"The creative process ... was slightly disastrous."
May 2, 2015 4:15 PM   Subscribe

The Whole Family [(1908; Wikipedia)] is a bit of an oddity - a 'shared-world' by twelve prominent authors, each focusing on an individual member of an extended New England upper class family. William Dean Howells sets up the framework in the opening chapter ... [I]n the second story, Mary Wilkins Freeman overturns the whole table with a wonderfully feminist reinterpretation of a secondary character. The rest of the book is a scramble to put the apples back in the cart ...
In "5 Goodies from Gutenberg," Jared Shurin revisits a round-robin novel he reviewed in more detail last summer at Pornokitsch, but it's not the only classic collaborative fiction available online.

Additional round-robin / shared-world works of fiction available at Gutenberg, the Internet Archive, or the Open Library: Bonus links:
  • The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction supplies a history of shared worlds in SF.
  • The TVTropes entry for Round Robin provides an overview of the format that leads up to the present time.
  • The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress has published an illustrated "Exquisite Corpse Adventure" featuring authors such as Susan Cooper, Gregory Maguire, and Lemony Snicket.
  • And previously on Metafilter, a short story written by many well-known contemporary authors.
posted by Monsieur Caution (5 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
OK. So. There's this story, "The Challenge from Beyond"... it's a dreadfully boring ghost story from the most terrifying writers of the age, who weren't all that terrifying...

And H.P. Lovecraft.

He takes this round-robin, shared story haunted house jaunt, and drags its protagonist screaming across the void to inhabit the body of a hyper-intelligent worm writhing on an alien planet, unwilling witness to cosmic truths that cannot be adequately comprehended with human intellect...

And Robert E. Howard.

Once he reads Lovecraft's contribution, he knows it's going to be that sort of party, and the worm grabs a sword, and conquers the hell out of everything, and is a grim monarch of this unknowable empire.

The last author in this round robin has to follow this up. He has to come onto the stage after that. His contribution was nervous laughter, and a half hearted "Whaddafa?"
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:08 PM on May 2, 2015 [16 favorites]

A couple of earlier examples, both involving Charles Dickens:

A House to Let (1858): Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, Adelaide Anne Procter (now best remembered as a poet)

The Haunted House (1859) : Dickens, Hesba Stretton (now remembered almost entirely as a bestselling evangelical novelist), George Augustus Sala (primarily a journalist), Procter, Collins, Gaskell
posted by thomas j wise at 7:15 PM on May 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Whoa. This is a great post!
posted by bicyclefish at 9:00 PM on May 2, 2015

In a similar vein: Mappalujo. A writing game devised by Jeff Noon and Steve Beard.
posted by hoodrich at 11:39 PM on May 2, 2015

I mostly liked this one.

No Rest for the Dead

"Twenty Six Writers. One Mystery"
posted by drinkmaildave at 9:29 AM on May 5, 2015

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