A Million Penguins – Collaborative Fiction

As the saying goes, if you put a million monkeys in front of a million typewriters, they are bound to produce something of worth; is this the case for a million penguins as well?

A Million Penguins was the world’s first community written novel. Almost 1,500 participants contributed to the writing and editing of this novel. The chief executive of Penguin publishing stated that this is definitely not the most read novel in history, but it could be the most written. So was the literary experiment a success or a flop? Here is the link for the Research Report.

I guess it depends on how you look at it. It was successful in the sense that the novel was completed, but was it any good? As a literary fiction novel, not so much, but this is why the experiment was converted to a sociological experiment, because it made more sense.

The downfall of this project was that the electronic vandalism of spammers and sexually explicit content was overwhelming. They had to freeze the site at some points to allow the serious editor’s time to view the content.

Writing a novel is not always a particularized event, there can be more than one writer, as well as more than one editor. But in the case of A Million Penguins, apparently there needs to be a cut-off line for the amount of participants, if you wish the novel to be coherent. I am not bashing Penguin for their efforts. This was a unique and extraordinary social experiment, and it was a very interesting concept. It’s too bad that it didn’t turn out as hoped, but overall it wasn’t a complete disaster.

Penguin set out to find the answer to ­- can a collective actually write a novel? I guess they did not find the answer, seeing as the chief executive answer to this question was, “Maybe”. They might try another collaborative piece with different parameters this time. They should see if a class of English majors could write a novel, or something along those lines, because apparently the general public as a whole cannot.

There was so much hope of this novel coming together. If you viewed any of the discussion pages, you could see different “authors” deliberating over how the structure and flow of the plot line was going to progress. Some of the participants were very dedicated to the weight this novel might have. So in the end, it was a great sociological experiment, to see how people from all over the world worked together to produce this novel. But there will always be trouble makers, especially on the World Wide Web if they are able to access this type of material.


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Filed under Fiction, Interactive Storytelling

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