In his Retrospective, Gene Wolfe suggests a writing exercise – take any published story (he offers one of his own), and rewrite it from scratch, in your own style. What choices did you make, and why were they different from his?
More recently, there’s an annual, cooperative exercise in which dozens of authors get together to write a Novel-in-a-Day – each author gets about 19 hours to write one chapter of a shared novel, without knowing more than a few basic facts; not even the genre. It’s become so popular that each exercise generates multiple versions, with the same chapters by different authors.
Starting from those two seeds, I came up with the idea for an anthology of stories specifically designed to see what different authors would do with the same basic material. Happily, I’m not only a writer, but the editor of Metaphorosis magazine – an online weekly magazine dedicated to beautifully written SFF – so I had a list of excellent writers at hand. I approached authors who had appeared in Metaphorosis, and very quickly, almost 30 signed up to participate – so many that the anthology had alternates ready in case of emergency. Two of those alternate stories appear on this website and in the expanded version of the anthology.
I’m amazed at what the authors came up with – from the five who wrote briefs to the twenty-seven who wrote stories. The ideas are innovative, the writing is great, and the results fantastic, in every sense of the word. Not only that, but the authors did it all as volunteers, as a cooperative enterprise benefiting charity.
Reading 5X5 set out to look at exactly what it is that different writers bring to their story. The short answer is: all sorts of imagination, creativity, and originality. Within each genre group, each story is clearly related, and yet each one is wildly different, based on each author’s unique perspective.
I hope you’ll enjoy the anthology as much as we enjoyed putting it together, and as much as we’ve enjoyed reading the finished product. And, if you’re a writer, why not contribute your own version? Go here to read the briefs and write your own story from them.