I Was a Compuserve IMP!

CompuServe IMPsI spent an hour scouring old CD archives of Xenite.Org and my earlier Web sites (yes, I actually had other Web sites before I settled on the Xenite domain). I was looking for a Web page that hasn’t been available since at least 1997, I’m guessing. Maybe it stayed up longer than a year. Why? Because the memory fades, names become garbled, and I just don’t always have that encyclopedic recall for which I am so famous (ironically, I never had it — but only my friends, family, and co-workers would know to tell you that).

I recently received an interesting email. Let me tell you, with as much email as I get, that’s saying something. After all the spam deletions, filters, whatever, my hitting DELETE, DELETE, DELETE, it seems my inbox never keeps less than 500 to 600 emails at a time. Usually, I try to organize it when the count gets up to about 1,000 emails. Then I file everything away and live with a false sense of organization for a week or so. But I digress.

I recently received an interesting email. We have a contact form at Xenite.Org whereby people may write to me, Dixie (my partner), or the Administrators (there are four of us, when you count Stripe and RobRoy, who oversee the forums at SF-FANDOM). There may be other people you can contact, too, but I digress again. So, we received an email asking for free promotion of an SF literary site. Now, normally, we don’t respond, or we (as politely as possible) write back and say the equivalent of, “Thank you for taking the time to write to us, but we regretfully will not be linking to your site.”

We get a bajillion link requests and I really do understand what those Webmasters are hoping to accomplish. But Xenite’s linking policy has been shaped by years of abuse from unwitting Webmasters who follow the bad advice given out in various SEO forums (and I’ve given some of that bad advice, but that’s another digression).

Once in a while, we get an interesting request, though. Sometimes a charitable organization strikes a chord in our hearts. Sometimes, someone actually offers something that interests our community. Most of the time, the emails equate to, “Hey, I’m now promoting my book on the Internet and since Xenite offers free book promotion services, I thought I would also ask for a link to my Web site.” Sorry, folks. It doesn’t work that way. We offer the free book promotion services so we don’t have to keep up with a thousand bajillion links to Web sites about books we don’t have time to read (we don’t do reviews, either, but I’ve still got a couple of books I was supposed to review years ago — guilt forces me to turn down all requests these days).

So, who should write to us but Weston Ochse? Weston who, you say? Actually, I don’t know Weston myself. But let me share Weston’s email with you:

Press Release


Come participate in the shared world experience of Muy Mal, scheduled to premier on January 1, 2006 online at www.muymal.com.

What is Muy Mal?

Muy Mal is a shared world created by Michael Oliveri, John Urbancik, and Weston Ochse. It’s a world very much like our own, similar in time and place, but just about thirty degrees off of reality. This is a world in which magic never ceased to exist, where evil waits around every corner and where creatures walk side-by-side with everyday folk. Muy Mal is a world that is a very bad place.

Each writer will explore their own corner of this world, though readers can expect some crossover between tales. Characters may make cameo appearances for example, and major events will affect every story. This is not collaboration so much as it is cooperation, and readers will be welcome to witness as much or as little of the world as they see fit.

Each story will be serialized, and each writer may spread their work across several serialized pieces at a time. An overall title serves as an umbrella for each writer’s work, and each individual tale will carry its own title as it unfolds chapter by chapter. These titles are:

Chronicles of the Black Bishop by Weston Ochse
Seeker by John Urbancik
Asphalt & Alchemy by Mike Oliveri

Muy Mal is also an experiment in the delivery of online fiction. Thanks to the power and flexibility of WordPress, the stories will be accessible in a familiar, blog-like structure where each new chapter will appear at the top of each writer’s section. Similarly, links will be available so readers may drill down and focus on specific serials. There will also be RSS feeds for each author so readers can pull content directly to their feed reader rather than visit the main site.

Unbelievably, Muy Mal’s contents are Free. All of the work posted to the site is licensed under a Creative Commons license, specifically the “Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.” In English, this means readers are welcome to download and/or print the stories out to their heart’s content. Give copies to friends and neighbors! We don’t care, so long as the work is presented with bylines of the respective writer, it’s not altered, and not used commercially.

In even simpler terms: read it, enjoy it, and please don’t screw us.
If you have any further comments or questions, feel free to contact us.
We look forward to hearing from you.

Muy Mal – http://www.muymal.com/
Mike – mike at muymal.com
John – john at muymal.com
Weston – weston at muymal.com


Okay, just as I was about to hit the DELETE key, I realized I knew one of these guys. John Urbancik’s name seemed so familiar. Where did I know that name from?

Oh, the wheels of the old memory mill began creaking and groaning and finally it came to me. John was an IMP from Compuserve. I remembered exchanging messages with him. Heck, he and I may even have exchanged IMPCrits.

The IMPs are The Informal Association Of Writers IMPatiently Waiting To Be Published. Originally, I think the name was more along the lines of “The Informal Association of Writers IMPatiently Waiting To Be Admitted To The Compuserve SFLit Forum’s Writing Workshop”, which was/is organized by Sasha Miller and Roger MacBride Allen. I left Compuserve at the end of 1997 or maybe in 1998, so it has been a LONG time since I hung with the SFLit forum. But from 1993 or thereabouts until 1998 or thereabouts I was pretty active on CompuServe. I got involved with the SFLit Forum and became an IMP.

Like several other fellow IMPs, I went on to get published (not selfpublished, as some people like to misinform the public — I was making sales years before I decided to self-publish). My writing career took a different path from what I had originally hoped for, though. Whereas many IMPs sold short fiction and novels (Ann Marston was an IMP), I ended up selling work-for-hire non-fiction and a lot of essays about Hercules, Xena, and … um … some fantasy world called “Muddle Worth” or something.

There used to be a fair number of IMP Web sites around, but I guess people have moved on with their lives. The IMPs are still an active critting group at Compuserve’s SFLit community, so I think people should check them out. Dave Bollinger is no longer leading the group, but I think Lisa Mantchev (whom we knew as “Candy” back in the day) is now one of the co-leaders. Mike Resnick was sort of the inspiration and spiritual mentor for the group. He wrote some tutiorials for the IMPs that were available for free download from the old Compuserve Forum (before Compuserve killed itself, it had a tremendous advantage over the Internet and AOL and was just an unbelievable resource — but then they came out with Version 3.0 and it was all downhill from there).

Although I have never met Mike Resnick, I understand that he meets (or has met) with a fair few IMPs at various conventions. He used to drop by the weekly IMPChats once a month or so when I was still active on Compuserve.

Writers groups come and go, and quite a few of them have produced successful writers. Nonetheless, the IMPire earned a special place in my heart because it had a serious working philosophy and people who joined had a serious shot at learning how to write well and how to write to be published. If I can get published, anyone can get published.

Well, okay, I can think of a couple of people who should never be published, but if David Day can do it — well, he wasn’t an IMP, so forget him.

There have probably been hundreds of IMPs, to be honest. How many of us got published? I don’t know. Unfortunately, the younger generation of IMPs doesn’t seem to be documenting their success (or goals) on the Web like the old gang did. And, okay, I’m bad for taking down my old IMP pages. But I just never had a chance to update them. Like Edna says in “The Incredibles”: “I never look back, dahling!”

Except when I run into an old IMP. So, yes, we’re promoting MuyMal.com on Xenite. I trust that John Urbancik still remembers a few things from the IMPire’s rigorous training regimen. I’m willing to recommend a few good old IMPs when they come asking for my help.

If you’re curious about who the other IMPs were, I can drop a few names. Some of them are still actively writing (including Lisa and Ron Collins, one of of the original three IMPs). I wish them all well. Exchanging messages with John has inspired me to consider creatng a new IMP site. I’ll try to do it by the end of the first quarter 2006 (hint: That could mean anything on the calendar, but I promise I’ll try).

Other old IMPs whose names you should look for include Jason Tanner, Martin Crumpton, Jeff Carter, Charlene Brusso, Jennifer Cush, Louise Rowder, Ann-Marie Horcher, James Hartley, Christopher Holiday, Steve Schiff, Randy Dannenfelser, Lisa Silverthorne, Lyn Nichols, Adrienne Chafee, Martin Sutherland, Adrienne Gormley, Michael Kelly, Josh Langston, Bill Cornett, Mitch Stein, Derek Paterson, Bill Allan, Barb Galler-Smith, and Bruce Talbott.

Even if you haven’t heard of these folks, some of them are still producing today. I would like to think they all are, but I’ve lost track of them all. My goal is to find as many of the old IMPs and see what they have been up to for the past ten years.

I’ll let you know when the new IMPsite is ready (and it will explain a great deal more t han I have here).