Critical Mass

Making webfiction explode

Sunday, December 30, 2007Filed in Editorials

Why I Care (And You Should, Too)

[Editors note: This was adapted from a preexisting piece by the author.]

It’s about literature

Allow me to begin by quoting the Seventh Circuit Court: “Kids lose a lot when they don’t read fiction, even when the movies and television that they watch are aesthetically superior.”[1] Also Mark Twain: “The person who doesn’t read has no advantage over the person who can’t.”[2] I honestly believe those quotes. I also believe that literacy is not as highly rated as it used to be, particularly online. That’s not entirely a bad thing; I suspect that some of prose and poetry’s lost popularity is going to art and other forms of creative expression enabled by the internet, instead, and they could probably use it. However, the internet is not only so useful for those other forms of creative expression that prose and poetry are getting ignored online, but the internet is so useful that people who have ready access to it are ignoring lots of things that aren’t the internet, such as books. That is a much more serious problem.

There are two possible solutions to the problem of the internet degrading the value of literature: Make fiction popular online, or get people to stop using the internet. As the latter is not a viable option, the former will have to suffice. Next comes the question of what sort of fiction to make popular: Certainly fan fiction (“fanfic,” fiction written using an established author’s characters and settings without permission) is popular in some areas, but not only do I have a philosophical and legal opposition to it as an author, but it has no literary value on average and, more importantly, normally appeals only to fans of whatever the source material is, which means that it is useless for a mass-market campaign such as this. As for original fiction, it is often easier for a single creator to keep up a single long-form fiction than to come up with completely new characters and settings every five pages, and long-form fiction is more likely to attract and hold an audience over the long term, for obvious reasons. Thus, webfiction is our answer.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much webfiction. I suspect that the fact that very few people write webfiction has something to do with the fact that very few people people read it. Of course, very few people read it because very few people write it. It isn’t considered “cool” and has little in the way of support groups, how-to guides, or legions of mindless fans who will read anything regardless of quality. That has to change. (Particularly the mindless fans bit; how else will I get anyone to read my stuff?)

If you’d like to help, you can start out by reading my work or any of the others out there, then tell the authors how much you like their work. After that, go out and write your own story or stories. Show your friends. Show the whole world. Work to improve your craft by reading and learning. And while you’re doing all of this, don’t forget to send me a link so that I can review you.

Footnotes

[1] Neil Gaiman and Marvels AND Miracles, LLC, v. Todd McFarlane, et al.

[2] I’m not sure where this is from.

posted by CrazyDreamer  

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