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March 13, 2007

Announcing Ficlets


So, in addition to the books and magazine articles and blogging and corporate writing and fighting crime I do, I have another project I want to tell you about, because it's a hell of a lot of fun, and it's something you can play with too. It's called Ficlets, and it made its debut over the weekend at the South by Southwest Interactive show. It's a collaborative short fiction site.

What does "collaborative short fiction" mean in this case? Simple: You, as a writer, post a very short (not more than 1,024 characters) piece of fiction or a fiction fragment on the Ficlets site. People come to Ficlets to read what you've written, and to comment on your piece. If they want to, they can also write a "sequel" to your story or story fragment, carrying the story forward from where you left it. Or, alternately, they can write a "prequel," explaining how you got to where you are in the story. All sorts of people can write all sorts of sequels and prequels -- and of course, other people can write sequels and prequels to those. What you end up with is a story with multiple authors and multiple branchings -- lots of possibilities and surprises.

(And of course, if you as a reader find a ficlet you find interesting, you can always write a sequel or prequel as well.)

For those of you out there who are worried about what this means for your rights to what you write on Ficlets, you should know that all the words written on the Ficlets site are licensed by a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 license. This makes it easier to play and share fairly, and should also assuage any fears you may have that AOL, which created and runs the site, will do something nefarious with your text.

Reading Ficlets is simple: Just click over and read. It's easy to contribute, too -- if you have an AOL or AIM account, you can use that to sign in and get going. Those of you without AOL/AIM accounts and having no desire to get one can also use Open ID to sign into the site (the reason we have to have people sign in: Well, we allow comments, and we don't want to spend all our time handling spam). Ficlets is open to all.

This site will fly depending on the quality of the contributors, which is why I hope that you folks who come here, who I know are damn creative, will come over to Ficlets to play, and will add your own ficlets as well as post quality sequels and prequels to the ficlets that are already there. I also hope you'll tell folks about it; the more folks we have contributing to and playing in the site, the better it will be.

I'll be contributing to the site myself, in two ways. One, I'll regularly write ficlets of my own, ones that lend themselves to sequels -- you can see some ficlets I already put up here here here and here. Yes, if you ever wanted to collaborate with me, here's your chance. Collaborate away, my friends.

Second, I am blogging there at the aptly-titled "Ficlets Blog." Yes, I know. Yet another blog. At the Ficlets Blog I will be writing about writing and publishing, highlighting amusing ficlets I find and also doing a fair amount of interviewing and promoting writers -- my Author Interviews are officially moving there (and indeed, the one I did with Jon Armstrong last week is already there). Authors, editors and publishers, I'll be posting an entry immediately after this one explaining how to get in on this nifty promotional action.

I'll be updating the Ficlets Blog at least a couple of times a day, and naturally I intend to make it one of the must-read destinations of the literary blogosphere, so equally naturally I think you should bookmark the Ficlets Blog right this very instant (you can also subscribe to the news feed). It should be fun, or I'll collapse from exhaustion. Either way, you'll have fun watching.

(No, I don't plan on collapsing from exhaustion -- the Ficlets Blog and site come out of the same time budget as By The Way, so I'll be trimming back there a bit, although I'll still also be updating there on a daily basis.)

So there you have it: Ficlets! Please come by to play, and tell everyone you know who likes to write -- and likes to play -- to come by, too. I'm already having too much fun with it. Having you there having too much fun with me would make it the best of all.

Posted by john at March 13, 2007 10:37 AM

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Steve Buchheit | March 13, 2007 09:52 AM

First post on the link, and it's a Thog Master class, Dept. of Mobile Eyes, "Leaving my head on the pillow, I rolled my eyes around the room, relieved that I had at least not gone home with the handsome stranger. "

David Klecha | March 13, 2007 10:00 AM

Does this make that one contest reviewer's criticism of your fondness for "Choose Your Own Adventure" eerily prescient, or what? Okay, so it's not precisely that, but the branching tales made me think in that direction...

Pablo Defendini | March 13, 2007 10:14 AM

This reminds me of the 'exquisite corpse' type of writing exercises I used to do with friends. . . I loved those, and this looks to be a lot of fun, as well!

Douglas | March 13, 2007 10:23 AM

I know this is the wrong place, but that doesn't mean it might not be effective. I seem to be experiencing a bit of Hellerian logic:

Signing in using my OpenID from wordpress.com sends me to a blank page.

Reporting a bug via: http://www.ficlets.com/feedback requires me to sign in.


John Scalzi | March 13, 2007 10:26 AM

Thanks, Douglas. I'll pass along the bug. I do think they might have OpenID issues as part of their "to do" list.

TransDutch | March 13, 2007 10:39 AM

Naked Came the Manatee.

Round Robins can be fun. Though perhaps you're right, and the old term needed a cooler name.

Douglas | March 13, 2007 10:56 AM

Damn, if it doesn't pay to know people.

I'm in.

strugglingwriter | March 13, 2007 11:26 AM

I've added a couple stories there and I'm already hooked. Thanks for this! I think this is a wonderful project.

Dr. Phil | March 13, 2007 01:04 PM

Must. Not. Be. Tempted.

Oh drat. My fingers didn't follow my brain and I've already posted one.

Dr. Phil

Liz B | March 13, 2007 01:23 PM

AOL doing something innovative and cool? What is this, 1996? ::waits for stock to go up::

Steve Buchheit | March 13, 2007 01:49 PM

Oh sure, strugglingwriter, put your characters in mortal jeapordy, not only theirs, but the whole world, then end your part saying "I have a plan."

strugglingwriter to next writer, "Here, have this handgrenade."


Steve Buchheit | March 13, 2007 02:15 PM

strugglingwriter, I should say that I'm actually laughing, thinking of the joke, not criticizing. After all, that's the writer's job as things go from bad to worse (cycle repeats), they need to write how the characters survive, or don't (depending on the story).

Or as I joked in one of these round robin exercises, "and that's when the dinosaurs came on the scene."

strugglingwriter | March 13, 2007 02:34 PM

Steve,at least I know someone read the story. Actually, my next line was going to be, "And then the Earth blew up". Let's see a writer expand upon that! :)

Actually, I hope someone does write a "sequel". I would be interested to see where things go next.

strugglingwriter | March 13, 2007 02:36 PM

Actually, could I say actually more often. I actually don't know.

Man, I need to proofread these comments before I post them.

Chang, the real. | March 13, 2007 02:46 PM

Sweeeett! This very cool. Now I have to think small. Not my usual technique.

Steve Buchheit | March 13, 2007 02:46 PM

Don't go hard on yourself strugglingwriter. Actually, Douglas Adams made much of a career with such a story line, including the world blowing up part. And he also had a habit of saying "actually" too often. So you're in good company.

CosmicDog | March 13, 2007 02:52 PM

Maybe you could follow Mark Twain's advice.

'Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very"; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.'

I'm sure it works with "actually" just as well.


Chang, for rizzle. | March 13, 2007 03:54 PM

I got mine in! Woohoo! Ficlets before work! Like candy!

SAP | March 13, 2007 04:48 PM

Curse you, Scalzi! Now I'll never get any work done.

John Scalzi | March 13, 2007 05:19 PM

Yes, well. Welcome to MY world.

Jeri | March 13, 2007 06:48 PM

Very cool. I foresee a potential addiction in my future.

So who are your fellow Ficlet project founders? I would encourage you to have an "about the founders" section and maybe a vision section on the site delineating where you're going with auther interviews and featured authors - looked and looked for one and it wasn't there.

Deanna Hoak | March 13, 2007 08:41 PM

I played, too. I think they ought to revamp their site a bit, though--once a story falls off the top page, the only way anyone can find it is by searching by tags. It would be far nicer to be able to just page back through the posts, especially if the site gets popular and the top spots are changing constantly.

John Scalzi | March 13, 2007 08:49 PM

I'll pass along the note, Deanna.

PixelFish | March 13, 2007 10:18 PM

Wheee....fun. I added a sequel, not to one of your ficlets, Scalzi, but to one of its sequel's sequels. I'm curious to see where the story will go.

Also added a ficlet of my own.

Jeri | March 13, 2007 11:33 PM

Heh, I told my family no Lost DVD catchup tonight - I was writing. :D I posted one original and two sequels. This definitely will be an addictive pastime.

So... I did notice I was hesitant and uncomfortable serializing a known author's ficlet. It seemed a tad presumptuous. I did it anyway, as it was one of my faves as far as tone and scene. Did anyone else have that feeling?

Chad Orzel | March 14, 2007 11:19 AM

Here's a manual TrackBack to my post about this.

John Scalzi | March 14, 2007 11:51 AM

Chad Orzel:

Read it before you posted, Chad.

My thoughts: eh. Registering is not onerous, as many people already have AOL/AIM/OpenID accounts, and has benefits, like curtailing inevitable spam bots. And while I personally wouldn't have opted for the "Mature" readership limitation, I think AOL feels it's better to make the site friendly to younger readers/writers, and that's a not unreasonable position to take.

Kate | March 14, 2007 12:13 PM

While I've posted a few stories of my own, I was curious as to what to label 'Mature.'

Considering any writing, I'm considering gratuitous sex, violence and language you'd hear and experience in an episode of Grand Theft Auto to be labeled as adult.

As I read through the "Community Standards," I don't feel as bad.(not that any of my stories even come close)

But Chad, it's not a PG that warrants Mature. Its up to the individual author to mark it as such within the posted community standards. That usually means if the author is sensitive to his/her community in not wanting to offend or if it is the equivalent of an 'R' MPAA rating you'll usually get that block if you don't end up signing in.

See below:

We ask that you please respect our community guidelines regarding mature content. To borrow from the MPAA ratings, if you think your ficlet warrants an “R” rating, we ask that you mark it as containing mature content. In other words, a romantic scene such as one written by Anne Rice would be mature; a romantic scene as written under her pseudonym of Anne Rampling, however, would go beyond mature, and is inappropriate for ficlets. As well, ficlets involving illegal drug use, gore, or excessive use of profanity should all be marked as mature.

Chad Orzel | March 14, 2007 04:20 PM

My thoughts: eh. Registering is not onerous, as many people already have AOL/AIM/OpenID accounts, and has benefits, like curtailing inevitable spam bots. And while I personally wouldn't have opted for the "Mature" readership limitation, I think AOL feels it's better to make the site friendly to younger readers/writers, and that's a not unreasonable position to take.

Oh, I don't think either of them is unreasonable per se, and the content filtering is certainly consistent with what I know of AOL. Neither of them is a call I would've made, though.

I don't have an AOM/AIM account, and I have no interest in acquiring one. I can't keep track of the umpteen different logins I already have, I really don't need to add another one. It's not hugely onerous, but it's just anoying enough that I'm not going to bother.

I don't have any particular objection to making it possible for those who don't want to read "mature" content to filter based on content, but I'm mildly annoyed by making "block 'mature' content" the default, rather than an opt-in. As I said, though, it's entirely consistent with what I know of AOL, which is a part of why I don't have much to do with AOL.

Nathan | March 14, 2007 05:07 PM

Oooooh! Ficlet-y fun. Nothing like getting to that window that says "Yay, you're an author".

It must be true. I read it on the internet.

Tania | March 28, 2007 03:22 AM

I snorted my milk just a few minutes ago. On the Making Light list of blogs, etc (left column, right under recent comments), Ficlets has been added under this name

*Scalzi, Scalzi, Scalzi, Scalzi, Baked Beans, and Scalzi *

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