As a critically acclaimed writer of dense, doorstop-sized novels, Qian Fuzhang said he had finally developed a guilty conscience. \nMoreover, as a writer in a country that tends not to pay its authors very well, he faced a challenge immediately familiar to writers everywhere: how to make a living cranking out prose. \nNow, at the age of 42, Qian Fuzhang, whose highly inventive, imagery-laden work has earned him comparisons here to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, thinks he has found a solution to both problems. \nThe author's answer, entitled Out of the Fortress, showed up on tens of thousands of mobile telephone screens on Friday. It is the short-message novel, a new literary genre for the harried masses in a society that seems to be redefining what it means to be harried. \nWeighing in at a mere 4,200 words, Out of the Fortress, is like a marriage between haiku and Hemingway, and will be published for its audience of cellphone readers at a bite-sized 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," hurray.com, a short-message distribution company, to listen to a recording of each day's story as it unfolds. All this for a small fee charged, like any text message, directly to the readers' mobile phone accounts. \nCruel to readers \n"When I worked in advertising, I learned to think for the customers, and as a writer, I have learned to think for the readers," the author, whose real name is He Xingnian, said in an interview on Friday. "In this age, with a flood of information I thought it was cruel to force readers to wrestle with a 200,000-word book." \nOut of the Fortress made its debut at 10am Friday. The first words paraphrased a famous literary passage from another author, Zhang Ailing, a coded message between two lovers arranging their secret rendezvous: "Meet the one you met for thousands of years, in the borderless wilderness of the time, neither a step before nor a step behind. Be there right on time." \nThe idea of publishing his book by telephone evolved naturally, said He, a native of Inner Mongolia who now resides in the southern city of Guangzhou. "My last book, Red Horse, was published on Sina.com in installments, and I found it very comfortable to read it online," he said. "I thought with the change of technology there could be new ways of reading, and then I thought of my cellphone, because I am a huge cellphone fan. It has become an indispensable electronic organ for me." \nHis mobile telephone will become an important source of income, too. With the publication of Out of the Fortress, He has become a media star, with more than 100 journalists interviewing him recently. He said he received an advance of 180,000 Chinese yuan, or more than US$20,000, for the book from hurray.com. Another company in Taiwan has offered him an even larger sum for the publishing rights there. \nAsked to describe the novel in 70 words or less, He failed woefully, speaking for several minutes before being informed that he had exceeded his word limit. "The word fortress is a metaphor for marriage in Chinese," He said, among many other things. "People on the inside want to get out. People on the outside want to get in, meaning having extramarital affairs. \n"My book is about two people who have a passionate affair, which is not supported by morality or law, but is very understandable." \nIf He's explanation of his book's theme ran on a bit, his timing of its publication is impeccable, when e-mail has replaced old-fashioned letters only to be replaced in turn by text messages in much of the world. \nBuild something new \nWith its phenomenal economic growth and huge ambitions, China is in the throes of change. Many of the urban landscapes here were not even blueprints a decade ago, and the zeitgeist seems to be, "Why bother with itsy-bitsy evolutionary steps when you can build something new altogether?" \nThough others will dispute whether he truly invented the short-message novel form, He had an understanding of how fast cellphones are changing life here, and a keen grasp of marketing. \nIn addition to providing the usual functions, like e-mail, web surfing, restaurant reservations, dating and global positioning-aided directions and maps for the lost that are already commonplace in East Asia, China's mobile phone world has become the latest frontier of individual enterprise. \nSelf-styled comedians sell jokes to the humor-challenged. Others sell pickup lines and romantic advice to the bashful or socially awkward, like this pearl: "Stop always asking your boyfriend to accompany you shopping. Men seldom like shopping, and forcing it can trigger rebellion." There is even a mobile phone for sale for those who are clueless about contraception, or perhaps ashamed to see a doctor in person. \nIndeed, another author, a Beijing television and radio personality, Dai Pengfei, claims to have published a short-message novel a few weeks before He, after having started out as a short-message columnist. "Perhaps I am boasting, but I am said to be number one among China's short-message writers," said Pengfei, who is 30. "Qian Fuzhang is more successful at turning this into money, though, and I respect him for that."
BUSY DAY: The same day the USS ‘Barry’ passed through the Strait, Taiwan was ending its Han Kuang military exercises, while China said it conducted an exercise near Taiwan A US Navy ship on Friday sailed through the Taiwan Strait, marking the ninth time a US military vessel has transited the Strait since US President Joe Biden took office in January. The USS Barry, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, conducted a “routine” transit through the Strait, the US Navy said in a statement, adding that the journey through international waters was conducted “in accordance with international law.” “The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the US Navy said. “The United States military flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows.” The Ministry
FRUIT SPAT: The COA said China had not given evidence for halting wax and custard apple imports, adding that it would spend NT$1bn on promoting sales of the fruit Taipei threatened to take China to the WTO yesterday after Beijing said it would suspend wax apple and custard apple imports from Taiwan due to pest concerns. China’s customs administration earlier yesterday said it had repeatedly found pests called Planococcus minor, a type of mealybug, on wax and custard apples from Taiwan. It asked its Guangdong branch and all affiliated offices to stop clearing the products from today. China had acted unilaterally, without providing scientific evidence, Council of Agriculture (COA) Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) told a news conference, criticizing the announcement’s timing, as it came during the Mid-Autumn Festival, celebrated in Taiwan
ON ALERT: A woman who tested positive for COVID-19 while abroad last year tested negative twice in Taiwan before showing a positive result on Sunday, the center said The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported two locally transmitted COVID-19 infections, four imported cases and no deaths. The CECC meanwhile warned nearly 500 people to monitor their health after a woman tested postive. The center also reported that a previous local case — a female worker at Taoyuan International Airport Services (桃園航勤), who had the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 — likely contracted the disease from the same source as a previous imported case from Turkey. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that the two local cases were reported in Taipei, and are a
CLOSED DOORS? The new US rules, which are to be implemented in November, have sparked concern in Taiwan, given its low fully vaccinated coverage rate The US plans to allow entry to most foreign air travelers as long as they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — while adding a testing requirement for unvaccinated Americans and barring entry for foreigners who have not received shots. The measures announced on Monday by the White House mark the most sweeping change to US travel policies in months, and widen the gap in rules between vaccinated people — who would see restrictions relaxed — and unvaccinated people. The new rules would replace existing bans on foreigners’ travel to the US from certain regions, including Europe. While the move would open the