A recent issue of The New Yorker had an interesting article on cell phone novels in Japan. Popularized about five years ago, these novels are posted to the Web by authors who write them on their phones, constrained by the limitations of the medium. The most successful of them are published on paper in a format that mimics the cell phone experience. Some are adapted into manga comic books and movies. And the form might be poised for success in America as well.
The novels are often tragic romances written by young women for young women, and the authors hide behind pseudonyms. Based on my limited knowledge, some aspects of the genre strike me as particularly Japanese in a way that is unlikely to have much appeal in Western countries, but as a medium the cell phone novel may become another successful Japanese cultural import. As Roland Kelts detailed in his book Japanamerica, American acceptance of Japanese pop culture has become so transparent, routine, and rapid that many Americans no longer notice it happening. At least two US-based Web sites, Textnovel and Quillpill, have been launched in attempts to duplicate the format.
Here’s how Textnovel’s home page presents what it lists as the three most popular stories on the site:
Secret Speakers and the Search for Selador’s Gate By: ksr.kingworth In progress
Fair O’Nelli knows three things: She has spent the last nine years of her life living in a cellar.
13 to Life: A Werewolf’s Tale By: Saoirse Redgrave
An ending and a beginning.There are monsters everywhere and sometimes the most…
A Testament To Living By: Heather Schimel In progress
Malena is falling apart. Aren’t we all?
Parents shocked by the content of Judy Blume’s novels targeted at adolescent girls might well be doubly stunned when they discover the content of novels written by the girls themselves. As the novel mutates and finds a new form on the Internet, will hysterical campaigns to police the shelves of school libraries likewise mutate into calls for digital censorship?
Read The New Yorker article: I ♥ Novels.