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Another Novel Moves Online to Get Noticed

Nick Mamatas is the latest author to experiment with giving his fiction away for free on the Internet under a Creative Commons license, putting HTML and PDF versions of the novel Move Under Ground online earlier this month. He was inspired to make the move after sci-fi writer Peter Watts put Blindsight online to work around the low print runs resulting from a major chain’s decision not to stock the title. “It was a great way for him to get attention, and it did give him a bit of a shot in the arm sales-wise as well,” Mamatas explains. “Now Move Under Ground came out in trade paperback but, wouldn’t you know it, despite previous discussions with chain buyers at BookExpo America, when the book was finally released in the summer of 2006 in paper, a buyer from a chain that begins with a ‘B’ decided not to buy any after all. He thought the concept—Jack Kerouac wandering an America where the elder gods of H.P. Lovecraft are warping society in their own image—was a bit too complex for the science fiction and fantasy readers his chain caters to.”

And thus the non-commercial propagation license. “Content is slowly but surely migrating online,” he observes, “and it strikes me as likely that within a generation publishers will be as obsolete as noble art patrons are… In the interim, I will certainly help myself to all the publisher money I can get my hands on since they have lots of it and I don’t have any, but I try to look forward whenever I can as well.”

But putting the novel online isn’t just a commercial move for Mamatas, it’s also a class project for the creative writing MFA he’s working on at Western Connecticut State University, in a course called “Understanding Technology, Production, and Editorial Processes of a Genre,” where he’s being mentored by playwright John Dennis. “At the first residency I attended, I saw that he liked to freak out the students by asking them what they wanted to do,” Mamatas recalls. “They’d invariably describe some kind of job and he’d say, ‘That’s not what I’m asking. There aren’t even going to be jobs in the future. Job is an industrial age construct, and we’re in the information age. What do you want to do?’ And whatever student he buttonholed would get flustered. That made me laugh, so I chose him to be my little mentor for this course.”

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