Evil Rabbits? Really?

My short story The Rabbit Hole (published in the compilation Nineteen Tales of COVID-19), and my upcoming story The Rabbit Trap are set in the legendary shared-fiction world of the Devilbunny, where brave warriors battle desperately to save a disbelieving humanity from the rabbits that would enslave them.

Wait. What?

Let me back up a little.

I find a shared fiction

In 1997 or so, during the energetic youth of the Internet, I stumbled across an online shared fiction. The premise: the world is as we know it, with just one tiny difference: bunnies are dangerous. And, as one online story explains, not just dangerous, but deadly. And not just deadly, but highly intelligent, and above all, as cute as a rabbit can be.

It was a brilliant idea.

Most of the shared-fiction activity took place in a Usenet “newsgroup”, alt.devilbunnies, which carried inter-author discussion and conversations, stories about the evil rabbits and their opponents, as well as FAQs about what was going on. Much of this information was eventually gathered into a website, devilbunnies.org, which included pages explaining the shared world and giving some ground rules for participating in it. (And after all these years, the website still exists.)

See: Devilbunny resources.

But the bulk of the interaction between the authors took place on Usenet in the newsgroup.

On Usenet, authors could post as themselves, and, critically, as their characters. This allowed inter-character banter and conversation, which often led to events that were then incorporated into new stories.

See: What was Usenet, and why was it good for writers?

I was hooked. I started to read. I read the ground rules, the FAQs, and then dove into the newsgroup. And I discovered that it was a group with a long and legendary canon.

The world of the Bunnies

In the group canon, the evil rabbits were smart and devious, but greatly outnumbered by humans. They were horrendous supremacists, believing that they were the absolute lords of Creation, and other creatures such as humans were, at best, cattle, and, at worst, obstacles to be eliminated.

But being outnumbered, the Bunnies couldn’t just conquer us in a brute-force war, so what to do? Hide and use propaganda. The Bunnies mounted continual campaigns to weaken and divide humanity, for eventual conquest. In this, they were aided by their natural cuteness, which they wielded as a weapon to psychologically disarm humans.

The Bunnies’ opponents, the few humans who knew the Truth About Bunnies, became known as Fudds, after the cartoon hunter, Elmer Fudd. There was a long series of in-jokes riffing on the name: extremely dogmatic bunny-hunters became known as Fuddamentalists, there was a courier called Fudd-Ex, and so on.

Looking around at the world of 1997 or so, it was fun to imagine that it could almost be true. There were advertising campaigns for cute cartoons and products. True, they were aimed at kids, but I could imagine them sapping humanity’s will to fight.

Creative Efforts

I read the stories and the FAQs and the banter, and then I ‘delurked’.

Reading the newsgroup without contributing was called ‘lurking,’ and was considered a necessary step in joining the group. After all, it’s a good idea to know what’s going on before you enter somewhere new.

I posted my first story post. And people responded! My characters interacted with others on the group, and stories began to form.

Around 2001, I moved to Toronto and things changed. But the idea of the Bunnies remained in the back of my mind.

In 2012, I went back to school, to Durham College to study web development..

One of my assignments involved programming on the “HTML Canvas”: a way of directly creating graphics in a web page. My assignment simulated logging on to a computer terminal operated by the rabbits.

Another assignment involved using a camera, the ‘greenscreen’ background in the school’s video studio, the services of various amateur actors, whatever props I could borrow, and my own artwork. I combined everything using the school-subsidized video editing software on my computer to come up with a short video segment.

In my case, the actor was an actual rabbit. I somehow convinced a friend of a friend to accompany me to the school studio with the rabbit, and we recorded video of me pushing a cart with the rabbit nestled on top. My artwork was rough sketches of the underground rabbit city from my earlier stories. The assignment, based on some of my story postings in alt.devilbunnies, yielded a short video segment called “Scenes from ‘Awakening at Algonquin Main“.

And Now: 2020 and Beyond

After moving to Belleville, I was inspired by my new job to create a new story. A friend referred me to Jackie (now Akosua) Brown, and I submitted a draft of my story idea to her. She liked it, and we started to work together to develop it.

During this time, Jackie gathered a group of writers around her, and started to form a writing club. But then the pandemic reduced travel, and we entered a period of lockdown. The group started to meet via video.

Jackie revealed that she was going to put together a compilation and invited submissions from the group. I jumped at the chance to work with her and the writer’s group and submit a story. I could also use my technical writing skills to help with the preparation of the book.

My story submission for the compilation, The Rabbit Hole, was built around the descendants of characters from my old alt.devilbunnies story postings. Enough time had passed that their kids had grown up and gotten stories of their own.

Since the group of authors I found on Usenet was long gone, I couldn’t get permission to use any of their settings or characters. I used only my own characters and settings, with only a few references to one character originated by others.

I was also careful to omit any of the references to outside products or names that had become part of the group canon, such as Elmer Fudd, or Sailor Moon, or Disney, or Frith and Inlé from Watership Down. Thus, The Rabbit Hole is as compatible as I can make it with alt.devilbunnies canon without actually using canon terminology.

The newsgroup (and Usenet itself) is now a pale forgotten shadow of its old self. I do not know whether the original alt.devilbunnies writers are still going in some other location. At the least, The Rabbit Hole provides a base for further story developments…

2024: Another book!

A mockup of the cover of The Rabbit Trap. It will probably change.

And here’s the further story development!

My major writing project now is a novel called The Rabbit Trap. If The Rabbit Hole was one incident involving the Bunnies, The Rabbit Trap is the life story of my character Dimples, the rabbits’ agent. How did Dimples and his parents escape from the rabbits’ captivity, and why did both Dimples and his father Red go running back to them?

The world of The Rabbit Trap actually incorporates some of the events of my early story segments from Usenet as backstory. And there are a prequel and sequel planned.