Thomas M. Reid on Shared World Writing

Jeff VanderMeer and I have been pretty busy preparing for Shared Worlds 2011.  As Jeff has mentioned on his blog, we received a grant from in the fall, we are seeing more early-enrollment than usual, and our visiting writer Nnedi Okorafor was just nominated for a Nebula Award.

The Shared Worlds camp blends many creative endeavors.  Students at the camp spend two weeks world-building, collaborating, and writing (alone and together).  And they do much, much more…  One element of the Shared Worlds camp is shared world writing–writing in a setting that has been created by and shared by a group.  It occurred to me, however, in answering some interview questions elsewhere that some people might have questions about how shared world writing actually works. 

Below, Thomas M. Reid offers up an essay about his experiences with shared world fiction.  This essay grew out of an e-mail exchange Reid and I had back when the Shared Worlds camp was still a classroom experiment.  I’d contacted Reid because I’d enjoyed his books even though, at the time, I wasn’t familiar with the shared settings he was writing in.  I later discovered that Reid has a vast and varied past working with game-related Intellectual Properties (IPs).
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Horrors, Wounds, & Other Weirdnesses: What Scares the Haunted Legends?

There’s a lot of joy in the writing process, but some days there seems to be a whole lot more fear than anything else.  The masters haunt us.  Our self-doubts berate us. The blank page (or screen) sears our retinas.  (We re-read over-written sentences like that one and wince.)  Our internal editor goes on a manuscript-shredding rampage…

Even our good friend What If turns on us.  What if I never write another word?  What if this is no good?  What if no one likes it?  What if I don’t meet that deadline?  What if I don’t get a date for the prom?
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A Complex Web of Influence with Campbell, Kiernan, & Others Haunted Legends

There are a lot of compelling reasons to pick up Haunted Legends edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas.  The editors for one.  The contributors – Ramsey Campbell, Kit Reed, Joe R. Lansdale, Caitlin R. Kiernen, Jeffrey Ford to name but a few.

Co-editor Nick Mamatas describes the theme of the anthology as “simple: ask some of the best writers of horror and dark fantasy in the world to choose their favorite ‘true’ regional ghost story, and to rescue it from the cobwebs of the local tourist gift shop or academic journal.”

The stories in Haunted Legends are stories that have endured, stories that capture the nature of a particular time and place, and stories that have been converted from legend to the written, short form.  These are stories that disturb and linger.  Stories that haunt—the region, the reader, the writer.
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Meet Amanda Downum

Amanda Downum is a southern-born fantasy novelist who lives in Texas and writes about “monsters and fraught relationships. Separately and in combination.”  Her novels are filled with layered descriptions, serpentine plot twists, and well-developed characters racked with very human ambivalence.

The Drowning City, the first book in her Necromancer Chronicles, tells the story of Isyllt Iskaldur, a spy who has “a revolution to foment, a country to throw into chaos, and an emperor to undermine.”  Iskaldur lives in a world “rank with brine and bilge, sewers draining into the sea, but under the port-reek the air smell[s] of spices and the green tang of… forests rising beyond the marshy delta.”  It’s a world where “death smell[s] like roses.”
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