Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Remembrance of websites past (Part 2: Trepanning)

We continue our reminiscing this week with one of the oddest sites it was our pleasure to visit...
Trepanning, the (fictional?) Cornish village "so remote it is on its own outskirts," was largely the brainchild of British humor writer Ian Vince. (He had a collaborator but, forgive me, I can't remember his name.) Ian went on to win the Channel 4 comedy circuit competition for another website, the inscrutable Department of Social Scrutiny, which led to a book, and then another book, and a regular column in the Telegraph, and - well - Ian's story is a rare, laudable success story of Internet Writer Makes Good.

But before DOSS, there was Trepanning. A beautifully crafted 'virtual tour' of a very odd place, Trepanning combined the isolated Potemkin-village paranoia of The Prisoner, the surreality of the Twilight Zone, the deeply inscrutable magic of Cornish fairy-tale traditions, a very British brand of bureaucracy, and the marvelously dry wit of Ian himself. Visitors could get a map of the local magical ley-lines, check out the transdimensional bus schedule, or take a tour of the beer well (a trip which may take "approximately one and a half weekends"). The photos, lushly stark and given entirely new life by the singular descriptions that accompanied them, made this quantum-ellipse-ridden village all too real.

I confess particular nostalgia for Trepanning because it was the site of the first and only cross-over that I've undertaken, as the anachronistic, bearded and bespectacled Ezekiel F. Watley, the titular editor of my own site, took a balloon-trip and ended up visiting Trepanning for a week, with his adventures alternately chronicled by myself and Ian. (Only the bits published on the Watley Review remain online today, alas.) It was a grand time for all.

Trepanning though was not your typical humor site. It took time to pore through and appreciate the details of its surreal little corner of the web, and it was not updated with 'news' quite so much as periodically filled out with extra details here and there. It was not the sort of site to quickly grab a reader's attention; after six years of quietly delighting visitors, the site finally vanished sometime in 2008. Perhaps the village of Trepanning will one day reconnect with our own plane of existence in the form of a book (a hard sell normally I'd imagine, but the estimable Mister Vince may have a suitable track record by this point to bully a publisher into going with the project). Until that day, the world at large will have to get along without the "world's first twelve-dimensional rural settlement."

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Satire pervades the web, seeping into mailboxes and mainstream news like a spilled cup of coffee. It stains and it won't go away.

The Bitter Cup is a collaborative blog for members of HumorFeed, a collaborative of satire and humor sites that has been making trouble since 2003.