Epifiction, the Future of Classroom Literature

Shipwrecked by Jacci TurnerSome of you may not be aware that I’ve launched a new business. Epifiction LLC is officially a thing now. Epifiction.com exists (although it is still a work in progress). Today, I can include Epifiction’s first cover reveal. Shipwrecked will be one of the four interactive serials to launch live this fall/winter. The Adventures of Cosmo and Chancho will be another.

For anyone unfamiliar with Epifiction, here is the quick and dirty:

Epifiction is an interactive, serial fiction subscription service for schools. That means we will generate weekly episodes of fiction based on the interactive feedback of students. In other words, Epifiction is both the digital evolution of choose-your-own adventure and the future of classroom literature.

What Epifiction means to young readers:

I hope these weekly, digital, cliff-hanger style installments that give readers three options for how the story continues will provide thrills for both the avid young reader and the reluctant one. Epifiction is providing opportunities for young people to participate in the story telling process and connect with authors and artists. This is all stuff I would have killed for as a kid. If you would have told the 12 year old version of me that I could read butt-kicking stories on a handheld electrical device, I would have spewed chunks and said, “Awesome.” Now I’m telling kids they can read and actively shape them. O.M.G.

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Subscription Based Serial Fiction: The Technical Problems

bluefirereaderWhen it comes to delivering serial fiction directly to the reader, Amazon has set the bar high. By operating the Kindle Serial Store, creating the Kindle device and rendering their branded ereading app ubiquitous across multiple platforms (iOS, Droid, etc.), they can take your money and deliver the product to your reading device of choice with one click. Booyah. And they will continue to deliver the serial installments every two weeks until the story has run its course. (Pay once, ie. subscribe, and the rest takes care of itself.)

If any storyteller is serious about monetizing serial fiction outside of the Kindle Serial Store, this high bar has to be the goal. Readers will demand it.

One Click Must Do it All! (But How?)

How does an indie writer attempt such a monumental technical and organizational feat? The most obvious solution to me was also the least practical: Create a specialized app of my own that will bridge my fiction onto every smartphone and tablet out there with access to Droid, Windows, or iOS app stores.

Since this requires a chunk of change upfront, as well as the determination to update the application continuously across all platforms… I quickly crossed this off the list of personal options. I don’t want to go into app development. I want to write stories from which I generate a living wage.

That leaves the indie writer/entrepreneur shopping for go-between services and trying to piece together a network to mimic the one Amazon has built. Let’s break down the necessary pieces: (and my preferences so far)

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Aurora’s Gamble: Video Gaming and the Written Word

AErena, Clash of Champions

I’ve recently flown a sortie into the gaming realm and given the medium my best shot. The result is Aurora’s Gamble, a short story now being parceled out as part of the release build up for AErena: Clash of Champions by Cliffhanger Productions.

While I’m by no means a hardcore gamer, I’ve had my addictions over the years. The one I’ve never been able to completely kick is the turn based game, Civilization. Not a lot of great backstory to be written there (other than our world’s history, which has already been written about a fair amount from what I’ve been told). The other game I enjoyed for several years was StarCraft. (If you haven’t googled “zerg rush” give it a try. Hilarious.) That game always had the greatest backstory worked into game play via video clips, etc. Since then, I’ve been enamored with the idea of mining video game backstory.

But as a yet-to-be-famous schmuck writer, I was overlooked for the Halo contract which was handed to Greg Bear instead (Sure, he’s okay, I guess.) Since I’ve never lasted longer than like 5 seconds in a round of Halo, I suppose that’s fair. (I’m always the guy running around with his gun pointing at the ground and his POV at the sky.)

Due to my multiple dips into the stylish world of dieselpunk, my writing came to the attention of Cliffhanger Productions. In turn, they contracted me to help bring their cleverly imagined backstory into focus. I had a blast doing it. It’s a great world to explore, even if you aren’t a gamer.

Is Fiction Within a Game’s Universe Limited to Gamers?

And there in lies the gambit. When writing backstory within a gaming universe that has already breached the consciousness of pop culture, there are a few clear advantages: 1.) established readership 2.) some defined boundaries 3.) jargon, terms and culture built up among the fans. 4.) even non-gamers know about the game and its universe.

But when writing within a gaming universe yet to see the light of day, bold risks must be taken upfront.

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