Serialized Fiction

I used to check in at Maud's place two or three times a day, wanting to know all about what was going on in the book world, but I've pretty much ignored her since I left grad school a year and a half ago. This morning, though, I took a nostalgic trip over her way, meandered a bit, and found something interesting: Velocity, Louisville's free weekly newspaper, is serializing a short story by Chris Offutt this month. Next month, they're going to publish new work by ZZ Packer (whose "Every Tongue Shall Confess" we explicated this past Wednesday in the fiction workshop).

And speaking of serialized fiction: Dan Wickett recently alerted the world to the fact that my old teacher Mike Magnuson is serializing new fiction over at onmilwaukee.com, an online daily out of, um, Milwaukee. You can read Part One of "The Falls" here.

I imagine serialized fiction works differently now--whether it's Slate's serialization of Walter Kirn's novel, The Unbinding, or some weekly's serialization of a short story--than it did in the Victorian era. I'm guessing, for example, the places publishing the things have seen the full products before they start putting them out into the world, whereas back in the day, Dickens and Conrad and crew, I think, often worked on a kind of deadline, sending off the next installment to the publisher as soon as it was completed.

I've always liked this kind of ethic--which I think is used more today by the writers and artists who produce comic books--even if it works in contrast to most commonly held beliefs about the amount of time and the number of revisions it takes to create "art." What I like about the "produce-and-publish" ethic is that, while it occasionally fails, often the deadline-pressures surrounding the writers help them to create something truly great, and they then get that great thing out into the world before they have a chance to doubt themselves or run the work past several editors.

Nonetheless, while I admire the ethic and its occasional byproducts, I don't think I would ever have the guts to work that way, though sometimes I do wish I could muster just those kind of guts.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure, but was under the impression Kirn was writing his while it was going along.

Dan Wickett - EWN/Dzanc

Chad Simpson said...

Hey, Dan. Thanks for the info! I just assumed he would have already written the thing before Slate agreed to post it all.