I was struck by an idea the other day. Its one that’s been niggling at my mind for quite a while, not fully formed, never quite coming to the surface. Essentially, I would like to try developing a writing universe, and open up that universe for submission for anyone that’s interested, for any medium of stories – flash, shorts, novellas, novels, whatever. I, or some group of people, would retain veto / acceptance control over the stories, but anyone would be free to submit. For the techies out there, the domain would basically be open source.
Such a universe would be broad in its scope, and would be founded on an interesting setting with diverse groups and organizations that writers could take and build upon, to flesh out with meat and bones, so they become real, and not just ideas. This happens all the time with game universes, movie tie-in universes, etc, but those all have a gripping initial concept that draws people into the setting. I’m not sure if that’s required for the kind of organic growth I would like to see happen.
This idea runs counter to most licensed domains, where the intellectual property holder maintains rigid control of who can write what with their IP. The overseers of this endeavor would only exist to ensure quality and prevent continuity breaches. Beyond that, the writers interested in submitting work toward the universe would be free to do what they want with the story, including building on existing characters, events, locations, or creating new ones all their own.
In theory these stories would be collected somewhere they could be enjoyed as a complete work, or published traditionally in print. In a perfect world they would be commercialized effectively, and the writers paid for their work. I’ll be honest, I don’t know how viable that ideal is. I’m not even really sure how to get the project off the ground.
My brain tells me that a website is probably a good way to set the stage of the universe, to convey all the pertinent information in an accessible way for anyone who’s interested. On the other hand, my writerly heart wants to put together a pseudo non-fiction encyclopedia of sorts that relays all the information of the current state and history of the universe. A bible, essentially. Required reading for anyone who wants to dip their toes in the setting with a submission. I’d love to have graphics and illustrations in such a work.
After mentioning this idea on twitter, I got some signs of interest, and have begun hashing out some possibilities for the setting of the universe. So far it’s been a lot of fun. I didn’t plan for this project to fall from the skies this year, but it seems like that’s just what may have happened. If anyone is interested in hopping aboard on the ground floor, participating either in the creation of the setting, or writing a story once it’s designed, just let me know. I also welcome logistical advice on the publishing / presentation side of things.
It should be interesting, one way or another.