Wiki Fiction and Critical Futures

I'm starting preliminary development on a wiki fiction project that will eventually take over the criticalfutures.com domain. This post is a discussion of that history, my idea, and what I hope to accomplish.

My friend Julia and I have been corresponding on topics related to the future of publishing and genre fiction for a few weeks. When the topic turned to wikis, I spouted off the things I usually say about bootstrapping wiki participation (it's hard and pretty lonely,) then I had an idea.

I read wikis, mostly wikipeida, a lot. For fun. I'm sure a lot of people do this, as "getting lost in wikipedia," is a thing that happens. You say, "I'm interested in public transit in Iran," and you get lost clicking through various pages related to rapid transit systems in the middle east, and then an hour or two is past and you really ought to finish that blog post. The same thing happens on the c2 wiki for me.

While I wish I were less compulsive about it, reading wikis is a pleasurable reading experience, and since the format seems the web, why not run with it? The question becomes: why are we spending so much time figuring out the most ideal way to publish novels and short stories--forms that developed with the physicality of the book--in the digital age?

To be fair, I think there's a place for digital distribution of paper-centric forms (periodicals and monographs,) but I doubt that in 50 years "digital fiction," will mean eBook editions of novels. People have been making a similar point for some time about video games for a while. Interactive fiction is definitely a part of digital fiction, but I don't think it's the full story.

Meanwhile back at the point...

Here's the idea. We use wiki software to construct a website that is written as a light-hearted encyclopedia. In the vein of TV Tropes meets Wikipedia except with fictional content. But there needs to be more than just page after page of exposition and condensed blather: my current plan is to have a "dialogue" section, which will be bits of dialogue and scenes published with some contextual metadata (when it happened, who was present, where it happened.) The dialogues can then be linked to as quasi-citations in the more conventional expository wiki pages.

So basically I'm proposing a couple of things here. First, I want to splitting up all content into small self contained pages. This makes it better for multiple people to edit, because editing and writing can happen in a more parallel manner, and you don't need to agree to an outline, or write things in any sort of sequence. Second, shorter pages with more segmented content is easier to read for the attention limited.

Having said that, I'm not sure that collaborative, for all that will editing is really the way to go. The truth is that so few people edit wikis relative to the number of people who could edit wikis, that you might be better off having some sort of more select editorial community, just in terms of establishing buy-in from contributors and avoiding diffusion of responsibility. I'm undecided.

Along a similar line of thought, I'm considering releasing release updates and new content on a regular basis (e.g. bi-weekly or monthly?) rather than every time an edit is made. This will require some sort of closed-development process. At the same time new wiki projects often fail because there's little incentive to return to a wiki to "see what's changed. Blogs, contrast are good at securing return visits.

Thoughts? Anyone interested in being on the editorial board?

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