Critical Mass

Making webfiction explode

Saturday, December 29, 2007Filed in 

About Critical Mass

Making Webfiction Explode

To quote Wikipedia, “A critical mass is the smallest amount of fissile material needed for a sustained nuclear chain reaction.” Similarly, the goal of this site is to produce and gather a mass of webfiction criticism in the hopes of causing webfiction to explode.[1] There is also the fact that “Critical mass is a sociodynamic term to describe the existence of sufficient momentum in a social system such that the momentum becomes self-sustaining and fuels further growth.”[2] Hopefully the connection of the sociodynamic definition to this site does not require explanation.

In any case, the end goals of this criticism are, firstly, to promote webfiction; secondly, to improve the state of the art by holding webfiction to a high critical standard; and, thirdly, to provide a filtering resource with a view towards identifying those webfiction stories that have functionally passed a peer review test and should therefore be taken seriously by the establishment. If you’re wondering why I care (and/or why you should, too), my first editorial here answers that very question.

If you’ve read this far, you may be wondering “What the heck is webfiction, anyway?” There is a long, technical answer to that, but basically it comes down to online serial fiction (fiction that is made available episodically) in which the episode breaks are important to the structure. In other words, it’s the fiction equivalent of webcomics. Of course, this site will cover some broader topics such as online fiction in general because they apply to webfiction, but the focus is always on webfiction.

About the Editor

My name is M. Alan Thomas II. I am generally known online as the CrazyDreamer. I have an A.B. (Bachelor of Arts) in English Literature with a Certificate in Creative Writing in fiction on the side, both from Washington University in St. Louis. I am presently applying for an M.S. in Library and Information Science so that I can work in digital humanities, and after that I plan to get my M.F.A. in Writing in fiction. I come from a very literary family; my brother also has an A.B. in English Literature and our mother has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature. (Our father is an architect; go figure.)

Besides this site, I’m working on a rough draft of a webfiction, Wet Hero, which I intend to serialize once I’ve finished the rough draft and gone back and completely redone the narrative structure, among other things. I’ve got some more ordinary fiction as well, some of which I’ve kept private with the intention of refining it as I learn more about writing and eventually submitting it for publication. In both my writing and my literary criticism I tend to be a fantasist, focusing on the evolution of archetypes and the roles of characters within their stories, but I’ve studied a variety of other approaches as well.


I’d like to thank my mother both for the obvious reasons and for giving me a big hug upon being shown this website and exclaiming with joy that I understood the necessity of literary criticism. Additionally, she provided me with tuition benefits and friendly professors at a great college and acts as an outside reader when I’m writing some of my posts here. I’d also like to thank Alexandra Erin of Pages Unbound and elsewhere for giving me the inspiration for this site, and I’d like to thank my girlfriend for giving me a visual arts perspective on tricky media questions and for reading everything I write. Finally, I’d like to thank author and professor Bob Earleywine for reminding me that the best writing and learning occur in pubs.


[1] Yes, I know that criticality does not necessarily result in an explosion; when I was a kid, I built a model of a nuclear reactor for a science fair project, complete with moving control and fuel rods. The metaphor just works better this way.

[2] Wikipedia again.

posted by CrazyDreamer  

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