novel cellout
January 7, 2009 8:54 PM   Subscribe

Do they write sequels?
posted by Joe Beese at 9:02 PM on January 7, 2009

On a similar note, Tom Scharpling (of The Best Show on WFMU) has been wowing eager audiences with his Twitter-novel "Fuel Dump." I'm not positive, but I imagine some of it must be written from his cell phone.

First line: "Michael Richards stared at the shotgun resting on his coffee table and knew what he had to do."
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 9:10 PM on January 7, 2009

Actually, it was "Michael Richards started at the shotgun." Tom Scharpling doesn't make mistakes, I do.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 9:11 PM on January 7, 2009

Tear, Tear -/ The sound of a present opening./At that moment . . ./ -Thud- / A really snazzy watch fob. / The pain. I have sold my watch. You have cut your hair./ "Oh, Oh!"/ The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--/ O all who give and receive gifts/ Such as they are wisest -/ Everywhere they are wisest - / They are the magi./ And now suppose you put the chops on./ I can't . . . / enjo kosai gave me AIDS
posted by Smedleyman at 9:14 PM on January 7, 2009 [6 favorites]

Oh, God, you've invented the new Bulwer-Lytton contest, Smedleyman. Rewrite the classics on cellphone.
posted by Miko at 9:17 PM on January 7, 2009

The return of the serial novel, in short-attention-span form. Interesting. Were there any novels written by telegraph? Or morse code (more details)?
posted by filthy light thief at 9:24 PM on January 7, 2009

Largely unrelated, but it's kind of cool that Wikipedia has a list of novels in which the action takes place within 24 hours.
posted by Miko at 9:31 PM on January 7, 2009

How do they get all the tentacle rape onto such tiny screens?
posted by rokusan at 9:39 PM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

it's kind of cool that Wikipedia has a list of novels in which the action takes place within 24 hours.

They forgot Ulysses II: The Slashening
posted by Willy Wombat at 9:59 PM on January 7, 2009

This would definitely beat browsing Yahoo news on my phone.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:01 PM on January 7, 2009

It was the best of times LOL, it was the worst of times :-(
posted by crossoverman at 10:04 PM on January 7, 2009 [9 favorites]

"Do they write sequels?"

Yes, so I hear.

I was just discussing these novels with a diplomat friend of mine in town who is stationed in Japan.

It's hard not to acknowledge it as a writing form of creative significance, but I also think that Japanese cellphone culture is damaging in many respects, as it tends to discourage the kind of thoughtfulness that comes from more editing-friendly, contemplative means of recording data. As such, it may also tend to encourage a kind of uniformity of thought.

To make matters worse, the Japanese use their cellphones for pretty much everything nowadays. I can only hope their texting has significantly more depth than American texting, and that the younger generation in Japan are masters of saying a lot with very few words.
posted by markkraft at 11:03 PM on January 7, 2009 [3 favorites]

"Were there any novels written by telegraph?"

No. Lot of spam though.



-..- .- -. .- -..- / ...- .- .-.. .. ..- -- / .- -. -.. / -.-. . .-.. . -... .-. . -..- / --- -. .-.. .. -. . / .--. .... .- .-. -- .- -.-. -.-- / --.- ..- .. -.-. -.- / -.. . -... - / ... --- .-.. ..- - .. --- -. ... / ... . -..- ..- .- .-.. / . -. .... .- -. -.-. . -- . -. - / --- -. .-.. .. -. . / ..- -. .. ...- . .-. ... .. - -.-- / -.. . --. .-. . . ... / .- -. -.. / -.. .. .--. .-.. --- -- .- ... / .-.. --- .-- / -- --- .-. - --. .- --. . / .-. .- - . ... / .-.. --- .-- / .. -. ... ..- .-. .- -. -.-. . / .-. .- - . ... / .-- --- .-. -.- / ..-. .-. --- -- / .... --- -- . / .--. --- .-. -. --- --. .-. .- .--. .... -.-- / .- -. -.. / .... --- - / -..- -..- -..- / .- -.-. - .. --- -. / .- .-.. ... --- / - .... . / - .. - .- -. .. -.-. / .. ... / ... .. -. -.- .. -. --. / --- .-. / ... --- -- . - .... .. -. --.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:16 PM on January 7, 2009 [5 favorites]

markkraft: while what you say is valid, i must add that the Haiku emerged as an art form from japan. perhaps the language permits minimalism in choice and usage of words?

languagehat, your thoughts on this?
posted by infini at 12:06 AM on January 8, 2009

Maho i-Land, which is the largest cell-phone-novel site, carries more than a million titles, most of them by amateurs writing under screen handles, and all available for free. According to the figures provided by the company, the site, which also offers templates for blogs and home pages, is visited three and a half billion times a month.

Blimey... that puts it at, what, facebook, twitter, levels?

When I visited Japan a couple of years ago one of the cliches that was smashed was that everyone reads Manga on the train. If I was lucky I'd see one person a day. Somebody seemed to be reading an ordinary book, and a few reading newspapers, but, even then, the vast majority seemed to be on their phones.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:30 AM on January 8, 2009

Yeah, the manga-on-trains thing is a bit of a cliché, I agree. On my morning commute, every fifth person is reading a newspaper or a novel/bunkobon; in the evening, it tends to be closer to every eighth person who is reading either a novel or a sports paper. I hardly *ever* see manga readers on my line. About half of the remainder tends to be glued to their mobile phones in the evening (myself included from time to time, to be honest).

Interestingly, fewer people are using their mobiles during the morning rush, and are instead staring (or pretending to stare) out the windows. Even in the subway.
posted by armage at 4:16 AM on January 8, 2009

Twenty years ago, during my months in Japan, there were a lot of manga-readers on the subway. Times change, cliches linger on. Regarding twenty-four books, one very good one just barely misses the list: 25 Hours, written by Richard Price, author of Clockers. Both novels were later made into fllms.
posted by kozad at 6:22 AM on January 8, 2009

My very own shortest txt msg story




posted by The Whelk at 8:11 AM on January 8, 2009

... -- . -.. .-.. . -.-- -- .- -. --..-- -.. .. -.. -.-- --- ..- -.. --- - .... .- - .-- .. - .... --- - .-.. --- --- -.- .. -. --. .. - ..- .--. .-.-.-
posted by dunkadunc at 8:19 AM on January 8, 2009

Whelk, isn't that the first few pages of Crowley's "The Book of Lies"?

Or would the cellphone version be 'Crows Teh buk of lolz'
posted by FatherDagon at 9:45 AM on January 8, 2009

kozad: I couldn't find "25 Hours" by Richard Price anywhere (amazon; Are you sure it's called that?
posted by flippant at 10:41 AM on January 8, 2009

languagehat, your thoughts on this?

Cellphone novels aren't my cup of green tea, but I don't see why they couldn't be artistically significant.

Also, I like Miko's "classics on cellphone" idea.
posted by languagehat at 11:05 AM on January 8, 2009

Me too, lh - when I read the New Yorker piece I was sort of trying to have a "get off my lawn, tech-savvy kids" reaction, but I really couldn't justify it. The novel itself was vilified as trash when it developed as a genre. This is as legitimately a form of literature as any other, and since they have characters and a dramatic arc and are told in prose and meant to be read in text, they do seem to be novels. I'm sure it's kind of fun to experiment with that form. I don't think I want to read one, though, based on the excerpts.
posted by Miko at 11:14 AM on January 8, 2009

languagehat: sorry, my bad wording, i meant your thoughts on perhaps japanese being suited to minimalist language usage due to haiku etc and thus cellphone novels?
posted by infini at 12:45 PM on January 8, 2009

I'm pretty suspicious of that sort of generalization and don't really see how it could be proved one way or the other. And I doubt cellphone novels have anything to do with haiku.
posted by languagehat at 1:22 PM on January 8, 2009

posted by Eideteker at 4:46 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I can't get this to preview right, but I'm going to post it anyway, just in case preview is borked:

My new erotic novel via cellphone:
Exploring Kirby:

posted by empath at 4:52 PM on January 8, 2009

doh, stupid angle brackets messing everything up.
posted by empath at 4:53 PM on January 8, 2009

Out of curiosity, how does one write in japanese on a cellphone? The actual mechanics of it.
posted by empath at 5:06 PM on January 8, 2009

Each number key on a standard mobile keypad is assigned a particular row of the kana syllabary; in other words, the characters あいうえお are assigned to the 1 key, which you push once for あ, twice for い, etc. You "spell" out a particular word by doing this several times, then convert it into katakana, hiragana, romaji, or a kanji character. The conversion usually involves the assistance of a built-in dictionary which is monitoring your input, so in order to write 今日は(こんにちは), you usually only need to input up to こんに, then select the appropriate word or phrase from the list.
posted by armage at 5:44 PM on January 8, 2009

This Wikipedia article describes the basic method in more detail.
posted by armage at 5:45 PM on January 8, 2009

Okay, so, say you wanted to type, say, the following:

"It was a dark and stormy night"

in japanese, how exactly would you do it? How many button presses? I'm trying to get an idea of how much easier/harder it is than typing the equivalent in English.

What would be the difference in doing it in Kanji vs Romanji?
posted by empath at 5:52 PM on January 8, 2009

Well, let's say for the purpose of this exercise that the Japanese translation of "It was a dark and stormy night" is: 暗くて、暴風雨の夜だった。

I'll look at just the first word to save time. The first word, 暗くて(くらくて), has four characters. The first one requires three keypresses; the second one, the third three, and the fourth four. Then you press a separate key to convert it from kana to kanji. So for that one word, you would be looking at a maximum of twelve keypresses. This particular word has no common homonyms so the default conversion would be correct (you wouldn't need to browse through a list of words).

However, in reality you can get by with fewer because of word recognition and prediction using built-in dictionaries; in this case, eight presses (omitting the last character, て) would probably be good enough.

In English, you could probably get away with six or seven keypresses if using T9 (d, a, r, k would be the keys 3, 2, 7, 5 pressed once each, plus additional presses to select the proper word). Without T9, it would be seven keypresses, as far as I can tell. This would depend on what sort of mobile phone you have, of course.

Because English and Japanese are composed so differently, it's difficult to compare a Japanese input system like ATOK to an English one like T9. However, in my experience Japanese input on a normal 10-key number pad is much easier and requires fewer compromises than English input on the same device. It really comes down to the dictionaries, though.

I don't use smartphones, nor do most Japanese, so I can't speak to the comparative effectiveness of QWERTY keyboard-based input, but in that case I would imagine the input speed to be similar.
posted by armage at 7:38 PM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

Also, you can do romaji-based input on a 10-key pad, but that combines the shortcomings of both input methods (instead of being able to input "ka" か with one press, you'd need three to do it in romaji).
posted by armage at 7:41 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

languagehat: thank you for the clarification, i guess i was over generalizing in my thinking here
posted by infini at 3:51 AM on January 9, 2009

« Older Russia stops all gas supply to Europe via Ukraine   |   A Reactionary Musical Moment? Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments