Once upon a time, DargonZine had a problem: we had a surfeit of really long stories, and had to figure out how to publish them. Unfortunately, we couldn’t increase the size of our issues without having some email systems reject them due to their size. In order to print these larger stories without increasing issue size, we had to either print issues which contained just one story, or serialize those longer stories into several chapters which could share several issues with other stories.
Prior to 1994, we generally opted for the former, and a number of stories were printed that filled an entire issue. However, those monolithic issues weren’t very satisfying and didn’t portray the diversity of Dargon stories and writers. Therefore, in 1994 we decided to stop printing single-story issues. Since then we’ve tried to fit two or three stories into every issue, and broken longer stories up into smaller parts that spanned multiple mailings. The thinking behind that change was validated by the feedback we received from our readers. Our Web site’s questionnaire indicated that 57 percent of our readers favored serializing long stories, 32 percent favored printing longer stories unbroken, and 11 percent had no preference.
However, today we’re facing a different problem: too many serials. This issue is a case in point; it contains the first chapter in a three-part series by Max Khaytsus, the third in a five-part series from Mark Murray, and the third in a three-part series from Dafydd, which is in itself just one chapter in his Talisman story arc that has now spanned an amazing twenty issues. While serialization seemed like a good way to handle the occasional large story back in ’94, we have to admit that we have a problem today, when only three of the 21 stories printed this year haven’t been part of a serial.
While longer stories give the author the opportunity to develop a more intricate plot and establish more depth in their characters and their relationships, a preponderance of serials can make the magazine less accessible and enjoyable. Our new readers receive their first issue of DargonZine, only to discover that it contains three ongoing storylines that cannot be fully enjoyed without going back and finding several prior installments. That’s discouraging. To address that, we as authors have tried to provide enough background information within each installment so that it can be enjoyed even if you didn’t read (or don’t remember) prior chapters. But that’s only a partial solution, and it comes at the cost of potentially annoying other readers who are familiar with those prior works and don’t want that background material repeated in every story they read. And no matter how familiar you are with the milieu, an issue where none of the stories reach their climax and conclusion tends to feel incomplete and unsatisfying.
Fortunately, this year’s bumper crop of serialized stories is just a temporary divergence from the balance we try to maintain between long and short works. One of the big reasons for the recent prevalence of serials has been Dafydd’s Talisman series, which is a huge story arc, the likes of which we’re unlikely to see again soon. And Max’s “Loren Armare”, which begins in this issue, is less like an ongoing series and more like three standalone tales which are linked only peripherally. Finally, there are a number of single-part short stories currently in the works that will soon bring our issues back into balance. I’m excited to bring those to you because it will give us the opportunity to bring you stories from more writers, and make each and every issue a more rewarding and enjoyable read.
So while it’s true that we’ve been printing an awful lot of multi-part serials lately, we will shortly be bringing you a more diverse lineup that includes both short stories as well as longer works from writers both familiar and new. But in the meantime, enjoy these lengthier stories for the kind of fiction they can provide. We hope to be mixing things up again real soon!