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The Digital Decameron

Ten writers. Ten days. One hundred stories.


And so, at last, it has come to this: The world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper, not a bomb, but a bug. We don’t ride out in a blaze of glory in a nuclear explosion, but it all ends in the pestilential isolation of our screens. We have been ever-further socially distant for years, but now that it’s a mandate, we seek ever more connection through our last remaining (fiber optic cable) lines. It would serve us well to remember that in this, as in all things, nothing is new. We are only as we ever have been and will always be, in times of prosperity and times of plague: human.

You’ll please pardon that melodramatic opening paragraph, but it seemed apt. It would also have been apt for many other times in human history. Throughout history, as now, people have fled from danger when they could, sheltered when they couldn’t, and clung to each other (sometimes counterproductively, but necessarily) when all else failed. They also told each other stories. When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, they stayed up late and told stories before the final embarkation. Scheherazade spun yarns to save her life. When the Black Death roamed the world and devoured huge swaths of its population, the ten members of the Decameron fended off the fear and fatality by speaking humor and humanity into those bleak nights. A handful of Denver artists are doing the same thing in our current COVID crisis, from a safe social distance, of course.

Helmed by Circo de Nada, ten writers have been selected to publish one new tale of fiction every day for ten days. (Full disclosure: one of the writers is me.) Some are seasoned veterans; some have never written fiction before. (Full disclosure: that one is me.) All come to this project from a place of physical isolation and a longing for human connection. The idea is to distract, entertain, educate, and bond the group together during a time of immense duress and to welcome all of the audience to join in the experience.

It’s a mixed bag of voices, topics, and tones. In the spirit of the collective/community assignment, the writers are encouraged to read the others’ work and respond to it in their own writings. If, say, one writes about refusing to apologize, you might see another piece that features an apology. One writes about a love affair with cheese, and another might place an Easter Egg cheese sandwich in the next day’s edition. It’s a fun volley to watch as an audience and gives a sense of collective experience and anticipation. The stories are NOT about the coronavirus, thank heavens. We hear, see, read, and feel enough about that every moment of every day. They’re about love, loss, fantasy, bicycles, mice, cornfields, murder, silence…and, yes, cheese.

The world feels whiplashed these days. We’re suspended in time between seeing the oncoming apocalypse and its inevitable hit. This tension lends its own kind of narrative to each moment and action, placing them into a story that’s unfolding with a prescient awareness that we rarely give our usual moments. In such times, as in all times, it’s a great comfort to reach out and hold another hand, even if that’s through the internet. Give the Digital Decameron a read—no paywall, no Venmo tipping solicitation, just the timeless human bond of a well-told tale.

Jessie Hanson Columnist and \"Backstage\'s Bon Vivant\"

Jessie Hanson lives and works in Denver and couldn't be happier about it. Like the best-possible kind of Jekyl-and-Hyde scenario, she splits her life between science and storytelling. During the day, she performs clinical diagnostics and messes around with test tubes. At night, she performs behind the mic as a standup comedienne, in the air as a circus aerialist, and in rhinestones as burlesque dancer. She begrudges the hyper-inflated cost of a decent pair of false eyelashes. When she's not on stage, she sweating it out as an endurance athlete in triathlons and marathons across the West. She begrudges the hyper-inflated cost of a decent pair of running shoes. She's thrilled to be on board with OnDenver and writing about science, comedy, circus, athletics, and general fun on the Front Range!

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