I have no doubt that the next generation of big name writers are going to come from the internet. It's happening with music - British group The Artic Monkeys secured a number one song via internet downloads before they even had a record contract.
Novels are published on the net, some have even gone from the screen into conventional print.
So where does this new writing talent start out? Where do they learn their craft?
Webzines, online magazines, are publishing new talent all the time.
One of the better webzines around at the moment is Beat to a Pulp run by writers David Cramer and Elaine Ash.
And so I sat down with the duo to find out what it is they are hoping to achive with their webzine. Why for instance, given that there are so many webzines out there did they decide to start a new one?
"Elaine: I had been working with David in an editor/writer relationship for about a year, on his own short stories, so we knew each other but had never actually met face to face. David ran a successful news blog for several years. Every now and then he would mention starting up a short story site and collecting submissions from writers all over the world, and I thought it was a terrible idea. I told him it would divert his attention from his own writing and he’d run the risk of getting bogged down with the workload, blah blah. Then DZ Allen’s Muzzle Flash closed down, and a few others, at the same time. Online venues were shrinking for short stories, so when David announced that he was really serious about starting a site, I revisited my opinion and came onboard as Editor at Large"
"David: I couldn’t have said it any better!"
And it's been a success - I point out that I strongly believe the next superstar scribe is going to come from the internet. So what do David and Elaine look for in a story?
"Elaine: I think e-zine publishing is a terrific way for unknown writers to establish themselves and for known writers to reach new readers. It’s truly been a renaissance for the short story. Everything old is new again as the saying goes. I eat, sleep and breathe discovering new writers and working with them. It’s hugely satisfying and exciting for me. Then, when comments start coming in, and you can tell when readers are truly jazzed about a piece, it’s a reward all in itself."
"David: Our primary focus is hardboiled crime but we welcome action/adventure, western, sci-fi, fantasy, horror and thrillers. We pass on bigotry and overt political agendas. Elaine looks for an exciting start to a story, the plot kick-off. I’m more patient with a slow start if the story gradually draws me in and ends with a bang."
But would there every be a subject they would turn down?
David: We judge each story on its own merit but we’re not interested in publishing overt political pieces or anything that encourages racism. Extreme violence and sex are fine as long it’s central to the story and not just a gratuitous scene."
Both David and Elaine are writers themselves. Will they be publishing any of their own work on Beat to a Pulp?
"Elaine: Yes. "
"David: Yes, I have a story coming up that will be published later in the year. "
And where do they see the webzine being in a year's time.
"Elaine: I just want the quality to stay as consistently good as it is now. I keep saying to David, that’s all we have to do. Just show the world that we can do this week after week, and attract a loyal readership"
Well the policy seems to be paying off big time and I, among many others, make it a part of our online week to read the new story on Beat to a Pulp. I wonder what writers influence David and Elaine's work?
"Elaine: James M. Cain, Thomas Harris, Stephen King, Tom Robbins, Jim Thompson, Janet Fitch, John Barth, John Burdett, Terry Pratchett, just to name a few. Please don’t recoil in horror if your favorite writer isn’t listed here. I could fill an entire page with writers I hugely love and admire."
"David: Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie and Stephen King are some of my influences. Recently I’ve started writing a western and I’ve turned to the work of Luke Short, Louis L’Amour and the Longarm novels written by James Reasoner for inspiration."
Is there a backlog of stories waiting to be read?
"David: So far, I’m staying on top of the heap.
So generally how long would a writer wait for a decision when sending a story?
"Elaine: Thirty days, max."
"David: We try to reply within a couple of weeks so authors aren’t waiting too long, but as Elaine says, no more than a month."
So far the zine has published crime and westerns albeit with a slant. In fact one or two of the stories published thus far are hard to catagorise. Are there any other genres lined up? Horror, SF perhaps?
"Elaine: Yes, but not enough in my opinion. One of our goals is to reach out to horror and sci-fi writers, and extend a warm welcome for their submissions. Good writing and good stories can appeal to readers in any genre. BTAP is a great place to get a story read by a fresh readership that might not surf over to a horror site, but will read and enjoy a horror story with gusto on BTAP."
"David: I’ll just add that we have a very eerie horror offering from Chris F. Holm whose work has been featured in Ellery Queen, plus a dark fantasy from Canadian author Barbara Martin."
And finally are there ever times when David and Elaine disagree on a story?
"Elaine: Yes. Vehemently. David is the perfect publisher for me because he remains calm while I passionately argue my case. I took my graduate degree in story critique at Hollywood Screw U, and learned to defend plot points in a series writers’ room. Not for the faint of heart. In Hollywood, it’s just accepted that passionate disagreement and creative negotiation can yield great work. A Hollywood writer that I’ve argued the most with, is one I love and respect tremendously, and we would jump at the chance to work together again. There are never hard feelings about a little creative skirmish. The one who cares the most wins."
"David: Ha! Elaine’s answer cracks me up, though it’s not far from the truth. I come from the O. Henry school of writing and I’m really big on the twist endings. So, occasionally we may differ. For Elaine, as long as the ride in getting to the end is thrilling, the end doesn’t need to tip her out of her seat."