Soulz at Zero
Soulz at Zero was a lit group formed in 1994 by Jack Flack and The Stranger. Soulz at Zero (also referred to as SAZ) released 25 monthly packs over a period of two years, beginning in September 1994 and ending two years later in September 1996. The group was named after a Souls at Zero poster Flack had hanging on his bedroom wall at the time, with the trailing "s" in "Souls" changed to a "z".
In the early-to-mid 1990s, several ANSI art groups began including "lits" (short pieces of fiction or poetry) in their packs. Expanding on that idea, Soulz at Zero became the first dedicated online lit group. Each Soulz at Zero pack contained several original horror-themed poems and short stories. Each pack also contained an issue of "The Death Certificate", an original non-fiction magazine which included various articles including horror-related news, reviews of horror books, horror movies, and other original non-fiction articles. Soulz at Zero's innovation was the addition of ANSI artwork, color, and (usually poorly drawn) VGA graphics, although the focus of the group was focused on original fiction.
The primary method of distribution of Soulz at Zero packs was via BBS. Each month, fans of the group could download new SAZ packs from either Where Shadows Wait (WHQ, run by The Stranger) or The Gas Chamber (US HQ, run by Jack Flack). As popularity of the group grew, so did its number of distribution sites. Before its demise, SAZ had member boards in over a dozen states and several countries including Canada and Portugal. With the introduction and growing popularity of the world wide web to the masses, Soulz at Zero slowly began to make the transition from the BBS world to the web. SAZ eventually added a web site and an FTP site to its official distribution points.
In September 1996 Soulz at Zero released its last pack and disbanded, citing burnout and a general lack of public feedback/interest.
In 2002, online lit group Candelabra released a Soulz at Zero spotlight that included new lit from several former members of the group, as well as audio readings of poems (in mp3 format), audio commentaries, and an hour-long audio history of the group as told by Jack Flack and The Stranger.
Each Soulz at Zero pack consisted of four types of files: original poetry, original short stories, various media files, and the Death Certificate. Poems were usually non-rhyming, horror themed, and contained ANSI color. Short Stories were also horror related, but usually did not contain any ANSI color enhancements. Media Files included (again, poorly drawn) VGA pictures (converted to EXE format for easy viewing) and occasionally WAV files. This was done as an attempt to win cross-over fans from the artscene. The Death Certificate was The Stranger's monthly non-fiction horror newsletter, which contained reviews and other non-fiction articles.
Soulz at Zero was founded by Jack Flack and The Stranger. Jack Flack and The Stranger attended the same Oklahoma high school, where they met. The two founders shared music interests (heavy metal) as well as an interest in horror, although The Stranger preferred horror books while Jack Flack preferred horror movies.
The first several SAZ packs consisted of only Jack Flack and The Stranger. As more people began reading the packs, more people began sending in their own submissions. The first two additions to the group were fellow 405 writers Black Sunshine and Deranged. These four, along with Faethor, are often referred to as the "core members of SAZ". Although Faethor never wrote for SAZ, he spent hundreds of dollars out of his pocket calling long distance bulletin boards to spread the monthly packs. Out of gratitude for his dedication, Faethor was always listed as a member of SAZ. The first long distance writer to join SAZ was WiSH, who remained a member of the group through its lifespan. Throughout its two-year run, the member list of Soulz at Zero fluctuated greatly. SAZ was quick to induct new writers but slow to fire them. This led to many packs which contained lengthy lists of staff writers, but submissions from only a few of them.
Jack Flack was a member of tbh405 and also founded SiTH (Sick in the Head e-zine). Flack has written reviews and articles for many, many publications and websites, including DVD reviews for IGN.com, 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, and several articles for the O'Reilly book Retro Gaming Hacks. Flack currently writes gaming related articles for Digital Press and various reviews for TheLogBook.com on a regular basis. Most recently, Flack had an article published by CULT OF THE DEAD COW and is a member of The Cult of the Dead Cow's Ninja Strike Force. When not writing for other people, Flack attempts to keep his own website updated.
In 2006, Flack published Commodork: Sordid Tales from a BBS Junkie. The book chronicles Flack's experiences on local BBSes and includes a chapter dedicated to Soulz at Zero. Jason Scott of textfiles.com called the book the "world's first BBS Memoir" and reviewed the book on his blog.
Both The Stranger and WiSH joined Candelabra, an online lit group and the spiritual successor to Soulz at Zero, where they served as members, writers and contributors for several years until the group retired in late 2007.