How It All Started
Over 6 million stories are contributed on just one popular U.S. fanfiction site by a range of die hard fans of Harry Potter, Selena Gomez, and Naruto.
Whether you’re into literature, celebrities, or anime you’ll find yourself a home and an audience in the fanfiction stratosphere.
Igori Kim reads fanfiction on Russian literature, and seeks out skilled writers who can create plot twists and delve into characters of his favorite novels, mimicking the styles of Nabokov and Tolstoy.
Q: What brought you to Seoul?
Igori: I was born in Khabarovsk, Russia and when I finished university [studied applied mathematics and computer science], I worked as a freelance front end developer. My friends and I were working on projects from cafes, and we wanted to move somewhere. We were thinking between Moscow and Seoul. We chose Seoul because it’s closer to home.
Q: Were those the friends you started Strangeland with?
Igori: Yup. We all read fanfiction from Russia, and we came across a technological problem we wanted to solve.
Q: (Ooh. Intrigued.) What was the problem?
Igori: Basically the functionality of current fanfiction sites is old and very poor. Fanfiction stories look like a tree. You can take a character and start writing a story. Another writer can join you and start writing the new story. And the whole story looks like a tree with different narratives and twists and turns.
But there was no functionality for these kinds of actions. Right now, it’s not possible to join existing stories.
We decided to create this tool for the writers. After one month we created the first version. It was really buggy, but it worked.
Q: How does it work?
Igori: When you start writing you can ask others to join you. We call these “forks” in the story. Writers can create save points, which are important moments in your story like before the characters get married or commit a crime. Writers can create as many sharepoints (forks or save points) for others to join in their story.
Q: What were some challenges in creating “forks” in stories for writers to collaborate?
Igori: It was a good technical challenge for us. Technically it’s hard to create forks and save points. It was a really interesting challenge. We’re continuing to fix many elements in this tool as we test it out.
Q: What kind of feedback have you been getting from the fanfiction community?
Igori: So far, we’re still in the testing stage. But we know that many writing fans of other fanfiction writers want a process that doesn’t involve copying the story first and continuing on their own from there. They want an easier and more visual process. We also found out that the dream of many fanfiction writers is to get published. So we’re also working on that.
Q: How do you go about publishing your fanfiction writers’ work?
Igori: We’re working on providing their stories as e-books and paper copies. I don’t like electronic books. I believe in printed books. Many others feel the same, but it’s huge process getting it published.
We’re working through some problems with copyright. And finding high-quality printing.
We plan to be a platform where users can write and get their final polished product. We’re also giving writers another source of revenue. Fans who love their writing have an option of buying their e-book or printed book.
Q: Do you write fanfiction? What’s its appeal?
Igori: I tried, but I prefer reading it. People don’t want their favorite stories to end. Harry Potter finished, but they want to know more. Another reason for its popularity is that the fanfiction community has no censor. It’s like freedom. You can write what you want. At some point it turns into fiction and not fanfiction. There are a lot of bad stories out there, but sometimes they’re good. I like finding these writers.
Q: What languages will the Strangeland platform provide?
Igori: Right now, we’re focusing on English and Russian because that’s our background. It’s a huge market with over 100 million English and 56 million Russian fanfiction stories.
Q: When is Strangeland planning to launch?
Igori: We’re sorting through the technical bugs in creating story forks now, and also searching out really good writers to start a foundation for our platform. We’re also nearly finished in sourcing out good machines for our self publication process. At this rate, we hope to launch the second version of the site by the end of summer.
Q: How will Strangeland stand out among the other fanfiction sites?
Igori: We want to build a community of strong writers who can share ideas to inspire each other’s stories, and to validate their writing through publishing. We’re building this with technological functionality, which the other sites don’t yet provide.