A few years ago, I decided I needed a way to track the Compact Universe. Three Amargosa novels with three novella arcs plus No Marigolds in the Promised Land made it hard for me to keep track of this complex universe I spun up. One of the betas on the later novellas suggested a glossary.
I always found those annoying, but I definitely saw his point. It’s hard enough for a reader to wade into a sprawling series. Imagine the writer who has to keep this straight. J. Michael Starczynski, the man behind Babylon 5, had to limit who wrote for the show and when and found himself dependent on fan sites to keep things straight. I don’t have a following or the backing of Warner Brothers. (Disney will never get this without guaranteeing my unborn grandchildren’s offspring can retire in utero. I can indulge my outrage and grief on a private island in the Caribbean sipping margaritas and dining on barbecued boar.) So, for now, I have to do this myself.
Another beta suggested building a wiki. Wikis are designed to be collaborative. They’re also designed to be edited on the fly. Witness, of course, the world’s encyclopedia, Wikipedia. Thanks to a large community and some standards in citing sources, the website has become quite useful as a quick-and-dirty information source. While I was going for my business analysis degree, I used it to find sources for papers. (And yes, I read the source material.) It’s even worked its way into the Compact Universe with Wikipedia Britannica cited as a font of information.
The problem now is that I have a looooong series. During the first part of the pandemic, I dictated nine new novels in what’s called the Suicide Arc. While all but the first two are in various states of revision, they introduce new facts about this fictional universe. How did the Gelt evolve? Who are the grays really? Did Tol Germanicus really work for Google in his early days? The wiki is, first and foremost, for me. I need to be able to quickly look up and add to information about Amargosa, the Realm, Admiral Burke, and so on. But I also intended it for the readers. Not only does it sell more books if you let a person get swept into exploring the universe you created, you add to the storytelling with reams of data about it. So, I started one.
But it’s time consuming. And a bit disorganized. Unlike Wikipedia, it doesn’t have a nice search page with featured articles, categories, and so on. And I have to go through each book, go back and edit articles, and make sure all the links work. Spoiler alert: Some of them don’t. I’ve gotten through about half of No Marigolds so far. I’m tempted to toss the whole thing and start over.
Ultimately, I need to finish this. I need it for my own reference. I need it for the readers. And it’s not a bad exercise for keeping your story straight.