For Your Approval
And Not Make Dreams Your Master
Much of the impetus for this story comes from a bizarre chapter in the history of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, Inc. (LASFS). I was not in the group at the time in question, so I can't vouch for the accuracy of my understanding of it. What I heard was second-, third- and fourth-hand -- but that doesn't matter, because it was enough to spark this idea.
One member of the club invented a fantasy world known as Coventry, and wrote some fan stories with his own personalized characters in it. Other people wanted to play in this world, too, so they invented their own characters and wrote their own stories. After a while, this fantasy world started taking over their lives; events taking place in Coventry were just as important as real life. At least one marriage came about because the people's Coventranian characters were perfectly matched; more often, feuds broke out as people engaged in character assassinations and slanders in this alternate world. Sometimes, people who weren't even interested in Coventry had to write their own stories just out of self-defense.
Eventually, a small group of people decided this had all gone too far, and decided to attack the myth from within. A mysterious character called "the Guardian" started writing his own stories, exposing all sorts of dirty secrets. No one could find out who was behind this, because there was no single individual who could possibly have been privy to all the information the Guardian knew. The Guardian seemed to be everywhere and know almost everything, and nothing could stop him. Coventry became an increasingly paranoid place that eventually collapsed of its own neuroses.
This peculiar form of mass hysteria fascinated me. I conjured up a society where people could purchase commercial dreams just like they choose Pay-per-View movies now from cable TV. And what if one of these Dreamers slips a cog and creates a world that people forget is only a Dream? How does a new Guardian get them out of there safely?
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formats, if you'd like to find out.
The title, by the way, comes from a line in Rudyard Kipling's classic poem If. Read it. Read it again. Memorize it. There will be a test. (Not from me. From Life.)