I rite stry 4 u

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.

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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

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:

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Man, that cracked me up.

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Astrology, how can you not trust it?

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:

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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.

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J K Rowling and The Licence To Print Money

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.

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“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.

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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 Amazon.com)

You lucky people

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.