Ethereum and the future of Erfworld fanfic

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By balder Comments (23)

Ethereum, a wonderfully written novel-length Erfworld fanfic by Twofer, has ended. It clocked in at close to 150,000 words. If you haven't read it, now would be a fantastic time to enjoy the whole story in one go.


By comments and tips, Ethereum was our most popular fan work to date. As of this posting, 74 fans tipped Ethereum a combined 5,213 Shmuckers, or over $500 in credit in the Erfworld store.


I wasn't sure what to award this story from us, but matching that total is a start. So we are awarding Twofer another 5,213 Shmuckers. If he wasn't already a Dwagon Master, he'd be getting that badge and the plushie too.


But we hope that this is not the only reward Twofer gets for this substantial amount of work, and a major contribution to the community. It's time to talk about one of our Milestone 3 unlocks: "we can offer a SFWA-qualifying professional word rate for stories in the Fiction stream"


I worded that way too vaguely, and it caused a lot of confusion, so let me try and clear up what we meant to do.


We no longer have a "Fiction stream." When we redesigned the site in August 2014, the fiction stream was supposed to be for short stories that were not Erfworld fanfic, but were related to games and gaming. I had been planning a budget of $600-800/month to buy one of those stories a month.


Very few people submitted to the fiction stream though, or read or commented there. So we got rid of it when we redesigned the site in May of this year. People only really seemed interested in the Erfworld fanfic. But we get a lot of that. Way, way, more than we could ever pay people for, except in Shmuckers. Paying 6 cents a word for Ethereum alone would come to nearly $9,000.


With the fiction stream gone, my alternative plan for fulfilling that promise was to continue to award Shmuckers for fanfic, but also to solicit new Erfworld stories from professional writers outside the community, like we pay the guest artists on the Art Blog. Getting other notable writers to play in our world could turn out to be an important way to get Erfworld discovered beyond the audience we have now. We have one of these stories lined up to go for January.


Where does that leave something like Ethereum? I do think it deserves to be printed as its own book, and that Twofer ought to be receiving money that spends in places other than Several other fanfics fit that category as well.


But there's no budget, and we're not really a publisher. Erfworld is crowdfunded. Readers pledge whatever support they feel the comic is worth to them. I think publishing fanfic and paying fan authors would have to work the same way.


So, I hate to be vague again, but sometime in 2017 we'll be trying to do that. We'll set up a system for the community to pick which fanfics we should try to publish, and then we'll try to raise the money to print books of Ethereum and whatever other stories you'd like to own print copies of. Hopefully, those efforts will also raise enough to funnel directly to the authors of these stories to reach "a SFWA qualifying rate."


As for future paid-in-cash stories on, we've still got the $600-800 budget to work with. That will work for a short story or a couple of flash fiction pieces per month. We'll be revamping the submissions form with guidelines, and allowing you to submit a piece for consideration in the paid category. It will only go to complete stories below a certain length.


But please keep writing and submitting the longer fanfics and serials, and we'll keep highlighting and celebrating and sharing them with the community and awarding Shmuckers and badges and the occasional dwagon. And maybe when we get the fanfic publishing project going, there will be enough support for your story to put it in print and send you a check.

The fan community means everything to us, and it's still incredible to me that what we're doing can inspire the creation of songs and art and comics and something as thoughtful and well-written as Twofer's "Ethereum." Erfworld exists for you, and continues because of you.


  • etherkye (Tipped by 1 person!)

    I get about 90 Smuckers a month from the toolshed, and I give most of this out to authors as thank you's. I think the stories help to bring the erfworld more to life, showing angles of a gaming world I wouldn't have considered, and adding whole new dimensions. 

    Ethereum is an amazing story, wonderfully well written and thought out. Brining whole aspects of magic into focus and helping to show things that the main story just doesn't have time to do. I've loved every chapter, and I'm sorry that it has now ended and there won't be any more. I think that if i was crowd funded for print then the target would be reached in no time at all.


    I can think of a few more stories that are being written that are also worthy of praise, Dance Across the Hungry Jungle also recently finished and was a fantastic read. There's some more as well that I look forward to reading each time they appear in the stream, including The Last Turn (pirareaba is an amazing author, and very quick), and Blast from the Past (although it's quite slow). 


    I do have a concern about buying stories though. At the moment people write the stories because they want to help to make Erfworld a better place to be, and show their own take on it. They do this as fans who love the comic, and the gaming system they play in.  As soon as you add money into it then people will write for the money, and not for the love of doing so. I'm not sure that this will produce better stories from those that where paid, but it is likely to discourage people from writing stories expecting nothing while watching those get paid.


    Maybe just helping the most popular stories getting launched as books would be enough. It will cost money to get the presses set up, covers designed, editors to check everything and lay them out. None of that is free.


    Or maybe Erfworld should become a publishing house! We aren't short on very talented authors here. And it'll give you a good excuse to finish the Book 0 stories :P

  • mortissimus (Tipped by 1 person!)

    Etherum is very cool, I'll restart my reading of it now that it's done.

    As to publishing house maybe you could think through what would be needed to get it in a printed version in the Erfstore, think what parts of that you don't want to do and give a list of things needed to take fanfiction to book. I imagine there are things you do want to be part of if they are to be sold in the Erfstore, but there should be a balance that can be found where printed fanfiction gives Erfworld publishing an income while the author does most of the work and gets most of the profit.

    Regarding the paid fiction, I think it is important to strike the right balance. As in all situations where people do things both paid and unpaid it's important to be clear why and what you are paying for or unpaid might dry up. I work and have worked and volunteered in volunteer organisations, where this is critical. I think you do strike the right balance with the fiction submission as outlined, but keep an eye on it.

    Now I got to read the rest of Etherum!


  • lordfisch

    Congratulations Twofer!  Both on finishing an incredibly long - and long-running - fanfic, and for getting the kind of front-page attention something like that deserves.  And the shmuckers ain't bad either. :)

    To the Erfworld team: you're flippin' awesome for reading, promoting, and rewarding what the community creates in its spare time for love of the world you guys built.  It's your own quality work that keeps us wanting to be a part of not just the fiction, but the real-world processes as well.

  • sensate

    I work in publishing, and would suggest making the books print on demand and/or ebooks. Avoid all of the headaches with printing, warehousing and fulfillment, and get them out much more quickly.

  • Xellos

    How about sticking to pdf books instead of printed for fanfics? Nobody complains about killing bits instead of trees and I don't think many people would mind not having it in print until there is enough money to do that.

  • Sereg

    I'm probably in a very small minority here, but I really don't have any use or appreciation for fan fiction of any kind. To me, it detracts from the legitimacy of the original work, to an extent, because it has no place in it, but presents itself as though it does. The way I look at it is as if, instead of waiting for updates to the webcomic, I just started making up my own story and treated that as if it were the actual story, and that... doesn't sit well at all with me. It becomes even worse when I put myself in the author's position, and imagine that it were my own creation that someone else was purporting to be adding to.

    It's interesting, psychologically, then, to see Rob's response to that sort of thing is totally opposite to my own. I'm glad that he, at least, is receiving it well, and apparently most of the rest of the community is as well. It's certainly an accomplishment to create a story that large, whatever its context, and to be that well received, and I don't want to take away from that, but... unfortunately, it's something I can't participate in, because it would detract from my enjoyment of the rest of Erfworld, and to me, that's more important.

    I'm not sure I should even post this comment... I don't want to be negative in light of something that's otherwise apparently very positive for the rest of you, but it's amazing to me how far removed my perspective seems to be from everyone else's on this. It's also interesting to me that I would be totally fine with this if Twofer was an actual member of the Erfworld team, because that would be Canon, but since he's not, even if he is all but officially sanctioned, it's only Fanon, to use the in-world terms.


    What's the difference? I don't know, and I don't really get it.


  • Spicymancer

    Congratulations Twofer! As others have said, thank you for setting the bar so high and paving the way! You've made a lot of people very happy, and achieved one of the fanfic writer's holy grails: Finishing a long project! cool


    And thank you Rob! This is an awesome recognition, and we feel it right back at you and team Erfworld! Not a lot of authors are so close to their fan base, and it's part of the reason we keep coming back. Money and recognition are nice, but most of us do it for love -- of Erfworld, the craft, and the community.  


    @Sereg: Hey, don't worry, it's a perfectly valid sentiment. Fanfics aren't for everyone. Just like the old Star Wars Expanded Universe wasn't everyone's cup of tea. It could get messy, convoluted, contradict itself or actual canon... but was, for decades, the only place where you could find out what Luke, Leia, Han and everyone else did.


    That's not the situation here (thankfully!), but yeah, while we wait for updates, some readers maybe want something else to tide them over. They're little oases, but none (can) claim to be the ocean.


    If it helps, I think it's important to separate canonicity from verisimilitude though. A lot of us fanfic authors try to hew as close as we can to established rules and canon so that readers can feel it's canon, even though it's not. The verisimilitude helps readers enjoy it, and helps keep the inner nitpicker pacified so you can enjoy the story. Writing a story where the ground rules and canon is different isn't bad either, as fanfic goes (setting fusion stories that mesh "game rules" can be awesome), but you usually have to spell it out up front to avoid unpleasantly surprising readers who care about that stuff. Otherwise it stops being Harry Potter fanfic and becomes something else, for example.


    In terms of canonicity, you shouldn't let it bug you. There's entire oceans of good and bad Lord of The Rings Fanfics, and not a one of them can demerit the original. (They can be a blight upon sanity and good taste, but that's another story). Anecdotally, this is similar to how HP Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythology grew and gained traction. Lovecraft let his writer friends write stories in the same setting, and the collaborative effort enriched everyone. Which is why I really like the announcement of another writer coming in for January, this is really exciting news.


    Rob's been an absolute saint in regards to fanfic, and it's honestly a more constructive approach to base-building than going lawsuit happy over copyright infringement. 


    And if nothing I've written helps scratch that itch, consider that sites / stories with active communities like this one are likelier to keep and draw in new readers. I like to think we're helping, in our small way, to keep Erfworld interesting and worth coming back to.

  • Morsious

    @Sereg, Now, I am 100% in your boat "of I don't care to read fanfics," but there have been quite a few full time, famous authors who got their start doing fanfics, and I wouldn't want to tell anyone to not write a fanfic.  I would hate to accidentally kill the dream of someone like Neil Gaimen, John Scalzi, or Orsen Scott Card.

    Just because I don't care for something does not diminish the need for existence of a thing.

  • Mellhurst

    Thanks so much for the storytime, Twofer!

  • danixdefcon5

    Fanfics are an interesting medium. Some works have started as either fanfics or derivative works, and end up being pretty good. I once read part of the Robot City series, which is actually somewhat of an officially-published Asimov fanfiction novel. It may not have been written by Asimov, but it was pretty good anyway.

  • Nik

    Your embracing of fans, willingness to share your world, and dedication to trying to get some dollars to flow to your contributors says volumes about your character. What you're proposing and hinting at here is exciting; I'm looking forward to seeing what you have in store!

    I really want to second the point made by Spicymancer about the role of invited authors furthering Lovecraft's work. I love the idea of invited authors and agree that it has great potential for extending your audience. It's an admittedly (very) guilty pleasure, but I've enjoyed the various books spawned around Hellboy. They've followed a similar model of inviting many authors to play with that setting (and the main character), and while the writing isn't always even, I love the world and subject enough that I'm just happy for the opportunities to dive in.
    I suspect invited authors for Erfworld will be much the same. I'm curious to see what the authors I love would do in Erfworld and equally curious to see who you'd be interested to invite in. Don't sell Erfworld short - you might be bringing in new readers to Erfworld, but you may also be bringing some new readers in to the authors you feature.

    I've never really followed fanfics, but from the sound of things, I've been missing out! Looking forward to tucking into Ethereum. That something novel-length was cruising along totally outside of (my) notice is exciting and cool.

  • Fla_Panther

    Maybe just helping the most popular stories getting launched as books would be enough. It will cost money to get the presses set up, covers designed, editors to check everything and lay them out. None of that is free.

    I do think this is a better idea than paying for the individual pieces, for two reasons.  First, if someone is an aspiring writer, as nice as it is to be able to put a paid job on your resume - it's even nicer to be able to say it was published and give the details of the publication (potentially including the press run and if they sold out).  Second, you may be able to work out something where the author gets a cut of the book's sales.  If so then they get both the ability to show they were published *and* the payment.

    Also, you could combine this with the graphic art submissions.  It could be a separate section in the book but you may also have art submissions that accompany the text submissions.  You could end up having text and graphic artists meeting in the forum and teaming up to do both together on a project.  Or you could tap the creators of your favorite graphical arts submissions and ask them to do art for Ethereum, etc.  There are lots of options.

  • DunkelMentat


  • nulloverride

    Like Sensate, I also work in the printing industry, in a company that specializes in global print-on-demand printing.  Much easier to print small runs or print just as many as you need to fulfill orders rather than trying to buy 5000 copies that might never move off a shelf.  Maybe the printing itself is a little more expensive per-unit, but you don't have to worry about shipping or storing anything.

  • pirateaba (Tipped by 1 person!)

    Hey, I'd also like to add my congratulations to Twofer for finishing Ethereum! I'm also glad the Erfworld team is highlighting the story, as it clearly deserves to be given attention.


    For me personally, I started writing fanfiction for this site purely out of a love of the setting. Making money wasn't ever on my mind -- it would be nice, sure, but I'd hate for that to become a motivator for writers to come in. Love of the universe should be the first incentive, and perhaps a place in a print-book if you write a really good story. But regardless, I'm just glad that the Erfworld community is still going strong. Thanks for creating such a great story!

  • decius

    One option for getting fan fiction published is to simply grant permission, either with or without a liscense fee, for the author to sell/publish it on the commercial market. 

  • Mister Tea

    If you want Ethereum published, simply grant the appropriate copyright permission. Twofer can then use a self publishing platform to have his novel available worldwide.

    I recommend using Create Space, a company owned by Amazon (a small online bookstore you may have heard of). It's free and serious. Other self-publishing options exist but I think Create Space is the best one.

    Once the book is done, anyone can buy it directly off Amazon. You can make a Kindle version. You can even hire their services for things like cover design or proofreading.

    Also, you don't need to worry about stock and paying in advance for books you then have to sell to get your own money back (and maybe make a few bucks). You get to set your own price (up from the Create Space minimum which mostly depends on size). Create Space then pays you royalties (on the same scale as those of a standard publishers... except you have to do all the work to setup the book and all the promotional stuff youself) based on your sales. Amazon takes care of the printing and the shipping/handling.

    I hope that helps.

    If you want to see what I'm talking about, check a novel I helped a student publish:

    Good luck!

  • Xellos

    Sereg: I used to think similarly, but those fanfics are good. You just have to take them as standalone works which only share something with Erfworld, not as extensions of the main story.

  • wakko

    I knew Ethereum was something special when I first started reading it.  I enjoyed some of the interpretations Twofer came up with and am very happy for him to get this recognition.  Some of this has been mentioned, but I think the biggest reward for fanfiction writers is to have their work recognized and/or published.  On top of that, incorporating some of their elements (maybe characters, locations, or rules that weren't already established) into canon is a huge reward for fanfic writers.  I think having Xin do some splashart would also be a fantastic reward, which could later be incorporated into the book (pdf or dead tree version). 

    The release of copyrights seems like a tough area to handle.  It's all well and good until someone gets a lawyer (I'm not one).  But it might be a way that doesn't cost money.  You could have a requirement that it includes links back to, among other acknowledgements, as a way to drive more people to this site.

    I only recently got into fanfic.  I did so because after finishing the game "Life is Strange" I wanted more.  Since it deals with timetravel and "alternate realities" I feel like this particular work lends itself to fanfic (if there are an infinite number of universes, then this fanfic exists in one of them).  Fanfic has helped fill the void, since there aren't going to be any more stories involving these characters (except the fanfic).  Erfworld is different, since it is still being made, but the same would be true once it is finished.  Alternatively, it can be seen as a way to fill the mini-voids between updates.

    Congrats once again Twofer!!!  Glad I could increase your matched reward with my tips.

    Now that Ethereum is over I need to make a fanfic of the fanfic to fill the void...

  • OneHugeTuck

    1. Go Twofer!

    2.  PDF's are the way to go. 90%+ profit per sale.

    3.  Rob.  You deserve the kudo's.  And, it's always been my opinion that I would love it if you focused your efforts and funds on furthering ERFworld webcomic.   All the extraneous 'hey let's put time and effort and money and manpower (that could go to the comic's art, writing, health care, etc) into fanfic!' has always made me nod sagely when the complaints of not enough funds/manpower/time come up.

    I'm happy paying my $1/comic, but feedback to you, I'd be paying $3/comic but I don't want my money going towards random expensive website rennovations and to pay for fanfic.  I like fanfic.  I write fanfic.  But it's fanfic.  I don't want to pay for fanfic.  I want to pay for your masterfully created ERFworld comic/content.

    I love that comics have been regular and ontime for what, a year?  I'm down with paying for that.  And I'd sure love to see the existence of a buffer (instead of money going out to fan fic etc).

    It's your business, you do what you want, great.  The milestones are what they are.  Great.   Just my 2cents.


  • Noigel

    Full disclosure, I've never read any fanfic but it's really interesting to see people's take on supporting or opposing the platform.  Honestly I think I could argue both sides but it is nice to see Rob foster support for it.  The solution for not wanting to engage in it is to simply not engaging in it... but for the people who want to explore it or contribute... having a support structure definitely helps.

    I agree that it can help contribute to the fandom and support for Erfworld as a whole and the fact that it exists is a welcome sign that Erfworld has a healthy following and has piqued a lot of creative interest.  If Erfworld can benefit from fanfic directly, then I can benefit from it "peripherally" as a fan of Erfworld. :)

    "A rising tide lifts all boats."


  • Lord_Backstory

    I really enjoyed reading Ethereum and I read other fanfics here and there as well. I've had some ideas for fanfics in my head, but my thought has usually been "who will read it?" I'm happy to see the support from the Erfworld community for fanfic writing; I might have to dip my toes into writing some time! Good job to all the Erfworld fanfic writers out there, I'm glad that this community exists.

  • Twofer

    Thanks, Rob, and all commentators. You've all been great. I'm not really sure what to say. I never thought about getting Ethereum printed (in fact I assumed it wouldn't be, there are a few YouTube hyperlinks in the later chapters which would be clunky as 'AN: recommended listening …'); obviously that would be great if it could go ahead, if people are truly interested.

    Good luck to anyone who chooses to write recursive fan fiction. I've had positive reviews before, but I don't think I've ever had that happen.

    @Sereg: It's cool, that's not negative. Some people don't like fantasy, some don't like radio. Every genre or medium or other classification of art has people who simply don't enjoy it. It's not a point of offence.