I had a nice note from someone called Anthony, asking about some of the short stories I used to write and publish in Lookout magazine and also occasionally in Punk Planet (I guess there was also "My Adventure With Green Day" by Laurie L., originally printed in Tales of Blarg fanzine, but later included in a million copies of Kerplunk, making it by far the most widely circulated piece of writing I've ever had a hand in).
Anthony was specifically asking about "Once Upon A Time In The Mountains," a somewhat melodramatic tearjerker whose action bounced back and forth between the mountains of Mendocino County and the punk scene centered around Gilman Street in the early 90s, much as my own life did, though its protagonists were teenagers and the story itself was aimed mainly at my younger readers. Because it was serialized over six issues of Lookout, Anthony had missed a couple installments and never found out how it ended.
I searched through my files to find a copy of the story for him, and as soon as I did, started rewriting it - well, editing it, anyway, until I realized that to do a thorough job could take weeks, and that anyway, he was probably more interested in the story as he had read it when he was a kid rather than a polished-up modern version of it. I corrected a few of my more egregious errors and sent it off to him, for which I today received a thank you note and some gentle prodding as to why I didn't do something with my old stories, for instance publish a collection of them.
He'd asked me the same question in his first note, to which I'd responded that in the first place I'd all but forgotten ever writing the stories, and in the second, more important place, nobody had ever shown the slightest interest in publishing them. When I stopped to reflect on it, I was kind of amazed to think that I had written quite a few of them, since I don't often think of myself these days as a short story-writing kind of guy, and even more so because at the time I was simultaneously enrolled as a full-time student at Berkeley, running a record label, publishing a magazine and playing in a band. How in the hell did I ever time for something so frivolous as short fiction, I mused?
But as for nobody wanting to publish them, Anthony had the sort of response that I would have offered to anyone who'd said something similar to me: "Who needs a publisher! This coming from the man who founded Lookout. You could do a self-released collection. Sell copies on your blog. It would be a great thing!"
Fair enough, I thought, but are the stories worth chopping down any more trees for? Or should I just post them electronically here on the blog (when/if I ever finally get around to mastering a level of bloggery somewhat more advanced than the bog-standard Blogger format)? Well, I guess I'll have to dig up some more of them and see how well they've stood the test of time, and also make a decision as to whether I'd want to do a serious edit before re-publishing them. My inclination is to say yes to the latter question, and "I haven't got a clue" to the former.
That being said, I just dug up "Satan Lives At The End Of My Street," a first-person tale by a smart-assed and perhaps overly sensitive young man living in the shadow of the Eureka pulp mill. The pulp mill is no longer operating, and Eureka is even undergoing a little bit of gentrification these days (by Eureka standards, anyway, which were never too high to begin with), but otherwise, the story does hold up pretty well, apart from the narrators gratuitous slams on Christians and consumer society, but hey, he's 17 or 18 years old, what can you expect? (Please don't ask how old I was when I wrote the thing.)
Tentative verdict: yeah, maybe it's time to resurrect some of those old stories and make them available again. Or even write a new one or two? Well, first things first; I think I'll do an edit on "Satan Lives At The End Of My Street" and post it somewhere around here. If there's any interest, maybe I'll take this story-writing lark a bit further. If not, well, I've played to tough crowds before. I'll get over it.