Horn, Stacy 1956-

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HORN, Stacy 1956-

PERSONAL: Born June 3, 1956, in VA. Education: Attended Tufts University; School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, M.A., B.F.A, 1978; New York University, M.A., 1989. Hobbies and other interests: Drummer in Manhattan samba group.

ADDRESSES: Office—Echo Communications Group, 97 Perry St., No. 13, New York, NY 10014; fax 212-292-0909. Agent—Betsy Lerner, The Gernert Company, 136 East 57th St., Floor 18, New York, NY 10022-2923. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Founder and director, Echo Communications Group, New York, NY, 1989—.

WRITINGS:

Cyberville: Clicks, Culture, and the Creation of an Online Town, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Waiting for My Cats to Die: A Morbid Memoir, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2001.

Editor, with Theresa M. Senft, "Sexuality and Cyberspace" issue of Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, 1997.

WORK IN PROGRESS: The Restless Sleep: Inside New York City's Cold Case Squad, for Viking (New York, NY), winter, 2005.

SIDELIGHTS: Stacy Horn is one of the pioneers in creative uses for the Internet. In 1989, before the growth of such online services as Compuserv and America Online, Horn used severance pay from a previous job to launch the online service Echo Communications from her tiny Greenwich Village apartment. Echo, which stands for East Coast Hang Out, quickly developed a reputation as a particularly imaginative and literate cyberspace community—an online site where members log on to "chat" about diverse subjects. By 1992 Echo had 1,500 members, nearly forty percent of them female. This made Echo's electronic bulletin board the most female-oriented in cyberspace, and Horn created a mentor program to orient new women members of the service. Horn's experience with Echo gave her the opportunity to study gender differences in online behavior, experience she drew on as coeditor of the 1997 "Sexuality and Cyberspace" issue of Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory.

The story of how Echo developed into such a popular online community became the subject of Horn's first book, Cyberville: Clicks, Culture, and the Creation of an Online Town. The book is Horn's analysis of what cyberspace communities are and emphasizes the human nature of this technological world. "I'd say that everybody . . . has a trace of an ache," she writes, "that is satisfied, at least for a minute each day, by a familiar group and by a place that will always be there. This is what online communities offer: a connection to people." Horn comments on the relationships that develop in such communities and emphasizes that conflicts arise in cyberspace just as they do elsewhere, but that this is part of the way a community develops: "This is how communities are formed. Not by creating a place and putting out a welcome sign. They are formed and strengthened through the resolution of conflict."

Horn is also frank about the potential for romance online. "I started Echo to meet guys," she writes, admitting that "Cyberspace is a most erotic medium." Sexuality emerges, Horn explains, despite the fact that members have only words with which to communicate online. "The illusion of free and unbiased communication can only be maintained . . . as long as people hide. . . . In time, if you act yourself, gender is revealed. Because we do take our bodies with us." Several Echo members openly flirt, and some eventually meet. According to Jeff Yang in Mademoiselle, Horn says that Echo has introduced many happy couples. "Echo is a regular Peyton Place," quipped Horn.

Reviewers enjoyed the warmth and humor they found in Cyberville. Publishers Weekly particularly appreciated the book's accessibility, noting that Horn eschews the jargon and self-importance found in other writing on the subject of cyberspace. Harold Goldberg, in the New York Times Book Review, praised Cyberville as "a breathless mixture of essays and rants that are rife with sagacity and introspection." Although Goldberg was disappointed that Horn did not provide more details about Echo as a business concern, he admired the book's overall tone and message. "Cyberville resonates," he concluded, "because, beyond helping us get inside the technology that separates us as much as it brings us together, the words of the author and of the Echoids are about the souls of people."

The flourishing of other online chat rooms has eroded Echo's fan base, but it is still thriving as a cultural and literate site, with links to book excerpts, music and film reviews, and information on the arts. One of the more recent postings to the site concerns Horn's second book, Waiting for My Cats to Die: A Morbid Memoir. In this book Horn examines her eccentricities as she descends into an early mid-life crisis: her obsession with death, her television habits, her slavish devotion to two sick house cats, and her occasional encounters with the ghost in her apartment. The short chapters seek answers to some of life's larger questions and dwell upon the inevitable disappointments. A Publishers Weekly reviewer described the work as a "remarkably candid account of one woman's acceptance of aging, piqued with heartening moments of exhilaration." In her St. Petersburg Times review of Waiting for My Cats to Die, Samantha Puckett wrote: "The conversational tone is engaging. It's as though [Horn is] sitting across the table from you, having a casual chat. . . . And you like her right away. She's funny and smart and willing to share all her shortcomings with you." Booklist contributor Jenny McLarin found the work anything but morbid; rather, McLarin called it "a strong and lovely statement about the joy of life."

Horn told CA: "I got interested in writing in the third grade, when a girl in my class wrote a story and stood up and read it to the class. I'd been making up stories in my head for as long as I could think, and it never occurred to me to write them down. 'You can do that?' I was jealous of her. Angry at myself for not thinking of it myself, I immediately got to work."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Horn, Stacy, Cyberville: Clicks, Culture, and the Creation of an Online Town, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Horn, Stacy, Waiting for My Cats to Die: A Morbid Memoir, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2001.

PERIODICALS

Analog, October, 1997, p. 153.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, GA), April 14, 1998, Frances Katz, "ECHO Founder Tells of Life in Online Town," p. C5.

Booklist, January 1, 2001, Jenny McLarin, review of Waiting for My Cats to Die: A Morbid Memoir, p. 884.

Library Journal, December, 1997, p. 143.

Link-Up, November-December, 1996, Gary M. Stern, "Echo: The Virtual Salon of NYC," p. 12.

Mademoiselle, October, 1993, p. 170.

New York Times Book Review, February 15, 1998.

Publishers Weekly, November 24, 1997, p. 61; January 29, 2001, Lynn Andriani, "PW Talks with Stacy Horn" and review of Waiting for My Cats to Die, p. 77.

St. Petersburg Times, February 11, 2001, Samantha Puckett, "Obsessing over Life with Humor," p. 4D.

ONLINE

EchoNYC,http://www.echonyc.com/ (February 20, 2003), author's Web site.

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