1. Download the app from the iTunes store. Buy the first volume for $1.99 or the whole book for $8.99.
2. Open the app. Note the artful background on the top half of the home screen: an unsettling black-and-white photo of rows of young children sleeping in beach chairs, covered in blankets and wearing winter hats.
3. Note the circle superimposed over the photo, one of six. Each represents a volume of “The Silent History,” which would total 500 pages if it was printed in book form.
Instead, there are circles, cut up like pies
into 20 even slices, colored in deepening shades of gray. The first circle has one green slice, representing that day’s reading. Tap it.
4. Pause to reflect on the ingenuity of
developer Russell Quinn, Wired magazine’s “World’s Most Wired Storyteller” and the creator of the first-ever subscription-based literary app for McSweeney’s.
5. Read the sample chapter, a dispatch from someone named Theodore Green in El Cerrito, Calif. It begins thusly: “She already looked half-dead on the drive to the hospital but I wouldn’t admit that until much later.” The chapter, known in “Silent History” parlance as a Testimonial, should take you no more than 15 minutes to complete. None of them should; they were calibrated for the length of a morning commute.
6. Wonder who wrote it. Coauthors Kevin Moffett and Matthew Derby traded off. “Even my wife couldn’t guess which
chapters I wrote,” Derby said.
7. Access the map now available to you. Run your fingers over it and note the positions of the various red octagons, which now number over 200. Each of these denotes a short story known as a Field Report, written by a civilian. Wonder why there are six red octagons in Ann Arbor, Mich., and only two in Boston. Consider submitting your own.
8. Read the rest of the chapters available to you. Savor the feelings of horror inspired by contemplating a world in which an increasing number of children are born without the ability to communicate.
9. Seek out the closest red octagon.
Remember to bring along your iPhone.
10. Wait for the next installment.