Things Sure Do Go Around the Internet

I can see why creative peoples get a bit nervous about the internet. There’s really nothing to stop someone else from taking what you’ve created–if you’re lucky, it will at least circulate with your name attached to it.

It is both a blessing and a curse. Your work spreading helps you reach a wider audience. And spread it does, oh yes. Which is why agents and publishers and whatnot caution you against putting entire manuscripts online if you intend to have them traditionally published.

Oh no, Kit, I hear you say. No one is paying attention to my tiny corner of the internet except a few friends and my mother.

When I was in middle school (so, late ’90s), instead of studying for my math final I wrote a story about the Evil Teachers’ Association (ETA for short), a diabolical group flying through the galaxy, invading people and, I don’t remember, forcing them to take math tests or something. (They were punny. For example, the math teacher’s ship had pi fighters, which were impossible to get a lock on, and the science teacher’s ship was The Graduated Cylinder.)

It proved to be so popular among my peers and teachers that I ended up writing several installments over the next year (into the beginning of high school). The ETA was headed by my eighth grade social studies teacher, whom I will call Mrs. E, whom I liked rather a lot but did not put up with any crap whatsoever.

Each new installment would be emailed out to my friends, but then, one day, I found one of the people I liked the least in my grade handing out copies at school. I had no idea how he’d gotten a hold of them, but I imagine my friends emailed it to their friends, who emailed it to their friends, ad naseum, until apparently the entire ninth grade had access to them.

Life’s hard enough to control at 14 without your stories migrating on their own. I asked people to not forward the stories on, and, shortly thereafter, I stopped writing them.

But Kit, I hear you say. Even so, your story had a limited distribution among a closed population. My little blog isn’t like that.

The internet is a lot bigger now than it was fifteen years ago, Squiders.

If you want a different example, try this on for size. I am a huge Trekkie. For many years, I did Star Trek roleplaying on the internet, including running my own ship for about five years. (The Excalibur. And I’ve done extensive worldbuilding on a scifi series that I can use the characters and plotlines from that in, whenever interstellar adventure scifi comes back into vogue.) On the Excalibur, we had an email newsletter that came out a few times a year, which would include a current roster of the ship, summaries of our recent missions, lists of promotions, etc., as well as song parodies, character art, and short stories the crew would write/draw and submit.

Years later, I found a story I wrote for the newsletter (distributed only to the crew) on a general Star Trek fanfiction site. To this day, I have no idea how it got there, or even why it was posted, since it included no known characters and would have made no sense to someone outside the crew. It still had my screenname attached to it, but man, that one confuses me.

(I checked before I wrote this, and the site is gone. Probably for the best.)

My point is, very few things on the internet can be controlled. Sometimes this is a good thing: it brings you new traffic, new fans, new friends, new experiences. Sometimes this is bad. So think about things before you post them.

Have any stories of wandering projects, Squiders?

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