Tales of far-off worlds, battles in distant quadrants of space, and of creatures that only imagination could conjure are lost to time. They are held in science fiction books, now out of print and circulation, and with little chance of ever seeing new life in the digital sphere and the futures they predicted.
A group with a love for the classic stories is now changing this, however, and are planning to rescue a book each month from the cold grip of time. Singularity & Co will be finding these books, contacting the authors, and getting permission to make them into ebooks—some free, some paid—in mission they describe as “part adventure, part detective story, part startup without any particular plan to make itself profitable, and part story about the intersection of the past and the future.”
“We think that’s pretty cool,” said Ash Kalb of Singularity & Co.
They are currently raising funds through an already successful Kickstarter campaign, but for the team, this isn’t about money. It’s all for the books.
“It just doesn’t seem right to us that books that were largely about imagining the future might not make it into it,” said Kalb.
“… decades (sometimes centuries) before things like iPads and kindles were essentially boring common every day items, their predecessors were dreamed up by authors of speculative fiction,” he said.
“The goal of this project is to extend that immortality to the books of the past. Given the themes, sci-fi books seemed like a good place to start.”
Kalb gave an analogy, noting that in many sci-fi stories, “especially the ones that focus on the singularity,” there is a theme where people are able to live forever through technology.
“Funny thing is, for a book written in the past few years, that is essentially what has happened. Good or bad, loved or forgotten, a book written today, available as an ebook, will probably always be obtainable as an ebook because with essentially no warehousing and distribution costs, there is no reason to stop selling it.”
Sci-fi fans are already rallying up behind Singularity & Co, both through Kickstarter and elsewhere. Kalb noted that “The cool thing about Kickstarter is that it lets us gauge the market for what we are doing before investing the time and resources to actually get most of it done. When people support us via kickstarter, they validate the project overall.”
But they had something even larger come along, which Kalb describes as “a fairly awesome person.” They were approached by someone offering to match all contributions they get through Kickstarter, up to their original goal of $15,000.
The books they’re trying to rescue aren’t in the public domain—an act some publishers go for, but Kalb doesn’t think too well of. He describes reprinting public domain works as merely a way to “capture some revenue from something that should be free.”
Their mission goes much further, since, “public domain works don’t need our help as much as the ones of more questionable copyright status.”
They are reaching out to authors—including many who are still writing sci-fi books today. “I’m glad to say that 99% of them approve once we answer their questions,” he said, noting that a point they try to nail down is “we’re not out to compete with them.”
They want to bring the books to mediums they don’t yet have, and will take this a step further by developing a toolkit to help other people do this type of work.
Yet, finding the books can be an adventure in itself, and the each has a unique story of being lost to time.
“Maybe the coolest part of this is that each book with which we are successful is going to have its own backstory, which we intend to share as we release each book into the wild,” Kalb said.