The Timely (and Serialized) Adventures of Rachel Evans
December 20, 2011
Readers of the Grandview Branch blog will have noticed that things have taken a very different turn from the usual library-related musings. Inspired by the serial fiction of Charles Dickens, we have begun a serialized story of our own. The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans by Sally S. is an experiment in bringing serial fiction back into the 21st Century public consciousness.
The roots of serial fiction run very deep. Epic poems like the Odyssey and the Ramayana could not be performed in their entirety. Instead, they consisted of individual episodes telling a much larger story over a period of time instead of during one single storytelling. The Arabian One Thousand and One Nights marks the beginning of serial fiction as we know it with multi-episode stories, cliffhangers, and a frame narrative. Of course for Scheherazade, the stakes were much higher. Her ongoing stories had to be enthralling enough to keep the king entertained so that he wouldn't have her beheaded.
With advances in printing technology and growing mass literacy, the Victorian era saw explosive growth in serial publications in both magazines and newspapers. Here was a format perfectly suited to bring fiction to the masses. Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers, published in serial form in 1836, was a runaway success and launched serial fiction into its Golden Age. Other authors would often finish a novel before having it serialized, but Dickens would frequently write installment by installment, keeping his stories fresh and exciting. One trick to serialized stories is to have a hook that keeps the readers entertained enough to ask the eternal question; What happens next? Dickens knew this, often leaving his installments at cliffhangers to pique the audience's interest.
Across the pond, Americans took notice of that success. Acclaimed authors such as Henry James, Herman Melville, and Harriet Beecher Stowe all wrote in serial form, reaching a far larger audience than a mere book publication would have at the time. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s classic Uncle Tom’s Cabin was first released in serial format in 1851. The story’s widespread popularity eventually led to it being released in book form. The book went on to become the best-selling novel of the 19th century and was one of the key influences in turning public opinion in the North against slavery. Unfortunately, the Golden Age of serial fiction wouldn’t last long. Just as advances in printing technology led to its rise, advances in other fields brought on its decline. The new media of radio and television became the preferred vehicle for entertainment. Popular serial fiction did survive the onslaught of television and radio in the form of comic books.
Then, in the last decade of the 20th century, another technological advance brought a new medium with the potential to become the new home of serial fiction: the World Wide Web. Freed from the cost constraints of print, nearly anyone could write a web serial. Free blogging sites such as LiveJournal and Blogger further released writers from financial concerns. By the late 2000s, web serials had firmly established themselves. Our branch manager, Robert Miller - a Charles Dickens super-fan, suggested that the branch blog might be an interesting vehicle for serialized fiction in the Dickens mold. All we needed was a writer.
Enter page Sally S. As an avid fan of time-travel and history, Sally hopes that the adventures of Rachel and her friends will draw you in and keep you returning for more. We at the Grandview Branch are enjoying her story and hope that many MCPL readers will continue to read and enjoy The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) as well. All comments are welcome and appreciated. Sally would love feedback. Do you have suggestions as to where Rachel should travel next? Locations or time periods you think she should visit? Feel free to comment and let her know. There are no guarantees that they will be incorporated into the story, but with all of time and history to choose from, you never know...