Some day there will be a genre called “startup fiction.” I mean, if science fiction, which is a sub-genre of fiction, can have libertarian science fiction and recursive science fiction, surely startup fiction belongs in a sub-genre of a sub-genre of a sub-genre.
Please Report Your Bug Here by Josh Reidel is an excellent example of startup fiction. I began reading it at the end of the day Saturday after finishing The Age of A.I. and Our Human Future. I enjoyed Reidel much more than Kissinger, Schmidt, and Huttenlocher (even though I greatly respect them.)
Reidel was the first employee at Instagram. While the first thirty pages started like yet another explore the bay area startup thing book, it quickly twisted into something more enjoyable. When I picked it up yesterday afternoon after a long run and a nap, I didn’t put it down until it was time to go to sleep, which meant I was finished with the book.
I hope there are a lot more books like this. It balances startup stuff with the cynicism of the experience while placing it in a fictional world. It unexpectedly merges with believable near-term science fiction, which has a delicious parallel universe theme. And, if you believe in the infinite parallel universe theory (or just the multiverse) and haven’t yet renamed your company multiverse (yes, there is one), you can quickly get lost in a sequoia tree. In Oakland.
I assume that Reidel meant to riddle the book with tech industry easter eggs. If this was unintentional, it’s even more fun since that would be my brain doing its thing on Planet Brad.
I hope there are a lot more books like this. I’ve been thinking about writing a fictionalized version of my SPAC experience, and Please Report Your Bug Here inspired me to take that idea more seriously.
Uncommon Stock: Version 1.0 is officially available today and can be bought online at Amazon and pretty much everywhere else. It’s the first title from FG Press and is in a category we call “startup fiction” and expect to be publishing a lot of. Think of what John Grisham did to the “legal fiction” genre. That’s what we are doing with Uncommon Stock and startup fiction.
Mara Winkel and James Chen are undergraduates at CU Boulder. Mara is pre-law, James is a computer science major. James comes up with an idea for a new machine learning technology that he creates a prototype for using the game Go as his starting point. James asks Mara to join him as his partner in the new company Moziak, which they launch against the protests of their parents but the surprising emotional support of Mara’s boyfriend Craig. Early on Mara and James start applying the technology to forensic accounting and get tangled up with some bad guys. As Mara tries to get funding for the company, James cranks on the product, and Craig goes off the rails, endangering everyone. Then things start getting really complicated. And interesting. And then the VCs show up.
I love this book. This project started about a year ago when Eliot Peper send me a cold email. I didn’t know Eliot, but he sent me a thoughtful note and attached a few chapters of a book to read. He was upfront that this was his first book, that is was tech fiction, and that he wanted my opinion. I read it that night on my couch in my condo and I can still remember turning to Amy after I finished, saying “wow – this is really great!”
Eliot continued writing and I continued giving him feedback. About six months ago I told him about the idea we were cooking up for FG Press and asked if he wanted to publish with us as an experiment. He jumped at it and our relationship, which now included Dane McDonald (FG Press’s CEO) deepened. Eliot finished his first draft in January and over a period of a few weeks I read through the book several times, making significant edits, adding a bunch of local Boulder color, and tuning up some of the story. Eliot was amazing during the edit process – working closely with me, my wife Amy Batchelor who also provided an editing pass, and then our formal editors who did a tight copy-edit of the book.
During this period, we worked together with Eliot on the launch of FG Press as well as his book. We’ve used Uncommon Stock as the alpha test for our process and have improved a lot of things. You’ll see some obvious things from us, like a 10 chapter free giveaway (if you want to sample the book before you buy it). You’ll also see some not so obvious things, like the ability (soon) to buy the book using Bitcoins.
Grab your copy of Uncommon Stock: 1.0. Or, if you just want a taste first, download the first 10 chapters.