September 11, 2004

Text message novel

Last spring, I posted about the Japanese violinist and writer Senju Mariko, who is said to do her writing by sending herself text messages on her cell phone. Now, according to an article by Howard French in this morning's IHT, Qian Fuzhang has written a novel for others to read on their cell phones.

"Out of the Fortress" showed up on tens of thousands of mobile telephone screens on Friday. ... Weighing in at a mere 4,200 characters, "Out of the Fortress" is like a marriage of haiku and Hemingway, and will be published for its audience of cellphone readers at a bite-size, 70 characters at a time - including spaces and punctuation marks - in two daily installments.

Other "readers" may choose to place a call to the "publisher,", a short text-message distribution company, to listen to a recording of each day's story as it unfolds.

4,200 Chinese characters is roughly equivalent to 2,100 English words, which would make Out of the Fortress more like a short story than a novel. Is there a problem of terminology translation here? or is Qian doing some explicit genre-bending? or is this just a marketing thing, since the value of a "novel" will be perceived as greater than the value of a '"story"?

Posted by Mark Liberman at September 11, 2004 10:58 AM