Resuscitating the American Serialized Story: A Letter from the Editor
By Craig Marx, Editor
With the American newspaper’s life force slowly fading away in favor of online media and instant access, binge-worthy amounts of television and movies, the serialized story is something that has went by the wayside as of late. If possible, it is something that in the future I believe we should try and resuscitate for as long as the print medium continues to feverishly hang on, opening new windows of entertainment for both the modern writer and reader.
This is not a pretentious “pro-reading” editorial encouraging people to put away their smartphones or drop their Netflix accounts in favor of an old, musty book. Modern convenience is something that we should be proud of, so long as we do not abuse it, and the instantaneous ability to read news, blogs, and updates from every corner of the world can be both a technologist’s brave new world and a conversationalist’s nightmare. Serialized stories represent not so much a simpler time as they do a representation of the modern cliffhanger entertainment in its earliest stage of infancy.
The American serial found its heyday around the turn of the century, when print publications were at their height and the advent of household radios was still a distant notion. Authors, both professional and amateur alike, would submit segments of stories – varying in word count but usually not overtly lengthy – on a weekly or monthly basis, and took their full stories, whether completely written at the time or basically winged by the writer between every publication, and spread them out over the course of time for both dramatic effect and editorial convenience. Each submission would most likely include either the revelation of a major plot point or a climactic ending so as to keep the reader contemplating the story or the fate of their favorite characters until the next publication was printed.
Nowadays, people have to wait a week to see a new episode of a show that may have left them with a cliffhanger ending or revealed the truth about someone we believed to be a protagonist but had rather a suspicious past. Much like modern television, the entertaining and often times nerve-racking guessing game that occurs during the interim between a serial’s publication is the captivating writing that most authors dream of and can be done across virtually any genre of fiction. From hard-boiled New York detective stories to children’s tales in fantasy worlds, the American serial is something that deserves another try.
As a newspaper advocate and writer, I believe this expressive form of entertainment is too often overlooked. People will always be able to access whatever news they wish in the 21st Century – just type in the noun of the desired topic into a smartphone and within seconds the most up-to-date story concerning the said topic will be displayed. Newspapers do not have that luxury of instant gratification. Based on strict deadlines and consistent publication times, a newspaper’s actual news coverage is outdated almost the minute it rolls off of a press. While many still enjoy the printed edition, such as myself, more can be done to add to the entertainment value of the written medium other than Sudoku, crossword puzzles, and dated comic strips.
Serialization of stories takes the somewhat daunting task of tackling a large novel and breaks it up into the digestible pieces that we as humans tend to enjoy as we slowly become more and more fixated on quick blurbs of news or knowing the outcome of a story as quickly as possible with our nervous anticipation. By bringing that element back to print, the desire to read fiction could possibly flourish once again. It would be as if taking a page from a newspaper in 1917 would somehow be the answer to modernizing written entertainment in 2017.
With that, I would be curious to know if a serial story section would be something that the Langlade County community would be interested in seeing once again. Through submissions (and story guidelines would have to be drafted) from our readership community, perhaps potential authors could publish their works and use their serials as a means to demonstrate their abilities. I have a few ideas in mind for these stories myself and would enjoy seeing what local writers would also wish to bring forward.
As always, I appreciate your opinions and feedback. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any thoughts on serial stories or anything you have in mind.