Saturday, March 03, 2007

Extra! Exteerraa! A-Peel! Extra!

Holy publisherific, Batman! Exciting new from the world of ground-breaking, "reach-out-and-touch-a-consumer" technomarketing wizardry! They brought you DIY cover art. Now, Penguin bring you the DIY novel!


Well, perhaps less of the "now", more of the "mid-January" and a bit of a flirtation with the past tense would have made the introductory sentence more accurate. In fact, the whole project it due to close in less than a week. But the DIY comment stands. Some bright sparks at said publisher's have clubbed together with some other clever folks from De Montfort Uni and through the modern miracle of software-enabled collective authorship, have come up with a wikinovel project.

To slightly deflate the party balloons, it's not exactly the first wikinovel in the world. But it's probably the first one run by a major publisher of Serious Literary Work. Oeuvres even. Ones with classy covers featuring Art and nary a bemulleted Viking or exploding spaceship in sight.

Their site terms the whole project an "experiment" to see if such a collective adventure can really come up with the goods. It also raises a few interesting questions about the notion of collaboration in art and authorial ego and so on, which are always fun things to think about.

In a bit of a hat-tip to that well-known theory about an infinite number of animals inclined to put evil monkey paw to keyboard and churn out works of literary greatness creative genius is the more appropriate term, they've called it "A Million Penguins." *snort.* stupid flightless waterfowl. we are legion. and unopposable thumbs or not, we can type faster and better than any flipper-bound bird. so stuff that in your beak and regurgitate it.

So far, the penguins in question have been working mighty hard to duck what is it with you and the waterfowl today? the whole boring coherent narrative angle. Which makes reading a bit of a challenge. When approaching it very early in the morning without benefit of caffeine, my tiny brain heheh... many a truth spoken in jest... tends to quail Quail? QUAIL? this stops right now, you bird-brained freak. or do you actually want to be painting that big-winged toff's horn until he gets round to blowing it? in the face of what seems to be an impossible creation by the most bloody-minded of committees - the ultimate camel novel. Camels? Now camels are jumping on the writing bandwagon? Or is this some kind of weird sub-genre from one of the more "specialist" epublishers? Isn't it enough that Posh Spice has a blog? Oh. You're doing that dodgy metaphor-as-cliché thing again. That one has always been pretty dire, you know.

On good days, it feels like reading a Choose You Own Adventure novel straight through, with no brakes and a blatant disregard for the instructions to "Turn to page 67 if you disguise yourself as a shrub and follow the Wild-Eyed Chanting Monks into the Cave of Sacrifice." Just like then, you can even scribble alternate endings on the back flap if you like, as well as crossing out and replacing all the page numbers. Ahh... the heady joys of summer holidays and unlimited time at the library. The big difference in this pool of creative anarchy is that some other jolly comrade-in-flippers will probably come along and delete all your work two hours later. But at least you can then do the same to them.

Actually, there's one alternative version of the novel where someone has attempted to impose a conceptual unity by introducing a banana theme heheh. But so far I think the discussion pages have been the most interesting aspect of the project: the despair and the randomness, the frustrations and the delights, the plotting and the conspiring - it's all in there. you mean they're not just happy writing? they have to talk about it too?

The novel does seem to be settling into some kind of shape as the end of the project draws ever closer. no staying power. told you so... but at least those daft hordes of shuffling leopard-seal bait will soon get back to huddling in the snow looking cute but dumb while posing for artistically frostbitten french cameramen... Well, more of a roughly-woven mobius comic strip really, but it's been an interesting read so far, and I'm pretty glad that it seems to show we're still a long way from becoming the borg.


fiveandfour said...

Wait, what? Posh Spice has a blog? ::Rubs hands together:: I gotta see that. That has to be so bad it's good!

When I first heard about the wikinovel, I figured I'd hop over at some point and contribute an impossible-to-follow sentence. I didn't realize someone coming later could delete earlier stuff. So unfair! Where's the creative challenge in that?

EvilAuntiePeril said...

fiveandfour - re the wikinovel - you have about 4 hours to try to come up with the ultimate last word. No one can delete after midnight GMT tonight.

But you're probably to busy gawping at Mrs. Beckham's blog.