Commentary ยท 05/13/2011

Early strands of the literary web

One of the many pleasures of hosting a Writer In Residence each month is that I don’t know what they’re going to post any more than you do, so despite being the editor here I can still be surprised. And yesterday, when Kevin Fanning posted his interview with Joshua Allen, was one of those surprises. Kevin and Josh were too of the first writers I looked for online, whose work I got in the habit of following, back in 1999 or so, so reading their conversation made me remember other writers I discovered early on in my days surfing the web.* And this being Short Story Month, I thought I’d share a couple of those.

The very first piece of fiction I remember reading online, while sitting at the desk where I worked as an administrative assistant in an anthropology department, was glenn mcdonald’s story “Digging For Polar Bears” at The Birdhouse. I found it because I was doing research about polar bears. I may be wrong that it was the first, but it’s the first I remember specifically. Around the same time I started reading Doug Lawson’s Blue Penny Quarterly, later renamed Blue Moon Review, and I recall there was some website (escene, maybe?) where the best online fiction was regularly listed and linked, and I started following that. I don’t remember too many of the individual writers or works I read on those sites, but I know I was always glad to see a new story from Paul Toth — I think there was one about a robot I printed and saved (which must have been the thing to do back then, because I still have my original printout of “Digging For Polar Bears,” too, in my polar bear research folder).

Someone — not me! — should take a real look into the archives of the literary web, and how all this started, because it just might matter someday. Actually, it already matters, because look at how far things have come in a decade and a half. So what are the first stories you remember reading online? Where were they? Are there writers you’re still following from those days?

* That’s what Al Gore insisted we call it back then.