What Would Hugo Gernsback Do?

There’s been a lot of discussion on things we can do to improve the existing paradigm of publishing stories in print magazines and selling copies to make untold riches.

Let’s, just for a moment, forget about what we’ve done, what we’re doing, and think about what we could do–and perhaps should do–money and internet space notwithstanding.

In other words, if Hugo Gernsback* were around today, brain bustling with ideas that he felt needed to be shared with the public, what would he do to get those ideas out to the people?

There’s a lot of smart folks reading this site and commenting on my posts. What are your thoughts? Here’s a few mundane ideas to kick start your grey matter.

In Japan, they’ve had SMS based novels. Meaning, novels published through text messages to phones. Is there more to this than just an experiment? What ways could you make this work? Is short fiction particularly suited to this type of delivery method?

Not stepping very far from SMS, could you post a story/novel via a service like Twitter? The great thing about Twitter is that it would get content to people who interact with Twitter through its webservice, or their phones, or through a host of third-party applications. You could potentially hit a broader audience through Twitter than through SMS alone (because you’d be hitting more than one interface). I suspect, though, there are more people who have SMS capabilities than those who are signed up for Twitter.

Over at Clarkesworld they already have RSS feeds for when they post stories. They also offer a limited edition of each issue as well as an annual anthology collecting the online fiction. Neil has stated that he’s not sure if this method will work in the long run but that it’s working nicely for now. I’ve wondered about this myself. Could I transition to online with a print anthology collecting what was online as well as some new stuff that hadn’t been online? Might be a good idea.

Could you create your stories as a series of ‘plays’ to be watched in Second Life? You would have new content that people could watch and potentially interact with. What if your stories were a series of YouTube videos? Or a combination of YouTube videos, Flickr images, and Twitter tweets? Would people’s heads explode trying to follow everything?

Here’s an idea: you could create a Google Group, or a Facebook study group, or a wiki, and post stories as discussion items, allowing readers to comment on them, and even to continue the story. You/they could upload files, images, etc. converse in real time via IM software… You could lock pages to prevent further edits once they achieved a state people liked, you could even export the text to Lulu to create a print product if people wanted it. You would in essence have a living, breathing novel.

Mark Teppo and Farrago Press did something like this with Mark’s mosiac novel The Oneiromantic Mosaic of Harry Potemkin. Farrago will be publishing the Harry Potemkin novel as Psychobabel next year. It was only Mark working on the book, but it was a living, breathing document that changed as you went through it week by week.

OK, that’s enough from me. What do you all think?

*Gernsback is credited with starting the science fiction genre by publishing the first magazine dedicated to it: Amazing Stories. He is also often credited with coining the phrase “science fiction.” Prior to publishing science fiction magazines, Gernsback published a number of magazines devoted to electronics. The Hugo Awards are named after him.

[Image licensed under Creative Commons license by Flickr user Laughing Squid]


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