Santa Claus!

December 1998


A Gift From Sante Klaas: A New Dutch Version

The new Dutch version of this site, our eighth foreign-language version, did not actually come from Santa Claus at all.

It comes from Jeroen van Bergeijk, a reporter for the Dutch paper NRC Handelsblad. Jeroen also wrote a great piece about Web Writers In The Flesh earlier this fall.

The foreign-language versions have always been a bit of an incomplete science. Nobody, not even the craziest fan, is willing to translate this entire sprawling site into any language; I haven't done it myself for the French and German versions.

But the foreign-language versions do bring us overseas fans who can then enjoy the stories in English.

Or, in some cases, just enjoy the cartoons: I seem to be very big among Spanish speakers. I get a lot of e-mail in Spanish.

Me in 1994, on Broadway and Twenty-Second Street.

The Story Behind This Project

This web site is part of a project I began four years ago, partly out of frustration. I was writing a lot of short stories, but I was having trouble finding readers.

Meanwhile, the streets around my apartment in New York City were full of posters advertising bands and theater events. So I decided to turn my stories into posters.

The first posters were only the typed first pages of each story, with a phone number at the bottom people could call if they wanted to read the rest. I put them up all over the city, on lamp posts and in subway stations and in laundromats, any place people might have spare time to read.

I got hundreds of phone calls, and a lot of interested readers. People would call and ask questions about the characters. Some actors got together and made one of the stories into a play. I had fans.

Putting up the posters, which I usually did running away from cops in the middle of the night, was an experience in itself. One old drunken bum in a subway station on Second Avenue read the poster aloud in a voice as deep and lyrical as Paul Robeson. I made a deal with some anarchists who were putting up posters demanding war against the fascist state that we wouldn't cover up each others' work. A drug dealer on St. Mark's Place stopped selling Xanax long enough to ask for a story, take it, and tuck it carefully into his pocket. Also, I saw a lot of very big rats.

Once the posters were up, I used to spy on people reading them. People are very suspicious in New York about calling a stranger's phone number: I think I probably had twenty readers for every one caller. It was tough duty sometimes: there's no more honest criticism than when you can see someone walk away after the first paragraph. But I was really happy to see people of every size and shape reading the posters - school kids, homeless people, Wall Street yuppies, black girls in gangs, old ladies, everybody. So much conventionally published fiction in the U.S. is read only by a little subset of white, educated - maybe overeducated - literary snobs. It was cool to see my stories read by everybody.

Since the election of a new New York City mayor in 1993, putting up posters has become rather futile. The city's run better now, and the lamp posts get cleaned, usually overnight.

Fortunately, with the help of the Internet, I can now reach readers all over the world.

This site has now been operating since September, 1995, and has received more than 150,000 visitors, generating more than 2,000,000 hits.

Thanks for continuing to visit the site!