Chinese Writer Composes Novel for SMS
By Eric Lin, Mon Jul 12 23:45:00 GMT 2004

Serialized works of fiction have been around for hundreds of years. In the newest update to this art form, a Chinese writer has composed a novel to be distributed over a series of SMS messages -- each only 70 characters long.

SMS, MMS and generally most cellular communication is suited to short transmissions -- ideas or snapshots, not large scale endeavors. Content creators have been busy at work porting games, soap operas and other broadband or large screen content to the mobile phone. Pioneering writers too, are developing large scale works for the small screen.

For some time Japanese subscribers have been reading serialized fiction (and now even comics) on their cell phones. Most stories are only available through web browsers, however Deep Love, a popular fictional work, has been sent to subscribers' handsets via email. Cellular email is limited to 1600 characters, which forced the author to keep chapters concise, and use simple language, both of which have been attributed to the story's success.

Now a Chinese author is challenging even the most succinct of writers by composing a serialized work in SMS, which is limited to only 70 characters for double-byte languages. Each SMS will compromise a chapter, with the "novel" totaling about 60 messages. Because China has an even more splintered cellular geography than the US, the author, a professor at Guangdong Literature Academy, will not be able to publish his story by himself. Instead the Academy will hold an auction for SMS service providers for publishing rights. Considering the number of mobile subs in China, the Academy is hoping the story draws quite a price.

For years psychologists and sociologists have been complaining that MTV and other new media was fracturing the attention span of younger generations. While it clearly wasn't premeditated, this has paved the way for short serialized works and other cellular friendly media. MTV probably didn't realize it was raising the mobile generation, but it's done a good job.