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Home » Publishing and Business

Bite-Sized Publishing from Burst Fiction

Submitted by Chris on Wednesday, 04/23/083 Comments

Wiley author L.M. Orchard pointed me to Burst Fiction, an online magazine that serves up bite-sized content with a slant towards sci-fi. At around 1000 characters, these one-shot stories are attracting a growing audience.

Intrigued by this publishing model, I contacted Burst Fiction creator Erik Chevalier, who was kind enough to talk about his work.

So, from where did the idea for Burst Fiction come?

Its a mix of concepts I’ve played with over the years, starting at my old obsession with Asimov’s pulp zine but always wanting the stories to be shorter just because I have a limited attention span. Over the last few years author Warren Ellis has released several little concept pieces to his blog and livejournal, and I’m pretty sure its him who coined the term Burst Fiction for it. Then I started using Ficlets to extract strange scenes from my skull for the public to see. After some scavenging there I realized that Ficlets’ walled garden didn’t allow as much memetic spread for all the great scifi writers using the service so I set out to free them into the wild.

Its a very interesting form of snack-sized content. Why the intentional limit on the size of the stories?

Around 1000 characters, give or take a few, is a very managable size, perfect for reading on the go with mobile devices (which the site is formatted for automagically at http://burst.trajectoryscifi.com/mobile). Its also a perfect length for writers to kick out new, innovative concepts quickly and frequently. That said, I’m not against posting longer pieces but I may serialize them, even though that goes a bit against the one-shot intention of the site. I’m all for the evolution of my concepts as demand develops.

And how are submissions selected? Is it purely submitted entries, or do you actively seek them out? Does everyone get published, or are you more selective?

So far I’ve done all the work. Every Sunday since I’ve started (the site is still fairly new) I’ve sat down for an hour or two and looked up the scifi tag on Ficlets, read through some stories and found 2 or 3 that I’ve really liked. I then contacted the writers and posted them to BurstFic. In the last couple days I’ve started to recieve a nice chunk of submissions and like what I’m seeing for the most part. I’ll admit to being fairly picky though, which is why I set the restrictions right away of a general character count and vague theme guideline. I tend to prefer futurist friendly concepts and fast paced plots but due to my love of things like Doctor Who I occasionally accept the more fantastic or retro story.

Why use tumblr instead of a CMS like Wordpress?

In the past I’ve used a lot of CMSs and have my favorites but Tumblr is a very simple yet flexible system. Even at 1000 characters I’m actually pushing for longer content than Tumblr is really intended for but its group system and smooth interface are really useful in my need to publish quickly. It also allows me to swiftly include authors as direct admins although so far I’ve been pretty selective with this feature.

I see the works are all CC By/NC/SA. Has anyone built upon any of the works and republished?

The CC licensing is a crossover from writing on Ficlets and the fact that most of the stories were sourced from there. On that site there have been prequels and sequels written to some of the content I’ve posted but I avoid them due to my drive for one-shot stories. I’ve never been a big fan of drawn out plots because they tend to become too much like soap operas eventually. Also CC lincensing makes the process of posting new works faster while keeping me clearly in a legally safe area. I’m not opposed to posting classically copywritten work, but if it adds any extra effort or time to the process then it probably won’t happen as I get distracted easily.

Is there a financial model, or is this just a labor of love?

So far this is entirely pro-bono. I’d love to pay the rent with it all, and toss some cash at the other writers, but again the site is pretty new and no such opportunities have arisen. If someone wants to back the site financially I certainly wouldn’t mind! I will be doing more tie-ins with the Trajectory Progressive Science Fiction Festival (www.trajectoryscifi.com) that I’m also curating as it gets closer to the fest’s launch. Keep an eye on both sites for more info on that as September approaches.

I know you are developing ARGs - I just didnt get sucked into one, did I?

I don’t know, did you? All I’ll say is that if you did it wasn’t one of mine as they’re still in development but who’s to say one of the writers hasn’t used cryptography to hide a clue or rabbit hole within their story to draw in the more curious readers? Just so this interview’s audience isn’t entirely confused when it comes to this topic they can visit my ARG development group’s website at www.vertebrate-evolved.com for a video and an explanation.

Thanks for the interview, its my first from this side, if anyone has further questions they can email me directly at etchevalier dot gmail.com or check out my various sites.

(Photo credit ShellyS)

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