Now there’s this app,
that lets you read books and share your comments about them
in real-time with other people reading the same book. Little speech bubbles
in the margins pop up: you tap them, you get to read what other people are
saying about a particular plot twist, or character death, or whatever.
In some cases, the author has gone through and made a bunch of those
comments him or herself, and these read a little like a DVD commentary track.
I mention this because I’m one of those authors: Machine Man
is one of their launch titles. So, if, you know, you feel I’ve been
too secretive about the creative process behind
Machine Man so far, now is your chance for some insight.
At first I thought you would have to turn those comments off when
reading a Subtext book, at least the first time through, because otherwise
that would be really distracting. But I have found that this is impossible. You know
the comments are lurking there, and it’s too much to resist turning them
back on when you’re wondering, “Does anyone else think
this story just completely went off the rails?”
So that’s pretty cool. Not from an author’s perspective. From an author’s
perspective, it’s horrible. I want you to sit there and read what I’ve
damn well written for you. But as another example of
users seizing control over their own entertainment experiences, it seems
Movie news! I just changed the subject. That’s what happened there.
the scriptwriter of Black Swan, who’s been busy working on
what I have to say is a freaking fantastic Machine Man script,
I know I’m not allowed to tell anyone, Mandalay, BUT IT IS AWESOME,
“Facebook thriller” script XOXO, with Darren Aronofsky producing.
So it’s all going pretty nicely in Heyman-land. Syrup is deep
in post-production and I still haven’t seen it, not that I’m thinking about
it every ten minutes or anything. And the leads are busy:
Heard is doing interviews for The Rum Diary, and
Shiloh Fernandez is becoming
I’m a little nervous about this, but here is the nerdiest thing I have ever done.
You realize that bar is already pretty high. I have programmed web games.
considered domain name availability before naming my offspring.
But this is the first time I have publicly released a version control system history
of a book.
I just lost you. I realize that. Unless you are some kind of freako super-geek, in which
case, welcome to the tiny minority of the human race that may appreciate this.
The rest of you: a revision control system is usually used for writing software,
and tracking the changes you make. I used one of these for the
Machine Man serial, since I was uploading a page per day, and it
needed to be processed for sending out to people’s email inboxes and cell phones,
and I lost you again, didn’t I? Okay.
The point is I have the entire edit history of Machine Man all the way
back from notes. And you can browse to any particular page and see how
it evolved from something to nothing.
Here is an example, using
Version 1 of Page 18:
It’s just a note to myself about what this page might be about.
By clicking the
“→V2”, you move ahead to
Version 2 of that page:
New words are green, deleted words are red. This page is hard to read because the
software is making bad guesses about how the different versions fit together.
In actuality, I simply deleted my note and wrote a first version.
Then I corrected
a spelling mistake:
And continued tweaking in versions 4 through 9.
The final version is here. And if you have
the book, you can follow along at home to the
version that wound up in the novel:
I’m not sure what use this is to anybody, other than for exposing my writerly
fumblings in an even more humiliating manner than I’ve already done.
But it was POSSIBLE, so I have DONE IT.
To access the Source version of a page in the Machine Man serial, click
the tiny, near-invisible nut on the top-right of
any serial page. Or append “&v=1” to the
URL, if you’re that nerdy. Which, if you’ve read this far, you surely are.