Fiction writing/VirileMail

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VirileMail is a science fiction novel written at the Fiction Wikia. The audio resource you will find here is equivalent to this page: VirileMail:How the story was created. It is basically a conversation about how a science fiction novel was written in collaboration, using IRC. The 2 people who are talking are JWSchmidt (John W. Schmidt) and Davichito (David). John wrote most parts of the story and David helped resume the story (he wrote 4 chapters).

Audio resource[edit | edit source]

    • play time: 17 minutes 33 seconds

Questions[edit | edit source]

These are the questions asked by David to John, in the audio resource.

1) Who was the first writer of the story? What was the original title?

2) What was the story initially about? Where did the "eggplant" come from?

3) Why did you decide to make it into a science fiction story?

4) Did you get to a writer's block before I came in? Why?

5) Where did you learn about the science (nanotechnology) for making the story?

6) How was the title selected?

John asks David:

7) How did you find VirileMail?

Answers[edit | edit source]

1) The person who started the story edited without registering a user account. The IP address seems to be assigned to the USA department of transportation, so it is fun to imagine some bored government employee starting a story about a guy driving to work at a "top speed of 135". The original title was "We need a new title" (later shortened to "WNANT").

2) As created by the first editor, it was just a short description of a guy with a boring job that involved monitoring some computer network. After a few weeks, another person who edited from an IP from Canada added some more content to the story, creating a strange event that disrupted the operation of the computer network. A few days later I noticed the story and continued with more development of the "strange event" for the computer network, asking the question: what had mysteriously disrupted the computer network?. The story was becoming a mystery. A few weeks later, Eric119 added a strange experience for a computer programmer in the story, the so called "Attack of the Eggplant" and the main character was given a last name, "Joe", became "Joe Daonet". So by that point in the story's development, the Joe Daonet was transformed from a bored employee into the hero of the story who was faced with the mystery of trying to figure out a series of strange events that had started to take place around him.

3) When I started contributing to "VirileMail", I was writing a science fiction story that is set in the "Exodemic Universe", which involves the idea that aliens from distant planets have been visiting Earth for many millions of years...without revealing themselves to the people on Earth. I started struggling to make a coherent story that incorporated the mysterious "eggplant" that Eric119 had written into the story and I finally proposed that the eggplant be a vehicle for a tiny artificial life form. So it took about two months before the story was designated as science fiction. A week later the second chapter held a description of the "VirileMail" software development project. The story was growing more complex and we faced the problem of how to efficiently discuss development of the plot. Until then, we were just using talk pages, then the "meta level" discussions for how to develop the story were moved to a special "meta page". The goal was to have different pages for readers to discuss the story and for writers who were creating the question. Also, a cover page was made with an illustration of the "eggplant". One of the fun aspects of creating fiction in a wiki is that illustrations can be easily added. Development of the story continued off-and-on for over a year, but then mostly came to a stop.

4) I had gotten busy at Wikiversity and had little time for writing fiction. A user talk page question in 2008 brought me back to the story. In my reply to that question, I tried to explain how I had gotten "stuck" while trying to develop the plot of the story: the basic problem was that some contributors seemed to be just adding random content to the story. That approach had been the basis for getting the story started, but once the plot was established, additional random additions were too difficult to incorporate into the story. The solution was to remove some of the suggested content that did not really fit into the story and then move on.

5) The idea of thinking about something that is the size of an eggplant as being the equivalent of a spaceship or an airplane required imagining a small life form that could fit into such a small vehicle. I got interested in nanotechnology when I read Engines of Creation by Eric Drexler. Drexler was one of the first people to popularize the idea of nano-scale machines. As a biologist I'm interested in the microscopic components of biological organisms and the idea that artificial life might be possible on an even smaller, nanoscale. Biological organisms might not be optimized for size: it might be possible to make smaller artificial life forms, which would have implications for space travel. Why send large biological organisms between stars when you can send smaller nanoscale artificial life forms?

6) An important part of how the story was finally completed involved making use of IRC (internet relay chat) for discussions of plot development. We also spent a significant amount of time trying to think of a good title since the original title was just "We need a new title". We wanted a balance between having a title that was clearly relevant to the story while not giving away a key aspect of the plot. Eventually we adopted "VirileMail" which is a funny name for a software development project that is explained in the story as arising from a translation error. Another way we used IRC was to compose part of the story by having a conversation in an IRC chat channel. The log of the IRC chat was incorporated directly into the story.

David answers

7) VirileMail was one of the first stories I found at Fiction wikia. As I am very interested on science fiction (I am a fan of Isaac Asimov) I started browsing that section in the Archives. I got attracted to the title (We Need A New Title) and I started to read the story. I liked it even more when I knew it was about computers; it is a topic I am very interested. After that, I told my mother to read the story; she also likes science fiction. We both were amazed that such great novels could be in a free wikia and then she read the story to the end. It was incomplete at that time so she said to me that I should try to contact the author of the story, for him to complete it. She thought the story was so good that it was a must to finish it. So, I asked the sysops who the author was and I found JWSchmidt. He was not active those days and had abandoned the story. So, I told him to complete the story and he answered me the most strange thing in the world: He told me that he could only finish the story if I could help writing it. I was amazed, since I am no native English speaker, but I agreed, the story was worth the effort. I had had a hard work trying to start "The search for Kalid", my first English story, but I thought I would give it a try. Before those stories, all of my works were translations from my Spanish ones (I am a native Spanish speaker). So, Kalid and VirileMail helped me improve my written English. And it was very interesting and fulfilling for me. I learned a lot about writing fiction, helped by John Schmidt, which is a very good writer, in my opinion.

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