Bewildering Stories is something new on the Internet. What are its origins and purpose?
Legend has it that it started as a joke on the Analog forum. Well, sort of. Some forum members had been talking about all the stories they'd submitted to Analog or Asimov's, only to have them bounce. It seemed to me that rejection slips are so common that they might be a literary genre in themselves.
I thought of all the attempts languishing in writers' desk drawers and file cabinets, never to see the light of day. I said, "Let's publish them." And in a take-off on titles from science fiction's past, such as Amazing and Astounding, I added, tongue in cheek, "We could call them Bewildering Stories." That's where the joke began and ended. Jerry Wright and "Invincible Spud" provided the means, experience and expertise to launch a website, and Bewildering Stories became a reality practically overnight.
Just think of all those unpublished manuscripts and frustrated writers. How like baseball players who make good careers in the minor leagues but somehow never quite get a chance to play in the majors. Now, I don't have to go to Toronto to watch the Blue Jays; I enjoy cycling or walking over to Exhibition Park to watch the Guelph Royals, and I served for seven years in Little League, in California. I've loved every day of it: the players take part in an interactive story; and, with every pitch, a new episode begins in the larger drama of the game.
What are the chances that any young person will ever play major league ball? About the same as that any aspiring writer will achieve the fame of a Michael Ondaatje or Margaret Atwood. Or even have a story published in Analog or Asimov's, among others. And yet it seemed to me there ought to be a place for young writers as well as young ballplayers, and that meant publishing their "rejects."
The discussion on the Analog forum had raised serious questions, for example: Has the quality of science fiction declined? Why does science fiction seem traditionalistic and not have a literary avant-garde? Editors and publishers are few, writers are many: might the "decision-makers" be imposing — inadvertently and despite their good intentions — a kind of conformity in science fiction? I don't know the answers to those questions, but I do think it is important that they are being raised and taken seriously.
Bewildering Stories is not an on-line workshop, and as a "webzine" it aims to be unconventional. It provides a "minor league" for unpublished talent and for manuscripts that writers have sadly concluded they can't sell. Why is that worthwhile? For two related reasons: First, one person's junk is another person's treasure. Second, it's a gold mine of ideas for writers.
If you want to write a story, what is your most plentiful source of ideas? The great works of literature? Possibly, but works of genius are finished monuments, and they can be intimidating. It's hard enough to adapt them, let alone improve upon them. Bewildering Stories gives writers bits and pieces they can work with easily.
III. New on the Net
The Internet commonly features two kinds of writing:
Bewildering Stories establishes a niche between the finished product and communication.
Almost five hundred years ago, the patron saint of Bewildering Stories, François Rabelais, took bits and pieces of the popular culture of his time and fashioned them into one of the most original and unorthodox classics of world literature. We challenge our readers to emulate that spirit. With every new title, as with every pitch and at every moment, something new begins. Who knows where it may lead?
Copyright © 2002 by Don W. and Bewildering Stories.