The Shifting Author-Reader Dynamic: Online Novel Communities as a Bridge from Print to Digital Literature
Authors: Skains, R.L.
Facilitated by Web 2.0 applications, contemporary internet-savvy readers are increasingly turning to online outlets in an effort to prolong the experience of reading novels. Fan fiction and slash fiction websites are proliferating, and readers are becoming more and more creative and proactive in their efforts to interact with previously published narrative material. This article looks at a so-far under-researched phenomenon: the websites created and maintained by the authors themselves, which allow readers to delve deeper into the world of novel and novelist, offering fans interaction with both the author and other readers, as well as an extension of the novel’s world through games and additional materials. These online novel communities are models of a bridge between print and digital storytelling conventions. They expand the dynamic between author, text, and reader, providing a space for discourse between author and reader, opportunities for readers to influence and form the texts the author is creating, and reader-contributed material in the form of fan fiction and games. The digital format of these communities also introduces the print-oriented reader to digital storytelling elements, such as online games, multimedia, and hypertext. This article uses two communities as models: NeilGaiman.com and JasperFforde.com. It examines the discourse between these bestselling authors and their readers, reader contributions on the sites, the expanded author-reader dynamic created through these interactions, and how these sites introduce readers to digital storytelling conventions.