WHAT IS THIS

A dazzling new piece of experimental fiction is being serialized on a sports news site

This story contains spoilers for the short story “17776.”

It’s 15,759 years in the future, and nobody dies—or is born—anymore. Instead the human race has reached a weird utopian equilibrium in which one way to self-entertain is epically long, large football games.

This is a new vision for football and America from Jon Bois, creative director at sports news site SB Nation. Part Italo Calvino, part Peter Heller, with humor seemingly from within the depths of reddit, the short story “17776” will play out in daily installments of experimental fiction until July 15. The story should excite sports nerds and literary folk alike.

The interactive story, which you read by scrolling through dense images and colored dialog with occasional YouTube interludes, debuted on July 5, with two new chapters added each day since then. What’s apparent so far is that the protagonist is Nine, a space probe that has just become conscious while floating in space, based on a real probe abandoned by NASA in the 1980s. The probe has become a person, we learn, after coming back online with 15,000 years of data broadcasted into space by humans.

Nine’s lack of understanding of how the world works is obviously a convenient tool for the reader to learn what’s happened to Earth. His/her two interlocutors serve as a pair of angel/devil spacecrafts, sister probe Ten, who signs off by saying “I love you,” and Juice (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer), who is an irreverent troll. They tell Nine that in 2026, humans suddenly stopped dying, aging, or getting sick, and now 8 billion immortals on Earth spend their time with various delights. In the United States, that means football games that span the country from border to border.

So far the story is funny and really works. The interactive elements are minimal, and the sidebars don’t take the reader too far away from the story. Suspense in chapter one builds nicely, pulling even this non-sports fan along. For the best experience, I recommend stopping here and going right into the story.

But if you want to know if you’ll like the style, this YouTube video serves as a good trailer:

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