Is Collaborative Fiction the Future?
No, of course not!

But check out " anyway! It is a website dedicated to the cooperative creation of novels, where people can use the collective will of the internet to slowly accrete book chapters and strain their precious dreams and fancies through the give-and-take meatgrinder of the democratic process.

Spread the word! Do you know any fiction writers who are NOT brutal autocrats that only tolerate the dreams of other creators because they have their own worlds to manufacture, police, augment, and destroy?

Maybe this is what you have been waiting for your whole literary life. Are you the sort of person who actually finds that "YOU write part of the story and then I'LL write part of the story" game fun? Do you love looking at pictures of other people's pets on the internet?

Do you think fiction works best as a group project? Do you think Homer was not one blind writer alone on a rock screaming naked at the stars, but was instead a million different mediocrities all cobbling together their favorite tales and rhymes, keeping what worked, forgetting the bad and boring parts because the brain is wired to repeat genius?

Q: How many fiction writers does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: A hundred thousand. One to change the lightbulb and ninety-nine-thousand-ninety-hundred-ninety-nine to die of starvation and alcoholism trying to figure out how she did it after obsessively reading her biography on Wikipedia, quitting their jobs, moving to New York, and joining lightbulb-changing workshops to encourage each other and lie about how they are "really on to something."

Maybe the folks at are really on to something.

Here's how it works: you submit your novel idea. If it is approved by consensus, people submit a first chapter. The first chapter that gets the highest ranking is selected to be permanent. And then people submit new chapters based on the first one and so on and so forth until a whole novel has been created. Writers make accounts in order to talk to each other, make edits, and discuss plot points.'s first attempt at a collaborative novel is a project called "People."

Here's the synopsis from the website:

"The action takes place in the UK.

Lewis Marlow, a philosophy professor and his wife, Yolanda, a journalist, are libertarians. They often speak or write about challenging the tradition and social taboos- creating controversies and debates. Their son, Eric, a talented painter, is gay. Lewis and Yolanda are completely acceptant of this fact and love their son as he is. As gay marriages just became legal in the UK, he wishes to marry his lover, Garry. There is however a big shadow cast over their happiness: Garry's parents, Howard and Grace Kat, a couple of extremely uptight and conservative people have just found out that he is gay and reject him ruthlessly. Lewis and Yolanda disregard Garry's parents for their attitude. Lewis and Yolanda's next door neighbors are Stella and John, emigrants from South Africa who came here in the early 80's. She is of white race, he is of black race. At the time when they fell in love, marriages between people of different races were illegal in South Africa, so they had to flee the country where they were born in order to fulfill their love. They pretty much agree with Lewis' and Yolanda's liberal views.

Lucy Harper is a student taking a class taught by Lewis . Her best friends are Kari, a girl of African descent and Carlos, a refugee from Cuba. She is secretly crushing on Matt, a guy who is also taking Lewis' class; at first, she's oo shy to attempt to flirt or even talk to him- but later, encouraged by Kari, she strikes up a conversation with him. She will be very shocked to find out that he has extremely racist and xenophobic views- and, to make matters worse, he will seriously insult Carlos. Lucy wishes to somehow change Matt's mind and to reconcile him with Carlos- but apparently there's no chance- or is it?

Sophie, Lucy's mother, is a feminist lawyer. In many lawsuits, she has represented women who were victims of sexual harassment at the workplace She is divorced. Andy, one of her acquaintance has one very good reason to resent her for what she is doing: a few years back, after only making a few casual jokes and compliments to a -very paranoid-female coworker, he has been accused of sexual harassment; although charges against him (which were actually unreasonable) have been dismissed, he thinks that all this feminism thing has gotten way out of control. However he may disagree with Sophie, he is, nonetheless, attracted to her.

All those people seem to be living worlds apart- however, life will bring them together and force them to deal with each other. What will result?"

Ready to write the first chapter of "People?" My first chapter will feature a fiery Cuban janitor at Buckingham Palace getting brutally, sexually assaulted by a jaunty (Cockney) fighter pilot who catches the janitor sniffing the Queen's panties while he is there to receive an award for bravery. Vote for that one!

("Owd you like me uncut club in yer bum, guv? Teach you to be a nosy perv round yer Angloid betters!" "Dios mio! Where can I find a tough, sassy sexual harassment lawyer?")

I don't know if collaborative fiction is a good idea or not. I do think it could be a useful tool for an aspiring novelist: after you are done with your first draft, submit your idea to and then submit your first chapter. Keep submitting your chapters under different names and different accounts. Check your work!

As a result of your clear vision, will the internet keep picking your chapters to triumph in the scrum and hurly-burly of competitive prose? Or will one of the chapters of your opus be replaced by a twelve-year old kid from Melbourne named "SoccerGod95" who introduces a talking rat that throws shurikens and loves to share opinions about the Australian punk rock scene?

In the future, all novels will be products of social networking. And we will all have robot sex slaves to fellate us while we drive our space cars to the moon to eat spaghetti paste from cardboard tubes and drink space wine.

Posted by miracle on Tue, 02 Dec 2008 09:00:45 -0500 -- permanent link

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