me + david copperfield + richard armitage + serialization


The way Dickens’ initial audience read his work — in monthly serialization. This is part VI of David Copperfield, and it includes chapters 16, 17 and 18. Source.

Dare I confess that I still have not been able to listen to more than an hour of The Chimes? Well, I’ve been busy, and I don’t have any way to play it in my car yet.

Still not thrilled about Richard Armitage reading David Copperfield, but I’ve pre-ordered it, apparently (not sure how that happened, because I canceled the subscription immediately). I’ve always been the kind of fan who at least tries everything Armitage does. This isn’t the thing I want to write off from the beginning (if I were going to have done that, I probably should have done it with Hannibal, which I had non-aesthetic objections to). Still. Yuck, Dickens.

People really hung on Dickens’ serializations when they first appeared. Even on his stories — supposedly some of the people to whom he first read The Chimes wept. In high school we learned about how thousands wept about the death of Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop. I remember reading as a teen that Americans would wait at the docks to seize the first copies of the serials arriving from England (which also got immediately pirated). They were affordable — 1 shilling — because they were compact (32 pages of text plus two illustrations) and included advertising (16 pages). This pricing strategy allowed Dickens to sell his works “on time” and thus surmount the obstacle of a popular audience that didn’t necessarily have the money in its pockets for a complete book. (As had been customary in the period leading to the seventeenth century, the owner could then purchase a book binding to hold the serial together, as desired.) He was providing a WIP in our terminology — he did not typically have the stories finished before publication began, and occasionally struggled to meet the typesetting deadlines. It’s likely that each serial copy was then shared with other readers and read out loud to groups of friends. Serialization enhanced the nearness of Dickens’ audience members, who wrote to point out problems in the installments and even, in a few cases, persuaded him to change plot elements (most famously, the ending of Great Expectations).

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the serialization question because the thing that’s been getting me through lately is Bagginshield fanfic.  I enjoy the serial reading experience a great deal. There are a few serial fanfics that I essentially live for at the moment. I expect them and my heart leaps a little when I see the notification in my inbox. Make sure if you read these that you read the warnings and tags. They are all slash and all AU.

  • Under New Management. Updates irregularly but it’s never more than ten days to wait, sometimes much less. Currently limited to Ao3 members. Thorin and Fili rescue Kili from catastrophe and try to change his life. Currently over 400,000 words.
  • Unexpected Music. Updates Saturdays. Thorin is a rockstar and Bilbo is a chemistry professor; fate makes opposites attract.
  • A Remover of Obstacles. Updates alternate Saturdays. Thorin and Bilbo are veterans with PTSD who meet in a military hospital.
  • Teach Me Your Ways. Updates irregularly but often. Bilbo meets and falls in love with Thorin, an immigrant, and his family.

I would never read any of these all in one block as I would a novel. They work because they come in compact pieces that are occasionally intense, but function all on their own. If I don’t like a plot twist or find something problematic or irritating, I’m not thinking about it for the next fifty pages because I click it shut when I get to the end, and by the time the next piece of the story appears, that element of the story is no longer in memory, and thus easier simply to pass over in memory. (And it’s interesting — at times when I have decided to reread complete serialized fanfics afterwards, I’ve just skipped the chapters where the things I didn’t like happened.)

So I guess what I’m saying is — Dickens didn’t write these things as big clunky novels and maybe I am reading them wrong. Maybe Dora would be less annoying if I got her in short bursts, for instance. Food for thought, anyway. Here’s an index to how the chapters were first serialized, and you can follow the links there to read the original serial pamphlets.

~ by Servetus on February 3, 2016.

18 Responses to “me + david copperfield + richard armitage + serialization”

  1. I really liked 365 Days of Thilbo by thingsishouldntbedoing over on Archive of Our Own. She didn’t manage the 365 – barely a month of them, but they were good while they lasted.


    • I was subscribed to that one too and loved the ones I did get.


      • She inspired me to take a stab at fanfic. I was sad when she moved on to writing other fandoms. It’s surprising how difficult writing even 250 cohesive words a day can be. I wish the lottery gods would smile on me so that work would quit interrupting my inner life.


        • Working in academia taught me to get the words down — but words I am satisfied with? That is my challenge.

          It’s kind of getting so that my inner life is most of what I care about anymore.


  2. I struggled with The Chimes but did finish it – I must admit I only really like Dickens when skilfully edited and brought to life on screen! I’m sure that makes me a very shallow person 😉 I have preordered David Copperfield though… Maybe he’ll convert me eventually…


    • If Armitage wanted to play (say) Fagin, I would totally be on board with that.


    • a lot of it comes alive much better on screen in think, probably builds on the quality he had of creating these extraordinary and sometimes outlandish characters, fun to watch 🙂 And gets rid of the over-complicated and over-explained descriptions 😉 We can see and don’t have to read a page of eternal phrasing referring to the same thing.


  3. I don’t have problems with Dickens – I have listened it over 5 times now. I will try now reading it in my language for I only read (and seen) Great expectations and Christmas carol.
    p.s. I see there are BS readers here as well ❤ I prefer ME setting, but do read modern too (when I have read almost everything that is on AO3 (Archive of OO) considering my preferred setting).


  4. Oh, I love both Under New Management and A Remover of Obstacles! I will check out the other ones 🙂


  5. Thank you for upbringing the serialization theme in connection with fanfiction – actually, it was your blog which led me to AO3 and I don’t want to miss this kind of entertainment anymore.
    I love Guy/Robin stories (esp. Endgame by jadey36) and check the site
    nearly every day for new chapters…


  6. […] See also some of my fellow bloggers, and their commenters, who have weighed in on the subject. Me and Richard Armitage; Preoccupied with […]


  7. Thanks for the links! i lack time sometimes and drift off and forget which ones and haven’t found the most practical way for me to get notifications, need to have another look. AU of BS works for me as i just can’t wrap my head around it in the original context 🙂

    I really enjoyed the thoughts on serialization… A friend of mine is also a budding writer and i am getting bits as he is editing and i enjoyed them loads. It would probably be heavy going read in a go but i found i took much pleasure in his writing this way. I breaks my normal reading habits.

    I was so used in just reading one book at the time from beginning to end and in short period of time i doubted for example i could even enjoy audiobooks. But those i had to do in bits and i found it really does work. Some only seem to work this way and i still get the buzz of something i really enjoyed listened continuous, i literally devoured Hamlet.
    But i would have never gotten through the Chimes if it wasn’t broken up into 40 min chunks due to commute. I could bear the boredome of some things in that shorttened interval and enjoy some things i would have found unbearable on paper and would have skipped over. Ok, for those i enjoyed them just because i liked listened to him pronounce the words.

    But generally i’m discovering a whole new way of reading and i guess appreciating writing as well 🙂 Fanfic has also been a large contributor and serialization is a plus.

    I’d love to hear more about serialization from writers’ perspectives 🙂


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