A group of people sit around a table, room or paddock. Each is armed with a uniquely inked pen/pencil. Quantities of alcohol and/or curry at this stage help lubricate the creative process, as does a large dose of insanity. A piece of paper is passed around, and each person scribbles down two or three lines of the story with his/her pen, reading only the lines written by the previous person. Often, the last person's incomplete sentence (or even word) must be finished before the story can continue. At the same time, each author adds a word to the title which is evolving at the head of the page. Finally, when either the paper or enthusiasm (or both) runs out, someone is elected to finish the story, which is then read out to the participants, often causing them to roll helplessly about the floor/paddock for many minutes.
An extremely simple game, yet one which produces the bizarre results contained herein. At the same time, most of the authors like to play meta-games with the story process to further confound the final story. Some meta-games that spring to mind are:
Strangely enough, despite the story-writing process and these meta-games, many of the characters introduced into the stories have grown and taken on lives (or deaths, if we are speaking of Patrick) of their own, nearly completely out of the authors' control. The short character biographies following the introduction bear testament to this fact.
The content of the stories depends heavily on the state of the authors' minds at the time of writing, and for many of the authors this state is best described as `inchoate'. However, some themes and predilections are apparent. The general knowledge and interests of the authors' often appear, which explains the Computer Science slant in this book. Contemporary events are often recorded, such as the cold fusion references in `Heated Funicular Holograms Abroard'. In fact, some of the stories' contents could be regarded as a peculiar form of diary, recording not only what the authors had done recently, but what interests them and what ideas have been churning away in their minds. `This sentence sense no make' comes indirectly from Douglas Hofstadter, via the mind of a conscious-streaming author.
The stories also represent the cutting edge of English literature, taking the language to, and often beyond, the point of destruction. One could argue that in fact the English language has been seduced, hijacked, held hostage and clubbed about the head, with no fear of contradiction. My spellchecker regards me with menace each time I give it a new story to correct, but it is slowly being educated, with over five thousand new English words gleaned from the stories contained in this book.
I strongly recommend that you read a few stories at a time, and then invite your friends, neighbours and hedgehogs over for a senseless party. After you have written and read out your first story, you will be hooked, and life will never be the same again.
An accurate history of these stories has never been set down, and we are left with the dim recollections of individual authors. Warren recounts:
``This all began through a guy called Derrick McPhie, who introduced the game to Anthony, David, Callum and myself when we were living in a group house in Armidale, New South Wales, and valiantly struggling through Honours/Masters at university.
Derrick and Brendan were down from Glen Innes visiting us, when Derrick described the game. The date was the 4th March, 1989. We decided to write six stories which resulted in `The Knat Who Never Was' to `Beside the Hilldicky Creek'. Totally astounding. The next night we wrote `In Quantised Cereberal Meanderings', which all of the participants consider to be one of the best stories written.
From then on, the stories were written at irregular intervals, especially when friends were visiting. The group house broke up in late 1989, and the authors spread out in clumps to various parts of Australia, taking the game to new friends. The stories here are those which I have been fortunate to participate in or to have received from other authors.''
``I think there was at least one story before the ones in this book. I seem to remember being away and when I arrived back I was told that a `story' had been written, and being shown the results. Then we proceeded to write the 6-fold `Knat' series.''
An editor's task is never easy. Given the form and content of the story manuscripts (see the front cover), my job has been to transcribe the sometimes indecipherable handwriting into typeset form, to decide if a word is intentionally or accidentally mis-spelt, to decide if and when to correct punctuation, and at worst to tame a thicket of ungrammatical words into what could loosely be described as English. Most of the original manuscripts are now dispersed amongst the authors, making corrections of over-editing impossible. What you are now holding is a collection of stories that are as close to their originals as the current editions of the Bible, the Lao Tzu and the Greek classics are to their originals. Such is the way of life.
Many of the early stories were typed in by other authors soon after they were written, and my thanks go to those who helped so much in the transcription process. From `Strange Green Elephants Were Isolated Insulatorily', the stories have been written using an electronic mail system, removing the transcription stage. Finally, thanks to those people who encouraged me to collate all the stories to which I had access into this volume. Corrections, typographical or otherwise, are alway welcome, and given the continuing generation of new stories, watch out for a new volume in the years to come.