Web dev at the end of the world, from Hveragerði, Iceland

The Readmill comment fiction challenge

The links in this post are all now broken. I unpublished these books a long time ago, even though the series was completed, as I wasn’t happy with their quality. The domain name has since lapsed and is now owned by somebody else.

Original post follows

From the challenge page:

Over the next twenty six days I am going to add a flash fiction piece to every chapter of Knights and Necromancers 1 as a comment in Readmill. These comment fictions will be 300 to 1000 words long standalone scenes that add some context and background to the the story.

Go read more about it on the comment fiction challenge page itself.

Each comment fiction will start with a § to signify that it is a piece of fiction and not a regular comment or annotation.

You can read the first two here and here.

The genesis of this challenge is in the suggestions people sent me a week ago when I asked for ideas on how to market the Knights and Necromancers series. The suggestions made by Tom Abba and Pablo Defendini reminded me of a few ideas I had several years ago during my PhD.

(I pitched this idea a few days ago to Tom. He was decidedly unimpressed. :-))

Most of you are probably not aware that I worked on (and finished) a PhD on ebooks, interactivity, and structure from 2002 to 2006. One of the basic ideas in the PhD was to divide ebooks into three types:

  • Plain ebooks that did little beyond preserve formatting and add the basic features you expect from conversion into digital.
  • Rich ebooks that integrate networked information into their margins but are otherwise identical to standard ebooks.
  • Deconstructed ebooks that give up on the pretence of preserving some sort of continuity with their predecessor forms and are fully digital.

Now, if I were writing my PhD now, I’d have used the terms standard, networked, and database ebooks instead, as I think those terms are more descriptive.

The basic idea was that one of the biggest changes that an ebook can have over a print book is that it can dynamically integrate its context over the network. Networked highlights, public comments, dynamic annotations, are all examples of framing structures that do that. (And, yes, I was writing about these things years before Amazon introduced the Kindle with popular highlights and public notes. Don’t dig up the PhD thesis though, it’s awful. I had a few good ideas back then but the overall execution and writing was ghastly.)

The comment fictions I’m going to write over the next twenty-six days provide a new context for Knights and Necromancers 1. They frame each chapter, comment on it, and re-contextualise it, possibly completely changing how the chapter is read. They do this without actually changing the story in any way, acting much in the same way as a frame does on a painting (putting a painting in a gilded frame changes our perception of it completely without changing a single brushstroke).

You should read the Readmill comment fiction challenge page itself to get the book, see the schedule, and following me on Readmill is probably the easiest way to see my annotation in the ebook itself.

And if you let me know on twitter, there’s a good chance I’ll follow you back on Readmill since I’m looking to add people on Readmill. (Not on twitter, though. Looking to cut down on the people I follow on twitter. No offence intended.)

So, I challenge you to keep up with me (two chapters a day) and my challenge will be to keep the pace.

Should be fun :-)

What about other ereading apps?

I’ll be adding the comment fictions as public notes on the Kindle as well, just a few days later. I’m not too fond of the UI for notes in the various Kindle apps, though. Much prefer Readmill’s.

I’d also be interested in trying out Kobo’s Author Notes but the only info I can get on it is a vague blog post and a link to a blank page.

I can only assume that whatever program Kobo had going has been discontinued. I’d love to find out more about it but I don’t even have the first clue who to email about getting more information.

You can also find me on Mastodon and Bluesky