What is Shade of the Morning Sun?
Shade of the Morning Sun is a chronicle of a family over three generations from about 1968 and forward. It is told as an ongoing series of connected short stories with the same main characters:
Carrie Sawyer (b. 1979) – recovering addict, restless traveler, and searching artist
Jonathan Reese (b. 1975) – Iraq war veteran and state trooper, married to Carrie
Lin Christakis (1979-2000) – Carrie’s high school friend who wanted to be a famous author but found a tragic end
Emma Sawyer Reese (b. 2006) – Carrie and Jon’s smart, but anxiety-ridden daughter
Michael Sawyer Reese (b. 2008) – Emma’s younger brother, who is having to handle his autism as well as his sometimes dysfunctional family
Deborah Sawyer (b. 1952) – Carrie’s American mother and disillusioned flower child
Calum McDonnell (b. 1949) – Carrie’s Scottish father, ex-Highland ranger, Falklands veteran, and recovered alcoholic
And many others …
Why should I read Shade of the Morning Sun?
If you like to read contemporary upmarket fiction with strong characters, linked short stories, and reading online Shade of the Morning Sun may be something for you.
Where do I start reading?
Go to the Index for all stories and start from wherever you like.
There are, however, some specific ways to read Shade of the Morning Sun, if you like, and I will get to all of those below!
ABOUT THE FORM
Is Shade of the Morning Sun an online novel or 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 or interrelated short stories.
Classic examples that you might be familiar with include James Joyce’s Dubliners, Sherman Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, and Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time.
My own personal favorite is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. which was published in 1990. It deals with Vietnam veterans and their experiences both before, during, and after the war.
More recent examples are the Olive Kitteridge books or Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad.
And of course, there are many, many more …
What is a linked short story?
In a nutshell, each short story in such a collection has a – more or less subtle – connection to other stories in the collection.
For example, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried is about of group of Vietnam war veterans, but the stories about their experiences are stand-alone and not chapters in a novel.
So the stories in a linked collection aren’t completely independent, although they can certainly be read as such. However, they are not chapters in a novel, either!
Each short story in a linked collection still tells a full, complete story in itself.
Without this definite beginning, middle, and end of each short story, they become one and become chapters in a ‘real’ novel.
Many linked short story collections are marketed as a ‘novel in stories’ – or even as a novel. So it is no wonder that the form can be a bit confusing to recognize!
By the way: Shade of the Morning Sun also contains a number of vignettes. But the main body of work consists of actual short stories. Although mixing short stories and vignettes isn’t to my knowledge seen very often, there are some examples, such as Ernest Hemingway’s in our time.
What are some of the links between these kinds of short stories?
The most common is probably setting, as is the case in one of the classics – Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio.
Characters are another common link (as is largely the case in Shade of the Morning Sun)
You also have links like:
- objects (like the desk in Nicole Grauss’ Great House)
- themes (e.g. parenthood, as in Rachel Cusk’s The Lucky Ones)
- a certain year or period in time (Florian Illies’ 1913: The Year Before the Storm comes to mind, although it’s more of a collection of linked vignettes … )
There are probably other types of links I haven’t thought of.
And often there is more than one type of link in a collection of linked short stories, like in the aforementioned Winesburg: Ohio and others.
So there is no big plot or story arc?
Not as such.
You have some events and associated themes that come up again and again, like Carrie’s recovery from addiction and how she deals with it. Or Jonathan’s PTSD from the Iraq war. But that’s about it.
As the collection grows, obviously there will be sequences that may eventually grown into storylines that resemble novels, such as Carrie’s sojourn to South America 2000-1, but it is by no means a given.
Why do you publish these stories on a website?
Because I really can’t think of any better medium than a dynamic website to share my vision of what Shade of the Morning Sun should be like.
Shade of the Morning Sun is meant to be a big web of interrelated stories that link to each other.
The vision is also that the collection is constantly growing – with past, present, and stories set in the future all being added continually. There is no definite end to the collection.
In principle, if someone cared, they could continue it after I am no longer alive!
Why do you publish the stories in non-chronological order?
Because it makes it possible for me to write whatever I like when I like it – in the same collection of linked stories!
I really like being able to choose any given point in my characters’ lives to write about, depending on my mood and inspiration, without the need to progress chronologically.
HOW TO READ
What are some of the ways I can read Shade of the Morning Sun?
There is no single ‘correct’ reading of the entire novel in stories, nor is there a requirement to ‘mix’ the stories.
Do feel free to read some or all stories in a more traditional, linear way starting with the first story here – or pick and choose and mix as you go along.
The main reading sequences are:
- You can read stories with a single, recurring character only, at any point in his or her timeline. If you use this filter you will get both 1st and 3rd person POV-stories.
- You can filter to read from a certain POV only (e.g. Jon’s 1st person POV – but not stories with his 3rd person POV).
- You can filter by musical inspiration.
- You can also jump between stories when a story features a hyperlink to a story that is related.
I also have stories that overlap in time and can be read both separately or as part of the same whole. For example, “The One I Tried To Destroy” is overlapped by “That Imaginary Desert”. Both take place on the same day with the same protagonist, but you can also read them separately. I plan to do plenty more of those.
There aren’t stories about all characters yet or stories enough to use all filter options equally, but the 70+ stories, chapters, and vignettes should give you a good impression of where the project is heading, as well as an engaging reading experience!
MORE ABOUT THE FORM
Is Shade of the Morning Sun web fiction?
It is also webfiction, and it is also more than that.
A more precise definition would be electronic literature.
E-lit can include many subforms, such as:
- Animated poetry
- Computer art installations
- Novels that take the form of emails, SMS messages, or blogs
- Poems and stories that are generated by computers
- Video novels
- Hypertext fiction
Shade of the Morning Sun is closest to the last e-lit subform on the list: hypertext fiction.
In hypertext fiction you navigate through a story using hyperlinks, choosing many different ways of reading as you go along, while still (hopefully) getting a coherent reading experience.
Is Shade of the Morning Sun like an ebook?
No, e-lit is not an ebook. The two types of media do share similarities, though.
An ebook, like webfiction, is really more like the digitization of print literature.
E-literature, however, is ‘born digital’.
This means that e-literature could not exist in other forms than digital.
You may be able to convert parts of e-lit to print media (or an ebook), but you cannot 1:1 transfer the story and maintain the same reading experience.
For example, none of the ways of filtering and mixing stories on this site are available in a print book.
Nor are all of them available in ebooks at the time of writing (2021), although some ebooks do mimic certain superficial features of a website, e.g. hyperlinks in the body text to various footnotes.
Are there other reasons Shade of the Morning Sun is e-literature?
Aside from the filtering options for reading that I already mentioned, I can think of two other major qualities that single out Shade as e-lit:
1) The pace of change to my own stories: Shade of the Morning Sun is constantly changing, growing, and being revised, for example, to match stories taking place in the future closer with actual events when they happen.
2) The cooperation with readers in creating the stories: It will be possible for readers to submit their own vignettes and stories, at some point. In the beginning, these will be submissions I have to vet, but in the future, I would like to create a membership site where vetted members can publish their own vignettes and short stories in real-time, with my characters or their own (as long as they make sure the stories link to other stories in the collection).
This frequency of addition, change, and revision could never be done in print or ebooks, even if you take into account different editions of the same book!
Is Shade of the Morning Sun interactive fiction?
Yes, with some qualifiers.
Interactive fiction, as I understand it, is another name for hypertext fiction. However, Shade of the Morning Sun is interactive fiction on the lower end of the complexity scale.
Some of the most complex interactive fiction (or hypertext fiction) allows you to complete many different narratives and require some effort to read because there are more choices and more complexity. (Take a look at one of the web’s first interactive novels, Sunshine 69, for an example.)
But whether you have an old ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ paper book or an e-lit story like Sunshine 69, you ultimately get a lot of options for shaping the narrative, maybe ending up with a completely different story than the next reader.
In contrast, the options to interact with a Shade of the Morning Sun story allow you to experience the same narrative but in many different ways, such as choosing to read all related stories inspired by the same musician, or focusing on a more immersive reading experience with a single character by reading her 1st person POV stories only.
For all intents and purposes, the reading experience, as well as the story itself, will be somewhat different depending on what you choose to focus on. But there will be a story.
In other words, you may choose to read the story non-linearly, but it is still there. You don’t need to create it first.
Why haven’t you created more options for interactivity?
The mission behind Shade of the Morning Sun is to create a modern hypertext fiction work that will appeal to a broad audience both in terms of the stories themselves and their accessibility.
It is my hope that the level of interactivity I have chosen of Shade of the Morning Sun supports that.
I won’t rule out future modifications and additions, though. For example, I have toyed with the idea of incorporating chatbots that would allow you to talk to the main characters and complete your own ‘we meet at a cafe’-like story with them, but chatbots are time-consuming to create so it is not something that you can expect to see in the near future.
Also, I honestly think that if I made Shade of the Morning Sun any more difficult to read, it would scare away people just looking for a good, albeit different, read – and who don’t want to invest too much in trying to figure out how to read.
But I’m still learning how to do this, so expect adjustments of the ‘how’ down the line!
What does it mean that stories are ‘updated’?
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.
Why do you update the stories?
Because it is too tempting 🙂
It is simply something that seems obvious to take advantage of, given my inclination to polish my stories over time – as most authors and other artists often do.
ORIGIN OF THE PROJECT
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 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.
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 website.
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’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 are very fitting for the overall mood of the Shade of the Morning Sun stories.
How will I know when new stories come out?
Sign up for my newsletter, and you will be the first to know!
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.
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 for my newsletter.
ABOUT THE IMAGES
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.
Last updated 22 Oct 2021