Recently, I became aware of an interesting project being run by the publisher If:book Australia, called Open Changes. This is essentially an open-ended workbook of flash fiction, which artists and writers are encouraged to play with, to change, to remix. As it says on the website:
Open Changes and Lost in Track Changes are writing experiments that combine contemporary remix culture with old-fashioned writing games. While Lost in Track Changes is the curated version of this event, employing the writing of five influential Australian writers including Cate Kennedy, Fiona Capp, Ryan O’Neill, Robert Hoge and Kissy Kneen; Open Changes will be allowing authors, artists, musicians and film makers across Australia and the world to participate, with several great publishing incentives for you thrown into the mix.
Ever since I started to tinker with tools like Telescopic Text, for an electronic poem, I’ve been interested in the ways we can use various online spaces creatively, to tell stories, or simply to be inventive – to do something new. In fact, now that I think about it, my interest predates that, going back to the beginning of this year when my short fiction project “Aftertweet” was selected by the annual Twitter Fiction Festival as part of its winning showcase of digital writing. And then, of course, my interest in using Twitter as a storytelling mechanism stems very obviously from Teju Cole, who I became aware of early last year.
While I was researching his very interesting thoughts and ideas on how and why we use Twitter the way we do, and the exponential potential of it as a literary device, I came across a speech by China Mieville on the Future of the Novel:
The aggrandisement of literature and writers is undermined by the increasingly permeable text. Be ready for guerrilla editors. Just as 14-year-olds remix albums – sometimes brilliantly, sometimes craply – people are providing their own cuts of novels online. In the future, asked if you’ve read the latest Nalo Hopkinson or Ahdaf Soueif, say, the response might be not yes or no, but “which mix”, and why?
We’ll be writing as part of a collective. As we always were.
Whether or not this will actually turn out to be the case – I doubt it – it’s certainly an interesting scenario. This idea of someone remixing my novel, something I’ve worked for years on, is terrifying. And electric. Thrilling. Obscene. As he goes on to say:
“The worst anxiety is not that the interfering public will write bad novels, but good ones. The literary apocalypse accompanying remixing is not that the public will ruin your work if they muck about with it, but that they’ll improve it. And once in a rare while, some of them will. How wonderful.”
Whether or not I’m ready for anyone’s hands on something I’ve slaved years over, I can’t say. What I can say, however, is that it is inordinately fun to play around with someone else’s words, to make connections they might not have, or else to arrange it in a totally different way just to see what it’s like. You can – and I do – take risks with words there that you probably don’t in your own work, for fear of undoing your hard work. Or ruining it. That sense of play is crucial to good writing, and that’s why I was happy to jump in on this Open Changes project.
You only have 200 words to write with, to remix, to transform.
So why not join in the fun, and see how far you can take it, how much impact you can have on a story?
Go on, then. You know you want to…