The Return of Serial Fiction?: Andy Weir on Tapas

Andy Weir’s selection of shorts is available on Tapas, bringing bite-sized stories to an increasingly mobile world.

Before Andy Weir’s The Martian became a bestselling novel and box-office hit, it was posted in short, free installments to his website. His approach mirrors the serialized 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, a mobile app for books and comics. The selection will include fan favorites like “The Egg” as well as an exclusive, never-before-seen piece for sci-fi fans, “Yuri Gagarin Saves the Galaxy.

Today, commercial serial fiction is rare, but it hasn’t lost potential. Books and culture writer Hillary Kelly also states, “What the novel needs again is tension. And the best source for that tension is serialization.” Research shows 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, it’s the perfect size to hold readers’ attention. The problem is, print options for serial fiction are non-existent. The 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. PwC explains that 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. So it’s no surprise 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.

“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.”

Principles of Uncertainty is available now on Tapas.

Written by Gabrielle Luu & Jessica Sanchez