Nanofiction is a term coined by role-playing game designer R. Sean Borgstrom to describe the fictitious quotes (that is, quotes which are "excerpted" from a non-existent source) which appear in the margins of the role-playing game, Nobilis. These quotes are allegedly taken from tales of the Nobilis themselves, and illustrate or exemplify various concepts of the Nobilis universe. Despite their brevity (most are only a few sentences long), they nonetheless manage to fully convey concepts, themes, and conflict.
Since the publication of Nobilis, the term has broadened to include similar fictitious quotes found in other sources. The quotes from the factional leaders of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri which accompany each new technological advance made by the player, for example, also qualify as nanofiction. The term may also be applied to the flavor text that appears in collectible card games. Magic: The Gathering in particular popularized the practice of including excerpts from fictional texts or conversations on their cards that, while having no effect on the card or the game, created atmosphere, established themes and motifs, and provided details on the storylines and characters that populated the game.
It should be noted that merely being a fictitious quote is not enough to qualify as nanofiction. Many humorous books (such as Where's My Cow? by Terry Pratchett) feature fake blurbs on the back cover. While these blurbs are indeed fictitious quotes, they convey neither conflict nor any thematic elements, and are simply meant as a parody of real-world book blurbs.
- Nigel Tomm (2007) Nanodrama Not Nanofiction (BookSurge)