Hacking Fiction

Ilana Fox has an interesting article about hacking on the FutureBook website. FutureBook is generally a bit of a wet blanket it when it comes to embracing the future of text and books. It tends to act as a stalwart defence of the current form, occasionally spreading panic around the bookselling industry when innovtion strikes a brilliant individual outside the fold. Occasionally however, it looks to the future and invites speculation on board.

Fox writes of a future where electronic books fall victim to the trappings of other digital media, they can be hacked.
Imagine that at some point in next couple of years HarperCollins (if
they’re still around) decide to publish a memoir of a News International
executive’s account of 2011. Even now, while we’re right in the middle of it, we
know this will always be a sensitive subject... It’s probably painful enough –
and anti-establishment enough - for hackers to want to take a stand like they
did with The Sun last night. Could hackers infiltrate the words of a book and
deface them like they did to the News International websites last night?
She's referring, of course, to the hacking of the Sun's landing page by hackers from Lulzsec. For half an hour or so it showed a fictional story of Rupert Murdoch's suicide. So what if novels became open to the democratic principles that lead the open-sourced and crowd-edited end of the internet? Lulzsec demonstrated the principle of hacking the news - they didn't change the medium, merely the broadcast itself. but in doing so changed the role of the medium. The Sun website became a stage for the mockery of News International. What if authors wrote books under the guidance of a crowd, or worse, their books were hacked further down the line by individuals unhappy with their content or their subject or ideology?
And yet … we pretty much see novels as art form, don’t we? Once they’re done, they’re done – they’re open to interpretation and review, but the original words should never change. We wouldn’t dream of going to a gallery and taking out a felt-tip pen to improve a Picasso, for example, so why should it be different with books? Could it ever be? Should it be?
It's an interesting point but she over-simplifies her analogy. People may not 'hack' paintings, the aura they have and their setting forbids it. But architecture is hacked all the time, from graffiti to planning applications. And what about defacing public advertising or murals? Some of the work on the Conservative election campaign provides a stellar example of this.

And, at times, text is hacked for the, so far, nefarious and illicit ends of it's hackers. Wikipedia undergoes constant, repeated 'hackings' under the guise of edits over minor details, particularly from pedantic grammarists. And what about governments and ruling bodies who censure scientific texts in countries as democratic and highly-educated as the US? So it doesn't seem that far off for fiction to be hacked. Myths and legends are derivative, hacked together from folklore and contemporary scientific understanding and there already intersting authoship projects encouraging input from potential readers such as Unbound, where readers sponsor an author to write a book in return for perks. It's not a far leap to imagine anonymous web readers suggesting ideas for content with the author becoming a curator of content rather than a creator.