The Pickle: A Conversation About Making Digital Books
Russell Quinn

Woodcut by Ian Huebert

The Pickle: A Conversation About Making Digital Books

5: Self Selection & The Jaws of Venture Valley

Dearest Mr. Sloan and Mr. Quinn,

Robin, I concede that there are undoubtedly thousands of programmers who could knock out a passable Pickle Index clone, and there are thousands of writers who could probably approximate some of the fun of the story. But the combo? I think it’s pretty rare. Even if you unlocked the great-and-golden options-shackled programmers from the jaws of Venture Valley, I’m not convinced they’d suddenly start collaborating with excellent writers and making noteworthy digital books. I mean, isn’t all of this kind of self-selecting? Only a certain kind of weird is willing to throw themselves into a “bonkers” app? Maybe I’m wrong. But I want to believe (and Russell’s description of his process and what he pulls from it — and the dreaded ‘a’ word — feels like it’s all poking in the right direction) the magic of a great story manifest digitally goes well beyond just being a competent programmer.

Here’s another angle: Fluency in programming (and understanding its intricacies) doesn’t necessarily mean the output need be complex. For example, my go-to 80 Days is A Dark Room. It’s made of sentences. Bounded. Totally engrossing. I consider it a book. And I consider the little pushing of buttons to light fires and gather wood the digital equivalent of a medium indigenous “page turn.” Am I nuts?

A Dark Room

If A Dark Room or The Pickle Index released gutted shells of themselves into the world for others to fill with content, could the offspring be as successful? Or is part of our delight in digital the fact that “digital” itself (the screen? the bits?) is the medium, the “master platform,” and all the inherent complexity of getting things to dance around just so is part and parcel of creating for this beast?

Yrs in vinegars,
Mr. Mod

Note to readers: This is (going to be) a long, loopy conversation. The Pickle Index is crisp and chomp sized. Consider bathing in its fancy delights.

The Indexed Pickle

  1. Opening Salvo [Robin Sloan]
  2. Blank Slates![Craig Mod]
  3. Opportunity Cost [Robin Sloan]
  4. The Struggle (Sorry) [Russell Quinn]
  5. ➡︎ Self Selection & The Jaws of Venture Valley [Craig Mod]
  6. The Many Futures of Storytelling [Eli Horowitz]
  7. Recruitment [Robin Sloan]
  8. Blarp [Eli Horowitz]
  9. That Oracular Feeling [Robin Sloan]
  10. Benevolent Leaders of the Frothy Kingdom [Craig Mod]
  11. The Left-on-the-Floor Weirdness [Russell Quinn]
  12. Territory of the Book [Eli Horowitz]
  13. At This Moment [Robin Sloan]
  14. Make a Book, Even Just One [Craig Mod]