“We live in a world where everything’s digital,” says Pico.
“We live in a world where everything’s digital,” says Pico.

Our understanding of space and time is changing. When change occurs in real time, it often goes unnoticed. It requires you to step outside of life as it happens around you—to step outside of yourself. You must look back at a time that has already passed, place yourself in the context of that time and compare it to the present.

Not so long ago we experienced the world in three dimensions. Life occurred on that all too familiar grid of X, Y and Z. Time was similarly arranged in a linear, predictable order. This is not the case any longer.

So much of our life now takes place in a digital public square. It used to be we met up at a café to chat person to person. Now we socialize as little more than electronic ghosts. We’ve exchanged smiles for emoticons.

Likewise, our sense of time has not only contracted, but fragmented. Ours is a culture in which everyone is simultaneously perpetually busy, pressed for time, and yet somehow distracted between the cracks in brief flashes that span nanoseconds.

However, sometimes the richness of life occurs in that negative space. The world is changing, which might disturb some, but it can be a blessing. Those old throwaway moments are now bastions of opportunity. Where once life was simply forgotten, because of technology we are now accomplishing great feats in those micro moments.

It’s with the spirit of the changing world that Marcos Pico, graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno and current doctoral student at Arizona State University, has written his new short fiction collection Los Cuentos que me Enseñaron y otros, or The Fictions That They Taught Me and Others. For Pico, not only has the medium of fiction writing changed, but also the act of reading.

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“If you’re riding the metro, bus—you’re at [a] bar, and you’re killing time—you don’t have time to read Ulysses,” he says.

An aim of fiction writing is to uncover truths of humanity, so it should reflect the current state of man. So, if space has now become a mutable, amorphous cloud, and time a disjoint, shouldn’t our fiction emulate that?

Pico thinks so. “Most of it was digital,” he says. “We wanted [to] stay away from paper, because we live in a world where everything’s digital.”

He’s not only referring to the format of his book, but also the way in which it was written. “Sometimes, now, I don’t even carry around my moleskin, now I pick up my smartphone, start typing and then save it.”

The stories in this collection were all written digitally, in brief moments of repose, for brief moments of repose. The stories are all less than one page long, some of them little more than a few sentences, and represent a burgeoning form of fiction known as microfiction. Most of us, whether we realize it or not, are familiar with this 21st century form of writing. Anyone using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr are all essentially microbloggers. For Pico, this a perfect format for a modern audience.

“Fiction doesn’t have to be 300 [or] 400 pages now, and if you already have the story behind it, and the characters, then you only have to fill in the gaps to get the joke or the message that the story is giving to you.

The stories in the first half of Pico’s collection are all derived from fables and fairy tales that are familiar to most of us. But Pico didn’t simply retell the stories. In some cases, he brought the characters outside of the context of the story as we know it, and re-imagined these sort of ironic consequences. There is, for instance, the story “Emergency” in which Pico has placed Cinderella in a doctor’s office after she has gotten stuck inside of a pumpkin.

Pico describes the stories like this: “They are older stories remade, mixed with a little bit of satire, and thrown back out with a 21st century point of view.”

The cover design of the collection does a good job of representing, not only the fairy tale aspect of the publication, but also symbolically the way that we ingest fiction in the wake of these new technologies.

“The idea behind the cover was having stories, or fictions, that fly around, and having a person just trying to collect them and read them,” says Pico.

The cover features local model Amy Nichols dressed as Little Red Riding Hood knelt before a tree that has pages hanging off and fluttering in the air above her, presumably each containing a little tale for her to pluck at random and read. This portrays the method we often use to read our fiction. Just as you’re hard-pressed to find anyone with an actual CD collection these days, so too are book collections becoming a thing of the past. Books are no longer these tangible objects, they exist for us to pluck from the sky and display on our Kindles or Nooks.

To really hit on the idea of the changing landscape of fiction writing and reading, Pico included the type of device that the story was written on at the end of each story. “Most of them were written in text messages, netbooks, laptops, Blackberries, etc.”

Pico wanted everything to be digital for this publication, which is why he decided to publish it exclusively online. This is a growing trend in the world of publishing because not only is it cost-effective, but it’s simply more practical. Publishing is going the way of digital music. With the emergence of a new array of eReaders, there is finally a device on which we can enjoy our books digitally. This has opened up the possibility for anyone with the motivation and wherewithal to become a self-publisher.

“I think it’s bringing some of the power back to the writer, and pulling some away from the publisher,” says Pico. “If you really manage it right and have good material, and you have people talking about your work, I think it’s a good opportunity for up-and-coming writers.”

Pico plans to make his book available on Amazon by the end of January, making it accessible to anyone with an eReader and $2.99. Pico sees this as not only the natural course for publishing, but also as smart and practical. “This is [a] new commercial way of writing, and that link between reader-writer is changing. … Kids nowadays, they don’t have the desire to go to the library and carry around a book. Now they just want to carry them all in their iPhone or Kindle.”

Essentially, people are looking for fiction that fills those cracks, those brief moments on the bus in silent contemplation, or waiting at Gate B before your flight. And new crops of young writers, like Pico, are looking for a better way to inject themselves, if even only briefly, into the lives of potential readers, and increasingly so on their own terms.

“Publishing online is the most democratic way of publishing,” says Pico. “Because who is holding you accountable for good writing? The reader.”

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