Eric Alfred Burns (born January 27, 1968) is a critic, writer, poet, columnist and Role Playing Game developer who lives in New Hampshire. He is best known as the creator and one of the principal writers of the popular culture and webcomic commentary website Websnark and as the writer of the webcomic Gossamer Commons and The Adventures of Brigadier General John Stark.
Burns was born and raised in Fort Kent, Maine. He attended college at Boston University for two years before leaving school and moving to Ithaca, New York, where he worked as a professional actor and as a temporary worker for Manpower Inc. At one point, he lived on the top floor of a high rise directly on the Ithaca Commons. Burns later set Gossamer Commons in Ithaca, loosely based on his time living on the Commons. He returned to school, attending the University of Maine at Fort Kent, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, Cum Laude. It was Burns's education and training in literary criticism that informed his eventual move into webcomics criticism. Burns was one of the most prolific Superguy writers during this time, eventually contributing just shy of a million words to the creative writing project. Burns also became a published poet during these years, most notably in the Black Fly Review.
Superguy ultimately led Burns to his first short fiction publication credits, for the short lived Mythic Heroes magazine.
After graduation, Burns returned to Ithaca for a time, including a stint as an actor for the Sterling Renaissance Festival in nearby Fair Haven, New York. After a year, he moved to Seattle, Washington, before moving back to Maine and ultimately to New Hampshire. During this period, Burns became involved with the In Nomine Role Playing Game published by Steve Jackson Games, ultimately writing both for the game and for Pyramid Magazine. Burns became one of the principal writers of Sidewinder Wild West Adventures, a d20 role playing game published by Citizen Games that was nominated for an ENnie Award. Burns is listed as a contributing author on Sidewinder: Recoiled, a d20 Modern based sequel produced by Dog House Rules which won the 2004 ENnie Gold award for Best Electronic Product. However, Burns claims little to no involvement with the second work. Burns has also worked for Decipher.
In 1999, Burns began work on Some Days in the Life of Eric Alfred Burns, an online journal and diary that, while sharing many aspects with a more modern blog, tended less to the incidental and more to essays and commentary. While not as popular as Burns's later work with Websnark, the journal did ultimately attract about three thousand regular daily readers, particularly during a poignant run as Burns chronicled his battle with congestive heart failure induced by idiopathic cardiomyopathy, as well as a car accident in 2000.
Though continuing to do role playing game development over the next several years, and flirting with a [Livejournal] that was less an outlet for essays and more a traditional personal diary, Burns didn't really return to significant essay writing or criticism until 2004 and his launching of Websnark. Originally meant to be the frivolous journal with a renewed "Some Days in the Life" acting as his serious essay blog, Websnark swiftly built an audience that ultimately reached the mid five figures daily. Utilizing a conversational style with a heavy emphasis on Webcomics, Burns was seen at least initially as a more approachable alternative to more traditional critics in outlets like Comixpedia and the Webcomics Examiner. Any potential acrimony between these different approaches was swiftly mitigated, however, and Burns became a regular Comixpedia columnist as well as a contributor to the Examiner.
Though referring to his critiques as snarks, Burns typically eschews the snide and sarcastic tone that the word implies, most typically focusing on positive examples and developments in the webcomics world. Websnark is also an outlet for commentary on philosophy and popular culture, though webcomics remains what the site is known for. Of particular interest is Burns's use of literary criticism instead of art criticism as the basis of his critiques. Burns avoids directly criticizing art, in part because of his own lack of drawing ability. (A fact clearly underscored by his first webcomic, Unfettered by Talent, which Burns drew himself.) It seems more likely, however, that Burns's background and training in literary criticism informs his technique. Burns has employed New Criticism, Myth Criticism, and Historicism at different times, clearly enjoying literary theory for its own sake. When pressed, Burns identifies himself as a New Critic, though he is not known for close reading the works he is critiquing.
In 2005, Burns took on Wednesday White as a partner at Websnark, and also began merchandising the site in minor ways. He also traded on the notoriety Websnark afforded him by putting out an open call for an artist to collaborate on a new webcomic (having decided against trying to draw it himself). Greg Holkan, the artist of Nemesis, came on board and the pair launched Gossamer Commons on March 21, 2005. Though slow in the beginning, the strip has hit a stride and now has a readership in the thousands.
Eric had gastric bypass surgery in March of 2004, and has credited this with saving his life. Burns has suggested that he approached 500 pounds at his heaviest. As of August of 2005, he had lost close to two hundred pounds.
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