Below you can find some of the frequently asked questions and their answers – about the Shade of the Morning Sun project and its creator, Christopher Marcus.
Table of Contents
What is Shade of the Morning Sun?
Shade of the Morning Sun is an online literary project combining hypertext fiction, linked short stories, art, photos, and music in order to chronicle the lives of a Scottish-American family over three generations from 1968-2068. The heart of the project is an ongoing series of linked short stories with the same main characters.
The project is created and developed by Christopher Marcus.
How do I experience Shade of the Morning Sun?
You create reading sequences depending on your interest in a certain character, on your mood, or musical inspiration.
There’s a reading guide here.
Where do I start?
Go to the Main Portal and start from wherever you like – with one of the collections, for example.
Are the texts in Shade of the Morning Sun like an online novel or short story collection?
They are neither.
Shade of the Morning Sun is a (constantly growing) collection of linked short stories, also known as a novel in stories or short story cycle. This form is also sometimes called a composite novel, or interrelated short stories.
Inspirations include Sherman Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, among others.
How long is each story?
Typically about 2-3000 words, although I have a few stories over 10000 words.
Currently (2022) I mostly have time for flash fiction only (below 1000 words) so expect to see a lot of those for the foreseeable future.
There are also a small number of vignettes in the collection.
So there is no big plot or story arc?
Not as such.
As the collection grows, obviously there will be sequences that may eventually grow into storylines that resemble novels, such as Carrie’s sojourn to South America 2000-1, but it is by no means a given.
Why has this project been created as a website?
Because the vision for Shade of the Morning Sun is that it is a story that is constantly growing – it is never finished. Pieces of the character’s past, present, and even stories set in the future are all being added continually.
Imagine you were a genealogist from the far future trying to find out the story of a branch of your family, and then you found a magical treasury of knowledge about these people. Sometimes you find this information in the form of prose, sometimes in a form reminiscent of diary entries, sometimes merely in the form of artwork or photos – but all of which continually reveal parts of this family’s story. That’s how I want the experience of Shade of the Morning Sun to be!
Also, there is no definite end to Shade of the Morning Sun. In principle, if someone cared, they could continue ‘the research’ after I am no longer alive, or branch out and add material about other people connected to our main cast.
Are there an equal number of stories for all the characters?
No, but they will most certainly be ‘found’ as time goes by.
Do the names under each title refer to the main characters in the story?
I have also included chapters and stories where characters play a prominent role even if they don’t have the main spotlight, for example, Emma in “One Step Closer”.
What is the exact relationship between photos, musical inspiration, and stories?
The stories are the heart of the project. Photos and music enhance the experience of individual stories and provide new options for creating reading experiences of sequences of stories. But they can also be enjoyed on their own.
The photos are illustrative of the mood of the stories. They don’t reflect what is going on in the stories, necessarily. You can choose to contemplate the photos individually and perhaps listen to the musical inspirations suggested if you find yourself reminiscing about some meaningful event in your own life after reading an associated story.
I didn’t mention art, but I do have some artwork coming up for future stories. For the moment, there is only one story, though, in which it fits. Artwork will usually be sketches made by Carrie, to show her journey as an aspiring (and in her own mind – failed) artist.
Why aren’t there many stories from 1968-1990, and 2022-2068?
Because I haven’t had time to create them – yet.
I have chosen to start with the ‘middle generation’ of Carrie and Jon, so for a while, there will be more about them.
Is Shade of the Morning Sun hypertext fiction?
It is also hypertext fiction. If you want to get really high brow about it, the stories in the project can be labeled axial hypertext fiction, where there is a central storyline but many options to digress from that storyline (such as choosing to read a related short story to the one you are now reading, or reading more about the same character but from a different POV, etc.).
What does it mean that stories are ‘updated’?
It means that from time to time I edit stories and clarify language or add new paragraphs or make similar changes. The date denotes the most recent version.
What is the origin of Shade of the Morning Sun?
I started writing a traditional novel 20 years ago with some of the characters but was not able to finish it, being occupied with education, work, and a period of serious illness. It soured on me around 2009 but I wanted to do something with the story ideas and characters, so I started writing short stories. I was impatient and just put them out on the internet and it sort of took on a life of its own since.
There was definitely also a drive in me to actually do something different with my creativity than go the traditional route, or even self-publish on the then newly established market for that (Amazon). I remember thinking about publishing my stories on MySpace (ah, those were the days … ) and collaborating with artists who had written music that inspired me and then combine the presentation of both story and music, but nothing came off it at the time.
Slowly, over the years, I have built this online experience, as the creative vision for it became clearer. The current result is what you have before you, but I am confident that in 10 years’ time it will all be different – again.
Why is your project called ‘Shade of the Morning Sun’?
I’ve taken the project title from part of the lyrics of New Order’s 1987-song “True Faith”:
I used to think that the day would never come
I’d see delight in the shade of the morning sun
The song is about drug use, but I also see it as a song about wanting to escape from life and searching for ‘delight’ – (or ‘the light’ as it is sometimes misread) – even if that delight is not always what it seems.
The duality of this interpretation, and the title, I think are very fitting for the overall mood of the Shade of the Morning Sun stories.
How will I know when new stories come out?
You can follow the Facebook page and keep updated on new stories.
How often will there be new stories?
I have managed to get new stories out about once a month for a while now, but it varies greatly.
Why are there different people posing for the same character photos?
Originally because I could only afford to use royalty-free photos from Unsplash and Pixabay and similar sites, but as time has gone by I feel that it is rather fitting. Even though the same cast populates the stories, I like to think that many of their experiences are universal.
There are not a lot of stories about [my favorite character]
As noted above and in the archives, not all of the characters have an equal amount of stories – yet.
Some stories take place over several days but don’t have several chapters
I would like to be consistent here, but the truth is I only have so much time. So, yes, you will find some stories that take place over several days, but I have listed the whole story in a single post, with a single starting date and time. I hope that in the future I will have enough contributions to the site that will allow me to work on these edits, so I can present the stories in a consistent way.
Last updated 16 April 2022.