Last week’s #WebFicWed mentions:
The Vector, 314 Crescent Manor, The Astonishing Adventures of Lord Likely, The Peacock King, Fission Chips, Nomesque Fiction, Refuge of Delayed Souls, Addergoole, Above Ground, Strange Little Band, The Philosopher In Arms, & Eclipse Court.
It is sometimes said that every person has at least one book in them. But if no one reads those books, there’s little point in writing them.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have noticed that December is looking to be an unusually active month for webfiction, what with yesterday’s Free e-Day, the planned re-haul of the Web Fiction Guide site, the launch of the new e-Fiction Book Club site, and the upcoming launch of the weblit.us anthology.
So, for December, I’ve decided to try something new, and interview the people who authors could not live without: readers.
First up to be interviewed is Jan Oda, renowned promoter of webfiction, who just yesterday launched Ergofiction, a reader-focused webfiction e-zine.
Let’s hear what she has to say on the matter.
AMH: Let’s start off with a bit about yourself. Where does the name “Jan Oda” come from, and does it have any particular meaning?
JO: Jan is the name of my godfather, and Oda of my godmother, and they are my middle names. I chose to use my middle names as a web-fiction alias back when I was still planning on writing a web-fiction of my own. It was going to be historical fiction, and since I was also planning on publishing some archaeological articles, I didn’t want to compromise my credibility, because the world of archaeology doesn’t like fiction very much. Neither of those things happened, but the name stuck, and I still like how it sounds in my head.
I studied archaeology, and I’m currently doing an extra Master Year in Library Sciences. I live in Belgium, which can be quite great, but is a total pain in the ass timezone wise. My first language is Dutch, and I can feel quite unsure about my English.
I am a coffee addict. I can be quite the fangirl, and get over-enthusiastic quickly. I think all book-lovers should read The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers, and then read everything else he has written. I’m secretly addicted to romance pulp novels, especially when I feel bad. I’m 6 ft tall. I hope everyone knows by now that I’m a girl. And now on to the important stuff.
AMH: You’ve been described as a superuser, and in either case are one of the most active webfiction readers out there. When and how did you start reading online?
JO: It’s hard to remember when it all started. I know I had exams, and was reading the entire back catalogue of Something Positive, a great webcomic, to evade studying. When I finished that, I saw a PW advertisement to something called Tales of MU, and I found this great thing called free online fiction.
I read the entire back catalogue of TOMU , and nearly failed my exam. After that I kept on reading, simply because it was free and convenient, even though it wasn’t really my cup of tea (Speaking of which, aren’t you supposed to offer me some, as an English host and all?).
AMH: Ha! Fine. Tea? Sugar?
JO: Lemon and honey, please!
Okay, back to your question, where was I ?
Then I discovered Novelr.com, and I studied everything Eli had written because I wanted to write my own web-fiction. A couple of months later, the Webfictionguide.com was born and I never got to writing my own, because there was so much to read!
AMH: What do you think of the webfiction community as it stands? Any particular strengths or weaknesses?
JO:Mmmm. Tough question.
My main issue is that the web-fiction community, despite various efforts, is still mainly a community of web-fiction authors (and yes, I know I haven’t really properly checked out the Epiguide.com and should do so urgently, and I will soon. I promise). Various authors have a good community going on at their own various sites, and that’s great, but so far it’s hard to get them all together. I think the reason behind this is that people can only follow so many webserials at the same time, so they form a community where they are reading.
The WFG, Muse’s Success, and the E-fiction Book Club are all trying to create a reader community, and are succeeding in some ways, but so far it isn’t really happening, and maybe it never will. I think people like me, who are fan of the medium more than specific authors, are rare, so it is quite possible that a real web-fiction community will never completely exist.
AMH: Yesterday, you launched a reader-focused e-zine called Ergofiction. Why did you think of setting up the site?
JO: Well, it is this lack of a more general community that prompted me to create a more reader-focused website. Novelr.com is great, but serves more as a think tank (a great one though) than as a community for readers. The WFG and The E-fiction Book Club focus on reviews mostly, which is great, but both leave me hungry for more.
I often referred to myself as a one man army when it comes to the promotion of web-fiction, and though that is probably a bit exaggerated, it’s what I’d like to do. I love the medium, the great possibilities, the philosophy behind sharing your work for free, the patronizing… And I want to share that love.
Also, sometimes the web-fiction author crowd (fun people that they are aside) forget that readers have slightly different needs, and I’d like to offer readers a forum where they can express those needs, and thoughts, and the love-hate relation with everything.
So the idea behind Ergofiction (which will hopefully end up as an organisation) is to promote web-fiction as a great way of reading and connecting with authors, and to promote patronage as the amazing way of supporting artists it is. I have several projects for this in mind, but the first one to materialise is the magazine, which is conveniently located at ergofiction.com.
AMH: And why should webfiction authors promote Ergofiction?
Because I have done so much promoting others they owe me. :p Just kidding.
Not many people are reading online at the moment. Well not many people are reading fiction that is. I’m a strong believer that people should promote the medium more than the stories, because the aversion to read self-published fiction online is still so big. I think authors need to step up more, and do more for the whole picture, instead of just their own little part in the picture.
However, I’m not doing this for them. I’m doing this for the readers, for the web-fiction fans like myself, and for the people who haven’t discovered web-fiction yet. I think authors might fair well with this, and I do hope I’ll get their support, but since this is also a very big experiment, I don’t expect anything. It is even possible I’ll fail miserably, but let’s cross our fingers it will be a success.
AMH: What kind of topics will you cover, and who (if anyone) will be contributing other than yourself?
JO: Tough question again. The setup is a little experimental too at the moment, and this very much has to do with the topics handled. The current idea is that there will be a weekly issue, with 2 to 5 articles, depending on the topic. These articles will closely or less closely belong together. Examples of future issues could be: Beyond Fantasy, with articles on the best fantasy web-fiction, fantasy web-designs, fantasies of characters, and maybe even a Fantasy Friday Flash. I hope you catch my drift.
December is slightly different, because it’s the launch month, and I wanted to cover as much of the basics of web-fiction as possible, but didn’t want to information dump in one week. So December will be ISSUE 0, and the real magazine will start properly the 2nd week of January.
ISSUE 0 has 2 main themes (which were different issues when I first conceived of the magazine, but are now joined together). The first one focuses on web-fiction, and is called The Where, the What, and the Why’s of Web-Fiction, the second theme is Power to the People, and will focus on patronage, and the interactiveness of web-fiction.
AMH: Do you have plans for expansion of the site? What other features not yet available are you thinking of adding?
JO: Though the site will serve mostly as the host for the magazine, I do have a couple of projects in the pipeline. I don’t want to spill the beans too much, and most of them are still merely in the concept phase, and will probably change a lot by the time they materialise. However, there are a few ideas I can share.
The magazine will probably have a monthly e-book version in the future, so people can easily share it with friends, at cons and so on. For this to happen the Belgian laws on e-books will have to change first though/ (Sigh, when I first started thinking about Ergofiction, I never thought I’d be so limited by the legal stuff. Or the timezones. I really live in the wrong country).
I’d very much like to start some sort of web-fiction library, where people can easily browse the first chapters of different stories without leaving the site, and then click through to the story if they like it. Maybe this fits more in the WFG alley though, but it is definitely something I’m considering.
Another idea is Project Draft, where Ergofiction hosts a first draft of a story, and people can earn more chapters by commenting in-paragraph. An army of beta-readers as it were.
When I first thought about the website I also wanted to include actual fiction to the site, but again, it is something I still need to wrap my head around. The main priority is to get the magazine going for now.
As for contributors, I’m hoping and actually counting on people to join in and write for the magazine. I’ll have a calender with future issues listed, and hope this will inspire people to join in. I was also hoping to bribe you with cookies and move your great interviews over to the magazine, but I’m still designing a battle plan for that.
I’ve also invited Eli to leave his inner editor behind and write a Dispatch styled column once a month. And I’m cooking up a master plan to force some web-fiction virgins (think my real life friends) to try web-fiction and testify on site. Which brings me to the project that is closest to being materialised: TESTIFY!
TESTIFY! will be a feature where people can leave short shouts about the fiction they are reading. Think along the line of: “OMG the latest chapter of XXX totally kicked ass!!” or “WOW the Design Overhaul of YYY really made things worse, where are the Next buttons??”
Reviews are great, but it is my experience that it is often too big a step for people to actually write up a complete review. I hope to close this gap with TESTIFY! However, with the upcoming overhaul of the WFG, this might be rendered obsolete.
AMH: Lastly, how do you envision the webfiction community in ten years’ time? Do we have reason to hope, or cause for despair?
JO: I honestly don’t know. The internet, the book industry and media in general are changing so fast it is impossible to predict anything. People have never read so much as today, with sms, email, blogs and so on, but I believe that it is highly possible we’ll all have internet chips implemented in a couple of years and be artificially telepathic. Fiction will be thoughts, not written down. Yes, I read too much sci-fi.
It is the fast changes to the book-industry and technology that make these times so entertaining and thrilling, and I love being a part of all this. I do believe internet-publishing will be a main part of the fiction industry in the future, and I also believe patronage will be a big part of the Arts in general, but I have no idea where we’ll fit. I don’t think indie-publishing of books will ever get as mainstream as indie-music or films, because of the language barriers, the need of decent editing, and the format issues (as in typography, not so much as in epub vs. mobipocket).
AMH: Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
JO: YES! Go read this article by April Hamilton: #IndieAction. I find web-fiction one of the coolest ways of self-publishing, but it suffers from the same problems as regular self-publishing. So webfiction authors and readers need to take some action.
Also, the E-Fiction Book Club had a major overhaul on December 1st too, so go and take a look!
And, last but not least, if you feel the need to contribute to the magazine, feel free to contact me, you can find me on twitter @janoda, or through the contact links on the magazine.
Thanks for the interview Anna!
Right. Why are you still here? Head on over to Ergofiction and check things out!
Any questions of your own? Leave a comment for Jan below!