How to describe “Herschberg: A Serial”? Well, to quote someone – either Elkins or Kip, I suspect Elkins but I’m not quite sure:
In 1990, a group of 20-something slackers lived in a rental—one half of a duplex—in Boston, Massachusetts. There was a recession on, George Bush was in the White House, and we were gearing up for a war on Iraq. Many of us were out of work, and our house had no heat. So to cheer ourselves up (and in an attempt to keep warm) we played elaborate role-playing games and wrote round-robin serials. This was one of them.
In 2000, many of us still lived together, or at least close to one another, now all the way across the country in Portland, Oregon. We’d lost Beth and Steven, but we’d gained Becca and Jake. There was a recession on its way, another George Bush was about to go to the White House, and after ten years of crippling sanctions, we were gearing up for yet another war on Iraq. So to cheer ourselves up (and in an attempt to stave off despair) we revived the old Herschberg round-robin and batted it around for a while until, like a cat with an exhausted mouse, we wandered away to other things.
In 2003, a group of people who had met on FictionPress were having an involved discussion of the dynamics of round-robin story-telling. Elkins used the old Herschberg serial to illustrate a number of her points, and as it happened, a few people really enjoyed it. So in 2004, she put it on-line.
So here it is, in all its trashy glory: desperate ret-cons, gratuitous character abuse, gaping plot holes and all.
And lots of T.S. Eliot, of course.
We mustn’t forget the T.S. Eliot.
I’m mentioning this because I was one of the original writers of Herschberg, back when we typed out each chapter on a shared electric typewriter (I think it may have been Kip’s), on some canary yellow paper we used because the previous tenants of the house had left half a ream of canary yellow paper behind, and hey, it was free paper, wasn’t it? In fact, I wrote the first chapter of Herschberg — which has been tragically lost, and now exists only in summary form. And I also participated in the 2000 revival (by which time we were doing a better job with the writing, I think).
There are currently 31 chapters online. The first ten chapters are, for the most part, rather bad, but they have the virtue of being very short. If you read much past chapter ten, I think you’ll see why people find Herschberg interesting enough to read, “in all its trashy glory.”
After the read-through of the 31 chapters (which will take from this week through February – see the schedule here), Elkins is going to resume posting new Herschberg chapters, which is something I’m quite excited about. Plus, I love the idea of a serial that’s been running (albeit not continuously) from 1990 through 2006…
Anyway, I thought I’d mention it in case any “Alas” readers are interested in participating in the read-through.