Episode 1: Oblivious Hope

Following the example of many friends and colleagues, I have decided to try my own hand at semi consistent blogging. I figure that if I write about stuff that I have read regarding my research I will take better notes and become a better academician. That and if I find that I don’t have much to write about on any day then I need to read more. Also, I’m posting directly unto the website rather than going through a word document first so I assume that this will help me with my spelling, or at the very least make me less of a grammar nazi.

I figure I should write something rather than just upload an extended preview of whatever I hope this blog will eventually become. Because this is indeed the first of what are hopefully many posts, perhaps talking about the beginning of a serial is appropriate. For the unitiated, serials consist of an ongoing story told in multiple parts with enforced interruptions between installments. The first part of any good story should be captivating but with very limited materials. It has to tease the reader into thinking that subsequent installments are worth one’s time. As a writer, your first instinct is to slap on a large amount of exposition to get any confusion out of the way quickly. However, this means that your beginning will be lengthy, probably boring, and you ultimately shoot yourself in the foot as what you can eventually write. No serial starts out with a detailed explanation of the beginning of existence and important events leading up to your protagonists primary problem. The Bible gives you a really brief history of creation that lasts like a page tops. Even the extended Adam and Eve version a few chapters later in Genesis goes by pretty quick before actual conflict and plot appear. The most epic of epics start out with some decent in medias res action and if you must do an introduction, the iconic serials get it over with quick. Follow the example of any Star Wars film, they all have the scrolling yellow words that provide plot exposition and then awesomeness begins.

It gets pretty weird with narratives that are planned as serials and those that ultimately become serials. When you have a feature length book or movie then you can tell a pretty significant story, often times one that can be perceived as a stand alone work. Webcomics, blogs and other such contemporary digital serials have installments that can be really short comparitively speaking. The key factor is time between installments. If it takes years between one installment and another it definitely better be an awesome story. If it takes days or a week tops, then your quality doesn’t have to be immediately incredible. So the expectations of amount and quality is directly related to time of narrative production between installments.

A good serial has been compared to sowing a harvest, being pregnant, and other metaphors that evoke a feeling of temporal growth. In all of them you start with a seed, something small and fragile which may be planned or not but has potential for just about anything. The parable of the guy tossing seeds in different soils and getting different results is a lot like classic and contemporary forms of serial fiction. Some never have a chance, some will be ignored, some will have a devoted author with no real audience, and others will have a devoted readership but a crappy author. Some grow too quick, some too small but there are the few lucky ones that grow and become impressive. Readers today look at the immense works of Dickens, Thackeray, Tolstoy and never really got the chance to see them develop through all the stages. Some say this serial reading experience is lost and can only be slightly recreated through authoritative editions done by scholars that looked through every letter and document written by anyone within 50 miles of the author to try and develop some sort of meaning that completely restructures the text. However, many forget that contemporary serials, like those found in comics, tv, and other forms of popular culture, ultimately have a similar reception with cultural elements that can’t be replicated. Remember the first season of Survivor, that blew people’s minds. Check the DVDs of that show now and you won’t see the big deal. Why? Because serial fiction is about being there in the moment and sharing it with others.

From the very first episode you reap something with so much potential. Let’s see if it lives up to the hype.

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