Remembering what it’s all about… (GISHWHES, mid-way through)

I was going to write, in needfully-vague terms, about all the Awesome and wildly creative Stuff we’ve been doing.  But sadly, GISHWHES hit a very public bump on Monday.  And I think we need to talk about it.

Part of the entire idea of a scavenger hunt is finding things, and getting people to help you find (or do) those things.  And GISHWHES has always embraced that – we reach out to people we know, and people who know people we know, and often utter strangers.

(That’s how I ended up getting friendly hugs from complete and random strangers in an Amtrak station, last year).

And the backdrop of GISHWHES has been to do this in as fun and inclusive a way as possible, – and if someone says they can’t help, we smile and move on to the next person who might. We do what we can, in the best way we can.

But this year, some people forgot what GISHWHES is about, and were unforgivably rude to people who said no.  They forgot that we’re asking people to join us in fun.  They forgot that we’re approaching strangers, and need to explain to them what’s going on, and infect them with the fun, too.

And because they did this to people who make a living with words – writers – it hit the Internet.  In a pretty noticeable way.

So what people were hearing was “GISHERs are assholes.”

This was particularly painful for me, because I’m a GISHER…and I’m a writer.  These were my people at odds.

Thankfully, it seems that this was a small number, out of the thousands of people worldwide participating. But any is too much.

Winning is great fun, yes.  Everyone dreams of winning.  But if your only reason for playing along is to win….you’ve not only missed the point, you tore up the memo without reading it.

Creativity.  Joie de vivre. Good deeds.  Positivity.

For my fellow writers who had bad experiences, I’m sorry.  Most of us are harmless and actually quite nice.  I apologize for the assholes.  And yes, note of their bad behavior was taken by our Overlord and his Admin Crew, and noses, I believe, have been whapped (I would have cut them off and cast them from the Hunt, myself, but I’m not Overlord).

(Unfortunately, it wasn’t just GISHERs behaving badly.  There was some sniping and “aren’t I clever” snarking from several writers on Twitter, many of whom had no idea what was going on, and didn’t bother to ask.  I hairy-eyeball the lot of them.)

However… I’m pleased to say that out of that conflagration we also saw a phoenix rise.  Several of my fellow writers reported having lovely exchanges – even when they had to say no.  Greg Cox, Dayton Ward, and Tiffany Trent, to name the folk who said “yes quote me,” went out of their way to talk about how pleasant their interactions had been (as were mine), and Jaym Gates, who took on the task of fixing willing SFWA members up with needy teams, had only good things to report about her experience.  And some of the writers are now making noises about joining next year!  (Join us.  Jooooooin ussssss…)

So I’m hoping the rest of the week, people will remember what’s most important about GISHWHES. (Hint: it’s actually not the winning).

Meanwhile, the past few days I’ve ended up covered in cornmeal, macked with a dummy, practiced my best busker voice, coaxed people on three different continents into (mis)behaving silly, met half a dozen new people, and talked team-mates through the occasional Item-related hyperventilation…. God only knows what the rest of the week will bring!

Hopefully, only good things.


About Laura Anne Gilman

Laura Anne is a recovering editor-turned-novelist, with an Endeavor Award, a Nebula nomination, another Endeavor award nomination and a Washington State Book Award nomination under her belt. Her most recent series is the award-winning "Devil's West" trilogy, starting with SILVER ON THE ROAD, and her same-universe story collection, WEST WINDS' FOOL, AND OTHER STORIES OF THE DEVIL'S WEST. The novella GABRIEL'S ROAD was published by Book View Cafe on April 30th, 2019. Her Patreon, featuring original fiction, writing advice, and original Rants, is at Learn more at, where you can sign up for her quarterly newsletter.


Remembering what it’s all about… (GISHWHES, mid-way through) — 11 Comments

    • If you would like to write a story for a team, my GISHWHES team is still in need of one 🙂 We’re team Put-On-The-SuitLovesDangerVeryDanger (they had to combine a couple teams, hence the weird name)

      This is the prompt: IMAGE. Get a previously published Sci-Fi author to write an original story (140 words max) about Misha, the Queen of England and an Elopus. -Annie Houston

      I would appreciate it if you have the time! Thanks

  1. I couldn’t wait for someone to ask me, so I offered up one story to the first team who got in contact with me. Got pinged about a half hour later, so I wrote it, took a silly selfie with it, had a blast. 🙂

  2. Hunh.

    From my end of the genresphere, I saw a mostly negative (leave me alone!) sort of vibe from authors and creators to GISHWHES. I had to dig a bit to even figure out what the heck it was and why people were and are upset.

    • This is the first time I’ve seen a violently negative reaction to even polite requests – last year we were hitting up politicians, and they were… well, they were politicians. 🙂 But nobody got snarky about it.

      (and many of the writers approached do seem to be taking it in the manner offered – an invitation to play)

      Okay, NASA had to tell us to cut it out last year, but the astronauts wanted to play, they just weren’t allowed.

  3. Thank you for your lovely reminder of GISHWHES etiquette and gentle rebuke for those who needed it in their zealousness.

  4. I got asked by a couple of groups! The second opted out in favor of the first, and I wrote a little something that combined the required characters, a couple characters of my own, and a couple very famous English (well, maybe not even human in one instance) characters. It was a total blast!

    I don’t know that I’m up for joining the whole scavenger hunt thing myself next year, but y’all are certainly welcome to ping me again for any short writing things that want doing!

  5. I enjoyed writing my 140 words. It was extremely silly and had several bad jokes, but I was very excited to see the team get points for it.