Are you curious about the history of serialized fiction? What a kawinkidink, us too!
Serialized fiction rose in popularity during Britain’s Victorian Era (1837 – 1901) where a significant number of ‘novels’ first appeared in monthly or weekly installments in magazines and newspapers. The wild success of Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers, first published in 1836, is widely considered to have established the viability and appeal of the serialized format.
What came next?
The serialization format worked with phenomenal success across the West for several reasons. First, the Industrial Revolution’s ingenuities in printing and mass production directly led to a massive surge in literacy rates.
Second, with the sudden availability of low-cost fiction, a massive new audience was created, which moved reading beyond the upper classes (who previously had been the only ones able to afford the pastime). And lastly, the built-in delay between installments allowed writers to react in real-time to audience feedback, creating ever more popular stories and with massive reader engagement.
While Charles Dickens is often credited as the founding father of serialization, he is far from the only example. Alexander Dumas of France released both The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers in serial form, as did Gustave Flaubert with Madam Bovary.
In Russia, both The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky and Anna Karenina by Tolstoy were published episodically. Across the Atlantic, Harpers and Atlantic Monthly regularly printed serial works from Henry James and Herman Melville—though Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, originally published over 40 weeks by The National Era, is perhaps the most famous American example from that time.
Shifting to a new era…
Soon the serialization format found its way to radio and soon after, television. With the rise of broadcast formats stripping the success of periodicals, the serial format saw a decline but never fully disappeared. And now, as the internet makes publishing original content easier and more accessible, there are many sites fostering the serial format. The rise of fanfiction as seen on sites like FanFiction.net, Archive of Our Own, and Wattpad, have created an entirely new—and incredible popular—niche within the reading and writing communities.
Today’s media consumer has easy access to an incredibly large amount of diverse and ever-regenerating content, making the episodic and “easily-ingestible” nature of serials a natural fit for audiences with access to more media than can ever be consumed.
Which is part of why we here at Serial Box are so excited to join the well-loved tradition of serial fiction. By incorporating elements from TV production we aim to update the traditional serialization model and bring audiences awesome content delivered in a form and length designed to fit your day.