Hello everyone! I’m currently working on a sci-fi project that could qualify as IF, though with some caveats. I’m posting about it here in the hopes of getting some feedback in that regard.
The project is called Omnipedia and its elevator pitch is “a sci-fi story told through a futuristic version of Wikipedia.” I see it as an epistolary sci-fi novel without the novel, a story expressed entirely through worldbuilding (which is my favourite narrative element and the one I feel I can most confidently tackle). What follows is the stuck-in-an-elevator pitch.
On Omnipedia (which will be a freely accessible website), readers have access to various hyperlinked articles that detail the important characters, organisations, technologies, and events that matter in the world of 2060 (and only those, I don’t need to have my futuristic take on the European goldfinch in there). The central sci-fi conceit is a mass surveillance network in the form of a globally federated identification and data mining system. Thanks to the ideas and advice of various experts I’ve consulted, I’ve been able to map out this world with an emphasis on scientific accuracy and plausible sociopolitics. I love hard sci-fi where the science dictates the drama instead of the other way around, and Omnipedia plays that approach to the hilt.
Through Omnipedia, I want to tell a story that touches on issues of (among others) artificial intelligence, big data, biased algorithms, privatisation, and platform capitalism. I’m tired of Elon Musk warning us of the dangers of AI because he has the luxury to imagine some far-flung scenario where we could all be wiped out by sentient coffee grinders. I’m more interested in exploring how AI and algorithms are affecting lives today, which the entertainment sector has only focused on in a more abstract and sensationalist sense.
Readers browse Omnipedia and experience a story told in it through episodic iterations, with cumulative article edits and news headlines listing a series of events that follow a narrative structure. I plan to guide the reader through the story using incremental versions or “episodes” of the site (through a custom page revision system resembling the one Wikipedia has).
The overarching idea is that readers form the progression of the story in their heads based only on the information Omnipedia provides. I will be feeding several different possible interpretations but never confirm one over the other at the end. That way, your story is yours alone. This makes me think of Omnipedia as a piece of IF, except with a choice mechanic less overt than a dialogue/action wheel. Games like Gone Home and Her Story employ similar storytelling strategies in that they don’t present a story outright but allow players to tell it to themselves based on in-universe clues.
Below you’ll find a few attached “screenshots” of Omnipedia in its current state (I chose the mobile version to not crowd this already too lengthy post). My webmaster has put together a Drupal website that mimics Wikipedia in broad strokes. The idea is that people are already very familiar with Wikipedia, so I won’t need to include a huge manual on how to navigate Omnipedia. In addition, using a custom site dressed up to look like Wikipedia as a medium means I can use its specific tropes as storytelling tools (like the aforementioned page revision system serving as scheduled episodic releases). Similarly, custom images, videos, graphs, maps, and boxouts will accompany each article.
I got in touch with Sam Barlow (creator of Her Story) to get his thoughts, and he mentioned that Andrew Plotkin was once working on a similar hyperlinked IF project. When I contacted him to make sure I wasn’t stepping on his toes, he told me his project never got past the sketch stage but wished me luck with mine. I like to think the IF crowd would be a fine audience for something like Omnipedia, but I’m not entirely sure. Any thoughts on that and the project itself would be massively appreciated!