Volume III, Issue 1 -- February, 2002
A serial fantasia at cr Fiction
The serial fantasia Inquest is the first work to appear at complete review Fiction. It is, truly, a first attempt -- to see what the space can hold, to see what the medium allows, to get an idea of what can and can't be done, and to see how readers (and contributors) respond.
Inquest is envisioned as a serial fantasia, a sort of free-wheeling literary soap-opera. One of the great advantages publishing on the Internet has over the traditional forms is its flexibility. A story that is printed, a novel that is bound is essentially unalterable. One can add to it -- but only in a separate issue or volume, or in an edited reprint. The Internet embraces change and expansion. Growth is simple -- and need not even be in any particular order. Chapters, sentences, even characters can easily be inserted or removed, tangential story-lines grafted on at will, etc.
Inquest does not expect to attempt much retroactive alteration (though other works of cr Fiction might): growth will be forward -- and headlong. Change will come with the shifts in the story as it progresses. Inquest is an experiment, and in part decisions on how the tale continues (both regarding form as well as content) will be influenced by the success (and failure) of what has gone before.
At this time, Inquest is an open-ended project. In this respect it resembles a soap opera -- or even other forms of serial fiction (comic book series, many mystery novels, etc.) -- more than the traditional novel. The story, as it has been introduced, does have an implicit ending, but as the early chapters illustrate, it will be a long time coming. The hope is that the pieces can sustain the fiction until that (currently still unforeseeable) end.
We are curious about user-reactions. While people are unlikely to purchase a novel that comes with no back cover, just the suggestion that the story will continue, reading Inquest requires much less of an investment -- only time is lost, not money. Still, it remains to be seen whether readers will be accept the serial presentation of the work.
Stephen King's Plant-project was perhaps the most ambitious attempt at presenting a serial fiction on the Internet, and seems to have been a disappointment to all. The Plant differs greatly from Inquest in that King expected his readers to pay for the privilege of reading his text. Apparently not enough did, and King eventually suspended publication. (His site states: "The Plant has furled its leaves for the time being.") Such experiences may make readers wary of even beginning a work that, they must fear, ultimately might go nowhere. (That is a risk with any work of fiction, but obviously a much greater one with a work of which only a small portion is available and where there is no guarantee it will ever even be completed -- and where one can't peek ahead to the end.)
As the first showpiece at cr Fiction, Inquest will exemplify its mandate of "literary fiction". The focus of the work is -- and will continue to be -- on literature. Books abound in Inquest; it is built up around them.
Inquest is also a work that is closely tied to the complete review itself. The books at the center of Inquest will, not surprisingly, largely also be found at the complete review.
Like all works that will be presented at cr Fiction, Inquest is well-aware of where readers find it. It is offered on the Internet, not on the printed page, and with the medium come additional possibilities (as well as certain limitations). Inquest will -- guardedly -- explore some of these possibilities.
Links are one of the Internet-specific tools that are unavailable to readers reading a printed text. While cr Fiction will be very careful in what Internet-tools it embraces (no Flash, for example), links are certainly something that can be utilized in works of fiction -- and they can be found in Inquest. They are a useful means of providing additional information for readers without interfering too greatly with the text itself.
Many of the links in Inquest lead readers to the complete review. In part this is because these links provide an easy way of determining how much user-interest there is in actually having such links in a work of fiction. It is also because the links are guaranteed to be functioning; one of the difficulties of providing outside links is that they disappear and/or change with alarming frequency, limiting their usefulness.
As to the story itself: Inquest is an entertainment. The main purpose of the work is not to experiment with hyper- other forms of fiction, nor is it to edify, instruct, or indoctrinate. With Inquest we hope nothing more than to entertain. Our ambition is to do so thoughtfully and cleverly, and, on occasion, perhaps elegantly, perhaps wittily -- but it is entertainment that comes first and foremost. (Whether this can be accomplished is, of course, another question.)
We hope there are characters that appeal, incidents that thrill, descriptions that amuse. The beginnings seem to show potential. The writing seems solid enough, the premise holds promise, the Sinclair-family is intriguing. How far it can go remains to be seen.
As cr Fiction opens its portals there are a mere six chapters of Inquest available, some fifty pages of text. It is barely an introduction to the ambitious undertaking. And there are many questions, including: can the author(s) sustain the work ? Will readers have any interest ? Will readers have any patience, waiting for the next installment ?
Future issues of the crQuarterly will revisit the story and update how things are going -- both in terms of the tale itself, as well as reader-reaction.
A final issue needs to be addressed -- so our readers. It is the question of authorship. Who writes this damn stuff ? as some curious readers express it.
Authorship isn't of much interest to the complete review. Note the bylines in the majority of articles at the crQuarterly (including this one). Consider Literary Saloon dialogues, such as the one On Critical Anonymity. Recall our incessant bashing of author-egos, as in our take on Jonathan Franzen in A Book, an Author, and a Talk Show Host. No, we find authorship grossly overrated.
Still, authorship can't be entirely dismissed. Someone does write this damn stuff, after all. And authorship can be relevant, depending on the subject matter and the purpose of the work. Still, the question -- the issue, generally -- bores us.
"Us" -- that's the complete review. A sum that, we hope, is greater than its ever-shifting parts. And it is us -- the complete review as one big whole, rather than a number of individuals -- that is responsible for Inquest. In every respect. We hope that's enough of an explanation. It's the best we can offer.
(NOTE: Just because there is no individual taking responsibility for Inquest does not mean that it is an authorless orphan, for anyone to do with as they please. The copyright -- and all legal protection afforded under the copyright laws -- for Inquest are held by the complete review, and we take them very seriously. See our copyright notice.)
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