Blogs have been rewriting the authors’ manual as readers respond positively to e-literature.
They are still finding their way, but sure-footed e-authors have made a major impact on Vietnamese literature over the past three years.
More Vietnamese in their twenties and thirties are taking to writing online, and they’re hitting the spots with readers.
Among those whose writings have found mainstream acceptance are e-literature pioneer Tran Thu Trang with his Cocktail cho tinh yeu (Love cocktail) and 99 tuan buon chuyen (Gossiping for 99 weeks);
Keng, whose real name is Do Thi Thuy Linh, with Di ban (Variant); Can Van Khanh with Nguoi dan ong co doi mat trong (The man with clear eyes); Giao Chi with Tuyet den (Black snow) and Dang Thieu Quang with Cho tuyet roi (Waiting for snow to fall).
Most of these authors bring up new themes and social problems that lurk on the edge of Vietnam’s modernization – the foibles of young urbanites in the Internet age, or the hidden corners of contemporary urban life; and adeptly deal with the issues using fresh and youthful approaches.
Their works appeal to a large number of readers, especially young people who recognize themselves in the writing.
Di Li, known for best-selling thrillers, feels that key to the success of e-writing is the ability to grab and hold the readers’ interest.
“Otherwise they will turn to a more fascinating site with just a click,” she notes.
E-literature has several strengths.
One is the instantaneity of the feedback authors receive after their works are posted.
The authors can gage how much readers like their work based on the comments and number of visitors logged by their blogs or websites.
They can also incorporate readers’ ideas in their work to make their writing more appealing.
E-literature also enables writers to write at any time and at any place and make revisions easily, and it allows them freedom in editing, and format designing.
Online works are not subject to the revision and editing of publishers, a fact that can tremendously encourage creativity.
“E-literature is indeed a revolution in terms of writers’ approach to their readers,” says Phong Diep, known for his short story collections Ma meo (The cat spirit) and Ke du phan (The participant).
Following the success of several online works, their paper editions have come out, drawing even more attention from readers and critics.
Noticing the development of e-literature, Bach Viet Book Co. led the way by publishing several compilations of e-writing in late 2006.
The company has published Nhat ky tinh yeu TIO (TIO’s love diary), a series of online essays written for teenagers by Tran Thu Trang and Khi nao anh thuoc ve em (When will you belong to me), a collection of short stories by Can Van Khanh among other titles.
It was not long before Van Nghe Publishing House, in coordination with Muc Tim, a teen magazine, published the novel Tuyet den (Black snow) by Giao Chi and Di ban (Variant), a collection of short stories by Keng.
The paper editions proved to be hugely popular.
Despite its popularity, e-literature has been tagged by many as lowbrow, superficial entertainment that caters to casual, novelty-loving readers and is hyped by the media and the writers themselves.
Celebrated Chinese e-writers like Guo Jing Ming, Han Han and An Ni Bao Bei also did not receive support from critics when they began posting their works on the Internet several years ago. However, they soon won recognition thanks to a huge online following and their paper editions topped China’s bestseller lists. They were also big hits outside the country.
Guo Jing Ming is now a millionaire and was recently isted among the 100 most nfluential figures in Chinese w-business by Forbes.
He was chosen by famed director Chen Kai Ge to adapt Ge’s smash-hit “The Promise” into a literary work.
According to Tran Thu Trang, e-literature in Vietnam remains in infancy.
“I still can’t see much difference between current e-literary work and its conventional counterparts in both content and form,” she says, adding several pieces are in fact simply traditional stories that are uploaded.
Furthermore, e-writers and e-literary works in their true sense are limited in number, Trang notes.
For Trang, e-writers are those who write when they are online, usually, and post their pieces regularly on the Internet.
They must also have their own style and maintain interaction with a certain number of readers, she adds.
Writers assert that e-literature plays an important role in today’s society.
“There are more than 10 million Internet users in Vietnam, the majority of them are intellectuals,” Trang notes.
“Many seem to undervalue e-literature right now, but I think it will play an increasingly important role in today’s society as the use of the Internet is constantly increasing,” says Keng.
Di Li observes that “everything has strengths and weaknesses, but the strengths of e-literature outweigh its weaknesses.”
“Though online readers now make up an insignificant portion of the population and mostly live in cities, e-literature is playing an increasingly important role with the boom in Internet use,” says Le Thanh Huy, director of Bach Viet Book Co.
It also promotes a reading culture, especially among the youth, Huy adds.
There are those who support e-literature but call for tightened control over it.
“I don’t think e-literature is lowbrow. It’s just that content posted on blogs and websites remain unchecked, so well-written works and nonsense are usually jumbled together,” said Nguyen Duc Binh, director of Van Nghe Publishing House.
“If online pieces observe the Publishing Law or Press Law, they will certainly be no different from paper-based counterparts,” Binh noted.
“In my opinion, the media and public should support the new form [e-literature] and give it enough time to develop before judging it,” Huy said.
The future of hyperlink lit
Huy said he was afraid e-literature would soon fall into oblivion like many other artistic trends in Vietnam.
“After familiar writers like Trang Ha, Tran Thu Trang and Ha Kin, who appeared around 2007, I have not seen any new faces,” he said.
While waiting for the emergence of new e-authors, the old faces are still optimistic about e-lit’s future and they also have plans of their own for continued success.
Di Li said she would continue to post new thriller novels on her website www.dilivn.com while writer/translator Trang Ha has opened a new website www.vanhocmang.net.
Keng, who has published two new books, said she believed e-liturature would develop fast.
“Vietnam’s e-literature is just in its embryonic phase. There will be more authors with different styles and trends,” Trang said, adding she was writing regularly on her website www.tranthutrang.net.
Reported by Nguyen Le Chi