I don’t know who created the serial. Could be it was that clever woman Scheherazade, daughter of the grand vizier who in a Thousand and One Nights, kept the axe from cleaving her head off by telling the king a captivating tale each evening. She did it by using cliffhangers. Each time she’d tell two stories. For the second one, she’d start but tell the ruler she’d finish that one the following night. As her stories captivated the ol’ sultan, he went for the deal and spared her life each time.
According to Wikapedia, it was the invention and growth of moveable type in the 17th century prompted episodic and often disconnected narratives such as L’Astree a romance (the first soap opera? by the Marquis Honoré d’Urfé). There was Alexandre Dumas’ serialization of The Count of Monte Cristo in the Journal des Débats in 1800s France. Charles Dickens serialized his work like the Pickwick Papers in 1836 and from 1838 to ’39 Nicholas Nickleby. In the following century, Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon was first written in serial form in the pages of Black Mask mystery pulp in the late 1920s then like Dumas’ and Dickens’ work, collected and edited in novel form.
Recently E.L. James’ Twilight online fan fiction morphed into the blockbuster 50 Shades of Gray trilogy and Anna Todd wrote a serial on Wattpad, After, fan fic centered on one of the boy toy heart throbs form the band One Direction. Her serial proved so popular, and Todd made sure to interact with her fans and altered storylines depending on their input, she got herself a lovely deal with traditional publisher Simon & Schuster.. There are other apps such as JukePop providing serials designed to be read on smartphones as well.
This provided the context for me jumping back into the serial pool as it were. I’d previously wrote from the fall of ’07 into 2008, purposely coinciding with the presidential election, a serial for The Nation magazine’s site, “Citizen Kang,” a political thriller with a progressive congresswoman as the protagonist. A couple of years after that, wrote “The Underbelly,” a mystery serial for FourStory.org. The story was about a semi-homeless Vietnam vet’s search for a disabled friend gone missing from Skid Row against the backdrop of a gentrifying downtown. The Underbelly was subsequently reedited and published as a book.
My new webserial going now for a month is the “Dixon Family Chronicles.” The weekly installments — with wonderful spot illos by Jeff Fisher — follow the interrelated and divergent lives of its three African American protagonists. They are Henry “Hank” Dixon, a handyman living in South L.A.; his niece Jessica “Jess” Dixon, an Iraq war vet who now works in a Riverside; and her brother, Joseph “Little Joe” Dixon, a one-time pro baller prospect who works at a community center in Oakland. The characters tackle everyday issues like Uncle Hank is facing losing his apartment building as the University expands; Jess deals with her PTSD and a warehouse job that constantly demands speed up; and her brother is trying to keep a knucklhead kid out of the clutches of the cops..
Check it out and see what you think.