the history of webfiction

I’ve been trying to do a little digging on the history of webfiction, to discover the main events and key turning points that have led to the exciting community I am part of today. This is definitely something we’ve been thinking of dedicating an issue to on Ergofiction, but the problem is that it is an area that is very hard to research.

Therefore, this post is an appeal to all you webfictioneers out there. Help me flesh out the timeline below. What are the landmarks of the evolution of webfiction?

***

THE HISTORY OF WEBFICTION

June 1995 – The Spot, amongst the first ever webfictions launched [reference]

? – EpiGuide

July 1 1997 – The Spot closes [reference]

Oct 15 1998 – Fanfiction.net founded

? – Fictionpress

2000 – Stephen King serializes The Plant online, to mixed success.

2000 ? – Writing.com launched.

June 2001Shadowmarch by Tad Williams begins serializing. [reference]

April 23 2006 – Novelr founded [reference]

Jan 26 2007 – Novelr relaunched [reference]

July 5 2007 – Alexandra Erin begins posting online [reference]

Dec 6 2007 – Pages Unbound, open for business [reference]

Feb 2008 – MeiLin Miranda begins posting online

July 2008 – Web Fiction Guide is founded

Aug 2008 – Pages Unbound closes, Muse’s Success is founded

2008 ?? – Digital Novelists is founded

Jan 2009 – Rose & Bay Award launched [reference]

Jan 2009 – Fluffy-seme is founded

Nov 2009 – Top Web Fiction is founded

Dec 2009 – Ergofiction launches!

? 2010 – Pandamian will be founded.

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About A.M. Harte

A.M. Harte writes twisted speculative fiction, such as the post-apocalyptic Above Ground and the zombie love anthology Hungry For You. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what ‘free time’ means, and is utterly addicted to chocolate.
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14 Responses to the history of webfiction

  1. Najela says:

    I think webfiction is older than that. You might have to include fictionpress and the evolution of original fiction from fanfiction, but that might be hard. So far, I think what you have is good. Web fiction didn’t become a community thing until 2007 like you mentioned.

  2. claredragonfly says:

    You might want to look at weblit.us… there was someone there complaining about people thinking webfiction is a new thing, when they know about much older original fiction on the web–going as far back as the nineties, I think. Look for a post on that topic and maybe try to contact the poster.

  3. Great list, looking forward to seeing it advance and gaps be filled in. I’m trying to find a reference to go next to Muse’s Success but the most I can find is a screenshot of a post that was posted on Sep 3 2008 (on my portfolio/designs page at my blog).

    • a.m.harte says:

      Well I figured since you were the one that told me when it was founded (during that interview on Ergofiction) you could be trusted to know! But any references welcome ;-) and let me know if you think of anything else to add!

  4. Eli James says:

    Btw, I’m not sure if The Spot’s the earliest – but such history is murky. Most of the academic literature on blog/web fiction (that is, the literature I read two years ago) point to 1997 as a starting point. I didn’t look too deeply into that, though, so I suppose you may be on to something here.

    PS: Sorry about the dicky formatting in my comment above, been spending too much time mucking around in Pandamian code that I’ve forgotten my HTML! =P

  5. Miladysa says:

    My introduction to “web fiction” was in 2005 via bloggers such as Tree George:

    http://tgeorge12345.blogspot.com/

    Decadent Tranquility is still going strong today although I can’t remember ever seeing the story listed in any of the “web fiction listings”.

    There are alot of other fantastic “web fiction” writers out there like Tree, who have their roots in blogging. Many have since gone on to be published in the dead tree world.

  6. Other things you might want to look into:

    Tad Williams originally started writing Shadowmarch as web fiction. I don’t remember when, but a Google search might pick up some statistics. That was… wow, a long time ago. Probably at least a decade.

    Sythyry’s Diary inspired my original piece of webfiction, Flight of the Godkin Griffin, back in ’04. There’s a review of both at Strange Horizons here: http://www.strangehorizons.com/2004/20040614/diaries.shtml (pretty rare, that, to see reviews of web fiction back then).

    Also, Tails of the City was a major furry web fiction serial that was written in 1997. It was a huge deal when it ran, and I seem to recall it being nominated for an Ursa Major. http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Tails_of_the_City

  7. Okay, looks like Shadowmarch was originally published as a serial in 2001 (check the ‘before the book’ section here): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadowmarch

    This was a big deal, as Williams is a notable big-fat-fantasy author who’d already sold the Dragonbone Chair series before then.

  8. Kira says:

    Hiya! Sorry I’m just seeing this now, but I’m usually lagging behind on Twitter. (Best way to keep in touch w/me is with email — I’m old-fashioned like that!)

    To fill in a few of the blanks: the original Epiguide was, I believe, launched in 1997. I say “I believe” because it was created by someone else, Oliver Willis, and went through a few different iterations before we took it over. Eventually Oliver shut it down and gave up the domain in, I think, 2001 or so.

    Backtracking: in September 1998, a five or six writers created the Episodic Review, a magazine and community focusing on reviewing, recapping, promoting and discussing webserials (or websoaps/online dramas, as they were called back then). We cruised along for years as I lusted after the EpiGuide domain (never liked the “Episodic” term) and finally in 2002, I was able to pick it up. So the EpiGuide you see now dates back to both 1996 and 1998.

    Anyway, noteworthy serials you’re missing in the timeline are:

    1994: Douglas Cooper’s “Delerium” was the first novel serialized on the web. It was a hypertext fiction tale told in a few parallel story strands, where people could follow different storylines via links. Actually you may want to do some research on Eastgate publishing and its StorySpace software, which dates back to the early 1990s. Hypertext Fiction such as this (sometimes called Hyperfiction) predates even The Spot.

    ? 1996’s The Company Therapist (http://www.thetherapist.com), a collaborative hypertext/hyperfiction project telling the story of a software company’s employees’ lives through their sessions with the company therapist. The story unfolded through Dr. Balis’s patient notes, the employees’ diaries, various in-character communications and company memoranda, and even doodles/artwork. It lasted until 2000, I think.

    – A spate of other would-be Spots were launched in 1996-98, including East Village, Ferndale, The Tide, and GrapeJam.

    – the October 1997 launch of Footprints (http://www.footprintsmedia.com), which is still running and is thus — as far as I know — the longest-running continually produced webserial.

    – my own serial, About Schuyler Falls (http://www.skyfalls.com), premiered in November 1997 and is still being published — albeit less regularly than FP. Back in the day it was one of the most popular serials around, I say both boastfully and wistfully, and certainly a lot of writers were influenced both by the style and the interactive/design aspects, including stuff that seems old-hat now to many of us (clickable character profiles, town maps, in-character mini-websites, even “dream cast” illustration).

    There were dozens and dozens of webserials back in the late 1990s, but I’m pretty sure Michael (FP) and I are the only wackos who are still producing the same serials we began back in those heady California Goldrush-esque days.

    Anyway I hope this helps! Cool project. I’ll be happy to answer any questions if you have ’em. (Speaking of which, wasn’t there talk of an interview back in January…?)

    • a.m.harte says:

      Woo lots of information to go on, thanks!

      The interview was going to be about this, the history of webfiction, but sadly we’ve been a little disorganized about it all!

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