World's First True E-Novels 1996: Documented History
WayBack Machine Captured Clocktower Fiction 9 January 1998. This is the first of multiple screenshots of CTF from 1998 into the early 2000s. At this writing (April 2015) viewing at WayBack is blocked for technical reasons, but I hope will be publicly available again shortly.
Note: For a full-sized version of this screenshot, click here. To a smaller version fitted to this page, scroll down. In either case, note that this screenshot has been compressed slightly to fit smaller screen formats, but it essentially matches the integrity of the still existing original on the Wayback Machine, which has been temporarily obscured by cybersquatters attempting to extort large sums of money to release their 'no spiders, no robots' switches, which will never happen. We are hoping the Wayback Machine management will override this destructive and predatory situation in deference to legitimate historical documentation.
This Is a Critical Screenshot. I took this shot a few years ago while the page was still viewable on the Wayback Machine. It is still there, but blocked by cybersquatter commands as noted above. In order to squeeze it into a 900px wide field here, I had to make some minor adjustments to the widths of some elements. The important parts of the story are more visible here than in most of the screen shots I have. The calendar date is 9 January 1998, which means Brian Callahan and I (C&C) had been online for just about 18 months. We had published the world's two first true e-novels in 1996. In December 1996, we decided to create an omnibus (all things) umbrella website (Clocktower Fiction) to govern multiple category subsets. We already had The Haunted Village (THV: SF/F/H) and Neon Blue Fiction (NBF: Suspense). We never did expand into more genres and categoriese.g., Romance.
Notice how the gray and gold CTF logo created by Brian hovers at the center top. The WayBackMachine logo and calendar line were not part of our website. Under the CTF logo is a paragraph of text, explaining what the site is about. Then we see C&C Clocktower Fiction Imprints. That refers to the two preexisting websites, which are independently hosted, but joined here by this link page. At left, colored blue, is the entry way to Neon Blue Fiction. At right, colored pink, is the entry way to The Haunted Village. Below that, in gray straddling the entire field, is a banner for a 'New Novel!' which would have sample chapters posted (mainstream) on the CTF website. Clearly, there was a carefully considered purpose to every keystroke on this page.
In January 1998 we did not yet have e-commerce, nor were we able to sell books in either e-book or p-book forms online. We were not yet able to sell our e-books (except presumably by placing a hat on the sidewalk and 'warmly urging' readers to send checks as one fledgling e-book publisher did). The hat was one route we never chose to take. Even today, with my try-buy program, the warm suggestion is that, if you like what you read, please pay for it. It's the price of a latte, and similar to tipping the barista (at Café Okay.com, with an amazing amount of free reading material even in 2015).
In January 1998, Brian had been working for a year to shape and design our wonderful new world. On the blue NBF field at left, we were announcing a new suspense novelette, Terror in My Arms (about a female systems analyst and a deceptive serial killer). In the pink THV field at right, we were announcing a new SF short story, Taxi M'Koo and the Helium Drive (post-Armageddon fiction, loosely modeled on the contemporary Tank Girl, involving a female road warrior part human, part cat and her human side-kick boyfriend). Our scheme was to regularly announce new stories in this manner for these two websites under the CTF umbrella. Meanwhile, after 109 rejection slips (literally) from publishers and agents, my novel about a Second Constitutional Convention and a likely coup by dark military-corporate-media figures was ready for its debut. Article V of the U.S. Constitution apparently remains a total unknown to the vast majority of U.S. folks, and apparently to publishers and agents alike. When CON2 does arrive, what a surprise it will be for all. How much better to have read and understood this novel, which fulfills the Aristotelian requirements for poetics in that it entertains while edifying. Oh well. Those who do not study history cannot understand its patterns, and are doomed to live it from A to Z. Honestly, that was the only new novel I had at the moment in 1998, and we had no idea what we would do next, except for me to quickly write more novels (which I did, as the new venues for e-books and POD self-pub arrived later that same year into 1999).