Whence DRI?

or, How to Succeed in Eeevil Without Really Trying


Once we had each answered the call of our Fearless Leader, we were faced with the task of pulling ourselves - a ragtag, undisciplined bunch of incarnations, old salts and green news recruits - into a crack team of queue diddlers - the Queue Continuum.

At many times in history, the Worthies of the Age have been called together to undertake a Great Task, one that would shake the foundations of the world. Think of Jason and the Argonauts, Arthur and the Round Table, Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project, Kevin Bacon and the cast of "Diner". The Queue Continuum was a little like this, or perhaps more appropriately, like fourteen monkeys culled from the million with typewriters who had produced the most rhyming couplets. To belabour this new metaphor, we knew that some vintage IBM Selectrics would be ill-used, and some amount of feces flung, but in the end, we hoped we would have something like a typo-free script of Hamlet. Or at least Troilus and Cressida.

The idea of our Fearless Leader was thus: that given a group of several users working in concert, the Oracle's queue could be drained, and the empty queue used for some nefarious purpose. A series of ringer questions could be fired into the queue, and then answered by the perpetrators with prepared material. The Deed done, the queue would be refilled with innocent questions, no one the wiser or worse for wear until (hopefully) Priestly heads began to be scratched.

The question, though, was once CONTROL had been assumed, what could we do? Various ideas were bandied about - we could write questions and answers to form a sort of continuous story (keep in mind, at the time we believed that the Priests had a Secret List (TINSL)). We could spod the thing with one question, over and over again. Or we could just turn the Surreal knob all the way to eleven. In the words of the Fearless Leader,

> BUT ABOVE ALL I want the Priests to eventually know THEY'VE BEEN DONE.

We quickly decided that, whatever final form the plan had, it would involve an entirely new Oracle mythos. Let me explain... The Oracle, as he stands now, is more or less an accident. The grouchy omnipotent guy, the Staff of Zot, Lisa, Zadoc, Og, Kendai - none of these ideas are really a necessary part of "the Internet Oracle". They are, more or less, baggage that the thing has picked up over time. Some folks like them, some don't, some even hate the idea of stock characters or a "mythos" at all. To these last, I would say that every piece of comedy uses stock characters whether the author consciously decides it or not. So-called "in jokes" (I hate that way of referring to them) have been around since the original Oracle at Delphi was in business. Those who gripe and curse when Lisa walks in a slinky outfit or Zadoc grovels may question why they laugh at the sitcom's Wacky Neighbour, or go to see one of the several operas about Figaro the Nutty Barber. (Don't even get me started on anime or Commedia dell'Arte). An Oracle mythos is just another tool in the bag of tricks, which can be used for Funny or Unfunny Purposes. Little lady, free your mind, and the rest will follow.

But this is supposed to be about the Genesis of DRI, not F's Theory of Comedy. Anyway, the point is that back in Digest 0001, the Oracle's mythos could've gone anyway at all. It's happenstance that we have the Oracle that we do now. Many people submitted questions and answers, used things they'd found funny in previous digests, and so on iteratively. Eventually there was a sort of consensus - or, if you will, the bandwagon got large enough to run everyone else off the road.

The idea, then, was to go back and start anew, jettison all the old characters and running gags - even, at last, the grovel and the "You owe" line, mandated by the FAQ - and come up with something in its place. A smaller consensus, a fuel-efficient bandwagon. A lot of us, too, had been finding recently that we'd been running out of Oracular steam. A change was needed.

We eventually settled on multiple questions and answers, not necessarily telling a story, but linked by common elements. Another thing that was decided fairly quickly was that the "new" Oracle would be female, harking back again to that old Oracle at Delphi. (Ironically, this was decided during the time that the Queue Continuum was an all-male outfit.) Nothing, of course, has ever been put down that the Oracle must be male (and had there been, I'm sure we'd have ignored it), and several good Oracularities have featured a female Oracle. We decided on what some called an anti-Oracle. Or Auntie Oracle, said others. Many other ideas were bandied about, but two in particular fired the imaginations.

The first was a rugged, Lara Croft-type character - hardened adventurer, rough around the edges, and definitely Australian. Some early ideas involved "Lara Oracle" holding court in a bar, where supplicants would pose questions and she would relate tales of derring-do. The astute reader will recognise that Lara evolved into DRI's Pythia DiStefano. The first DRIcularity was written by C (the question by G) in the Lara Oracle vein, and became Tigers on the Savannah.

Another idea was a sort of "Orrie's Angels" - three female Oracles, or priestesses, or investigators, working together or in rotation, to answer supplicants (or customer's) questions. After *quite* a bit more haggling (in which several absurd ideas were rejected, like one involving passenger pigeons, and others were inexplicably taken up, like Pantomime Pirates in Yugos), a combination of the best approaches were settled on. There would be three ladies, one of them very Lara-ish and adventurous, and another who would be a sort of Auntie Ora. The remaining character, of course, became a ditz, because our limited male imaginations couldn't think of any other female character types. These ladies would work for an Oracular Investigation agency, and would travel the world to answer questions cheaply and professionally. Both "cheaply" and "professionally" being relative terms, of course. In a stroke of genius, D (whom we expect little but strokes of genius from, anyway) proposed the names Sibyl, Pythia and Cassandra, after noted Oracles of the classical age.

The identities of our Oracles set, the next task was to generate questions and answers. E issued a challenge one weekend - "Ten questions from each of you by Monday!". Those of us who were bad at questions cringed. Our Fearless Leader reminded us that we weren't any good at answers, either, and that made us feel much better. We needed, it was calculated, about five to eight questions/answers per active Priest to make an impact. We got busy.

Once we had assembled a suitable number of questions, and we thought we had the personalities of Mesdames Stojay, DiStefano, and McBlonde fixed in our minds, we fell upon the questions like famished velociraptors. We picked whatever questions struck our fancy, while some were struck with divine afflatus and produced question-answer pairs complete, like Athena springing fully grown from the forehead of Zeus. Displaying our handy-work to our comrades, nits were picked, endings tightened up, and tweaks tweaked. G continually reminded those of us with short attention spans that it was "Sibyl" not "Sybil", "DiStefano" not "DeStephano", and for heaven's sake use a sensible line wrap. D urged us to ever greater surreality, while inspiring us with model prose. And behind it all, the Fearless Leader, exhorting us to keep churning out the good stuff. It was all very much like herding cats with ADD through a general casting call for "The Secret of NIMH". But at last we had over ninety question and answer pairs, chronologically arranged, ready for the Deed.

So, had we monkeys produced a Folio of sufficient quality? Or a cheap Baconian knock-off? Well. We made ourselves, and each other, laugh with delight during the writing process. We inspired one another to what for a lot of us were new heights of silliness. Many of us felt our batteries recharged, and that even old Zadoc was looking fresh again. We had a lot of fun, and we created something funny. What more can the Oracle ask of us, or us of the Oracle?

You owe the Queue Continuum a bunch of bananas.