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Contents    2016 20th Anniv. About    2014 Update to 2010 About    2010 About    FAQ ca. 2002

20th Anniversary 1996-2016

About these About pages. Captured from original Clocktower Books pages, these are a progression from a FAQ (circa 2002) to a 2010 Museum Page to a 2014 update to the 2010 Museum Page to this 2016 20th Anniversary About Page.

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Museum Pages The pages on this website contain a growing collection of documents about our 1996 publishing activities on the Web. They support the theory that John Argo (John T. Cullen) published the world's first true e-novels online for download in 1996*. This column, and most of the material on this museum site, written by John T. Cullen.

20th Anniversary Online. With the twentieth anniversary of our world debut in 2016, and the years marching by, it becomes critically important for historical scholars to have the information I will record here before it is forever lost. I am happy and proud of my own role, along with that of Brian Callahan, and a dedicated band of pioneers starting with our magazine in 1998 including (alfa order) Gwen Callahan, Dennis Latham, John K. Muir, A. L. Sirois, and (later in the game) Sean Farrell. I will separately mention some of the reviewers and organizers involved at 1998-2007.

Glory and Struggle. Our primary goal at the time was simply to revel in a totally new technology with breath-taking possibilities, which was being violently, selfishly, and ignorantly rejected by the publishing establishment at the time—which even now has not anywhere near yet made peace with the future. We naïvely believed that our pioneering work—whose vision seemed so clear, obvious, and logical—and whose predictions have mostly proven true—would make a positive impact. Becoming rich or famous was not a goal, but perhaps a background noise. It all seemed so real and inevitable, while we never imagined how the world (e.g., the Backwardians at SFWA, clinging to their 1930s 'Futurian' publishing model; not to mention the rest of the industry) would at best be dragged kicking and screaming into the future. Nevertheless, it was a glorious ride, and I will document it here as best I can from our unique perspective. These pages remain heavily under development.

CTF, CTB Logos. Brian Callahan in the early 2000s created the CTB logos found at the top of all CTB web pages. Before any of that, Brian created the gold-and-gray CTF logo at left in 1997. We acquired the Clocktower Fiction dot com (our abbreviation: CTF) domain name in December 1996, as our documents show. Before December 1996, we had already published the two first true e-novels ever published online, as follows. We published Heartbreaker (SF novel; retitled This Shoal of Space) by John Argo on our The Haunted Village website. We published Neon Blue (Suspense novel) by John Argo on our Neon Blue Fiction website. Clocktower Fiction (CTF) was to be our umbrella, omnibus publishing company over separate category sites (suspense, sf/f/h, and others like romance that never happened). In 2000, CTF morphed into Clocktower Books (CTB). CTB continues to publish today on a limited but active basis, averaging at least one or two new titles/authors per year, plus nonfiction books and articles.

*Definition:—By 'world's first true e-novels online' I mean that the novels and stories Brian Callahan and I published, starting in 1996, were (a) proprietary rather than public domain. They were (b) full, standard industrial length, meaning in the case of Neon Blue about 70,000 words and in the case of Heartbreaker well over 125,000 words. Heartbreaker was retitled This Shoal of Space in 1998. They were published (c) online in HTML format for reading and TXT for download rather than on portable media like CD-ROM. They were published (d) complete in weekly serial chapters, one chapter each Sunday evening and downloaded by readers around the world, many of whom sent thank yous and congratulations in a clean and virginal age before sleaze and cyber-crime, when all this was new and wonderful, and intelligent readers appreciated getting something really nice for free, without fear or strings attached.


World's First True Online E-Novels 1996*

*Parameters. According to certain rigorous parameters outlined in these museum pages. As mentioned in the column at left, these include: (1) proprietary, not public domain, therefore not like Gutenberg Project, but property of the author; (2) normal full length (60,000+ words), not short stories; (3) complete, not samples or teasers; (4) published directly online for reading in HTML, not on portable media like CD-ROM, floppies, or the like as was done by a few experimenters at the time; (5) using an innovative format of weekly serial chapters in sequence from Chapter 1 to Chapter N; (6) not hypertext but standard sequential chapters—that is, these were novels that were exactly like those published as print editions by New York City publishers, only they were e-books online to be read in HTML format.

Titles 1996-1997. During summer 1996, we published two novels in the above manner. Each of these two novels represented a separate genre, published on a separate website launched by us in early to mid 1996 as noted elsewhere on this site and in the following two paragraphs.

One, on our site Neon Blue Fiction, was the suspense novel Neon Blue by John Argo (John T. Cullen pseudonym). This novel (Neon Blue) is also available under the title girl, unlocked by John Argo.

The other was the SF novel Heartbreaker by John Argo, on our other website The Haunted Village. We permanently changed the title of Heartbreaker in 1998 to This Shoal of Space.

Still Available to Read and Browse. Both websites are maintained as Heritage Sites by Clocktower Books. Both novels are still available on sale as p-books and e-books, primarily through as of our 20th Anniversary in 2016.

1996 Pioneers (SF). In 1997 we followed up on the The Haunted Village (SF) website with the John Argo SF novel Pioneers.

250,000 Words by 1998. Note that on the January 1998 screenshot of Clocktower Fiction, obtained from the Wayback Machine, we (Brian Callahan, John T. Cullen) state that by then, we have at least 250,000 words online. This includes the John Argo novels mentioned above (Heartbreaker, soon to be retitled This Shoal of Space; Neon Blue, today also titled girl, unlocked; and Pioneers, as well as a growing number of short stories like Taxi M'Koo and the Helium Drive). In addition, we had all or most of the John T. Cullen political suspense thriller The Generals of October online. By 1998, we had Clocktower Fiction fully operational as our omnibus or umbrella publishing arm. Also, on 15 April 1998, we launched our Web-only magazine of sf/df/h originally titled Outside: Speculative & Dark Fiction as noted in the SF Encyclopedia by historian and anthologist Mike Ashley.