YA authors shelve NFT story after social media backlash

YA authors shelve NFT story after social media backlash

A group of YA authors have been forced to backtrack over plans for a Non-Fungible Token (NFT) story following an online backlash against the project. 

In a now-deleted Instagram post on 20th October, US writers Marie Lu, Tahereh Mafi, Ransom Riggs, Adam Silvera (pictured), David Yoon and Nicola Yoon announced their plans for Realms of Ruin, described as a “fantasy epic filled with dark magic, intrigue, and unique characters launched online in a thrilling new way”.

The authors said the project would be spearheaded by purchases of NFTs, a one-of-a-kind digital certificate of ownership for a virtual or physical asset. NFTs have become associated with the digital art world where online marketplaces allow them to be bought or sold, sometimes for multi-million pound sums.

Realms of Ruin will go live on 8th November 2021 with a robust collection of NFTs, a sweeping fantastical world, and 12 original stories, all built on top of the environmentally friendly Solana blockchain" the original @RealmsofRuin account invitation reads. "Join us in expanding these stories, adding your own, purchasing the official character cards and playing in these worlds! Your tales can be minted into NFTs whose value could rise as your readership does. As the world expands, the authors will be reading closely to decide which stories and characters are powerful enough to become canon.” 

The plans, backed for former Facebook vice-president Julie Zhuo, ignited controversy online with a raft of issues raised, ranging from the environmental impact to wariness about under-18s being drawn into NFT marketplaces and who would own contributors' work.

Fellow writer Margaret Owen wrote: “Oh god, publishing, I beg of you not to get into NFTs... An NFT is basically the digital equivalent of a CVS [US pharmacy] receipt that takes out an acre of rainforest to ‘print’. It's a one-of-a-kind ‘token’ that is 'minted' by giving a very powerful computer a unique math problem so complex it can hypothetically be solved just once."  

Owen added: “Unfortunately, as you can guess, that requires a devastating amount of energy. Even companies that advertise things like "carbon offsetting" to reduce the impact... still have an impact. But there's also the business side of it, which is: NFTs aren't great for art! [Previously] what happened was a lot of artists made NFTs for their work, and then: nothing.” 

Within hours, one of the authors involved, Lu, revealed on Twitter that the authors had stepped back from the project. She said that while she had answers to the criticisms, “what matters more are the feelings this project has elicited from you all”. She added: “We’re taking a big step back as a result, and there will be more convo soon, but please know that I hear you and your concerns, and that always matters to me... Please know that everyone involved with the project had only the best intentions and are some of the best people I’ve ever had the honor to know.” 

The authors later posted a joint statement on Discord: “We are going to pull the plug on Realms of Ruin. We had hoped to use the fascinating and evolving NFT space to power a new kind of interactive storytelling world...But what we value above all else is our community — that’s you. Your opinions matter and your concerns have been heard – and as a result we no longer want to move forward with this project.”