VANCOUVER, BC – On August 28, residents of the Riley Park neighborhood in Vancouver, BC found themselves caught up in a story – a story appearing all over the neighborhood. The Active Fiction Project (AFP) had been reactivated.
The AFP, brainchild of Jaspal Marwah of the nonprofit advocacy group Vancouver Public Space Network, invites people to follow the episodes of an original story, written by a team of local writers and posted on telephone poles, parking signs, and other public spots.
The narrative, set in the neighborhood, unfolds as readers walk or bike at their own pace from one locale/installment to another. The story is immersive, addressing the reader as the protagonist. And each episode offers alternative “next stops,” giving the tale multiple branches, somewhat like hypertext fiction.
The project, now in its third year, began when Marwah connected with Vancouver novelist and journalist Timothy Taylor. Taylor recruited writers from the University of British Columbia Creative Writing Program, in which he teaches, to craft the segmented story.
Marwah hopes that following the tale through Riley Park will prompt readers to “pay more attention to their own neighborhood, the elements of the public realm that they like, big and small, and, perhaps, consider how these aspects of their community came to be. Who made the decisions to design a street, or include a park, or install a bike lane, or open a small local business?
“I also hope it might prompt some conversations about the role and value of arts, artists and cultural creators, like writers and others, who contribute energy and creativity and help create the kinds of communities that we all want to live in.”
As for the contents of this year’s story, Marwah is willing to reveal that “the protagonist – the reader – is saddled with a bit of a problem – trying to save his or her best friend, whom they’ve just “rescued” from the hospital. And the friend is a zombie.”