Burst culture – publishing in the internet age

Proof (as if proof were required) of the old adage that “if you don’t blog about it today, BoingBoing will have pipped you to the post tomorrow” … but better late than never; here’s a sterling post from Warren Ellis on internet publishing and ‘burst culture’.

In keeping with the spirit of what he’s saying, I’m just going to snatch out the bits I want, but you should really go and read the whole thing – it’ll take a few minutes at most, and it’s time well spent.

“365Tomorrows was an ideal reaction to sf publishing in new media, the concept of flash fiction and the way the medium works. 100-word bursts of speculative fiction, daily. JR Blackwell’s gotten herself a career out of it. And note how 365T kept producing and fulfilled its mandate even as sf sites and sf print magazines died on either side of it.”

365T is a good little site; Jeremy Tolbert and a bunch of co-conspirators have something quite similar going on at The Daily Cabal (which, for my money, carries higher quality fiction, but as far as I can tell doesn’t yet have the reach of 365T).

“How far behind the curve is the sf publishing community? When International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day came around, hundreds of writers of gift and ambition ran short work for free on the web. This came about following a recently-resigned official of the Science Fiction Writers of America calling those who produce material for the web SCABS.”

I can add nothing to that.

“The web isn’t a replacement medium — it’s *another* medium. That said, if your concept of a magazine is something designed in one-page bursts, or three pages that only carry 500 words due to the mass of images, then, really, you’re not doing anything the web can’t do better, are you?”


“Bursts aren’t contentless, nor do they denote the end of Attention Span. If attention span was dead, JK Rowling wouldn’t be selling paperbacks thick enough to choke a pig, and Neal Stephenson wouldn’t be making a living off books the size of the first bedsit I lived in.”

The death of print does not mean the death of reading. At least, it doesn’t *have* to.

“And just a thought: if you’re an sf writer grappling for space in one of the fiction magazines for seven cents a word or whatever the rate is now — what exactly are you losing by teaming with writers of like mind, going to the web and convincing a friend to work out the monetising bells and whistles for you?”

I refer you again to The Daily Cabal. And also to the No Fear of the Future group-blog, which has been running some brilliant material since it started up, and has done a great job of shoving the names of a bunch of previously unfamiliar authors in front of my eyes on a regular basis. Sure, it’s early days yet – but there’s a lot to be said for boarding the train early while it’s easy to find a comfy seat.

Nothing particularly new there, at least not to anyone who’s been reading rants (by me and others) about this sort of thing for a little while. But because Ellis has come out and said it, the meme will get a lot further (31 links to the piece as counted by Technorati at time of posting this response). For some reason, people pay a lot more attention to him than they do to me … 😉

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