I use the term ‘collaborative’ fiction a lot because I’m trying to fix an idea and not wander around in vague terms that would confuse a reader not familiar with the activities of which I speak. My personal favorite used to be ‘story play’ which was coined by my son, then only twelve, and I thought it brilliant. Sadly it didn’t catch on with the writers at Pan Historia and we continued to happily call ourselves role-players even as the world around us moved forward while we wrote our interactive stories with each other. We had evolved, many of us, from role-playing but the reality is that the majority of us just got caught on fire with the concept of writing together with like-minded people on a creative project that could span from a two person narrative to a sprawling novel of Ancient Egypt with the entire Court of the Pharaoh Ramesses or King Hatshepsut being represented right down the naked serving girl.
But just the other night I caught a blog post titled Open Source Art that sparked another term in my mind: open source fiction. Just like doing open source code we take a story and we bat it back and forth between us, each one adding our part, some of us more, some of us less, but even the smallest contribution adding to the whole until it is a unique entity almost independent of us. We get very little critical acclaim, if any, except within our unique community, and yet I believe there are some really good writers writing open source fiction. In fact I know for a fact we have had several published authors play around with the format and enjoy being able to take a traditionally solitary medium and make it social.
Reading deeper into Open Source Art the author discusses the medieval tradition of storytelling, for instance the King Arthur legend, and here I specifically reminded of fan fiction on the internet. There is really little difference between the imagination being fired up by a modern myth like Star Trek or Harry Potter and then, as a group of storytellers, adding your stories to the mix and passing them on. As the author of Open Source Art states what are different are the ideas of sole authorship and ownership.
I really appreciated reading Open Source Art and was glad to be able to rediscover and expound on the ideas as they related to my own favored art form. In many ways I know that I have harbored doubts about my involvement in an online writing community as frivolous or a waste of time over the years – and trust me have heard it from friends and colleagues as dismissive jibes – or as a repudiation of myself as a serious writer, but coming to terms with the very real revelation of collaborative writing as an art form of its own, a form of open source fiction is power and liberating.