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I'm writing a detective story set halfway between San Francisco and the internet. And the more people who reserve a copy, the better each one will be!
570 backers pledged $13,942 to help bring this project to life.

The Moving Monks, a mysterious package, and a contribution to the commons

Posted by Robin Sloan (Creator)

After a long, spectral flight back from New York on Tuesday night, it feels like I have returned not to the San Francisco I left, but to the off-kilter San Francisco of my story. The weather is so odd; wet and warm, humid. (It's never humid.) The sky looks strange, inhabited by species of clouds that don't usually roam here.

We're the project of the week on Kickstarter's home page! Pretty cool—and if you joined up because you spotted us there: welcome!
There are three things I want to mention in this update. The third is the most important, so skip to that if you're short on time.
I left part of the book in New York.

The Moving Monks are gone. You never got to know them—and you won't now, either, because I'm squirreling them away for some future story. Suffice it to say, the sign on the side of their truck says...

...but, in contradiction to their mantra, the Moving Monks did not actually fit in this story. I was (and am) just so enthusiastic about the idea that I totally forced it. I think that's a special danger with your first big project—you try to squeeze everything in. Sorry, brothers; this isn't your book.
The shape of the final package—the thing you'll get in the mail—has crystallized in my mind, and I've placed my first orders for materials.

I have to give a shout-out to Wilson Miner, a friend of mine here in San Francisco; he gave me great advice early on, encouraging me to focus on artifacts from this made-up world. So, for instance, illustrations should show you not the characters themselves, but rather what the characters see, what they hold in their hands. Artifacts turbo-charge your imagination instead of pre-empting it. And—this is my extrapolation—the book itself could feel like a refugee from this other world... an object that's escaped, somehow, into ours.

And that's all I'm going to say about that.
The book is going to be Creative Commons licensed. This was always likely, but not locked in; I made the decision this week.

Now, that's all very cool and 2.0, but I feel like too much CC-licensed work just sorta sits there. You CC-license something new and then triumphantly announce your contribution to the public sphere, as if people are desperate to remix it the way they're desperate to remix, say, Batman.

Generally, they are not.

So, in tandem with the CC license, I want to do something to actively encourage remixing right out of the gate. To compensate for not being Batman. Yet. Thus, I have two questions for you:
First, brainstorming. What's an interesting remix opportunity for the text and illustrations from a short book, in part or in whole? Not just redistribution—that's easy—but something transformative. Any examples you can think of? Any new ideas—things you'd like to see?
Second, permission. How would you feel if I used part of the book's budget as a remix incentive? I'm imagining some sort of mini-contest, launched just after the book goes out, with a $500-1000 prize. And perhaps we—me and the 422 of you—could all judge it together. I'm not 100% sure how that would work, but it feels doable—and (I'll be honest) really fun and exciting. What do you think?
Next update: her name.


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    1. Missing avatar

      Cheryl Orosz on

      I'm so excited that this is coming together. I only know you from this project and ancillary things you have posted, but I am so psyched about the shape of this project and for you.

      I like a lot of the ideas above, and wish I had been here earlier to post about some of them first!

      How about a series of smaller prizes divided into categories? Such as (1) print/paper-based item, (2) crafts, which could include things like plushies of characters, costumes, artifacts from or like those in the book, jewelry, anything that is a physical object but not an information object, (3) paper-based, board, card, or other tabletop game, (4) electronic/media game, e.g., computer/web/electronic/smartphone ap or game, (5) fanfic (6) translation (to another language or culture), etc.? The best way to engage creativity is to strew a bunch of incentives around and see what happens, isn't it?

    2. Roberto Greco on

      Getting here a couple of weeks late... Love the ideas above, the ARG, children's book, etc. Here are a couple more:

      (1) Maybe not a remix, but an accessory: a map-app (mapp?) of San Francisco, something like <a href="">Phantom City</a> (see <a href="">BLDGBLOG</a>; for more) where passages of the book are mapped onto the city. It might also include an additional layer with fan created sites and side-stories.

      (2) More of a remix: localized versions – not just translating to other languages/dialects, but also changing the story to fit other cities' cultures and geographies.

    3. Mark C-F on

      CC idea is definitely a good one. It may not lead to a huge, big budget remix, but it'll certainly help people feel much more comfortable about using parts of your book in other things. And the more it gets used, the more promotion for you!

      I'm not sure about using the budget as an incentive - I'm not sure it's necessary, and I'm not sure it'll work. Remixing tends to be about emotion and wanting to make something cool, than following money.

    4. Robin Sloan Creator on

      You should give 'em a call...

    5. Missing avatar

      Shaun Phillips on

      I know this is an old update and totally off the CC/remixing idea, but I just noticed that the Moving Monks are based in Detroit. Hmmmm...

    6. Andrew Hungerford on

      I can't believe I'm finally getting a chance to catch up with this thread. A few thoughts:

      1) I totally want to write a one act play based on the book to be performed in a particular alley in Cincinnati during that town's Fringe festival.
      2) I know a pair of screenwriters who are interested.
      3) I really like the idea of the crowd sourced audio book/radio play.


      4) I think your fictionalized San Francisco is calling for a table top and dice RPG.

    7. Missing avatar

      Shiho on

      I just discovered your link - great stuff! As a fellow content creator (I do illustration/graphic art), I do have the following to say about remixing:

      I think CC is a good tool to market your book to wider audience, though I second other peoples' hesitancy about remixing. True, there are creative group of people who like to re-imagine books in forms of fan fiction or adapting them for other media (graphic novels, music, film and the like), though I find that general audience want good storytelling by a professional ( = you) without having to do the "work" of remixing and retelling, as proven by large number of people who happily take in TV shows, movies, fiction books, etc. I'm also skeptical about contests with monetary reward, which is akin to a spec project that requires you to do the work upfront with hopes of getting paid vs. labor of love freely submitted by fans.

      Having said that, you, as the creator, have the ultimate say. Keep up the great work!

    8. Robin Sloan Creator on

      This thread is brain-bendingly good. Now I really need to come up w/ a structure to make things like this possible. Percolating. Thanks for the ideas, everyone!

    9. Rod Begbie on

      Crowdsourced audiobook.

      Use Mechanical Turk or similar mechanism. Ask people to record themselves speaking a paragraph of the text. Perhaps also ask them to do any sound effects that feel appropriate.

    10. Missing avatar

      Matthew Katz on

      Also - the money is yours. You get the money. You make the book.

      What you do with the money next is up to you.

    11. Missing avatar

      Matthew Katz on

      So the nice thing that you are looking for are derivative works. Not merely works that are inspired by the text, but things that derive from it.

      A great thing would be to invite a group like Infinite Summer ( ) to review and analyse and add text.

      Book Commentary as wiki
      Book as Wiki - like lessig's
      Explore the unwritten book - choices will happen in the book, and why shouldn't they be a game? Why shouldn't the paths not taken in the book be takeable? These are things that are all available given standard interaction fiction formats and Parchment ( ).

      I also really like Aaron's idea of an ARG. Hook Jane McGonigal and it would be awesome.
      I'd like to see datavis! who's up for seeing the relationships of characters mapped graphically?

    12. Tim Maly on

      I think that a lot of the ideas being presented as remixes of the book are more like translations or adaptations. This might be a fine distinction but it speaks to me.

      When I think remixes, I think: Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters or perhaps more artistically loved: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (a play not a book, but you get the idea).

      I have a few ideas that, depending on how the book comes out, I might be able to make use of. Looking forward to finding out!

    13. Steven Fluet on

      Contests are fun incentive. And remix opportunities could involve 'maker' galleries of the artifacts, letting people construct the devices. Personally, I'd take your book, and paste key passages of your book in their appropriate locations.

    14. Wonderbox Publishing on

      I'm totally biased toward taking the book's remix into the medium in which it started: digital. With visuals, adventure, paths, and fascinating characters, it would be so much fun to turn it into a digital fiction piece. That's what I'd do with it anyway.

      I like the contest idea. Perhaps the prize should be less money-based, and more authorship based? I don't know.

    15. Missing avatar

      Rachel Leow on

      @Saheli @Tim - these ideas taken together are like a plea for someone to remix Robin's book into an IF! (

    16. John D on

      You got quite a surplus from this project, and I say you use it for whatever you see fit. Personally I don't believe in the concept of "remixing a book", unless one has a truly innovative idea that implies recycling it in ways traditional licensing does not allow (stress that "truly").

      It is true that most CC-licensed work just "sits there", because there are lots of cultural products being produced every day and more importantly because I believe Creative Commons is not just about remixing, it is also about free and unhindered distribution. I personally think books and written culture can benefit the most about the sharing part of CC, but remixing it? I'm sceptical about that, although curious too. :P

    17. mikeho on

      Q1) I dunno if this book will ultimately be "for adults" -- but maybe there's editing potential to make it into various kids books? like an edited book version for less than 5 yrs old, another version for pre-teens... and maybe someone will do an XXX-rated edition (or not).

      Q2) I you're going to offer a prize.. it should be non-monetary... or benefit some charity if it must be assigned a dollar value...? Maybe the prize should just be a Kickstarter invite to be allowed to start a project here? Pass along the Kickstarter love?

    18. mikeho on

      Whoa. what happened to my comment? I think maintenance ate it.

    19. mikeho on

      Q1) I dunno if this book will ultimately be "for adults" -- but maybe there's editing potential to make it into various kids books? like an edited book version for re going to offer a prize.. it should be non-monetary... or benefit some charity if it must be assigned a dollar value...? Maybe the prize should just be a Kickstarter invite to be allowed to start a project here? Pass along the Kickstarter love?

    20. Jason Franklin on

      I've got Halloween on the how do you remake the book into the fashion for a digital/occult San Francisco? What would "she" be wearing?

      And I love the idea of the digital short or video preview....forget publishing, straight to the silver screen!

    21. Scott Jackson on

      My first thought for a remix is an audiobook. Some people like consuming their books as sound. One of my favourite CC projects is (stories about the original Macintosh team at Apple), and someone went ahead and recorded them as audiobooks.

      For this project, though, I don't think a normal audiobook would work -- I'd say it would have to tend more towards a radio play kind of a thing. Kinda ironic, given the futuristic nature of the book.

      But that's just my $0.02.

    22. Missing avatar

      Keith Collins on

      Robin - love the updates, and the call for feedback - makes me feel more part of the process.

      I think the remix idea is terrific, and I am a big fan of contests a la X-prize etc.. Feel free to use my contribution as part of the contest prize.

      As for remixing ideas, I think that it would be terrific for readers be able to generate their own content which extends the book you write - creating hyperlinks to words or phrases of the book's text (in the pdf version) which link to music, or art, or to the reader's own "fan fiction" about aspects of the book's world, backstories and further adventures of the characters, etc etc. In this way, the book you write can become the hub of a potentially much larger universe of user-generated online content about the world your imagination gave birth to, all immediately accessible from within the electronic version of the book you publish.

      Sounds like great fun.

    23. Tim Carmody on

      It could be cool to ask/allow fans to write fill-in scenes - kind of like fill-in animation, using your written story as the keyframe - that would augment the text.

      For instance, with Mr Penumbra, I would have loved to write a fill-in scene where the narrator actually asks Kat out. Maybe they use some of his severance money to take a trip somewhere! Or a little background story on, say, Elzevir, or about how Google built their crystal palaces. Like fan fic - plus.

    24. Robin Sloan Creator on

      @Theron: Hmm, that's a good point -- sometimes structure alone can be a catalyst, with or without a prize. Thanks for the thought.

    25. Theron Trowbridge

      Whenever I come across a volume of digital information that I'm allowed to play with, I think... what does that sound like? Then I come up with ways of transforming the data into audio. Doesn't have to be audio, of course.

      If you want interesting ideas for how to remix a book, just open it up for a free form contest. You don't necessarily need a prize. Some folks will be happy for the creative outlet.

    26. Lance Ivy on

      I'd like to see invented stories for minor characters. What were they doing between appearances? Think Wicked.

    27. Robin Sloan Creator on

      @Saheli: Yours was the first one! The Monks are prepping an estimate...

    28. Saheli on

      Oh, and my messag was actually dead serious and true.

    29. Saheli on

      Graphic novel, movies, and musical scores come to mind immediately, but to me this already feels like a game. Different kind of games based on the book---phone-games, flash-games, board-games, live games? Some sort of live performance event. Hand-made trading cards and action figures? Costumes?

    30. Robert Baruch on

      I think that CC licensing means that your book (or an electronic version thereof) will make it into more hands, and that means you'll get more fans. And the important thing is, you'll have done this AFTER you made your $11k. What I'm trying to get at is, you made your money on your first book already. You'll have even more fans after the CC version is released. So on your next project, you can get even more money because more fans will want something new.

      Or perhaps I just ramble. Surely Cory might have some ideas, maybe you could ask him. Cuz I've got nothing.

    31. Missing avatar

      Aaron Mcleran on

      Oh and some remix ideas:
      1. A sound track
      2. A generative music sound track
      3. A sound design track (i.e. sound design artifacts... what does this thing *sound* like?)
      4. Some kind of inter-world remix collab? Characters in the book collaborate with people in our world... of course, it would be fictitious, but people enjoy chasing imaginary monsters in SF.
      5. Maybe you can write a version where there are hooks or tags which can change according to reader input on the website -- imagine a kind of changing, real-time version that adjusts to the whims of a collective twitter-mind. In other words you could write a script that responds to a couple of twitter search tags and changes a web-version of the text in real-time.

    32. Lou Noble on

      love the idea of a remix contest, but it feels a bit of the bait & switch to end up using the money for something other than the creation of the book.

    33. Missing avatar

      Peter on

      Choose your own adventure, what a great idea! And all I could think of was a mashup of the book characters as the Masters of the Universe. Whose fault is that?

    34. Robin Sloan Creator on

      @Aaron: Yeah, CC-licensing and publishing "for real" definitely aren't incompatible. Look at Cory Doctorow's books! And frankly, to the degree that CC-licensing and the attendant remixing could put this in front of even more people, I think it serves both goals.

    35. Matt Penniman on

      Just to throw out a few ideas -- I think it would be cool to do a trailer for the book, or better yet - a series of short promo videos with a common theme. For example, the children's book The Pout Pout Fish has a whole set of funny little videos:

      Another possibility: do a remake of "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick", only more digital and occult -- pair illustrations with lines from the text in the most evocative way possible.

      Personally, I'd be fine with a mini-contest of some sort. Sounds like fun!

    36. Michael Brewster on

      definitely feeling the CC/interaction vibe... perhaps there could be several remix levels: take an element and write on it; use the story as lyrics to a song; create some video exploration of some element?

      I am amenable to devoting a portion to incentives

    37. Missing avatar

      Aaron Mcleran on

      I'm all about CC, as you know, but I've also been sort of staled out on it too. I'd really like to see this work published published... :/ There's gotta be no way a real publisher wouldn't jump at this project. I mean, you got 11 K from random people and hundreds of backers already, and they haven't even read a word. I absolutely know this will hit big when you finish (your writing is ready for prime-time, no doubt). It'll be the Paranormal Activity of the book-world. Millions will "demand it". Hehe.

      Of course, that's your decision. But how cool would it be to see a kickstarter project on NYTimes best-seller? I'll answer it for you -- very cool. Not to mention, very lucrative for yourself.

      Now, can you do BOTH remixing stuff AND license it so a publisher can make money? Are those mutually exclusive?

      And one final thing -- how do you manage to stay focused on the content when you're worried about all these updates, marketing, artifacts, etc? I'm just saying... :) Of course, you did write one of the coolest short stories I've ever read WHILE ON A PLANE.

    38. Laura Gluhanich on

      Choose your own adventure remix? Or, remixing as another genre?

    39. Micah Saul on

      What does it mean to remix a book? That's awesome, and sure to occupy my enfeebled brain for at least the rest of the day. As for the competition, I say yes, yes, a thousand times yes!