More awesome free fiction to read elsewhere

Paul Raven @ 02-09-2010

Have you read Lavie Tidhar’s “In Pacmandu” yet? Well, why the hell not? It was published yesterday, and it is short, sharp and awesome, not to mention packed with computer game culture references – geek crack, in other words. So go smoke a rock, right now.

If you have read Lavie’s story, then perhaps you’re hungry for more brainfood… and the fictional pickings are particularly rich right now. Not only is the latest issue of Clarkesworld waiting for your attention (complete with gorgeous cover art), but everyone’s favourite mad professor Rudy Rucker has just released another issue of peripatetic weird sci-fi zine Flurb, which includes such luminaries as Madeline Ashby, Annalee “io9” Newitz, Chairman Bruce Sterling, ubercharming eccentric Ian Watson, John Shirley and (naturellement!) Rucker himself. There’s now ten issues of Flurb, all archived up and freely available to read, so tuck in. That should keep you busy for a week or two.

Now, if you like a little non-fiction on the side (and who doesn’t, right?) then you should check out Salon Futura, Cheryl Morgan’s new webzine devoted to the discussion and dissection of speculative fiction in all its guises. We can expect some excellent critical work to emerge there in months to come, but right now you can watch video interviews with the charming China Mieville and the lovely Lauren Beukes (two very Zeitgeisty novelists, and well worth your time).

(Like Futurismic, Salon Futura and Clarkesworld are free to read, but they pay their contributors… so if you enjoy what you find there, please consider dropping ’em a donation.)

And finally, a non-free fiction offering: the Neal Stephenson-piloted Mongoliad project (which we mentioned a while back) is now up and running, waiting for you to subscribe… and even caped copyleft crusader Cory Doctorow reckons it’s an impressive offer for the price:

It’s an epic fantasy novel about the Mongol conquest, told in installment form, with lots of supplementary material (video, stills, short fiction, etc), and a strong audience participation component in the form of a Wikipedia-style concordance, fanfic, etc. You can read the free samples without registration, but you need an account to edit the “Pedia.”

For $5.99 you get a six-month subscription to the main body of fiction; $9.99 gets you a year (you retain access to the fiction after your subscription expires, but don’t get any new material until you renew, which is a major plus in my view — much fairer than most online “subscriptions” that lock you out once you let your sub lapse).

The first (paid) chapter went up yesterday, and I’ve just read it. The word here is epic, a swashbuckling swordplay novel with the sweep, charm and verve of the major Stephenson epics, such as System of the World. A very strong start and well worth the price of admission. This is a great experiment in new fiction business-models that welcome audience participation and work in a way that is native to the net.

I doubt I’ll be the only person (webzine editor or otherwise) who’ll be watching closely to see how that business model pans out.

So get yourself along and do some reading! But do pop back here for more near-future archaeology and speculative ruminations of the random kind, won’t you? 🙂


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?