We are really close to the release of WOOL GATHERING, an anthology of WOOL-related stories from nine authors who have each explored Hugh Howey’s WOOL Universe on their own. I’ve gotta say: I’m ridiculously honored to be included in a collection with these authors. Some of the best and brightest from the WOOL authors and I get to be a part of it.
With the release so close, I wanted to ask each of them just ONE question. I’ve collected the responses here. I find them all fascinating and intriguing. I didn’t place any restrictions on their answers and what I got frankly amazed me. I count myself privileged to be among this group of writers for this short story collection.
The question: What does WOOL mean to you?
Wool means having a breakdown every time I find myself liking a character in that universe, knowing that they live in the Woolniverse and therefore something terrible is bound to happen to them. And that’s the core of good writing. If you can make your reader unable to stop turning the page because they want to make sure that their favourite character’s going to be okay, even if deep down they know they’re almost certainly screwed, you are doing it exactly right.
For me, WOOL is the world writ small. Everything in it is intensified and magnified but it represents the choices we make in real life, right now. The ones who crave power, the ones who want to believe in something no one else believes in, the ones who take great risks to make things right are all in there. And the ones who would destroy anything and everything to achieve their own singular goals are in there, too. To me that short little book back in 2011 was an interesting take on belief and doubt and the harsh realities behind the curtains of our lives. What it became as it was expanded and refined was the path of a world with powerful lessons in it about who and what we can choose to be.
WOOL represents a milestone in the history of publishing. It showed that someone could become a success and publish a successful story without going through all the traditional gatekeepers. It inspired me to believe that I could maybe do it too and is the reason I started writing and publishing. It also happens to be a great story!
WOOL sparked a reawakening of the short form in my life. Amazon relentlessly promoted WOOL to me as something I would enjoy. I dismissed it out of hand for several months before giving it a read. I was reminded of my long-past high school literature classes when we were assigned mountains of short story reading. The freedom of spending an hour or two reading a short story and then moving on to a completely different story was liberating in and of itself. However, what WOOL reminded me of the most was that, in short form, stories did not have to have satisfying endings with all loose ends explained. Those qualities spark my imagination and engage me as a reader long after I have finished a story.
To me, WOOL is a repudiation of the notion that indie authors are somehow a lesser or sub-species of writer. Not that long ago I thought more or less along the same lines. I only read authors who published through traditional avenues, the kind whose works I could find on bookstore or library shelves. Then, in January 2013, I caved and bought my Kindle. The first book I downloaded to it? WOOL, of course. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been so utterly captivated by a story, and of course I certainly couldn’t ignore the fact that Hugh had done it his way, without the aid (or hindrance) of the mainstream publishing establishment. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience, especially as someone who to that point had mostly been writing to an audience of about half a dozen close family and friends with the patience and good cheer to wade through pages and pages of stories on my poorly designed website. That’s when I knew I had to reevaluate not just what I was doing, but the way I thought about indie authors and publishing all together. Since then, I’ve read some absolutely amazing stories I never would have been exposed to had I not taken a chance on an indie phenom. Even better, I now consider some of those very authors to be good friends and among my favorite people. (Oh, and of course, I’m an indie author now, too; way to bury the lead, I know). That’s what WOOL means to me.
What is WOOL to me?
It was something small. One among many. Nothing you’d pay particular attention to, if you were just passing by. But it held within it a myriad of possibilities that began to capture the interest and imagination of first one person, then another, and another, and another.
It was something small that grew exponentially.
Like each of us. Small and insignificant (in the grand scheme of things) on the day we’re born, but capable of growing into something wonderful — something that will rock the world back on its heels.
It’s an example of possibilities, and growth, and success.
WOOL has meaning for me on multiple levels. As a story, it speaks to me of the human condition and our lack of clarity as to what is actual and what is perceived. Great SF engages and wrestles with such universal themes and WOOL is a wonderful example of how literature asks questions and prompts profound pondering. As a publishing phenomenon, it’s a symbol of the new age of publishing. A single story gains grass roots support sparking the author to write more, engage the audience more, and create – in symbiotic fashion – a story that is both true to the writer and accommodating of the fans. It’s fan interaction at its best. And finally, WOOL is a reflection of Hugh Howey himself and his open source philosophy and crowd-sourcing trust. The fact that the world of WOOL is an open playground for writers to dive into begets not only great new stories but ultimately promotes and elevates the original in ways that would not be possible if it weren’t for the author’s vision of entrusting the story into the hands of fans. In all these ways, WOOL plays a significant role in my journey as a writer and I’m grateful to be a part of this culturally pivotal phenomena.
Besides being one of the best Science Fiction tales I’ve read in the last decade, WOOL represents the indie author’s dream come true. The idea is that a story can be so powerful in itself, that it doesn’t need extensive marketing campaigns or the might of a big publisher for it to find an audience. If a story is good enough, resonates enough with readers, is written well enough, a kind of magic happens where the book takes off on its own and insists that it be widely read. WOOL is the perfect example of this phenomenon, and its success gives hope to so many indie writers. Quality stories will always find a way to rise to the top.
Of course, I had the ability to see all these answers before my response was full formulated. With that in mind, I can definitely say their answers informed mine. My answer wouldn’t be complete without them.
What WOOL means to me is that I’m not alone.
It showed me that someone that was my age could launch a writing career. It showed me that authors are not just grumpy old men who write in a drafty attic space. I discovered that there were others out there, just like me. With the beginnings of fanfic in the WOOL universe, I found a community. I discovered that authors weren’t just self-interested, but that they cared – about writing and the story, yes, but also about each other and seeing others do well.
WOOL means community. The gift we were given by Hugh has tied us together and made us stronger. As a single writer, I can only do so much, but with the amazing fellowship of the other writers I’ve met and discovered through WOOL, I can get better and do more than I ever thought possible.
WOOL Gathering will be released digitally and in paperback in the next couple weeks. Stay tuned for exact release dates.