Friday, February 09, 2007

Can a million penguins typing away create the great novel?

Penguin books and De Montfort University started a project to create a novel through a wiki.

The project, A Million Penguins, believed to be the first attempt of a wiki-created novel, started last week and quickly got about a hundred edits an hour from around the world.

The first few paragraphs seemed disjointed but did contain the memorable sentence:
“He fumbled in his pocket for his cell phone but accidentally fumbled his own genitalia - it felt good so he continued for a while.”

With such a promising start I continued on, but it lost me after the first few sections in its meandering pointlessness and alcohol infatuation (even for me). The wisdom of crowds thus results in lots of descriptions of booze and drugs - surely the inevitable fart jokes will follow.

The editor’s blog is an interesting read. It chronicles the challenges of managing this Herculean project with vandalism, Chinese text thrown in, and subsequent divergent novels that have already emerged and discussions of how to maintain structure or allow it to be a fluid work with people working on the ending while the beginning is constantly being rewritten.

Cool experiment. Just hope our species can resist the lure of fart jokes.

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