… not work like I hoped.
After a lot of research last week and quite some soul-searching, I’ve come to the conclusion that the collateral tales concept does not work out. At least, not in the way I had planned.
Wait, what was my plan?
collateral tales focuses on storytelling and creative writing techniques and will also serve as a developer blog for a series of upcoming science fiction novels as soon as I’ve managed to wrap up my dissertation and switch back from academic to creative writing. This series, in turn, is marked to become the basis for a (pen & paper) role-playing universe, with a rule system to be developed in parallel. So far, so good. Groovy. But there’s more … or was more! To quote myself from a concept draft:
gyokusai:collateral tales will provide a growing range of different backdrops—fully developed, with characters and story lines, licensed either as Public Domain or Creative Commons Attribution. Writers can pick one that they find to their liking and tell their own stories around, along, before, after, or completely independent of the major story line: “collateral,” that is, in every possible respect. For this, moreover, gyokusai:collateral tales will build and maintain a platform for peer reviews, public editing, and a voting system to allow “official” electronic publication of written work under the community label after the community’s approval. Creative Language Awards, Writing Techniques Contests, and Best-Of Collections all will be part of the package.
The idea was to revive the contribution culture from the fan base—the whole line-up from well-written short stories to elaborate maps, character sketches, and equipment chart—that hit publishers and magazines in the heyday of pen & paper role-playing games, and raise it to a higher level in the beginning age of (professional) self-publishing.
Only, there’s a problem.
The target group, namely the Internet equivalent of the many storytellers who had contributed to magazines back then—as, for instance, to the legendary Challenge magazine from GDW, with superb stories against the backdrops of Twilight 2000, 2300 AD, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, and many others, from contemporary to post-nuclear, from fantastic to futuristic, from horror to sci-fi to gritty here-and-now—seems to be either non-existent or so thinly sliced as to be almost invisible. (There’s a lot of fan fiction writers out there, of course; but whatever they’re “fans” of falls quite naturally into the sprawling territory of copyrighted works.)
So what am I gonna do about this? Well, I completely revised, even reversed the community objective, to a top-down approach:
Alongside a science fiction writing project geared toward being published the old-fashioned way, gyokusai:collateral tales aims at adapting pen & paper role-playing games to the Internet age. The role-playing game, based on an ongoing series of novels, will be regularly “updated” with details, goodies, and surprises online. This, of course, would by no means rule out contributions from a possible fan base in the form of stories, adventures, maps, character sketches, equipment charts, rule extensions, and the like.
Now let’s wait and see if this plan fares better.