I don’t remember how the idea first came about. I know that I’d been doing some editing over at SteamPunk Magazine for maybe just over a year, and that, more and more, I was feeling the need to do something more collaborative. I’ve always felt drawn to collaborative storytelling, there’s this little extra spark of something that only comes alive when you’re creating something with other human beings. It’s like the feeling I get sometimes when I play guitar (badly) with friends (who are much better)–like what I’m doing is no longer fully me, or fully them, any more. As though somewhere between what we’re all doing as individuals, there is something alive and breathing suspended delicately between us that has an identity of its own. And it’s something wonderful.
I think a whole bunch of things that I was reading about, watching, and thinking about at the time are responsible for the monstrosity that resulted: the idea of writing a collection of short stories, all by different authors, all set within the same world. The idea that maybe that world should be a place ravaged by disaster, that its civilisations have crumbled, and those that are left alive are doing the best they can to survive amongst the ashes and the snow.
So, I got in touch with a bunch of writers I’d enjoyed working with at SteamPunk Magazine, and I pitched them the idea: That at some point, the Victorian, retro-futuristic world had fallen apart. A comet appeared in the sky, close enough to the Earth to throw the climate into chaos. The whole world was enveloped in a sort of constant, shifting twilight that brought about a new ice age, and drove most of the population into ferocious, cannibalistic monsters: the Affected–driven ever onwards by technology, modifying themselves and everything around them, and destroying anything that stood in their path.
I asked these other writers to join in telling the stories of what came after. Between the seven of us, we set to work and waited to see what would appear at the end of it.
As so often happens with these things, the project never worked out. Life got in the way, and the story we were telling began to lose a bit of focus. These things are bound to happen when you have so many cooks in the kitchen all at once, and I learned valuable lessons through working on it that will (hopefully) make everything a little smoother the next time. When it became obvious that the whole thing wasn’t going to happen, two of the contributors whose stories had sort of followed the same thread went away, put their tales together with a third story, and published ‘White is the Color of Death‘. Which is excellent, by the way. You should all go away and take a look. Their stories have this delicious mixture of hope and despair that brilliantly embodies the whole atmosphere of the project.
The collection that we’re publishing here at Vagrants at some point over the next couple of months, ‘Journeys in the Winterlands’, is another piece of the puzzle. It follows one of the other major narratives that emerged from the haze: the story of a young and brutal female warrior who’s taking the fight back to the Affected, and searching for her captured mentor, Edward O’Malley–a folk hero otherwise known as The Web of the North.
The three stories in this little antho all happen within that narrative. They are about hope and loss, destruction and technology, and about the things we find that help us to get through the night. They’re stories about what we value, and how we choose to live. Sometimes, those choices that we make along the way, and the values that we hold dear, sustain us and sometimes they tear us apart. I hope you all enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed making them happen.