Everything2 Is Decadent And Depraved

Ensnared In The Cogs Of A Mad Writing Community

I stepped off the bus, nearly tripping on the last step. Not a good sign. Maybe all the stairs in this damned town are shorter than anywhere else in the world. It was a conspiracy, no doubt, but I was willing to overlook it. I had to do some writing today, and there was no reason to make the day any worse on purpose.

I entered the building and approached the desk to sign my soul away for the hundredth time this year. A quick trade took place: a flash of my identification for my pen, keys, badge, and other necessary accessories. Beside me quivered an excitable yuppie with tousled hair. He was signing up for the first time, the unfortunate bastard. "This place is more addictive than crack, and half as fun," I muttered to myself. I went through the door to the right of the desk, leaving the poor kid poet to his doom. Before the door swung shut, I shot him a look of pity and he caught it, but it made no impression on him.

In The Court of Frantic Muses, Shackled and Wild-Eyed

The room behind the lobby was enormous, and it gaped at us. It was a rectangular room, with four walls lined with messy bookshelves. The rest of the room was filled with tables and desks, and about thirty people were sitting around reading. In the very center of the room was another, smaller room, with glass walls and no one inside. That was a place for discussion between members. There were layers of graffiti sprayed over every inch of the inside, a decade's worth of gossip and palpable madness. It seemed wrong, somehow. You could understand how a need for discussion might arise, but it didn't fit to have it in a forsaken place like that.

The point of Everything2 was to write, and to read. Everybody present was doing one of the two, but each one of those people had a different idea about what this fucking organization was about. You had to be a member to write something for the bookshelves, but anyone could walk off the street and read something. There were, however, libraries for that sort of thing. I don't know who these kids thought they were kidding. I wandered over to the New Writeups desk and took a look at the fresh submissions. This is where the articles or stories go after they are complete, but before they're filed away in the stacks. I caught a couple skinny kids sitting nearby, watching the desk intently and waiting for someone to read what they had scrawled out. I took a look at one. Spelling mistake up near the top. I should tell the author about that. But here were four more, and this whole writeup made very little sense. I decided that this wasn't what the database needed, and checked a box under the writeup labeled "downvote". Hopefully the place had enough sensible people in today who would agree with me, and I wouldn't come across this garbage again.

An old guy walked by me and dropped a thick stack of paper on the desk, and then walked out of the building without a word. I liked that. This was a man who didn't give a shit what other people thought. He knew he could write something worth reading, and he also knew that he couldn't just write anything.

I saw the poet kid with the messy hair walk in to the main room. The very first thing he did was walk to the discussion box. The Catbox is what they call it. He stood in the room alone and waved at some of the others nearby, saying "hi" through the glass. No one looked up. I stared at him, but then walked away.

Taking a look at the sleepless fiends around me, I wanted to kick over a chair and scream at them: "what are you doing here? You! I've seen you here twenty times this month! Why do you care how full these shelves get?" This would certainly backfire. After all, I'd been here as much time as he had, and what had I contributed? Enough? Not enough? There was no way to tell. The only thing I could be sure of was that we all had serious problems. We were not locked in, but they only let us leave because they knew we'd be back the very next day.

A Circus of Degenerates In A Cage On Stage

Crumpling the fifth piece of paper in as many minutes, I realized that inspiration was a long way off. The Catbox was filling up, and I stood cautiously at one of the doors. Two teenage girls were in one corner, surrounded by drooling gorillas that smelled of gasoline and bourbon. The lurching apes were standing in a tight gaggle. Their groping fingers would occasionally waver out to pull on one of the girls' shirt sleeves exposing her shoulder or clavicle. Each time she would grin nervously and tug the fabric from the calloused hands, and a second later she would be biting her finger lasciviously with her shoulder bare once again. The one who pulled it down would get shoved and bitten by his cohorts, who would stop and repeat the action.

Two older men were in the corner, grumbling away and gesturing at the vile scene. They were not talking to each other, but to the beasts on the other side of the room. One threw an empty bottle at the crowd, and that got the attention of one of the biggest ones. A scuffle broke out. "Jesus Christ!" I yelped, and I hurried out of the fray. Most of the others did too, and the Catbox became a two man cage fight. We all watched and listened, some shaking their heads, some staring blankly, others poking their head in at the worst moments and yelling some poorly chosen words.

These monsters could write; that was the awful part. They belonged here. And if I felt any sense of belonging to this place, then that grouped me in with them. We were all cousins here, but somehow the bloodline had been distilled, diluted, and digested by malicious enzymes, and we had drifted.

A couple people stormed outside, and the others went back to reading.

On The Nature of Shit...
Disembodied Recollections...

I went to the desk that contained all my work, and unlocked the second drawer. These bits of paper were my personal Scratch Pads. Nothing here was even slightly coherent to me, and I was the one who wrote it all. I thumbed through the crumpled fragments, trying to wring sense out of them, but there was nothing to be done. This one here was clearly an album review, that much was certain. But neither the album nor the band was mentioned anywhere, and I had stopped in mid-sentence: "...evoking images of roughly hewn towers of grey stone, hundreds of kilometers high, crawling..." What sickening words were these? I had been possessed, or else coerced into writing it, and my mind had mercifully hidden the traumatic memory away. Or perhaps it was sabotage. But no, as I reread it I remembered it all. Actually, it wasn't as bad as I had originally thought. There was potential here; I could probably salvage it into something worthwhile. This hellhole deserves at least a couple things worth looking at.

Another of my Scratch Pads was nearly finished. I filled in a couple necessary phrases so the thing would make some sense and dropped in on the New Writeups pile. It was up to fate now.

Not really. I had been coming here for four years, and a couple of the regulars knew my name. Not well enough for me to gain immunity though. Some guys at Everything2 were like celebrities who could duck in here to get some good writing done or to get their dick sucked a couple times. It used to be that a shit-smeared square of cardboard could make the bookshelves if the name attached to it was of a certain brand. Things have changed for the better, and now when a pile of shit gets dropped onto the New Writeups desk, there's an immediate flurry of activity to kick it onto the floor. However, that doesn't mean that sometimes, when you're digging around in the older shelves, you might pull your hand away with the deeply unpleasant smell of human feces. And the only way to find it is to dig.

But what I was saying was that there are existing trends, and after a while you see what writing survives and what gets axed. It becomes pretty obvious, even to an extent that experimenting has become dull and blunted. Even if something I put down is thoroughly weird, in my mind there is a pretty clear line between good weird and bad weird.

I'm looking at this sucker again. The clueless poet. He's up at New Writeups, leaning over the desk and scribbling with a worried glint in his eyes. Ah shit, he doesn't know what he's doing.

He drops the paper on the pile, excited to be riding in this plummeting elevator with us. And he stares at the pile. I've got to help this kid, or he's going to put a gun to his head in the morning when he sees the results.

I grab the paper from the top of the pile, and the kid watches. To be honest, it's not bad. What he's saying is something that needed saying. The problem is, he doesn't know the trends. I wave him over.

"I like what you've done here. I'm being honest, it's damn good. But it's going to get downvoted to hell."

"Could you help me out?"

"Sure. We've got a mentor program, if you think you might be interested in that. As for what you've put here..."

I pointed out some of the problems I saw, gave him suggestions, and he thanked me. I hope the kid saw what I was saying. It wasn't what he was saying but how he presented it that was going to screw him over. There was no reason to let a writeup like that get scrapped.

I had given him a couple of general tips and we had parted ways. It felt good to help. There isn't a shortage of helpful folks in Everything2, though there are enough jackasses that something can still get rejected without a single explanation of what had been done wrong. It was a shame, but those jackasses are part of the community. I suppose it's something like the saying: "it takes a village to raise a child." The village drunks are out of control, but what better way to scare a kid away from alcohol than to watch the mongrels piss themselves and collapse in the street?

The close-knit nature of the place is a redeeming quality for the most part. Sometimes the place is like a clubhouse, or a park bench. Sometimes it feels like an office. Sometimes (often, rather) it's like a bar. But the patrons are all family. Everything2 has given birth to some real relationships. Marrying another one of us smacks of something like inbreeding to me, but it's no worse a move than any other marriage.

I went back into the lobby, having accomplished no real work. But then, even on a busy day, have I really accomplished anything? Perhaps, perhaps not. If you think not, I can't imagine you surviving here. You could always stick to the Catbox.

Everything2 has its problems, but so does everything and everyone. It's got its good and its bad, whether referring to members, writing, or traditions. It was difficult to give specific advice to that new guy. The best I could muster is a sympathetic "you'll get used to it," delivered with a shrug.

And if he gets it in his head to stick around, he will get used to it, like we all did.

And if he doesn't, Wikipedia can have him.

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