Below you can find some of the frequently asked questions and their answers – about the Shade of the Morning Sun project and its developer, Christopher Marcus.
Is Shade of the Morning Sun a novel or a short story collection?
It is neither. Shade of the Morning Sun is a (constantly growing) collection of linked short stories, also known as a short story cycle or a novel in stories. This form is also sometimes called a composite novel, interrelated short stories and other terms. Read more about it here.
Why do you publish the stories in non-chronological order?
Because if I feel like writing a story from, say, one of my characters’ youth, then I can do that at any time, even though there are already lots of stories about their older selves. Or I can choose any other point in their life to write about, depending on my inspiration, without the need to progress chronologically. It’s quite simply a way of writing and creating a narrative universe that has a strong personal appeal to me.
Why do you publish stories on a website?
The vision behind Shade of the Morning Sun is a big web of interrelated stories that link to each other – and can be read in any order, and from any POV. The vision is also that the collection is constantly growing – with past, present, and perhaps even stories set in the future continually being added. A dynamic website with filtering functions is therefore the best way to present these stories.
Why don’t you sell the Shade stories to a magazine or publishing house?
See my previous answer.
Is Shade of the Morning Sun web fiction?
Yes, but it falls closer to the definition of electronic literature.
The Electronic Literature Organization which is based in Washington State University Vancouver has the following definition of “electronic literature”:
Electronic literature is born-digital literary art that exploits, as its muse and medium, the transmedia possibilities of the digital. It is … [a] work with an important literary aspect that takes advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer.
“Born-digital” means that the literature could not exist in other forms than digital and still provide the exact same reading experience. A lot of web fiction, e.g. fan fiction, is usually just text written online. It could also be made into a book if anyone cared, and you would still have the same reading experience. Or it could have started as a product made for the printed page and then have been digitized, like many ebook versions of classic novels. This is not the case with electronic literature.
Electronic literature is always born-digital, and although you may be able to convert parts of it to print media, you cannot 1:1 transfer the story and maintain the same reading experience.
Take for example the filter functions in WordPress that allow you to read the individual stories on Shade of the Morning Sun in various orders you decide to follow a particular main character, to follow stories by musical inspiration, or even to only read stories from a certain point of view. There are also crosslinks inside the texts to other, related stories, so you can stop reading and jump to another story that may enhance your particular reading experience and then come back if you wish, or go on a new path. None of these ways of reading are available in a print book – or even ebooks at the time of writing (2021), although some can mimic certain features of a website well enough.
The ELO has a large directory of such literature, many examples with considerable more experimentation in combinations of words, images, sound, video, hypertext, and so on.
I’ve seen some very complicated and downright weird electronic literature. Is Shade of the Morning Sun like that?
Hopefully not. There are many forms of electronic literature, and some of it is, admittedly, very difficult to read or even make sense of. More specifically Shade of the Morning Sun is hypertext fiction, which is a form of electronic literature that is concerned with generating a reading experience using the, well, hyperlinks that make up the Internet. It is also definitely belong to the groups of more structured hypertexts where you as a reader aren’t required to make up your own story as much as in other pieces. You can explore the character’s journeys from different perspectives or mix the stories in different combinations via the filter options and internal links, but that is the limit of complexity.
Shade of the Morning Sun offers interactivity (i.e. choosing a link) as an invitation, not a requirement – in order to get an engaging reading experience.
You can, if you wish, read everything from the first to the last story and get a relatively coherent reading experience of a big ‘novel in stories’.
I am still exploring the entire subject of e-lit, but I have started wŕiting an overview of the various forms I know of here. It will be updated periodically and expanded with blog posts that go in-depth with related topics and review e-lit.
There is also a specific post here that refines the hypertext fiction definition into three categories, one of which is a so-called “network novel” which may just be the right fit for Shade. We’ll see. The exploration is ongoing …
You say ‘interactivity’. Is Shade interactive fiction then?
No. Interactive fiction is the kind of hypertext fiction you find in computer games, where the wrong choices might leave you stuck and unable to complete a story. There are no wrong choices in the (relatively simple) options to interact with a Shade of the Morning Sun story, such as choosing to read all related stories inspired by the same musician.
Why don’t you write a novel with the characters from Shade?
Even if I had the time, I am currently not interested in writing a novel.
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.
Can I follow you on social media?
Not yet, because I simply don’t have the time to maintain social media accounts for this project as well as the ones I have for my IT-business. However, they will come up at some point and then you will be the first to know if you visit this site regularly – or sign up to my newsletter.
How will I know when new stories come out?
Sign up to my newsletter, and you will be the first to know!
Why is your project called the ‘Shade of the Morning Sun’ stories?
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’ve seen the light 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 ‘the light’ – i.e. happiness, even if that happiness is not always what it seems. The duality of this interpretation, and the title, I think is very fitting for the overall mood of the Shade of the Morning Sun stories.
How often do you write new stories?
It varies a lot. I have written on average 5 stories per year since 2011, but many of them are in the drawer still. The average word count is probably around 3000 words per story, although a few are between 8000 and 13000 words (!). In 2021 I plan to write more flash fiction (below 1000 words) to get more stories out.
I have found a story that is not in the main index!
I am going to put some ‘secret’ stories in from time to time, about characters or events that are peripheral to the main timeline, but still have some connection, even if it is merely symbolic or thematical. They are small experiments if you will, and I think it is fun that they are there for readers to discover. There are some clues around the website as to their location, so if you are interested feel free to go searching for them!
Why did you choose to write electronic literature and linked short stories?
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 art 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.
I did invest time in converting some of my stories for ebooks, but I didn’t have the resources to market them properly. I also felt conflicted between publishing some of the best stories in ebooks, charging money for them, and at the same time wanting them to be on the site for free, as part of a greater whole. So although I did ebooks a few times over the years, I have always returned to investing most of my time on the site.
This is also a topic that I intend to explore further in a future blog post.
Last updated 13 May 2021