Before Andy Weir’s brilliant SF novel The Martian became a bestseller and a box-office hit, it was posted in short, free instalments to his website. His approach mirrors the serialised stories of 19th century periodicals, which popularized authors like Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Now, Weir is working with Tapas Media to create a selection of digital short stories entitled Principles of Uncertainty on Tapas, the company’s new mobile app for books and comics which features both books and comics.
The comics are sourced from their very user-friendly Tapastic platform where I currently publish strips such as Crucible, co-created by Smuzz, and, working with creator Keith Page, the Charlotte Corday strip “Witchcraft Street“.
The comics site is also home to some other great strips, including, to name but a few, the film noir/ SF combination strip Gateway City by Russell M. Olson, Firelight Isle by Paul Duffield (although that now features on Patreon), Emma Vieceli‘s BREAKS, Mike Garley‘s Sgt. Steel – Allied Avenger, and the stunning Hominids by Jordan Kotzebue.
Andy Weir’s short stories on the new app – available for IOS and Android – include fan favourites like “The Egg” as well as an exclusive, never-before-seen piece for SF fans, “Yuri Gagarin Saves the Galaxy.”
It’s an interesting move, reflecting the potential of serialised comics and stories, and one books and culture writer Hillary Kelly, among others, was urging for more of last year, in the Washington Post. “What the novel needs again is tension, she argued. “And the best source for that tension is serialisation.”
With research suggesting that the average human attention span in 2015 was just 8.25 seconds (only 0.75 seconds shorter than that of a goldfish), because serial fiction is meant to be read in parts, Tapas argue it’s the perfect size to hold readers’ attention. The problem is, print options for serial fiction are, for the most part, almost non-existent, with very few mainstream anthology comics now available in print either, apart from titles such as 2000AD in the UK and Dark Horse Presents in the US. (There are, of course, plenty of independently-published short story and anthologies and comic anthologies, both in print and online) .
The Tapas solution: digital publishing, geared toward readers on mobile devices.
The 2015 PEW Report found that roughly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, and numbers are rising. In the UK, Ofcom reported last year that two thirds of people now own a smartphone, using it for nearly two hours every day to browse the internet, access social media, bank and shop online.
The vast majority (90 per cent) of 16-24 year olds own a smartphone; but 55-64 year olds were also joining the smartphone revolution, with ownership in this age group more than doubling since 2012, from 19 to 50 per cent. Smartphones have also overtaken laptops as the most popular device for getting online, the Ofcom research revealed, with record ownership and use transforming the way we communicate.
The PwC report indicates US consumers are in a constant search for more on-demand content, across a steadily increasing array of mobile devices. In entertainment and media, users gravitate toward brands, experiences, and platforms that are differentiated as much by their curation, customization, and convenience as by the quality of their content.
This was why Weir chose Tapas, which offers stories in bite-sized episodes, similar to serial fiction installments. Additionally, the app allows the flexibility to read episodes piece-by-piece or “binge-read” the entire series, effectively catering to all kinds of readers.
Based in San Francisco with a satellite office in Seoul, Tapas Media is a next generation media company that offers bite-sized content through its online mobile platform and boasts a user base of over one million readers, primarily in North America. Tapas is CEO of Tapas Media and Google vet, Chang Kim, founded the company in 2012 and soon after raised funding from Silicon Valley investors and Daum Kakao, the Google of South Korea. Daum Kakao funds Korea-based sister company, KakaoPage, which hosts a similar platform to Tapas in Korea.
“I think going forward there will be lots of different ways to reach readers,” Andy Weir says. “One area where something like Tapas could do really well is serials. It could take us back to the days of The Strand Magazine (which published the original Sherlock Holmes stories as serials). It would be neat to see that storytelling form resurrected.”
• Learn more about Tapas Media at www.tapas.io
• Check out the comics available on Tapastic at tapastic.com