The Mongoliad: collaborative shared-world fiction project from Greg Bear, Neal Stephenson and others

Paul Raven @ 24-05-2010

Well, this looks interesting, even if we’ve not got a whole lot of hard facts to go on: The Mongoliad. There’s nothing at that link but a splash image (at least for now), so like everyone else I’m going to clip from The Mongoliad‘s Facebook page:

The Mongoliad is a rip-roaring adventure tale set 1241, a pivotal year in history, when Europe thought that the Mongol Horde was about to completely destroy their world. The Mongoliad is also the beginning of an experiment in storytelling, technology, and community-driven creativity.

Our story begins with a serial novel of sorts, which we will release over the course of about a year. Neal Stephenson created the world in which The Mongoliad is set, and presides benevolently over it. Our first set of stories is being written by Neal, Greg Bear, Nicole Galland, Mark Teppo, and a number of other authors; we’re also working closely with artists, fight choreographers & other martial artists, programmers, film-makers, game designers, and a bunch of other folks to produce an ongoing stream of nontextual, para-narrative, and extra-narrative stuff which we think brings the story to life in ways that are pleasingly unique, and which can’t be done in any single medium.

Very shortly, once The Mongoliad has developed some mass and momentum, we will be asking fans to join us in creating the rest of the world and telling new stories in it. That’s where the real experiment part comes in. We are building some pretty cool tech to make that easy and fun, and we hope lots of you will use it.

Primarily web-based; custom apps for assorted mobile platforms. Nothing that hasn’t been tried (or at least suggested) before, but to my knowledge this is the first web-published shared-world project to come from some really big name authors. There have been others (like the Continuous Coast project, which appears to have ground to a halt if the forums are anything to judge by), but bold experiments like this are always going to have need of the visibility (and, one assumes, investment) that comes with a recognised author if they want to attract a critical mass of attention.

Completely absent thus far (at least after a cursory search) is any information on how The Mongoliad will be monetized, if at all; I suspect that may not be finalised yet, and that they’ve done this teaser launch in order to feel out what aspects the punters are most interested in. Also a lack of detail on how the fan-created content (or the original content, for that matter) will be licensed – I’d love to see it announced as a Creative Commons project, but I rather suspect it won’t be quite that wide open.

So, let’s give them some market research, hmm? Let’s assume The Mongoliad comes as a non-free app: are the listed contributors big enough names that you’d consider paying for a serial novel by them? If so, where’s your price point?


Shadow Unit – a quarter million words of free fiction

Paul Raven @ 29-05-2008

We’ve been linking to Shadow Unit from our Friday Free Fiction round-ups since we became aware of the project, but as it enters the season finale of Season 1 (Shadow Unit is modelled after the television series format) I felt it deserved a special mention of its own.

Shadow Unit logo

How come? Because of scope and ambition. Shadow Unit is, if not unique, a new and rare form of fiction. It wasn’t commissioned; there was no advance paid for it. Unlike the television shows it models itself on, there is no support from advertising, though the project accepts donations.

And yet in less than half a year Emma Bull, Elizabeth Bear, Will Shetterly, Sarah Monette and Amanda Downum have written and illustrated seven novellas, a full-length novel (Refining Fire, the season finale being released bit by bit over the course of this week) and sundry snippets and extras (including in-character LiveJournal diaries), all under a Creative Commons attribution/non-commercial license.

Whether Shadow Unit is to your taste or not, you can’t deny that’s a pretty staggering artistic achievement by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t know about the other aspiring writers in the audience, but it has me feeling pretty ashamed of my meagre output … but at the same time, I’m pleased to see writers going out and finding new ways to release their work without waiting for the publishers.

Serialised fiction used to be the standard model in the days of Dickens and Conan Doyle. Perhaps it will return again – the episodic format seems suited to the web, and we have multimedia capabilities that Dickens couldn’t even have dreamed of.

What do you think? Have you been reading Shadow Unit, or any other serialised fiction on the web? Would you be interested in reading it here at Futurismic?