With apologies to everyone who works at Dare, as this came round on email on Friday, here is Penguin getting with the program, and that program is web 2.0. From the Penguin blog:
Over the next six weeks we want to see whether a community can really get together, put creative differences aside (or sort them out through discussion) and produce a novel.
Their motive, as perhaps you have guessed, is not entirely based on a pure social experiment in 'crowdsourcing'. The terms and conditions can't be modified in the wiki:
By posting your submission on the Wiki Novel and the Site, you grant us a non-exclusive, perpetual, royalty-free, world-wide licence to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, publish, distribute and display any content you submit to us in any format now known or later developed. If you do not want to grant us these rights, please do not submit your content to us.
I guess apart from the slightly distasteful money grubbing of the ts n cs, there is one major problem with the concept. Creating a large and coherent whole out of small individual submissions does work, as wikipedia attests, however, I will be you that no-one has read every page wikipedia has on its site. Its genius emerges, like the intelligence of ants.
Unfortunately a controlling mind what is required from a task like writing a novel. At least someone has to know what happens to each character, and what the arc of the story is. And considering what the opening paragraphs currently read like and the fact that there are so far 44 characters and counting, this doesn't seem to be happening. Wikipedia also has a panel of committed moderators/contributors built up over time who fulfil the governance side of their site.
Somehow I don't think that anyone is going to be prepared to do that for Penguin, and put coins in the pocket of the man.
That said, who knows, if an eyeball can evolve from the primordial soup, maybe we could get the Pickwick Papers out of a couple of hundred tortured 18 year olds.