For those who don’t keep up with such things, GISHWHES is an acronym for “Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen.” It is an annual charity event organized by actor Misha Collins, who (among other roles) plays angel Castiel on the CW series Supernatural.
One of the items requested this year of participating teams — GISHERs, as they call themselves — was to procure a story of no more than 140 words in length, from a previously published sci-fi author, about “Misha Collins, the Queen of England, and an elopus.” (An elopus is an elephant-octopus hybrid, and the mascot of the event.)
Many GISHERs took it upon themselves to tweet, direct-message, and e-mail various authors, whether they knew them or not — and whether they were fans of those writers or not — to ask them to tap out original works of micro-fiction for their respective teams.
As one might imagine, more than a few authors got their noses out of joint over being asked to write for free, even if it was for a charity event. I suspect that most of the authors who were so aggrieved were likely far more popular and critically lauded than I am, and thus were deluged by an exponentially greater number of requests. To which I say: Cry me a fucking river, you prima donnas. We should all have your problems.
For my own part, I joked at first about my reluctance to work for free, especially at a time when I’m busy trying to beat a looming deadline. I tweeted:
Have received only one GISHWHES request, via Twitter, for a Queen/Elopus/@mishacollins story. Folks, how can I reject you if you don’t ask?
— David Mack (@DavidAlanMack) August 4, 2014
Then I was asked by friends to record videos to help fulfill a different GISHWHES challenge: “Get a NY Times Bestselling Author or a Tony-award-winning actor or actress to record on video a dramatic reading from the California DMV Driver’s Handbook chapter on right-of-way.”
A ham at heart, I recorded two videos and had a blast doing it. Energized, I went to my computer and wrote three short stories just for GISHWHES:
“The People’s Queen”
“The Cliffs of Dover”
Today I gave them to people who sent me selfies of themselves with my books, and I wrote a fourth — “Scoop” — specifically for a German fan who wrote me such a nice letter asking for my help that I couldn’t turn her away.
Next week, after the contest is over, I’ll share those stories and videos with the world here on my blog, and on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere.
And you know what? I’m still going to hit my quota on my manuscript today; I’ll still make my deadline; and even though I gave away the equivalent of about $88 worth of fiction (based on my current per-word rate), I am still able to pay my bills and not whine about the injustice of being asked to help strangers without the recompense of a profit motive.
And I’m okay with that.
UPDATE, 8.10.14: I’ve added links in the text above to later posts that feature the four stories and three videos I created for GISHWHES.