Another million penguins

So, have you been to visit A Million Penguins, Penguin’s “collaborative, wiki-based creative writing exercise” yet? I highly recommend it, although they hardly need my linkages, because they’re getting up to 10 hits per second and 100 edits per hour, apparently. Which makes writing anything about their content (of which I’ve read a fair bit over the course of today) pretty pointless.

As you may know, I have a small interest in online fiction myself, and one which I’m developing further this year (of which project I will write more in the coming weeks), so I’m really interested in how it all develops at Penguin. I reckon it is really exciting, and it gives writers and readers a lot of new opportunities.

What is there to learn at this early stage? The experiment is grappling with a number of closely related issues. Its absolute enormity is one, and one which they probably talked about beforehand. I’m sure they knew it would be popular (tho they might not have imagined they’d get as many hits as some p0rn sites). I have often thought of asking one or two people to join my blogopera to keep it going, but a million…that really is a lot of people. When I called my blogopera ‘adelaide sprawls’ it was a way of acknowledging the potential for the structural sprawl of fiction, a sprawl which is of course magnified when there are so many authors. Can there be any hope for a cohesive narrative? Does it matter? Of course, that’s what they’re trying to find out.

If it is to be a story of some sort, then there is going to have be a bit of give and take by writers. You might need to surrender your own brilliant idea for the common good. I have no doubt this can be done (just call me Pollyanna), but I do wonder if it’s a bit of a problem having such an experiment conducted by a major publisher.

In one of his early blog posts on the project, Jon, the guy from Penguin providing the running commentary on the developing story says “the wikinovel experiment is not a place to prove to Penguin we should publish your book”. Is that gonna cut the mustard? There is still gonna be a lot of people more interested in showing their individual talents than their ability to collaborate on a wiki.

Still, enough people are taking it on in the right spirit (edit: perhaps that should be enough people want to take it on in the right spirit, there does seem to be a lot of argy-bargy going on), and even in these early days, I’ve read a couple of great posts and am greatly enjoying watching it all unfold – if you do go over there, don’t forget to look at the discussion. It is, I think (and as I’ve already said), an extremely interesting development for both writers and readers.

And if you do want to join the fun, don’t forget to read the terms and conditions, in particular “By posting your submission on the Wiki Novel and the Site, you grant us a non-exclusive, perpetual, royalty-free, world-wide licence to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, publish, distribute and display any content you submit to us in any format now known or later developed. If you do not want to grant us these rights, please do not submit your content to us”. It will be the basis for an interesting law exam question in a few years I expect.

0 thoughts on “Another million penguins”

  1. Thanks — I’m always interested in looking at other people’s resources and ways of doing things for teaching. (Now there’s an idea — get teh students to blog a short story or script together!)

  2. As someone who, as a child, wanted to be a novelist but had to admit growing up that my fiction writing abilities are nonexistent… I’m depressed again, having read “Special Topics in Calamity Physics” by Marisha Pessl. Like Zadie Smith – absurdly young, good looking and astoundingly talented! Bah!! A pox on these people!!!

  3. …I mean, Z. Smith WAS absurdly young when White Teeth came out. And that Pessl person looks about 20 in her jacket photo, and that’s being conservative.

    Oh well, maybe I’ll be like Olga Masters and discover I can write fiction after all when I’m 50 (hell, that’s this year, better get my arse into gear.) And then die just when I’ve properly got going. Bah!! and again bah!!

  4. Helen: I feel your pain. As I said to the mister the other night ‘it’s not that I’m not a bright young thing, it’s that I never was’.

    Elizabeth Jolley also pulled a stack of stuff out of her bottom drawer in her fifties.

    Are you having a party? Will your blog friends be invited?

  5. I’m really, really off parties for myself because members of my family are oddson to get really hammered and do really, really toe-curlingly embarrassing speeches. That’s the only kind they do. and a fiftieth birthday might be a danger zone for speeches.

    I’m thinking dinner at a posh restaurant.

    BTW, you are so brave to do that standup thing. Here I am getting the impression you’re quite a retiring person. But I am no judge of people in RL, either 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *