Fan wikis have it backwards! Introducing Fictopedia, the fictional encyclopedia where users collaborate to build original fictional worlds from the ground up, wiki-style. The perfect incubator for all your world building and creative impulses, no matter how crazy.
Everyone has a show or book or movie that they're a little "too" into. And if you're a sci-fi nerd like me, then you probably have about a dozen. Even those of us who would never admit that we went to Wookiepedia to look up Chewbacca's home planet (it's Kashyyyk in case you're wondering), might at least confess that we checked out Lostpedia to figure out what the hell was up with the Smoke Monster after a particularly confusing episode of Lost.
People love their fictional worlds, sometimes even more than the real one. And the one thing better than getting immersed in a fictional world is helping create one. Unfortunately most of us aren't full time writers, no matter how many good ideas we have. Sitting down and knocking out a script or a book is hard as hell even for people who do it as a job. So what to do with all those orphaned awesome ideas kicking around in our heads?
Enter Fictopedia, The Fictional Encyclopedia. The concept is simple: It's like Wikipedia for fictional facts (I call them ficts). There are only two rules for entries: 1) they must be fictional (real facts are boring!) and 2) they must be original (so, not about existing, copyrighted fictional worlds like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings). Other than that, you can write anything you can think of. Have a random two sentence idea about a funny superhero called Placebo Man who gives himself superpowers with sugar pills because he's gullible? Write an entry! Been thinking about a detailed alien world with its own languages and countries? Write an entry! (or seven). The ideas can be silly or serious and the genre can be anything you want; sci-fi, fantasy, alternate history,
But what makes Fictopedia really fun is the collaboration that the wiki approach makes possible. Say you have an idea for a future city. You write an article and in it you make references to its founder, its mayor, some war it was involved in, certain cultural movements, the best pizza place, etc. Make these things links and the next person to come along and read your article sees those links as an invitation to create or expand those parts of your ideas, the ones you didn't have time for, or hadn't really thought out. Even better, someone might see a cool way that your fictional person could fit into a fictional event that someone else wrote about and combine the two. Every article contains a halo of potential, implying a big fictional world around it, just waiting to be fleshed out by Fictopedia's users. Its like a fan wiki for a million books and movies that haven't been made yet.
"Hold on there", you say, this sounds cool, but I know people, and if there is one thing they love in their fictional worlds (sadly, even more than in the real world) its consistency and continuity. If you have people writing about serious dragons and knights right next to people writing about silly robots or people dueling with rock salt shotguns in a mystical version of Oakland, CA then things are going to get confusing and inconsistent in a hurry. A good question with two answers: First, who cares? The goal here is to create as much neat, creative, original stuff as possible together. People at ComicCon might get their tights in a tangle if two different Batman stories don't quite fit together, but what's the harm in letting people create what they want and worry later? But to be fair, sometimes it IS cool to build a consistent universe, so Fictopedia lets you do both by allowing you to tag clusters of related articles as belonging to informal Universes and leaving the rest of the articles free floating by default.<
The site is a work in progress, but there are a few extra features already there and soon to come. The Idea Bank is a page to hold the random quarter-baked thoughts that people think of on the train but don't have time to expand. Its a great place to start if you want to just expand someone else' idea. The individual articles are slowly being categorized, for easier browsing, and of course you can always just hit random page and see where you end up. The Twitter account sends out articles of the day, highlighting some of the coolest new content by users and encouraging others to add to it.
Finally, while free form creating is fun, its also cool to have a goal and a little competition sometimes. To that end, there are occasional creative competitions where the Fictopedia community competes to write articles about a certain topic (fictional gods, technologies, cities, etc). For instance, our first competition is for articles about a city of the future. The winning article gets featured on the front page and gets his or her article supplemented with an original piece of art from one of Fictopedia's first contributors and all around awesome artist Ethan Gould (www.suspiciousanatomy.com). Which leads to an important point. Fictopedia isn't just limited to words; drawings, photos, audio are all welcome. See an article about a fictional country? Handy with Photoshop? Make a flag!
A final note about copyright. Fictopedia is published under a Creative Commons Commercial Use Attribution license. In English that means that anyone is free to take anything in Fictopedia and use it as the basis for a book, or movie, or graphic novel, that those things can be sold for money. The only catch is that if you use stuff from the site, you have to mention it in your credits so that readers or viewers can go back and find out which users contributed. For people who are writers or artists for their day jobs, this can be a little unsettling. But the goal is to build worlds that are so cool that someone down the road reads about them and thinks "holy crap, this NEEDS to be a book." So the price of admission is that you are willing to let your ideas roam free and mate, Animal Planet style with other people's ideas. If that sounds cool to you, make an account and start building worlds!
Chris Reid is a regular reader of io9 and the creator and administrator of Fictopedia. Nerdy intellectual property lawyer by day, even nerdier amateur world-builder and fiction fan by night, he lives in Brooklyn New York and loves crazy ideas almost as much as he loves bacon (which is a lot).