Voices in the Wilderness: Chinese Online Literature


In the Economist blog Prospero:

Internet writing has been nothing short of a revolution for Chinese literature. It has allowed myriad voices to be heard. The digital landscape and technology have changed since the first wave of authors began to write; readers in China now access novels through smartphones and tablets rather than desktops. Yet the internet remains the “single root” in China today to kick-start a career as a wordsmith, says Jo Lusby, managing director of Penguin China, a publishing house. “There are no authors under the age of 35 who were not discovered on the internet,” she adds.

Online literature sites have blossomed in the last decade. They provide a rich, and grassroots, alternative to the staid state-run publishing houses. While all books published in the mainland are subject to scrutiny by cautious editors and zealous censors, online literature sites are watched less carefully. They still operate behind the “great firewall”, China’s internet-filtering system which blocks sensitive words or topics, but the sheer volume of works produced, combined with the lack of editorial oversight, creates an important loophole.

On sites such as Rongshuxia visitors pay per instalment to read works. Authors, often posting and writing simultaneously, can gauge reader feedback and shift plots as they go. Innovative editors from China's burgeoning private publishing industry trawl through them to find the next big thing.