Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dickens Era Redux, Wave of the Future, or Something Else Entirely?

I'm talking about the cocky Australian upstart Seizure Magazine--which appears as Seizure Online (the purely electronic version) and Seizure Offline (a monthly paperback). And, although it's nominally Australian, the primary print release is through Amazon US, and the electronic release is, well, the internet, and the authors are from anywhere, so it's really an international venture.

The world doesn't stand in dire need of another online story outlet. (But another one certainly can't hurt, either.) While Seizure does publish a certain number of short stories, however, the central aim of Seizure is to publish novels--serialized at first in both digital and hardcopy form, and then, if markets, money and whatever allow, as standalone books.

Seizure came to my attention because my enfant-terrible acquaintance Rufi Cole has given them her first novel, The Violin Face, which began its serialization in the first issue. (I think she ought to have gone down the conventional route; she's publishable and agentable--but for the fact that she doesn't have the temperament to put up with the hefty helpings of bullshit involved in getting to standard publication these days.)

The Violin Face has a structure that I think lends itself to serialization--the prose equivalent of what theater calls "French scenes." In classical French plays, Character A would be onstage and would be joined by Character B; then Character C would enter and Character A would leave, etc.. It was as if the focus of the play was handed from one character to another. Violin Face does this with a rotating POV, where each chapter is told from a different POV, and that POV belongs to someone who was portrayed in the previous chapter. Only one character has two chapters (the first and last chapters of the book.) This POV discontinuity makes it a natural for publication as a periodical.

There was a time when a great many novels were published first in magazines, but the practice has nearly disappeared. I'll be following with interest to see if the tradition can be revived in a 21st-Century fashion.

As to the terms and conditions, I'm not quite sure how they all work. The magazine has an editorial team and works closely with writers in prepublication. The writer retains most rights. How the details of profit-sharing work isn't clear.

Like MNW, they want submissions over the transom--the first 10,000 words, via e-mail. An interesting policy is that they prefer their reads to be wholly "cold"--no synopsis, no blurbs. (That alone makes me want to give them at least some applause!)

I'll be following the fortunes of Seizure with great interest. Any attempt to launch a new (or maybe rather old) publishing model in the present bookselling climate is both bold and admirable.

1 comment:

Tim Stretton said...

Fingers crossed.

Any outfit which decides whether to publish something based on how the reader perceives it rather than how the author summarises it deserves to succeed...