[Viewpoint] ‘I am an author, too!’Colosseum syndrome, if I have to name it, appears to have spread in our society. It’s just like the Colosseum of the Roman Empire, when great battles were fought in the grand setting, expressed in the film “Gladiator” by Ridley Scott and the American television series “Spartacus.”
At the Colosseum, gladiator battles were too desperate and too vivid to think of why the participants had ended up there. The audiences were simply fascinated by the battles of life and death in front of their eyes.
As the gladiators fought with a minimum of arms, the battles seemed to be very “fair.” For the many people who believe that society is unfair, that fairness is precious.
After seeing the success of television programs such as “Superstar K” and “Star Audition: The Great Birth,” as well as “Survival: I Am a Singer,” I realized that society has long desired the dramatic success of the ordinary man through fair competition. For “Survival: I Am a Singer,” veteran singers compete to prove their talents, and their seriousness has touched many people’s hearts.
A similar reality competition program finally appeared in the literary world. The title is “I Am an Author.” Jaeum and Moeum Publishing Company started the contest on May 1 to find a new author.
After selecting a theme for the novel, a writer can file an application to the publisher and start posting his or her serial stories online. When the series reaches 100 pages, the editors and readers evaluate the novel to see if the writer will be given the opportunity to continue posting.
Readers’ evaluations are determined by the number of page views and a group of judges will be selected from Internet users.
When the series reaches 500 pages, another evaluation takes place to decide whether the writer will be headed to the third stage. Critics and professional authors will provide advice in the third stage, and financial support will be provided. When the novel reaches more than 800 pages and is then completed, the publisher will publish the story as an electronic book. The work also will be published in hardcopy.
The publisher said this unusual program was to break down the wall of literature and to promote literature that communicates with readers. The publisher said existing competitions are already dominated by writers with some experience, so it wanted to open the door further. And, the publisher said submissions can be of all genres including fantasy.
Some established authors, however, have been critical of the contest. They said writing is a process different from singing in front of an audience. They also said it appeared to be inappropriate to allow the readers to serve as jurists. And they expressed concern that the submissions would just focus on sensationalism because the writers want to have more page views. Some lamented that this shows the country’s literary world is facing a crisis.
As I skimmed through the 29 novels that have been posted, some appeared to be below par, having many grammatical errors. But some others were great, and I wondered how their stories would unfold. Separate from the intention of the publisher, the possibility of commercial success is behind the new format of the competition in the literary world.
What will be the background, or explanation, of the possible commercial success? It is probably the urge to jump into the Colosseum for a fair battle. It is probably the public’s desire to criticize the elitism of established authors and shout, “I am an author, too!”
The protests could be seen as similar to the ones now facing politicians. “What do you think you have? I have something, too!” the public will want to say.
That feeling appeared to be working when the time came for the by-elections. That probably was why the Democratic Party’s Choi Moon-soon appeared to voters as an ordinary, likeable person, instead of being like his slick rival.
MBC probably titled its singer audition program “Star Audition: The Great Birth” to use people’s emotions of seeking “greatness” because they are ordinary. Participation and challenge appear to be the keywords.
A strong change is taking place in our society. It will present a harder challenge for the politicians.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Noh Jae-hyun