By Jim Heskett
Way back in 2011, while hiking the Royal Arch trail in Boulder and cursing the Egg McMuffin I’d had for breakfast, an idea for a novel popped into my brain. The general premise came from a simple idea: what if we thought the world was going to end, but then it didn’t.
The story would focus on a small group of friends who behave badly, thinking there are no consequences to their actions, but then have to face the truth when the world doesn’t end.
The tale grew in my head. I then decided I would write instead about a group of opportunistic politicians who fake a doomsday scenario as a way to cause chaos and stage a worldwide coup to “reboot” society.
But with so many dystopian novels floating around out there in book-world, I would have to set it apart somehow. I didn’t want this tale to be fantasy or sci-fi; it had to be hyper-realistic.
Would have to be a big novel. 180,000 words, at least. Or maybe a trilogy. There’s just too much story here; it clearly needs to be a sprawling, seven-book epic. At least seven.
As the mythology ballooned in my head, I was adding characters and locations and plot elements, and I started to feel as if the scope were beyond me. The book(s) would delve deeply into specifics of military action and politics, two things I know little about.
How could I devote so much time to something so unwieldy? How could I possibly keep track of so many threads and details? The logistics of the venture seemed daunting.
I decided to shelve it and work on other projects, but my uncooperative mind kept on inventing and pondering new details. The story insisted that it needed to be told.
So earlier this year, I reached a hard-fought compromise with my brain. Inspired by the cultural movements of Kickstarter and open-sourcing, I realized that there was another way: crowd-sourcing. I could tell my epic, quasi-dystopian tale by getting other people to do it for me. I’m either lazy, or a master at delegating. History will decide.
I created a website, wrote a brief and purposefully-vague history of the world I envisioned, and then set it free. I opened up the literary journal to short fiction submissions, in what (I believe) is the world’s first non-fantasy, non-sci-fi shared world literary journal experiment.
As long as submissions are loosely related to the established world and do not contradict anything already submitted, we will consider publishing it and therefore adding it to the overall tale.
Wherever the world goes next, and whatever backstory fills in the details, is up to those who submit fiction to us. If we publish you in our journal, you become a part-owner of the story. Eventually we’d like to have a forum where all past contributors can critique and vote on prospective submissions, in the spirit of keeping the journal “open-sourced” and community-based. So far we’re small and online-only, but we hope to expand into the print world. You can help us do that by submitting awesome short fiction.
The Five Suns Literary Journal is an epic tale that we all own together, and will go wherever we choose.
Jim Heskett, originally from Oklahoma, has called Colorado his home for the past ten years, except for a brief stint living overseas. He writes short and long fiction, blogs often, and creates music, all of which you can sample on his website. Finally, he is the founder and editor of the Five Suns Literary Journal.
His current work in progress is a novel titled AIRBAG SCARS, about a lapsed poet who longs to return to writing verse, but first will have to put aside the drink and repair his broken past.