Today drops the inaugural issue of Orthogonal SF: The War at Home, which features my story of technopagan populist revolution, “#Anon and the Antlers”. Yes, that’s a hashtag in the title. Yes, I did take leave of my senses a little. Not a little. That hashtag is the tip of the iceberg.
There’s not much I like more than a cautionary tale. This one starts with mad ambition, as I suppose cautionary tales tend to do.
“#Anon and the Antlers” is a story of a guy in antlers and a natty suit inspiring the world to fix itself. I originally conceived of it as a hypertext fiction–you know, with links–a choose-your-own-adventure of the modern age. I thought of it as a series of fake, interconnected Wikipedia pages. For a hot second I thought I’d surreptitiously post them to the real Wikipedia; already I was skirting the shoals of reality. They do not make it easy to bullshit the world over there at Wikipedia anymore. I guess they’ve been bitten one too many times, or one thousand.
So then I thought I’d make a child Wikipedia–a couple of insular pages that look enough like the real thing to perpetuate the illusion, but would remain entirely under my own draconian control. Note that this explicitly goes against the spirit of the story itself, which is about collectivity, how the many could conceivably outweigh the one and in doing so save us all a lot of grief. Wikipedia was exactly the kind of thing I ought to be supporting, feeding into, if I’d been capable of it.
And even that was too much. Because what I wanted was for this to gain life of its own, to take over reality. I wanted all of Anonymous to don antlers and renounce individual fame in favor of the collective good, the good of humanity, of the earth and all life, to fix everything, stop capitalist greed from ruining everything, plow up parking lots and plant them with trees and so on and so forth ad idealistic.
As it turns out, hand-coding a fictional Wikipedia clone is not the easiest thing in the word. And I didn’t want to stop there–every time I got to an outer edge of the alternate world I’d created, whereat the momentary, unverifiable glimpse of a supernatural being sent the world into some further paroxysm of revolutionary frenzy, I found there was more beyond that edge I felt I had to color in before I could stop.
There was no stopping point. It would have gone on forever.
So I let it go. Thousands and thousands of words, dozens of footnotes, a handful of rather ridiculous hack photoshop jobs, as you see. I cherrypicked a plot out of all of it, and I ended up with a neat 1800 words of prose, with a beginning, a middle and end. I am not unhappy with it. It makes the points I wanted it to make. It’s just…not a revolution.