I don’t necessarily identify with the prompt topics in the way I identify with the topics I normally write about. Sometimes they are mundane. Sometimes they are strange. Sometimes they are not things I want to write about. But I can write about anything. I mean anything. And the more challenging, the better I’ll be when it’s done. I don’t, however, do it for my writing skill.
I do it because others do it. Yeah, yeah I can hear my mom saying “If they jumped off a cliff…” Actually, since my mom never said that I’m hearing Marge Simpson, but whatever. (“Milhouse jumped off a cliff? I’m there!”)
The point is, it’s a community. And even though I don’t have an affinity for dresses and sharing my life experiences, I have an affinity for writing and sharing my writing and for reading. And here are others who have an affinity for the same thing! (And yes, if I met a group of people who had an affinity for cliff diving, I’d probably think they were pretty cool and ask where the sign up was.)
Over the last couple of weeks, I asked the authors I interviewed about the web fiction community and here are what a couple of them had to say:
Greg X Graves said this:
“…web fiction as a discipline has barely made it into infancy. Sure, plenty of people have released stories online, but until you have a large community, web fiction remains a club and not a phenomenon.”
In response, Kip Manley said this:
“…such a thing is always going to be a club and not a phenomenon, no matter how old it gets. —People have been publishing fiction electronically almost ever since the first two computers were hooked together; look at “webfiction” that way, and it’s suddenly ancient and vast and weird and impossible ever to grasp, much less comprehend.“
Web fiction is not an incorporated, identifiable group of people doing incorporated and identifiable things. And since that’s usually what the definition of a community involves, then can we really call ourselves a community? The quotes above do not contradict each other, even though the first refers to webfic as in “infancy” and the second calls it “ancient.” Rather, these two views complement each other. Web fiction itself is old (or at least what those of us in the computer generations call old.) But it is also developing and growing in new ways and, in a way, awakening. There is a seed of a community, maybe one that has been in the digital earth a long time, but can this anarchic and varied community reach critical mass with only one unifying quality?
web + fiction = web fiction
1. What would we need to make it a definable community?
2. Is there something better about not being one?
Kip Manley left us with a starting point to answer the first question:
—The solution, of course, is dear old E.M. Forster: only connect. Wherever you find a clique, reach across it, or around it, or right into the heart of it. Join up, spread out, say hi. Table at the Zine Symposium. Post at AbsoluteWrite.com. Tease cartoonists on Twitter. Etc. Etc. Etc.
It seems we have all we need. We have means to connect. We have forums and blogs and sites and chatrooms. We can connect. We can identify. We can define.
Yet, we are still in a club.
But is being a club bad? Maybe the web fiction community is special because it is still nebulous, it is still fringe, it is unpredictable, unstable.
Maybe it’s more exciting that way.
*Yes, I can count. I know there are more questions here. When you boil all of them down there are two: What do we do? And should we do anything?