with so many other claims of cultural superiority, to find that the Chinese are thousands of years ahead of the West in development of specific compost (humanure) black-art technology. There has to be a text on the feng shui of one-holer jakes. I can just imagine things like, "Do not place door of mouse in dragon mouth.", or, “Better a lizard in the well than a poot in the toot," 更好的蜥蜴以及在比poot的嘟嘟聲。,“Better than poot lizards, as well as the beep beep sound.” You know, those sort of thingies that seem to lose all sense in Google translation but sound kool and mysterious just the same.
To be continued... on the bus, again... well, almost on the bus, cross your legs and hold it...