The Big Secret Audio Project I Haven’t Been Telling You About, Revealed

A few months ago, I was approached by Steve Feldberg, the Director of Content at Audible.com, who asked if I would be interested in doing an audio project with them. What project? Well, we wrestled with it for a while and came up with the idea of collecting a bunch of really interesting science fiction writers together, and letting them build a world between them. Then, having built this world as a group, each would go off and write a novella in the world — and each novella would then be turned into an audio presentation. So you get the best of both worlds: A fascinating world thought up by some of the most imaginative minds in the business — and then great stories from each of those minds in turn, each story delivered directly into your brain, through your ears.

That decided, we then approached several writers, and I’m delighted to say that we got our “A”-list choices to sign on and participate. And so for the last few months, we’ve all been quietly building a world, and then writing in the world. Now the stories are near completion and we’re getting close to audio production, so we thought it would be a good time to let you know that something really exciting is on the horizon.

Right now the project has the working title of Metatropolis, although that’s likely to change before it makes its official debut. In this audio anthology, we look to a future in which cities have become something more than just cities — and what that means for the people who live inside them, and outside of them. The cities are not utopias or dystopias (that’s too easy), and they definitely won’t be the “future cities” imagined in the illustration accompanying this. What they will be is a different way of looking at the world.

Who are the writers who have built this strange new world and the stories in them? I’m glad you asked! They are:

Elizabeth Bear (Campbell Award winner, current Hugo nominee for her story “Tideline”);

Tobias Buckell (The Nebula-nominated Ragamuffin, the upcoming Sly Mongoose);

Jay Lake (Campbell Award winner and author of Mainspring and Escapement)

Karl Schroeder (Aurora Award winner for Permanence, author of the Virga Cycle)

I’m also writing a novella in the anthology, and serving as editor for the project, although at the moment, that’s been basically confined to reading the stories everyone else has been working on and saying “Whoa, cooooooooool.” I could tell you how much fun we’ve been having doing this, but you’d just be insanely jealous. So instead I’ll just suggest to you that as much fun as we’ve been having doing this, you’ll have even more fun listening to it when it goes up on Audible.com.

And when will that be? Signs point to this fall. I’ll give you more specific dates when we have them, as well as other tidbits and details as we get closer to release.

In the meantime, just know it’s on its way, it’s very cool, and I’m very excited to be working with these folks to get this to you — and to finally be able to tell you all that it’s on the way. I think you’re going to like this. A lot.

45 thoughts on “The Big Secret Audio Project I Haven’t Been Telling You About, Revealed

  1. Awesome news, but even more awesome is the massive flashback that book cover gave me: I read that book so often it fell apart. /nostalgicsigh

  2. Oh, cool — I have really fond memories from the ’80s of Harlan Ellison’s MEDEA anthology, which was a similar proect on a planetary scale.

  3. I recently listened through Asimov’s ‘The Caves of Steel’ from Audible. I hadn’t read the book since I was a teenager. It was interesting to see what the view of the future of NYC was, from the 50s. IE, I really don’t see any way to get to the future posited by Asimov, today. I wonder how future generations will look on our speculations?

  4. Yes, pretty please? A print version?

    I hate listening to books on audio. I can’t flip pages back to check things, and correlate things together. I can’t do a quick look forward to see if I have time for another chapter or if I should give up now and go to bed.

  5. Kerry, JJS:

    Nothing in print planned at the moment. This was conceived as an audio project from the start. Our hope is to get you to check out the audio format (or to give it a try again); we think it’ll be worth it.

  6. Wow. The awesomeness of my day has just been increased by an order of magnitude. Looking forward to putting these on the trusty iPod!

  7. No? That’s a shame. I do not own an iPod and have no intention of every getting one. I prefer to read my books (how old-fashioned of me).
    *lightbulb* Can I have a friend run it through voice-recognition software so I can has hardcopy?

  8. Gaaah! Too awesome! I like most of you writers!

    (Bear’s a busy lady, what with gazillion novels in the works, Shadow Unit, and now this)

  9. Sounds great. Will it be available from any source that doesn’t demand I buy a new MP3 player before I can listen to their stuff?

  10. This sounds great! I love audio books and am always looking for something new to listen to. John, are the writers going to read their own stories? If not, do you know who’s going to be doing the reading?

  11. John Lenahan:

    In this case “novella” is 15,000 to 20,000 words. Put together the stories will be as long as a standard-length novel.

    Neal:

    The authors are going to introduce their stories, but the stories themselves will be read by professional readers.

  12. Sounds neat. But: audible only works for mp3 players they decide to support, on platforms they decide to work with (Windows only, last I checked). Seems a bit of a market limiter. You’ve already said no print version; what about a CD version for those of us who wish to remain mp3-player free (or who, like me, already own an mp3 player with no audible support)? As much as I love all of these authors, I will not purchase a new device (or different OS) to read them. Perhaps I am not a “one true fan”. Although I can’t really think of any artist whom I like enough to want to purchase an entirely new bit of hardware just to consume. Heck, all of the mainstream music acts in the world didn’t manage to get me to buy a device that supports either itunes or Windows Media.

  13. fastfinge:

    The authors aren’t in charge of the distribution; you’ll have to bring that up with Audible.

  14. I think that sound we just heard was my wife — the sci-fi junkie, the audiobook junky — screaming “ZOMG!!!!” or words to that effect.

    Cool stuff.

  15. You do not have to buy an mp3 player to listen to Audible’s stuff. You can play it on your computer. According to their system requirements:

    Windows (PC)
    · Operating System: Windows 2000, Windows XP or Vista
    · Browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox, AOL, or SBC Yahoo

    Macintosh
    · Operating System: Mac OS X 10.1.5 or higher with iTunes 3.0 or higher
    · Browsers: Safari, Firefox, or Camino

    It’ll work with some pretty damn old systems, IOW.

  16. That image you posted reminds me of the World of the Future: Robots book I had when I was a kid.

    I read that thing to death.

  17. This sounds really awesome. It’d be cool to have a print version sometime in the future, but the multitasker in me likes audiobooks – they leave your hands free to do other stuff. I’m definitely looking forward to this. ^_^

  18. Excellent, after Cory Doctorow’s “After the Siege,” was released on free audio from Sub Press, I’ve been itching to delve in to audio-books a little more often.

  19. Well, sad as it may be, I will have to miss this Scalzi product. If it goes into wider sound distribution, or print, please let us know.

  20. Yeah, ok, but I really really want the bubble cities of the future that were envisioned 50 years ago. I’m really glad that’s not the topic of these stories, but I’m bummed that they never happened.

    Biodome doesn’t count. Nope. No. Really. No. I have a whole bag of “No” with your name on it.

    Thanks for clueing us in John.

  21. This sounds like fun, but why not write a story in the future as conceived of in the late 1970s, when that book was written? I too had that book and loved it into oblivion. We do have some things very much like what it predicted, like wall-sized TVs, cell phones (in watches in the book), autonomous aircraft (UAVs like the Predator), etc. But we are still missing a lot of that stuff, and it’s almost 2010.

    Maybe someone could write a story about where all those promised innovations went…

  22. Now I am sad. No print edition. Bummer. I really dislike listening to books. It ruins them for me. :(

    Regards,
    Jack Tingle

  23. Do you find that you and the other authors are writing differently knowing that their work will be heard rather than read?

  24. Nothing in print planned at the moment.

    Three of my favorite new SF authors. Bummer. I do most of my fiction reading in bed with an itty bitty booklight and don’t really have time to listen to stories on the computer during the day.

    No Ipod, and the car stereo is pretty much constantly playing Raffi and Sandra Boynton CDs these days.

  25. Well, I understand that once it’s on your computer, you CAN burn it to CD, if you want.

  26. Sounds really cool–unfortunately I won’t be able to buy it until Audible finally releases stuff without DRM. I refuse to spend money on DRM-poisoned media.

  27. Ah, I’m with Winchester Grey, I loved those “World of the Future” books when I was a kid; I still have the other two volumes, “Robots” and “Star Travel”.
    But anyway, ’nuff nostalgia. Metatropolis sounds very cool.

  28. Intriguing idea, I look forward to finding out more when it’s ready for release. I listen to a lot of audio fiction – mostly from podcasts.

    My previous experience with Audible hasn’t been great though. I took a free trial and downloaded two books which I then somehow lost access to after I cancelled my subscription – despite assurances to the contrary. It also wasn’t very intuitive to get the service working through iTunes to start off with.

    I guess we have to live with that though, as the idea for the project came from Audible in the first place!

  29. Scalzi @34: Well, I understand that once it’s on your computer, you CAN burn it to CD, if you want.

    Does this mean there will be no DRM stuff attached to this recording?

  30. hugh57 & others: Though it’s been a couple years since I bought from Audible, I’m certain those files are sold with the expectation you’re going to burn them to CD.

  31. Okay, I did some research after yesterday’s snark; I really would like to read this when it comes out. For those of you on Windows, you have two options: you can burn the audible book to CD from within the audible manager itself, or you can re-record the audio from the book using an audio recording program. You can find complete instructions on how to do this at:

    http://www.jakeludington.com/ask_jake/20050607_unlocking_audible_books_legally.html

    For the trendy folks on OSX, you can just burn your book to CD from within Itunes like you would anything else. If you really need instructions for this process, they’re at:

    http://forums.osxfaq.com/viewtopic.php?t=6323

    For everyone else on a free OS, you have options and options (as with all things opensource), and some of them half work, some work fine, and some don’t work at all. You can find more information at:

    http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=92960&page=2

    You will not have fun.

    Out of respect to Mr. Scalzi, all of the above options are perfectly legal.

  32. Well the idea worked for George RR Martin and his buddies when they came up with “Wildcards,” and I’m looking forward to seeing work for you!

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