In a time when people have fewer hours each day to spend reading, short fiction and essays are becoming increasingly more popular. I recently happened upon an exciting and wonderful new electronic/digital e-platform for publishing outstanding short fiction and informative essays. It is called 40K, based in Milan, Italy and according to their web site (www.40Kbooks.com) it specializes in “novelettes and original essays, translated into many different languages.”
40K offers insightful essays and entertaining fiction, keeping in mind that the reader has a limited amount of time in any given day. Their e-books can be read in approximately an hour, depending on the speed of the reader.
The price is certainly right. For anywhere from .99 cents to a couple of dollars, readers can select stories that are then electronically downloaded to whichever computer or e-book they prefer. 40K’s site offers an assortment of genres, including essays on digital, as well as creative life. The short fiction is separated into thee categories: Fantasy, Literary, Sci-Fi and Steampunk.
In an interview on 40K’s web site (www.40kbooks.com) by author and MIT grad student Livia Blackburn with 40k’s editorial director Giuseppe Granieri, Giuseppe says:
“Our novelettes are the result of a need that the print market cannot satisfy: e-books create a new market for relatively short fiction. I’ve always liked this form of fiction because it’s more difficult than novels. It’s a great challenge for a writer. Novels can have pauses, faults: a long story wins by points. A novelette, as Julio Cortazar wrote, needs to win by knock-out.”
And as for the essays 40k publishes:
“Our essays, relatively short and strongly focused, are a solution for another functional limit of paper. With digital books you don’t need to fill hundreds of pages with the same concept, and you can better filter the information you give to your readers. It’s a matter of value: you can transmit a strong concept while requiring a lower investment from the readers in terms of reading time. Time is always valuable—in many cases, more valuable than the price. Nobody can read everything; we have to choose. So if you can explain a complex concept while requiring a manageable time investment, it’s a very good thing.”
I decided to sample a short fiction title offered by 40K, “Except The Music (A Sophisticated Story),” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. One of 40K’s techniques to entice readers is through some very edgy and colorful e-book design. In this case:
“Except The Music,” is an unusual story from the very first line: a strange and mysterious question posed by a woman who’s name we never find out who wonders aloud after a sexual tryst, “Where do musicians go to die?”
The honey-brown haired beauty posed the rhetorical question as she lay on her bed watching her lover, a world famous pianist named Max try to find his shoe and finish getting dressed. Max was attempting to somehow gracefully extract himself from the home of a women he’s just met and taken home after a post-performance mixer at the North County Music Festival, an annual classical music festival, located somewhere on the Oregon coast. The 45-year old Max fumbles his way out the door only to realize that he’s forgotten the name of the woman he’s just made love to, an embarrassment which will continue to haunt the well known classical piano virtuoso.
Backstage the next evening, Max’s spies his new lover, sitting in the fourth row. However, absolutely no one including Max’s long time friend, mentor and festival originator Otto, has any idea who she is or what her name is. In hushed tones, the 80-year-old world famous violinist Otto scolds Max, mostly in jest, for his obvious indiscretion the night before. This, despite the fact that we learn Otto was himself a legendary womanizer in younger days. It’s the old case of the pot calling the kettle black.
Soon tragedy strikes when Otto suffers a heart attack. Despite efforts to resuscitate the legendary performer, Otto passes away. Max struggles to announce the sad news and is then thrown into the job of running the remaining nights of the festival. Max and his paramour bump into each other late at night in a parking lot where the woman offers Max solace before disappearing in the fog.
On the final night of the festival, during a performance by the other musicians of Mozart’s Requiem Max finally learns the true identity of this strange and mysterious woman and learns a lesson that his mentor, Otto, could never have taught. It is a rewarding and redemptive end to our story, and the beginning of new life for Max. It was also a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience.
As Otto was know to call out after a masterful performance, “Bravo,” to both this author and Bravo to 40KBooks, the medium for this tales telling and hopefully many more to come.