CNET contributor invites readers to join him in collective sci-fi novel project

Writer and CNET contributor Eric Mack has a unique idea for his National Novel Writing Month project: a crowdsourced sci-fi novel. Mack calls the idea “the world’s first MMOSFN — Massively Multiwriter Online Science Fiction Novel.” It has long been speculated that digital books would be able to change and evolve in later editions based on readers’ feedback, but this project allows potential readers to impact the course of the book before it is even fully written.

Mack plans to post the start of the story on a public Google Doc where anyone can add suggestions. At the end of every day, Mack will incorporate what he believes to be the best suggestions into the story and will update the document to show the novel’s progress.

The main idea of the novel is one that Mack says he has had for a while. The story will take place a few decades in the future, after the occurrence of the singularity, the theoretical point at which technological or artificial intelligence will reach the capability of human intelligence. Humans in the book will be close to reaching immortality thanks to advances in technology. Humanity also learns that both extraterrestrial civilizations and alternate universes exist. A distant civilization predicts that an immortal human race will cause “complications” and sends “a hero” to Earth to find a resolution.

Among some of the potential story elements Mack suggests are:

Of course, there are ways that this project could go wrong, chief among them being the possibility of vandals flooding the public Doc with inappropriate content as a joke. However, Mack’s plan to moderate potential additions to the book will hopefully cause this problem to be avoided.

The book will be posted on CNET’s website after its completion at the end of November and all contributors who wish to be named will be credited. The book will also be made available under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which allows the story to be shared anywhere and in any way as long as it is attributed properly.


Author raises money for charity with Humble Bundle of digitized hard-to-find works

Neil Gaiman, a bestselling author of fantasy novels, graphic novels and children’s books, has partnered with Humble Bundle to release ebook versions of some of his more obscure works, including out-of-print or unpublished essays, speeches, poems, and comic books.

A screenshot from the current Humble Bundle Books page, displaying some of the products available to those who buy the Neil Gaiman Bundle.
A screenshot of the current Humble Bundle Books page, displaying some of the products available to those who buy the Neil Gaiman Bundle. Courtesy of

Humble Bundle is a company that releases, among other things, rare books in a DRM-free digital form at a pay-what-you-want price. For higher set prices, buyers can unlock additional books to add to their bundle. Ebook sales will benefit one of a series of charities, and buyers can choose where their money goes. Buyers can also choose to give a portion of their payment to the books’ creator.

Ebooks are ideal for charitable purposes like this. As the Teleread article linked above states, “there’s effectively no marginal cost to duplicating  them, so you can make ten thousand as easily as you can make ten.” The ease of recreating books en masse allows a wider audience to experience books that were previously unknown or inaccessible. This bodes well for charities that rely on sales like these and the authors and artists who might receive money from buyers. Readers, particularly those interested in a particular author, will delight in the opportunity to read work that has previously been unavailable.

Everyone wins, except possibly rare book collectors. (Will their collections still have the same value if everyone can get an out-of-print book? I suppose we’ll get an answer if we wait a few years.)

The Gaiman Humble Bundle has, as this post’s upload, sold over 9900 times and raised more than $192,000. This particular Humble Bundle will be available until September 23.

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-Nicole Gattone