I write a web fiction serial called The Smell Collector. It has no vampires, no witches, no werewolves, and no dark lords. It’s the story of a man who has no clue how to experience the world other than through smells, and who is slowly working his way out of his mother’s basement and into the wide world of people and relationships. I list it on webfictionguide.com, the premier web site for web fiction. It is one of the very few non-fantasy stories on the site.
I like fantasy as much as the next. I adore The Song of Ice and Fire and The Lord of the Rings. But mostly I like straight literary fiction. I like stories about people in the real world. I like John Irving and Pat Conroy. And so do millions of other readers. So why is the web so exclusively fantasy? The web is no longer the domain of geeks and gamers. It’s used by every kind of person. So why not straight fiction?
If you judge the preferences of web fiction readers by the Web Fiction Guide, you would know that the desire for vampire stories, superheroes, and zombies would seem to be insatiable. But if you read the New York Times Best Sellers List, you’ll only find one fantasy novel in the top ten: The Wind Through the Keyhole, the latest in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.
I’m willing to accept that The Smell Collector may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s weird and a little creepy. But would it make a difference if Pat Conroy were writing web fiction (perhaps under a pseudonym). Could one of the world’s greatest modern literary fiction writer’s blog be successful? I’m not so sure.
Understand, this is not a criticism of fantasy writers or readers. This is me trying to understand the overwhelming dominance of the genre on the web.
What do you think? Do you know of successful literary fiction blogs? Do you wish there were more? Can you explain why fantasy dominates the web?