Monthly Archives: January 2008

I rite stry 4 u

January 27, 2008

The Japanese have always been famous for doing everything smaller. They usually do it better, too, but not in this instance. The younger generation of Japanese have taken to a new method of writing novels using their mobile phones. Already the mobile phone is more popular among Japanese youth than PCs or laptops and they tend to use their phones for everything. Apparently they are now using them to write novels.

Time poor and with no interest in reading an actual book, apparently a lot of young Japanese have started uploading text message novels to various websites that host such things. One such website, Maho no i-rando, recently reported that the number of novels listed on the site had topped one million. That’s a lot of sore thumbs.

And, as is always the case with things like this, a few people are taking it beyond. The vast majority of people get nothing for their work, available for free on these websites. Most of them probably don’t even get read. But now and then there’s bound to be one that catches peoples’ attention for some reason. The novel If You by mobile novelist Rin has become something of a phenomenon.


Rin, with her book and phone.
(Image, Ko Sasaki for The New York Times.)

After readers of these mobile phone novels voted If You number one, her story of tragic love between two childhood friends was published as a 142 page hardcover book last year. It sold 400,000 copies and became the number five best-selling novel of 2007, according to a closely watched list by Tohan, a major book distributor. 400,000 copies! I dream of sales figures like that.

But I don’t think we need to worry too much. As you can imagine, there’s the novelty of something and then there’s its longevity. The beauty of things that the youth of the day are into is that those very same youths will grow up. When they do, they’ll think that younger people are bizarre and quite possibly insane in the same way that we think of them. “Will cellphone novels kill ‘the author’?” a famous literary journal, Bungaku-kai, asked in January. No, of course not.

As evidence in the case of “authors will survive versus weird teenagers” I offer this item:

“My mother didn’t even know that I was writing a novel,” said Rin, who, like many mobile phone novelists, goes by only one name. “So at first when I told her, well, I’m coming out with a novel, she was like, what? She didn’t believe it until it came out and appeared in bookstores.”

She was like, what? Oh yeah. Totally.

Besides, the young people themselves know the score. Rin admits that ordinary novels don’t interest her generation. Of course, she’s wrong. Regular novels don’t interest people like Rin, with the attention span of a flea, but she can’t speak for all of youth. I was reading epic fantasy novels and the like since I was a pre-teen and millions of other kids today do the same. But Rin manages to sum up the literary-challenged youth such as herself with this gem:

“They don’t read works by professional writers because their sentences are too difficult to understand, their expressions are intentionally wordy, and the stories are not familiar to them.”

Yes, intentionally wordy. Calling a book intentionally wordy is like calling a tree intentionally woody. Rin also says:

“On other hand, I understand how older Japanese don’t want to recognize these as novels. The paragraphs and the sentences are too simple, the stories are too predictable.”

You mean they’re crap.

Still, crap sells, often in the millions. “Love Sky,” a debut “novel” by a young woman named Mika, was read by twenty million people on mobiles or on computers, according to Maho no i-rando. Twenty million! Republished in book form, it became the number one selling novel last year and was made into a movie. Apparently these novels are almost all written by girls, more like a diary than a story and featuring adolescent sex, rape, pregnancy and usually a fatal disease for that hint of original tragedy.

Well, there are always going to be teenage girls and idiots in the world that will lap this stuff up. Let’s just hope that a decent percentage of them grow up and realise that a real book, with its difficult to understand sentences, intentional wordiness and stories they don’t know the ending to are actually worth their time.

Acronym funny

January 18, 2008

A good friend of mine, Deb, sent me an email recently with all sorts of reworked book covers. I haven’t had a big belly laugh for a while, but, for some reason, I had one when I saw this:


Man, that cracked me up.


Astrology, how can you not trust it?

January 16, 2008

It’s enough of a stretch to divide the entire population of the globe by twelve and then try to convince everyone that they will have shared experiences with their particular twelfth. Of course, astrologers will tell you that that’s only tabloid astrology and the real stuff is when you take all the details, right down to the minute of a person’s birth, and you work out all the houses and rising moons and whatnot. Then you tell them the future in incredible detail like, “You’ll take a voyage in the next twelve months!” Really? By definition a voyage could be a trip to the corner shop. How could they be wrong?

Their powers are almost supernatural.

So it’s quite surprising to see this:


Check out the bit just under the Founding Editor’s name:

We regret to announce that due to unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, the publication of The Astrological Magazine will cease with the December 2007 issue.

That really helps strengthen your faith. Like I said, almost supernatural.

Image and info from the Astrological Magazine Website.


J K Rowling and The Licence To Print Money

January 12, 2008

Is there a bigger writing phenomenon than J K Rowling? Has there ever been a bigger one?

Amazon, the greatest internet bookstore in the world, has just happily announced that it has bought a book from Rowling for 1.95 million pounds. That’s pounds sterling. Nearly two million of them. For one book.

Fortunately, Rowling is donating the money to charity. After all, being the world’s first and only US$ billionaire author, she’s not short of a bob or two. The book is a hand written and illustrated (by Rowling herself) collection of tales, referenced in the last Harry Potter novel.

“Oi, you in the gloves. Don’t even breathe!”

From the Amazon announcement:

We’re incredibly excited to announce that Amazon has purchased J.K. Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard at an auction held by Sotheby’s in London. The book of five wizarding fairy tales, referenced in the last book of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is one of only seven handmade copies in existence. The purchase price was £1,950,000, and Ms. Rowling is donating the proceeds to The Children’s Voice campaign, a charity she co-founded to help improve the lives of institutionalized children across Europe.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard is extensively illustrated and handwritten by the bard herself–all 157 pages of it. It’s bound in brown Moroccan leather and embellished with five hand-chased hallmarked sterling silver ornaments and mounted moonstones.

As a hopeless bibliophile, just the thought of this fills me with longing. One of only seven in the world, hand written. Rowling has managed to create something that seems to have come directly from Hogwarts. The fact that it’s worth two million quid has nothing to do with my desire. Nothing at all. Really.

Imagine spending two mill then not being able to read her writing.

But where would you keep such a thing? Imagine a house fire! You’d have to have it locked in a hermetically sealed box, in a steel vault, underground. Guarded by a dragon maybe. What a remarkable artifact.

I can’t help wondering what’s going to happen to the other six. Being hand written and illustrated, they would all be unique. Anyway, good on J K Rowling for turning her ridiculous level of success into big wads of cash for charity.

You can read the whole of the Amazon announcement and see more pictures here.

(Images from

You lucky people

January 9, 2008

A couple of recent updates to The Word might interest you, dear reader.

Firstly, I’ve added my short story The Night Bus to the Dark Shorts page. Most of you that are interested will probably have already read this last month at The Harrow, where it was published in the December edition. However, now you can find it here as well if you have a mind to read it again or let anyone else know about it. Of course, it will still be available in the archived December issue of The Harrow – there’s a link to them in the Fantastic Fiction box on the left.

Secondly, I’ve decided to give you all something for free, just for being you. The content of this site has so far been stuff that has been previously published, like the short stories and flash fiction on the Dark Shorts page, or stuff you have to pay for, such as my novel, RealmShift. I wanted to give all you good people something for free. I’m just a big hearted guy, I suppose.

I’d been working on a short novella for a while and wasn’t really sure what to do with it. Would I self publish it, try to get it traditionally published as a book, try to get it serialised somewhere? I couldn’t decide. Then I thought to myself, Why not give it away through my website? So that’s what I’m going to do. New material, previously unpublished, available to you all for nothing.

If you look to the Navigation panel on the left you’ll see a new button marked: SERIAL NOVELLA A ‘Verse Full of Scum. This is the page where I will be posting the story in weekly installments.

A ‘Verse Full of Scum is the story of galactic Bounty Hunter, Ghost, and his efforts to track down a rogue magic user who seems to simply be running as far away as he can, killing anyone that gets in his way.

The story is written in thirty four short chapters. One chapter will be posted each week and I’ll put a reminder here in the blog whenever a new chapter is uploaded. I’ll make an effort to post each chapter on the same day each week. How about Mondays? Give you all a bit of quality reading to ease yourself into the week.

So watch this space for news on the first chapter, coming soon. Don’t forget that you can also Subscribe to The Word by filling in the details in the sidebar on the right. This is a completely safe sign up and your details won’t be shared with anyone. You will, however, receive a note every time this site is updated.

So the first chapter will be up soon and then the whole story in a further thirty three weekly installments. Be sure to let me know what you think in comments or email.

It’s not really the revelation it seems

January 4, 2008

I was walking past my favourite church yesterday. It’s my favourite purely because of the ridiculous signs they always put up. They’ve surpassed themselves this time.

This church is not full of hypocrites.
There’s always room for more.

The sign is qualified by a quote at the bottom which reads, “Romans 3:10 ‘No one is righteous – not even one.'”

At first this seems to be quite progressive and tongue in cheek from the church. But it’s not really. Admitting to something doesn’t mitigate you from being guilty of it. It’s like when people say something like, “No offence, but you’re a really dumb bastard.” Whenever anyone starts a sentence with the words ‘No offence’, you know right away that they’re going to be offensive.

There’s another one like that. “I’m not racist…”

But you’re about to make a really racist comment, right?

So to me, the sign above is doing exactly what I’ve always accused the church of anyway. Blatantly advertising for more hypocrites as they don’t feel that they have enough yet. Gather ye, hypocrites and willfully ignorant, and we shall stand on moral high ground and thumb our noses at those with a free thinking mind.


What words were thrashed in 2007?

January 1, 2008

It happens all the time. Somebody coins a phrase that is both useful and extremely clear. It illustrates the point perfectly. So everyone else wants a go. Then we get the situation where certain words and phrases are so overused that they become at first comical and subsequently infuriating. The word that has been really getting on my nerves lately is “roadmap”. I’m all for roadmaps, when there are roads that I need to find my way around. But roadmaps for peace, roadmaps for aspirational families, roadmaps for stability and so on are driving me mad.

Reported by Reuters recently and in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald, was the Michigan’s Lake Superior State University’s list of words that deserve to be banned.

The University chose from among 2000 submissions, with first prize going to the phrase “a perfect storm”, saying it was now numbingly applied to virtually any notable coincidence. Personally, I’d rather see “roadmap” in first place. Astonishingly, it doesn’t make the list at all.

Here are the nineteen words and phrases selected, along with some of the comments from the people citing them for inclusion:

PERFECT STORM – “Overused by the pundits on evening TV shows to mean just about any coincidence.” – Lynn Allen, Warren, Michigan.

“I read that ‘Ontario is a perfect storm,’ in reference to a report on pollution levels in the Great Lakes. Ontario is the name of one of the lakes and a Canadian province. This guy would have me believe it’s a hurricane. It’s time for ‘perfect storm’ to get rained out.” – Bob Smith, DeWitt, Michigan.

“Hands off book titles as cheap descriptors!” – David Hollis, Hamilton, New York.

– A seminar on the web about any number of topics.

“Ouch! It hurts my brain. It should be crushed immediately before it spreads.” – Carol, Lams, Michigan.

“Yet another non-word trying to worm its way into the English language due to the Internet. It belongs in the same school of non-thought that brought us e-anything and i-anything.” – Scott Lassiter, Houston, Texas.

WATERBOARDING – “Let’s banish ‘waterboarding’ to the beach, where it belongs with boogie boards and surfboards.” – Patrick K. Egan, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

ORGANIC – Overused and misused to describe not only food, but computer products or human behavior, and often used when describing something as “natural,” says Crystal Giordano of Brooklyn, New York. Another advertising gimmick to make things sound better than they really are, according to Rick DeVan of Willoughby, Ohio, who said he has heard claims such as “My business is organic,” and computers having “organic software.”

“Things have gone too far when they begin marketing T-shirts as organic.” – Michelle Fitzpatrick, St. Petersburg, Florida.

“‘Organic’ is used to describe everything, from shampoo to meat. Banishment! Improperly used!” – Susan Clark, Bristol, Maine.

“The possibility of a food item being inorganic, i.e., not being composed of carbon atoms, is nil.” – John Gomila, New Orleans, Louisiana.

“You see the word ‘organic’ written on everything from cereal to dog food.” – Michael, Sacramento, California.

“I’m tired of health food stores selling products that they say are organic. All the food we eat is organic!” – Chad Jacobson, Park Falls, Wisconsin.

WORDSMITH/WORDSMITHING – “I’ve never read anything created by a wordsmith – or via wordsmithing – that was pleasant to read.” – Emily Kissane, St. Paul, Minnesota.

AUTHOR/AUTHORED – “In one of former TV commentator Edwin Newman’s books, he wonders if it would be correct to say that someone ‘paintered’ a picture?” – Dorothy Betzweiser, Cincinnati, Ohio.

POST 9/11 – “‘Our post-9/11 world,’ is used now, and probably used more, than AD, BC, or Y2K, time references. You’d think the United States didn’t have jet fighters, nuclear bombs, and secret agents, let alone electricity, ‘pre-9/11.'” – Chazz Miner, Midland, Michigan.

SURGE – “‘Surge’ has become a reference to a military build-up. Give me the old days, when it referenced storms and electrical power.” – Michael F. Raczko, Swanton, Ohio.

“Do I even have to say it? I can’t be the first one to nominate it…put me in line. From Iraq to Wall Street to the weather forecast – ‘surge’ really ought to recede.” – Mike Lara, Colorado.

“This word came out in the context of increasing the number of troops in Iraq. Can be used to explain the expansion of many things (I have a surge in my waist) and it’s use will grow out of control…The new Chevy Surge, just experience the roominess!” – Eric McMillan, Mentor, Ohio.

GIVE BACK – “This oleaginous phrase is an emergency submission to the 2008 list. The notion has arisen that as one’s life progresses, one accumulates a sort of deficit balance with society which must be neutralized by charitable works or financial outlays. Are one’s daily transactions throughout life a form of theft?” – Richard Ong, Carthage, Missouri.

“Various media have been featuring a large number of people who ‘just want to give back.’ Give back to whom? For what?” – Curtis Cooper, Hazel Park, Michigan.

‘BLANK’ is the new ‘BLANK’ or ‘X’ is the new ‘Y’ – In spite of statements to the contrary, ‘Cold is (NOT) the new hot,’ nor is ’70 the new 50.’ The idea behind such comparisons was originally good, but we’ve all watched them spiral out of reasonable uses into ludicrous ones and it’s now time to banish them from use. Or, to phrase it another way, ‘Originally clever advertising is now the new absurdity!'” – Lawrence Mickel, Coventry, Connecticut.

“Believed to have come into use in the 1960s, but it is getting tired. The comparisons have become absurd.” – Geoff Steinhart, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

“‘Orange is the new black.’ ’50 is the new 30.’ ‘Chocolate is the new sex.’ ‘Sex is the new chocolate.’ ‘Fallacy is the new truth.’ – Patrick Dillon, East Lansing, Michigan.

BLACK FRIDAY – “The day after Thanksgiving that retailers use to keep themselves out of the ‘red’ for the year. (And then followed by “Cyber-Monday.”) This is counter to the start of the Great Depression’s use of the term ‘Black Tuesday,’ which signaled the crash of the stock market that sent the economy into a tailspin. – Carl Marschner, Melvindale, Michigan.

BACK IN THE DAY – “Back in the day, we used ‘back-in-the-day’ to mean something really historical. Now you hear ridiculous statements such as ‘Back in the day, people used Blackberries without Blue Tooth.'” – Liz Jameson, Tallahassee, Florida.

“This one might’ve already made the list back in the day, which was a Wednesday, I think.” – Tim Bradley, Los Angeles, California.

RANDOM – Popular with teenagers in many places.
“Over-used and usually out of context, i.e. ‘You are so random!’ Really? Random is supposed to mean ‘by chance.’ So what I said was by chance, and not by choice?” – Gabriel Brandel, Farmington Hills, Michigan.

“Outrageous mis- and overuse, mostly by teenagers, i.e. ‘This random guy, singing this random song…It was so random.’ Grrrrr.” – Leigh, Duncan, Galway, Ireland.

“Overuse on a massive scale by my fellow youth. Every event, activity and person can be ‘sooo random’ as of late. Banish it before I go vigilante.” – Ben Martin, Adelaide, South Australia.

“How can a person be random?” – Emma Halpin, Liverpool, Merseyside, United Kingdom.

SWEET – “Too many sweets will make you sick. It became popular with the advent of the television show ‘South Park’ and by rights should have died of natural causes, but the term continues to cling to life. It is annoying when young children use it and have no idea why, but it really sounds stupid coming from the mouths of adults. Please kill this particular use of an otherwise fine word.” – Wayne Braver, Manistique, Michigan

“Youth lingo overuse, similar to ‘awesome.’ I became sick of this one immediately.” – Gordon Johnson, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

DECIMATE – Word-watchers have been calling for the annihilation of this one for several years.

“Used today in reference to widespread destruction or devastation. If you will not banish this word, I ask that its use be ‘decimated’ (reduced by one-tenth).” – Allan Dregseth, Fargo, North Dakota.

“I nominate ‘decimate’ as it applies to Man’s and Nature’s destructive fury and the outcome of sporting contests. Decimate simply means a 10% reduction – no more, no less. It may have derived notoriety because the ancient Romans used decimation as a technique for prisoner of war population reduction or an incentive for under-performing battle units. A group of 10 would be assembled and lots drawn. The nine losers would win and the winner would die at the hands of the losers – a variation on the instant lottery game. Perhaps ‘creamed’ or ’emulsified’ should be substituted. – Mark Dobias, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

“The word is so overused and misused, people use it when they should be saying ‘annihilate.’ It’s so bad that now there are two definitions, the real one and the one that has taken over like a weed. – Dane, Flowery Branch, Georgia.

“‘Decimate’ has been turned upside down. It means ‘to destroy one tenth,’ but people are using it to mean ‘to destroy nine tenths.’ – David Welch, Venice, Florida.

EMOTIONAL – “Reporters, short on vocabulary, often describe a scene as ’emotional.’ Well sure, but which emotion? For a radio reporter to gravely announce, ‘There was an emotional send off to Joe Blow’ tells me nothing, other than the reporter perceived that the participants acted in an emotional way. For instance: I had an emotional day today. I started out feeling tired and a bit grumpy until I had my coffee. I was distraught over a cat killing a bird on the other side of the street. I was bemused by my reaction to the way nature works. I was intrigued this evening to add a word or two to your suggestions. I was happy to see the words that others had posted. Gosh, this has been an emotional day for me.” – Brendan Kennedy, Quesnel, British Columbia, Canada.

POP – “On every single one of the 45,000 decorating shows on cable TV (of which I watch many) there is at LEAST one obligatory use of a phrase such as … ‘the addition of the red really makes it POP.’ You know when it’s coming … you mouth it along with the decorator. There must be some other way of describing the addition of an interesting detail.” – Barbara, Arlington, Texas.

IT IS WHAT IT IS – “This pointless phrase, uttered initially by athletes on the losing side of a contest, is making its way into general use. It accomplishes the dual feat of adding nothing to the conversation while also being phonetically and thematically redundant.” – Jeffrey Skrenes, St. Paul, Minnesota.

“It means absolutely nothing and is mostly a cop out or a way to avoid answering a question in a way that might require genuine thought or insight. Listen to an interview with some coach or athlete in big-time sports and you’ll inevitably hear it.” – Doug Compo, Brimley, Michigan.

“It seems to be everywhere and pervade every section of any newspaper I read. It reminds me of ‘Who is John Galt?’ from ‘Atlas Shrugged.’ It implies an acceptance of the status quo regardless of the circumstances. But it is what it is.” – Erik Pauna, Mondovi, Wisconsin.

“Only Yogi Berra should be allowed to utter such a circumlocution.” – Jerry Holloway, Belcamp, Maryland.

“This is migrating from primetime ‘reality television’ and embedding itself into otherwise articulate persons’ vocabularies. Of course it is what it is…Otherwise, it wouldn’t be what it would have been!” – Steve Olsen, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada.

UNDER THE BUS – “For overuse. I frequently hear this in the cliché-filled sports world, where it’s used to describe misplaced blame – i.e. ‘After Sunday’s loss, the fans threw T.O. under the bus.” – Mark R. Hinkston, Racine, Wisconsin.

“Please, just ‘blame’ them.” – Mike Lekan, Kettering, Ohio.

“Just wondering when someone saying something negative became the same as a mob hit. Since every sportscaster in the US uses it, is a call for the media to start issuing a thesaurus to everyone in front of a camera.” – Mark Bockhaus, Appleton, Wisconsin.

“Please, just ‘blame’ them.” – Mike Lekan, Kettering, Ohio.

“Just wondering when someone saying something negative became the same as a mob hit. Since every sportscaster in the US uses it, is a call for the media to start issuing a thesaurus to everyone in front of a camera.” — Mark Bockhaus, Appleton, Wisconsin.

From Lake Superior State University 2008 List of Banished Words.

As you can see, the list is rather America-centric, but that naturally makes it at least partly relevant to us here in Australia. We do seem to enjoy absorbing the worst of American culture like an obese teenager sucking up chips.

It was interesting to see “Back in the day” in this list. I remember when the phrase “At the end of the day” was really popular. Like some qualifier that prevents any other argument or response, at the end of the day that’s all there is to it. I wonder if that phrase ever made this list in previous years.

Anyway, there you have it. It will be interesting to see what words and phrases start accumulating this year that we’ll be sick of in the next twelve months.


The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Zetetic.

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