in 1989, a small computer Bulletin Board System (BBS) in Santa Barbara called "Renaissance BBS" decided to have a group
writing contest. Zepp, the sysop, got to lay down the
ground rule, and that rule was quite simple: the
story, or poem, or whatever, had to relate in some way
to a character named "Cosmic Charlie".
Everyone had six months to come up with something, and
after the stories came in the users would vote for the
best-liked. The winner would get a cheesecake at an informal barbeque of sorts called the "Charlie-Q".
The cheesecake wasn't particularly memorable, but the
stories showed that the Santa Barbara telecom scene had
a rather extraordinary pool of talented writers.
A second contest, "Merry Widow" was held
the following year, and after that Zepp moved to Mt.
Shasta. The torch passed to The Dragon BBS and eventually Swagland BBS to keep
the literary light going, and it succeeded admirably.
Once settled in Mt. Shasta, Zepp tried a similar group
effort up there, since Mt. Shasta has a large colony of
artists and sages. It was a general failure.
Not through lack of local talent but because Mt. Shasta
didn't have the special relationship with telecom that
Santa Barbara did. They thought of telecom as an
amusing toy, nothing more.
The Internet supplanted BBSes and made them all but
obsolete, and colonies of creative effort have sprung up
everywhere. But Santa Barbara, through Swagazine,
is still special, and as far as we know,
And it still has the best writers and artists
involved, treating this medium with the respect due it.