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All about 'Crowd Control,' CNET's crowdsourced sci-fi novel

We wanted to write a book during National Novel Writing Month, but we've got a website to run so we asked the Internet to help. Remarkably, you all came through, and with minimal trolling.

Sam Falconer

Since at least 1995, I've been having the same argument with friends, family, people I meet at parties, even people I only speak to online. I've been making the case that the Internet is not just a tool for trolling, finding distractions and procrastinating on real work; far more importantly, it's also the most transformative tool for collaboration and creation that we've seen so far in all of human history.

To prove the point, we set out in November to harness that collaborative power by asking anyone interested to help us create an entirely new universe. Actually, that's not quite true -- we asked you to help tell the story of at least two universes by crowdsourcing the writing of a science fiction novel set in a future where travel between different universes in the larger multiverse is possible.

It sounds like a recipe for guaranteed failure, inviting the entire Internet to contribute to a book-length work dealing in speculative astrophysics. Remarkably, hundreds of you from around the world, across geographic and even language barriers, contributed your time to draft more than 20 chapters' worth of a (mostly) coherent narrative. Over the course of several weeks the project was actively being written in the last two months of 2015, there was only one real case of trolling and vandalism in our collaborative working Google Doc.

Dozens of people contributed their writing to the project, and hundreds spent time reading, rereading, editing and proofreading the document. Still others (including a number who are not fully fluent in the English language) helped by brainstorming and organizing ideas and storylines. Thanks to all of these passionate volunteers, I've started winning that old argument about the power of the Internet more often since launching this project.

Read 'Control Control: Heaven Makes a Killing'

We'll never know exactly how many people helped create our shockingly complex story spanning space and time because an untold number contributed anonymously, but our conservative estimates put the number well into the hundreds, and from six different continents.

The fruits of that labor live on in the same Google Doc, where it can still be improved upon. That original version is fully open and available for anyone to take and build upon under a Creative Commons license. In fact, that's exactly what we did to create the version of the story that we're presenting to you here. Our final draft was created from a version of the crowdsourced story as it stood in February, when we took the community-written draft offline and then spent almost three months editing it, filling in some plot holes and adding our own special flavor to what we've titled "Crowd Control: Heaven Makes a Killing."

We hope you enjoy it, and we look forward to reading the sequel that we'll write together someday.