Data-ism: Fuel for Frey’s Fiction Factory?

Momus once predicted that, on the Internet, everyone will be famous for 15 people. But there are still valiant warriors against media fragmentation. Epagogix tries to find the movie scripts that will appeal to wide audiences. Now James Frey is assembling writers, Andy Warhol factory-style, to try find the next Twilight:

This is the essence of the terms being offered by Frey’s company Full Fathom Five: In exchange for delivering a finished book within a set number of months, the writer would receive $250 (some contracts allowed for another $250 upon completion), along with a percentage of all revenue generated by the project, including television, film, and merchandise rights—30 percent if the idea was originally Frey’s, 40 percent if it was originally the writer’s. The writer would be financially responsible for any legal action brought against the book but would not own its copyright.

Full Fathom Five could use the writer’s name or a pseudonym without his or her permission, even if the writer was no longer involved with the series, and the company could substitute the writer’s full name for a pseudonym at any point in the future. The writer was forbidden from signing contracts that would “conflict” with the project; what that might be wasn’t specified. The writer would not have approval over his or her publicity, pictures, or biographical materials. There was a $50,000 penalty if the writer publicly admitted to working with Full Fathom Five without permission.

At this point, perhaps a purely mechanized “writing program” would be a better approach for Frey. Kurzweil’s patented a poetry generator, and the Dada Engine can use recursive grammars to compose text. Whatever the method, I have a sense that the story of the motivations of the creator of the writing machine/collective will always be more interesting than whatever it manages to produce (just like the NYM article about Frey’s work is more interesting than Frey’s company, and Richard Powers’s Galatea 2.2 won’t be surpassed by the machines it describes.). The article mentions that Frey is inspired by artists—I wonder if one of them is Jean Tinguely?

Image Credit: Photo of Dadaist sculpture by acb.

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