This Ohio town doesn't actually exist
Located 12 miles north of the Ohio River in the southeast part of the state sits Question Mark, Ohio.
It’s home to Ohio’s second largest commercial garbage dump, the original location of Mr. Freeze-E Ice Cream, and a stunning waterfall. It’s also fictional.
Writers Dan Sinker and Joe Meno are two longtime friends. Meno has written a few books and Sinker founded the well-known music zine Punk Planet. But Meno said they wanted to do something on a different scale.
“I had been thinking about it for a couple years. This idea of a book that happened horizontally or laterally across the internet, like start here and go here,” Meno said. “Each new episode, or each new chapter would unfold from one platform or one website to the other.”
Sinker was immediately on board. “I loved it,” he said. The breadth of the project is what attracted him to it.
“The scale that he was talking about was really exciting, because it wasn't just one platform, and it wasn't just one story,” Sinker said. “Once we got talking it was like, this is a town, and a town has a bunch of people, and a town has a whole lot of stories.”
“It's really her curiosity that carries her from one place to the other, and really, from one character to the other,” Meno said. “Her journey is about meeting these other people in town, each of whom are struggling with their own kind of loss or grief, and each of them have this wonderful secret that she slowly starts to learn about as she gets to know the characters in town.”
Bookman is a precocious high school junior investigating disappearances around town: license plates, car tires, shoes, even pets. As she searches for answers, she, and we, meet a variety of interesting locals: Bruno Ellis is a former wrestler turned street sweeper. Ms. Twombley is the town’s helpful librarian. And Elizabeth Zisk is Question Mark’s formidable mayor.
The story is extensive: it covers strange codes and ghostly lights around the area, a cult from out of town and a mysterious corporation called New Tomorrow Industries that is definitely up to something.
For Meno, the project was borne out of a need to process the loss and grief of the past several years.
“All these sites, even though there's a lot of humor and strangeness and mystery, really at the bottom, they're a place where people have the opportunity to think about some of the things they've lost over the last couple years, think about the people they've lost and connect with that sense of wonder,” he said.
So why did two guys from Chicago choose Ohio as the setting? For them, Ohio is a microcosm of America.
“There's that kind of feeling of being in the middle, that feeling of being pushed and pulled between progress and regression, and all of that feels like an Ohio story,” Sinker said.
Not to mention, no one does weird quite like Ohioans.
“This ability to see the absurd is also this really wonderful Midwestern quality as well,” Meno said. “To say, ‘This is really strange, and to actually find joy in the strangeness is an important survival tool.’”
The story is still unfolding across the internet through the end of this year. People can follow along online at questionmark.town.