Here and there
As you may have read in my previous newsletter, I started this new section called “MetaStructure” to talk about fiction. The kind I write, not the kind I read.
If you care about this, please read ahead. If you don’t, you can unsubscribe from this section while remaining subscribed to the main newsletter “Soliloquies.”
So, yes, if you’ve been following me, there’s a good chance that you know me as a blogger, which has indeed been my main writing activity for the past 10+ years.
However, my writing history didn’t start with blogging. It started with… I guess written assignments at school?
Actually, in elementary school, I think I remember writing stories sometimes. I definitely remember starting writing and drawing a comic book. This is pretty much when I realized that I’ll never have a career as an artist.
In junior high school, I discovered tabletop role-playing games, which were just called role-playing games at the time, as the computer kind only appeared a few years later, and didn’t become the main kind of RPG for a few more years after that. If you’re not familiar with tabletop role-playing games, do you see the game that the kids are playing at the beginning of Stranger Things? Well, that’s a good depiction of my friends and me at the same age.
Playing such games requires some writing skills, especially in terms of plot, maybe not so much in terms of style. So write plots, I did then.
The day I realized that I could write is actually a bit of a negative memory.
I’m in my first year of high school, and we have a writing assignment in French class (i.e. my native language class, I guess that’d be English class for most of you?). The assignment was to write a page or so with as many metaphors as possible in the text.
I had just finished reading the Lord of the Rings, and I wrote a scene describing a battlefield right after a bloody battle. The whole scene was set in a medieval-fantasy universe similar to Middle-Earth. Not much was happening in it, it was mostly descriptive.
I’ll remember my French teacher’s comment for my whole life: “Good job, but are you sure that you wrote this yourself?”
She and I had a complicated relationship for some reason (I’ll expand one day if you care, but in short, both my lack of maturity and her lack of teaching experience were to blame). And mutual trust wasn’t a part of that relationship.
Know that I have never cheated on a written assignment. Ever. And I was greatly upset that she could even consider that option.
It took me years to realize that her unpleasant comment meant that she considered my writing to be good. That she had trouble imagining a 15-year-old brat could write such a text.
I started writing fiction almost eight years later. I was an undergraduate in college, majoring in English at the time.
I’m not sure if it actually was the first short story I wrote, but it’s definitely the first one I showed to someone, and the first one that I’ve kept (I may not have read it in 20 years). My friend was much better and more knowledgeable than me at the literature thing at the time. She gave me some very valuable pointers and she somehow unknowingly set me on the writing path. I’m sad we didn’t keep in touch for long after graduating. It was right before the internet become mainstream and social media was still a few years away. All I know is that she’s an English teacher somewhere in France. One of the few people from that time I’d like to reconnect with.
I spent my last years in France and my first years in the US (that’s at the turn of the century for those of you who want a clear timeline) writing a certain number of short stories, narrative journals, and more. It’s also the time when I became a heavy internet user, so yes, I had my homepage and a blurb section that would eventually evolve into a blog.
I also spent a lot of time on forums, especially two of them that became some sorts of communities where I made a lot of friends at a time when it was weird to make friends on the internet. I’m still good friends with a number of them. I made one friend in particular, let’s call him Pogo (that was his nickname at the time, funny as it was the norm back then, none of us would call each other by our real names then), who became very close. We sometimes call each other brothers from different parents, clones, or variants (that’s a recent reference), because while very different in many ways, we seem to be more than similar in many other ways.
At the time we were already toying with writing things together, but one day, on one of the forums where we used to spend our time, he had the idea of a giant “exquisite corpse.” Except that instead of writing one line each, we’d write whatever we felt like, for how long we felt like, writing a “cooperative short story.” By “we,” I mean a dozen or so different people.
The project lasted a few weeks and then - of course - collapsed.
From its ashes, a few interesting things came out, especially two characters (because of our RPG background, the idea was also that each one of us was in charge of one character in particular, one that was a strange variation of ourselves) and a universe.
During the next few years, we wanted to create something with those, and we did create a few things, but nothing went very far for reasons. We resumed writing and stopped many times over the following decade. One day, a few years ago, we decided to revive the whole thing, as a website collecting stories (plural) and also a wiki, and whatever else would come to our minds. The goal was to create some sort of non-linear narration. How pretentious of us! Well, has this been done before? This idea became a website: MetaStructure.Zone
Once again, we started and then stopped shortly after. I think we’re better at having great ideas than at implementing them. We’re also older, and the whole “being an adult” thing sometimes gets in the way of our creativity.
Anyways, the past two to three years have been chaotic for a bunch of reasons, you may be familiar with some. I tried to keep the project afloat by myself hoping he can join again eventually. And a few months ago, I realized that I really struggle writing properly in French nowadays, whereas my English writing is not too shabby even if it’ll never be native. Talking with another friend (that would be The Less Dead, I don’t know if he wants to reveal his secret identity or not), he convinced me to give a shot at writing fiction in English.
Keeping MetaStructure afloat and writing in English merged, and here we are today.
While I’m still trying to write in French, I’m going to try doing this thing in English too.
I don’t know where this is going to go. Maybe far, maybe nowhere.
In any case, I’d be very grateful if you gave it a shot as readers, as well as critics. Constructive feedback, even negative one - as long as it’s constructive - is more than welcome.
I posted the first post/part a few days ago.
It’s called Prologue, and I invite you to read it now.
I’m not going to tell you much about what’s going on there. It is mysterious and weird on purpose, obviously.
Is it the beginning of the story? Is it the end? Is it neither?
Maybe the three at the same time. We’ll see.
I wrote this text years ago. Probably in 2012. And it was inspired by something I wrote in 1999 that I called “Y2K” (I should read it again, I remember it being full of good ideas). I decided to attach it to the MetaStructure project much later. So yes, it’s not the beginning. It’s not the end. It’s also both. And it’s definitely a turning point - almost a center of gravity for the whole thing.
I can’t really tell more without either pulling the curtain (which I won’t do, at least not yet) or remaining vague (which would be annoying).
If you’ve read until this point, I can only assume that you’re at least intrigued. I hope you will like where this is going, and I’d love to hear your opinions as we go.
I guess that will be all for now.
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Finally, if you want to see what shenanigans I’m up to here and there, this button is for you:
Ok, that’s really all for now.
Take care, stay safe and I’ll talk to you very soon. 😊