The Children of the Vortex

So one of the things I’m actively writing at the moment is a series of anthologies called The Children of the Vortex. There’s a bit of a history in how all this came about.

Back in the early 1990’s (yes, I am that old), I was active in Pern fandom, specifically Fort Weyr (9th Pass) and Sable Weyr (10th Pass). Pern fandom was unlike most fandoms because the clubs were  authorized by Anne McCaffrey (probably still are, I haven’t kept up with them since Anne’s son Todd took over). We had certain restrictions on what we did, but for the most part, it was pretty open. Another difference was that everyone created a persona, a character to write about and have other members use in their stories. I was active in Fort for a number of years, and ran the club for the last couple of them, and hung around Sable for a few years after I left Fort.

It was great fun. Writing is normally a fairly solitary thing: just me, my ideas and whatever means I choose to get ideas into words. While I occasionally can bounce things off my writing buddies (two of the best friends, writerly or not, someone could wish for), it’s still me and my story.

But with that kind of interactivity, where two characters falling in love required a different style of collaboration, where there were no novels possible, where there were many, many authors who knew the world as well–or better–than you did to help you figure out what would be fun, how to make things work, and other people who cared as much about what I was writing as I did–it was totally different. Suddenly, I wasn’t solo, I was part of a whole, and it was refreshing not to have to do all the work all by myself.

Things change, though. The people running those clubs got burned out (I understood, it happened to me) and when new people took over, the tone changed. My friends stopped writing, real life interfered, and it all went away in a seeming instant.

By the end of the 1990s, one of my writing buddies, June, and I were lamenting the loss of that kind of writing. “I want to write with my friends again, but there’s nowhere to play.” So, over lunch at Svenden House (I miss that place) on February 26, 1998 (it was a Friday), we boiled down what we loved most about writing in the fannish Pern world (since, let’s face it, it wasn’t quite the same as what the McCaffreys wrote/write in) and invented our own world to play in.

What we loved most was simple: The bonded relationship with magical animals. The fact our heroes were “outsiders” to the rest of society. We liked the “mating season” idea, where humans got horny because it was the only time of the year their bond mates could have sex. We wanted a great, ancient Evil that had been absent long enough to become legend and was on the verge of returning. We wanted real magic, not technology or anything that could be explained by technology. And we wanted a world big enough for many authors to play in.

Within 24 hours (because June is just that good at worldbuilding), we had the Ducal Lands and the world of Deau. We decided to riff it off the world of The Three Musketeers because, frankly, plumes and lace and swashbuckling are a lot of fun and offer far more opportunities for interesting stuff to write about. We decided that, unlike the other magically bound animals in Fantasy (Pern isn’t the only one, but I think it was the first), we would go with something that couldn’t be ridden. Inspired by the archaeopteryx, we created the part-crocodile, part-giant eagle tereges (terex, singular), and the source of magic in the ebb and flow of The Vortex and the great returning evil, the Vorteciens (serial killers who get their magic from murder).

Then we contacted some of our friends from the Pern clubs. That Sunday, two days after the first exchange of emails, one of our friends had written the first story in the world. We were floored. It was marvelous. In short order, we had over 12 writers, all contributing to the world and we started publishing on a fannish level. We produced 6 issues between 1998 and 1999, with stories for another 4 issues–but then the cost of printing skyrocketed overnight and we couldn’t afford it anymore. It was a sad day when we had to shut it all down.

Now, in 2013, it hit June that the cost of publishing is completely different than it was 15 years ago. We don’t have to print it ourselves, schlep it to conventions to sell, or do mail-order. E-publishing had changed the landscape and made this possible again. June and I are still best friends, so we discussed the pros and cons of reviving Children of the Vortex, discussing lessons learned from managing so many writers, etc. In the end, we decided it was worth re-launching, with fewer writers. Some characters had to be removed from what was because their writers didn’t have space in their lives for this anymore. Characters have had to be revised, stories completely restructured, and it’s been a lot of work.

But, once again, I’m not a writer alone. This is a co-created world that’s growing with the help of three other very talented writers (including June, who also edits the entire thing, which is why her name is on the cover). I’m playing with my friends again, which is more fun that I can explain in a blog post. I love their stories and how everything’s coming together after such a long time apart.

 I just hope that people like it enough to give us the excuse to keep doing it.

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