E-Serials: A new type of publishing.

Posted: April 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

Of course, the above title is completely wrong.

There is nothing new about this concept, indeed the serial form could be said it have shaped the novel in ways modern literary novelist have forgotten. While everyone cites Dicken and Thackery, there was nothing special about this publishing device, quite the contrary, it was almost the norm – for example:

‘Middlemarch’ was a serial between 1871 and 1872, before being published as a novel in 1874. ‘Daniel Deronda’ also first published in serial form.

‘Far from the Madding Crowd’, ‘Tess … ’, ‘Jude … ’, indeed 12 of Hardy’s 14 novels were serialised in magazines first.

The Time Machine, War of the Worlds, and ‘The Invisible Man’ were published in serial form, before being put in book format; either immediately after the last episode, or within a few months.

Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’ was a magazine serial in 1893 before being published the following year as a book. ‘Kim’ was also a serial in several magazines before it was published in book form.

Conrad’s, ‘Lord Jim’, ‘Heart of Dearkness’ and ‘Nostromo’ were all serials.

Jack London’s ‘White Fang’ a serial.

H. Rider Haggard’s ‘Ayeesha’ also a serial.

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan began as a magazine serial in 1912 before being published as a novel in 1914.

Science fiction and crime had a golden age in the 1930’s in serial formats because of the Depression – magazine serials were more affordable for the common man (and woman) than books.  Chandler and Hammett both created their careers through ‘The Black Mask’.

Robert E Howard’s Conan began as a series of magazine short stories in 1932 and H.P. Lovecraft’s stories, and those of others writing in his mythology, were serialised in ‘Weird Tales’ magazine.

When the magazines receded as the paperbook revolution made the novel form more affordable, radio and T.V, adopted the same mode in order to build audience and keep costs low. (Interestingly the true paperbook revolution in the UK was an accident of history, with paper restrictions outlawing serial magazines and encouraging separate one-off publications after WW2 – the boom-time for such publications was actually over by the early 1960’s.)

While the paperback format revolutionised publishing, science-fiction/fantasy was always a niche industry and many classic sci-fi writers started as serial writers in the magazines of the 50’s and 60’s, which were their only path to a readership:

Ray Bradbury’s ‘Martian Chronicles (The Silver Locusts)’ and ‘The Illustrated Man’ were constructed out of thematic short stories.

Fritz Leiber’s development of the Fahrd and Gray Mauser novels were entirely as a result of serial, or connected magazine stories.

Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ was originally a series of eight short stories published in Astounding Magazine, and then republished as a trilogy of novels.

While John Wyndham was already an established writer and ‘The Day of the Triffids’ was published as a novel in the UK, in the US it was reorganised and published as a magazine serial.

‘Starship Troopers’ by Robert Heinlein began life as a serial, and then published as a novel after its completion.

Frank Herber’s ‘Dune’ was originally a serial in ‘Analogue Magazine’ between 1963 and 65. This was revised and published by a small press in 1965.

Alfred Bester’s stories were all published in serial format in magazines first.

All of Michael Moorcocks early novels were written as serials, as were those of J.G. Ballard.

All of these books/ novelists went on to win Hugo and Nebula awards in the years they were published and/or became known as classics of science fiction/fantasy. Most of them have never been out of print.

The e-publication revolution is upon us, but many of us still think in terms of tree-books. It’s time to experiment with different forms of publishing and reading, and perhaps re-discover some of the ways of reading which have shaped the novel, and perhaps been forgotten. With this in mind, Proxima will be launching some of their titles as e-serials in 2011 and 2012, beginning with ‘Veronica Britton – Chronic Detective by Niall Boyce. These serial will tell a story over 4 – 6 episodes, e-published over 4 – 6 months, and each episode will cost no-more than 99p each.

Watch this space for details, and please tell us what you think.


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