Mike Shatzkin on the rise-and-rise of ereaders and interstitial reading.

“Interstitial reading” is the fancy-pants name for the reading you do on your phone when you’re on the loo or in the line at the supermarket. It’s short paragraphs and short chapters, fast-moving action and dialogue, easy to put down and easier to pick up. It’s a very, very difficult way of writing, in other words, and one that tends to get sneered at by a lot of (paper book) authors.

It’s also the native format of (almost) anyone who comes from writing fanfic.

Fanfic, at least for the last decade, is both natively digital and natively interstitial. It has no need to be formatted for print, no need to worry about things like the commercial viability of page counts, and so it tends to fall into a very specific kind of rhythm.

One like this.

In fact, I can usually tell when an author wrote fanfic before they wrote profic1 because they tend to write in The Style,2 at least for the first few books until it gets beaten out of them by editors or, like in my case, their own conscious effort to try and “write longer”.3

Anyway. The point is that this is something I think about a lot when I see people in fandom complain that they can never get into profic in the way they can with fanfic. Because, yeah, obviously there are issues around character familiarity and whatnot… but with the seemingly massive surge in popularity of ATG-esque AUs,4 I do wonder if there isn’t something else going on. Some kind of mechanical difference between the way fan- and profic tends to be constructed. So, yeah. I kinda think there is, and that Shatzkin has (inadvertently) nailed it.


  1. And, despite Conventional Fandom Wisdom, there are a lot of authors that did, and no, not just the ones you know about. []
  2. There are some other tells, like writing in present tense. Ironically, one of the authors I can think of that most predominantly writes in “fanfic style” is Chuck Wendig. We can have a discussion about the gendered implications of this another time. []
  3. I’m actually currently in the process of trying to unlearn my unlearning of fanfic style, because Reasons, but… that’s another story. Like, literally another story. Keep your eyes out in 2017/2018, in other words! []
  4. Seriously. These were not so popular a decade ago, I swear. []