A Million Penguins

A Million Penguins is an experiment in creativity and community – it will only work if we work as a community and leave our egos at the door, next to the coat-rack. Above all, remember always that all contributions may be edited, altered or removed by other contributors. Below are a few guidelines which we hope will make this collaborative exercise as harmonious as possible – but treating other users and their writing with respect will be key to producing a successful wikinovel.

Ethical Guidelines, A Million Penguins

This is one of those ideas that are more interesting as ideas than as actual practices. I just don’t have the time or the energy to work up all that enthusiasm. It’s also much less original than it seems– fan fiction has been doing similar things for decades. It’s more stunt than experiment, more marketing campaign than viral idea.

I think the most interesting section is the Ethics page, where the editors (for lack of a better word) twisted themselves into relativistic knots trying to be as tolerant as possible. “Remember that contributors to the wikinovel may come from different cultures and countries,” they tell us, ‘and might express different views or perspectives – be respectful of these differences.”

So far so good. “Including the idea,” they continue, “that other people may not be respectful of differences. Be respectful of disrespect, except inasmuch as you cannot be, in your difference.” Derrida laughs is his grave every time he hears that passage. There are some interesting typos too.

“Value consensus and discussion.” The editors say. “Do not upload copyrighted material or material that you have not personally created yourselfs.” Is that an inadvertent ‘s’ or is this the new Wiki-pronoun for the collective writerly ‘you’? There’s a similar phenomena a bit further on, as the authors again warn against egotism.

“A Million Penguins is not a forum for submission of entire novels or short stories – Penguin are not doing this to find new talent.” In some strange fashion the singular Penguin, the book publisher, has grown into the plural Penguin, encompassing all of us, one supposes. There’s a certain irony to the wisdom of this crowd.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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