why dont you just speel in
June 16, 2010 12:15 AM   Subscribe

Fans of Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear please take note: they are designing some kind of iPhone App.

Apparently Neal owns the patent.
More info.
The snark has already begun.

From the FAQ:

We have a system that allows both "anointed" authors and fans to contribute content, both stories and backstory / para-narrative, and those are going to be pretty obviously distinct. We also have systems for community rating of "canonicity" and mechanisms for transitioning fan activity into canon where appropriate. Those are only in the web view of the world right now, and we won't be showing those for a little while. There is also a big, woolly canon and arc management system behind the scenes.

Neal Stephenson previously (blush)
posted by Potomac Avenue (36 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Karen contributed to the advancement of serious games by building mnemonic devices using stone knives and bear skins.
Can anyone explain to me what that means? She scraped a day-planner onto a hide? Is that it? And what does that have to do with serious games?
posted by CCBC at 12:40 AM on June 16, 2010


Apparently goatees are mandatory at their company.
posted by spiderskull at 12:47 AM on June 16, 2010


Couldn't he just write A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:09 AM on June 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


"We're not trying to make (Stephenson) write shorter books," Bornstein joked. "Just lighter books."

Hah!
posted by protorp at 1:10 AM on June 16, 2010


This honestly reminds me of Penny Arcade's Elemenstor Saga. Short story for those not in the know, one of the characters in the Penny Arcade webcomic claimed that he had been chosen to write a 13 novel cycle for the Elemenstor series, a collectible card game, and hilarity ensues (1.Epilogue 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6).

Of course, the Elemenstor series (or, rather "Epic Legends of the Hierarchs: The Elemenstor Saga") was just something the PA boys made up for fun to fill some time, but then they took it a step further and created a wiki and let their fans fill the Elemenstor World. People went crazy, writing huge pieces about the many famous hats in the Elemenstor Saga, martial arts styles, videogames inspired by the saga, and even the history of the Wizbits! cartoon, even writing a theme song.

The thing is, though, PA and its fans knew all this stuff was patently ridiculous and were just having fun. Exquisite Corpses are great for laughs, but god have mercy on your soul if you plan to get anything serious out of them ...
posted by barnacles at 1:12 AM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think I preferred it when Neal Stephenson didn't answer email.

I dunno, I've never read a co-authored work yet that didn't smack of a bunch of excitable nerds in a room going 'oh wow, and what if we included X' every few minutes.

Still, I'll probably pony up a couple of quid to see what this is all about - wonder what their pricing model is going to be, now that in-app purchases are possible.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:53 AM on June 16, 2010


Also, your 'snark' link is actually a pretty well reasoned critical analysis of the (admittedly sketchy) details of the project, asides about LARPing nerds notwithstanding.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:58 AM on June 16, 2010


Happy Dave, I take it you haven't read the Difference Engine by Sterling and Gibson?
posted by Glow Bucket at 3:24 AM on June 16, 2010



Happy Dave, I take it you haven't read the Difference Engine by Sterling and Gibson?


I have, and it sort-of-works, but it's by far not my favourite book from either author. And there's a lot of 'oh wow' stuff in there - 'oh wow, punchcard-controlled super dreadnoughts!' and a fair amount of weak characterisation as dressing for technical ideas.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:34 AM on June 16, 2010


CCBC: That's a reference to the Star Trek original series episode "City On the Edge of Forever", Spock and Kirk have travelled back in time to pre WW2 earth to try and retrieve McCoy, and Spock is attempting to build a device to access the contents of his tricorder. He describes it as "endevouring to construct a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bearskins".

As to how this relates to whatever the fuck it is these accomplished authors are attempting... I haven't a clue.
posted by Grimgrin at 3:44 AM on June 16, 2010


Fair enough. I thought it was an okay book but never actually felt there were any "oh wow" moments in there.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to what the Mongoliad acutally turns out to be and I hope there will be content for "pedestrian" Internet users.
posted by Glow Bucket at 3:46 AM on June 16, 2010


An iPhone App that starts off full of promise and is original and witty, then end in a confused, a disappointing quagmire?
posted by the noob at 4:19 AM on June 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


In what way is this an iPhone app? It appears to be an iPad app only.
posted by Ike_Arumba at 4:32 AM on June 16, 2010


I find it bothersome that the picture of the VP for Strategy and Development is obscured.

An iPhone App that starts off full of promise and is original and witty, then end in a confused, a disappointing quagmire?

The code will require lots and lots of editing, but they'll think they're too important for that sort of thing.
posted by crunchland at 4:41 AM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


In what way is this an iPhone app? It appears to be an iPad app only.

This paragraph from the second linked article says it's coming to iPhone, iPad and Kindle:
"From that humble beginning, the project grew into a collaboration between Stephenson, Bear, and a group of people with experience in martial arts. They wanted to re-enact the sword fights and build a new novel around them. But why limit the story to book form, the idea seems to have been. Instead, why not produce the project on the iPad--as well as the iPhone and Amazon's Kindle--and craft a story around the fears overcoming Europe in the year 1241 that the Mongols were going to overrun Western Europe.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:49 AM on June 16, 2010


Choose Your Own Adventure - the next generation?
posted by pyrex at 6:47 AM on June 16, 2010


I taped Jeremy Bornstein's presentation about this at the local Dorkbot last week - I'll see if I can get some video posted quickly.

They're also targeting Android.
posted by Pronoiac at 6:50 AM on June 16, 2010


For some reason, this project brings to mind The Madness Of Roland, a brilliant, frustrating, and way-ahead-of-its-time non-linear multimedia novel for Macintosh from 1992 by Greg Roach.

I see it's still available (Mac download link under "Download Mirror" on this page, Windows link here.)

It's worth checking out. One of the more haunting experiences I've ever had sitting in front of a computer.
posted by hippybear at 7:01 AM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


your 'snark' link is actually a pretty well reasoned critical analysis of the (admittedly sketchy) details of the project

Yeah, calling that thoughtful blog entry "snark" denigrates both the article and the concept of snarking...
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:24 AM on June 16, 2010


This makes my assertion that Stephenson isn't a writing for dorks exclusively, that's he's a great writer (albeit one that never figured how to end a book) that works in the scientific/historical genre and should be considered literary and not constrained in a sci-fi ghetto. That assertion becomes less tenable when he does interviews in front of a wall of BIG FUCK OFF SWORDS.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:09 AM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I dunno, I've never read a co-authored work yet that didn't smack of a bunch of excitable nerds in a room going 'oh wow, and what if we included X' every few minutes.

So, never read Good Omens?

(Off topic a bit, just the other day I was thinking about how I know people who are only a fan of Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett and dislike the other, which is pretty incomprehensible to me. I remember a British pTerry fan on Usenet dismissing Neil as "merely" some comic book writer and how British people don't read silly comic books unlike dumb Americans. I was dumbstruck by the concentration of idiotic statements.)
posted by kmz at 8:11 AM on June 16, 2010


So, never read Good Omens?

Damn, yes, there's always an exception. Good book.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:26 AM on June 16, 2010


I think also, within science fiction, the Niven/Pournelle novels are excellent collaborations, but I agree that with these sorts of collaborations, the seams usually show pretty glaringly (like those tedious Baxter/Clarke novels I wanted to love).

Though the concept seems pretty cheesy, this has me excited because Stephenson is such a talented writer, but also because he's always been so keenly perceptive about the directions in which technology has and will develop and influence us. I'm very interested in how they're going to adapt written storytelling to a new medium in some new ways; I'm much less interested in sword-fighting and all that.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:46 AM on June 16, 2010


It's not, as I understand it, a direct collaboration; more of a shared universe kind of thing.

(Caveat: I was approached to participate but was otherwise occupied. I have signed no NDAs and seen no previews. This is hearsay and should be treated as such.)

((But damn, I should have joined, if only so that I could turn up on stage with them and show up Greg for not having a shaven head and a goatee and wearing black.))
posted by cstross at 9:40 AM on June 16, 2010


Sounds interesting! I hope it works out for them. This is the sort of thing that should be succeeding nowadays, since it sounds more intelligent and imaginative than another Farmville or Mafia Wars game.

Having said that, I wonder why the Mongoliad couldn't have been attempted on the old fashioned Internet. It probably needs that walled garden, pay as you go aspect to make it sustainable.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:11 AM on June 16, 2010


I'm not sure why this can't be done on the plain old internet, either. I've recently been browsing around a shared-world setting done via wiki.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:21 AM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


This makes my assertion that Stephenson isn't a writing for dorks exclusively, that's he's a great writer (albeit one that never figured how to end a book)

Never figured it out? Seriously? I think this is a meme that got started and people just apply to any new book that comes out. He actually works pretty hard to tie up his books.
posted by delmoi at 10:31 AM on June 16, 2010


I think this is a meme that got started and people just apply to any new book that comes out. He actually works pretty hard to tie up his books.

When did that start? I can vouch that the two I've read (Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash) didn't so much end as just fucking fall apart like Sheriff Buford T. Justice's squad car at the end of Smokey and the Bandit.
posted by COBRA! at 11:10 AM on June 16, 2010


Anathem, if properly edited, would have made both a good novel AND a an adequate philosophy textbook. Combined under one cover, eh, not so much.
posted by crunchland at 11:13 AM on June 16, 2010


I love Stephenson to bits, but no he can't end a book for toffee. Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon aren't even the worst - the Baroque Trilogy books just sort of melt like candyfloss at the end.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:50 PM on June 16, 2010


Sebmojo: Are you serious? To the best of my memory, the Baroque Cycle had the most satisfying ending he'd done to date. I've only read it the one time, but I sure liked it.

Of course, Anathem blew everything else out of the water entirely.
posted by pts at 3:31 PM on June 16, 2010


Pronoiac: I taped Jeremy Bornstein's presentation about this at the local Dorkbot last week - I'll see if I can get some video posted quickly.

I've posted a low-resolution (320x240) version up at Vimeo. I'm compressing a higher-resolution (640x480) version right now, but it'll take hours - it will be found at the same link.
posted by Pronoiac at 4:10 PM on June 16, 2010


the Baroque Cycle had the most satisfying ending he'd done to date

That isn't really the highest of bars.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:24 PM on June 16, 2010


I love Neal Stephenson to death (he is third only to Gaiman and Murakami, IMO) but yeah - dude cannot write an ending to save his life. Every single one of his books sort of, and I quote Eddie Izzard on this one, sort of deflates like a flan in a cupboard.
posted by cerulgalactus at 5:19 PM on June 16, 2010


No, Neal can end books. Ending books is easy. What he's historically had trouble with—and you're complaining about—is something else: closure.
posted by cstross at 1:40 AM on June 17, 2010


People get taken aback when I tell them the Barqoue Cycle is one of my favorite series. "But it's so long and unwieldy and full of seemingly random trips around the world in order to deliver essays on sword-making or galleon economies with a cast you need an org chart to follow.." and I say YES. THAT IS WHY I LIKE IT.
posted by The Whelk at 12:12 PM on June 17, 2010


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