Episode 160: Back to Basics

I have taken the day to write and yet I have found myself staring at an unchanging screen for most of it. The last round of dissertation edits and revisions were brutal and they hurt my pride as a writer but the journey must be continued. I have been writing about serialization for a few years now so it feels like I know pretty much everything about it; my writing about it comes off as passionate at best but that’s not exactly what academia is looking for. So I want to take this moment to try and write about it without the looming judgment of proper clarity, the academic dance of citations and justifying every form of outreach, or even having to use the biggest words out there. Just writing about my topic in a way that makes sense so that hopefully it translates well into the other stuff once edits are finally conquered.

The current version of my title is:

To Start, Continue, and Conclude:

Foregrounding Authorial Performances in the Publication of Serial Fiction in Different Media.

I’d make it longer but I have stricter character limits than tweeting when it comes to this. The central focus is the concept of authorship, ie who is the author and how does he/she create literature. Now, literature is a broad term but I still get in trouble because comics and such aren’t exactly literature in the highest of academic circles so best not to have a few pages to justify said decision over and over again. However, narrative conveys any kind of story while still being fancy enough so let’s use that. I want to study how authors write their stories, see the behind the scenes process. Storytelling is an art (literally one of the fine arts) but also it’s own science once we get into contemporary publishing and all the math involved in whether a book is worthy of hitting the shelves and turning a profit. Since storytelling is informal and can happen anywhere, I use the term narrative production when referring to anything done to build the story. The actions taken by the author from concept to final publication are authorial performances (at least in my book). I use authorial performances comes as an umbrella term for all the different types of performances done from beginning to end of concept to final publication.

As I’m writing this I realize that if authorial performances encompass everything that is narrative production then why not just talk about narrative production and then just subdivide and identify different performances as per Shillingsburg’s writings. Hmm, might need to sleep on this one because it simplifies things a bit but takes away claim to fame of hey new fancy academic word which probably someone more famous than me already coined. Hmmmm indeed.

Now, rather than studying one author to one text, I want to analyze serial fiction because it gives pieces of the publication over time. The division of the narrative process leaves a record of the story,as well as other points of the author’s mindset. A single novel can be edited a thousand times over before it is officially sent to be distributed to the readers. But with serialization, part of the narrative is set and thus any changes need to accommodate the previous installments. Publishing serially means that every part of the narrative needs to be independent enough so that new readers not feel lost but longtime readers get their money’s worth. Each individual installment needs to be published and sold on its own while still building towards something more. In the case of novels, each part is pretty big so it takes a tear even when you’re quick about it. Comics have their own rate of publication but that’s based on the industry standards. Independent authors (especially online) do their own thing.

Now during that space between installments you get something pretty unique to serialization. Readers talk among themselves and can even reach out to the author to critique the story. Authors still choose whether or not to incorporate this feedback  but the influence is clearly present. Even if they’re not voicing their praise or concerns, the readership can still react through sales figures which can ultimately stop the publication outright of the narrative even the story hasn’t been continued. The author-reader-text relationship is thus far more dynamic throughout the context of the same work. Serialization of popular works can take about a decade but comics have characters that have been around for decades.

So what happens when the narrative still gets produced even after the original author has passed away or has retired? Well someone can buy the rights to continue the story on their own. This explains how Superman continues to be published long after Shuster and Siegel went in different narrative directions. I then go into this whole thing about authors as individuals are being changed into authors as corporations that continue serializing ad nauseum.

Beyond that, well things start getting complicated, stay tuned to see what pops up next.