Twitterature – enjoying literature in bits

The tweet as a quantum of content. 800 tweets can make up a novel, but not always. You still need a plot and an author.

Writing is not an inherent skill. People read aloud back in the Middle Ages, and learned to read silently only later.

Now, talks are voiceless, too. The written word converges with spoken language, with text increasingly focused on contact, not content.

A reading span is becoming shorter. Long texts are like Latin, a dead language of the Classics, accessible to few.

With the emancipation of authorship, the total amount of texts is becoming bigger. But the number of short messages is rising exponentially.

Conventional literature sees the world as a long linear narrative. It is about diligence, not language. Old forms are losing momentum.

The code of the new ecosystem is Fast’n’fun. McDonald’s – It can happen!

Many Latin works were not translated to modern languages. Diligence-based literature can’t be translated into fast’n’fun language at all.

What if we tried to write a novel in a new language, for instance the language of Twitter? Too late – it’s already been done.

Executive Severance is composed of tweets under 140 characters each.

But it’s not just about writing in short messages. A mystery novel has actually been published on Twitter.

This experimental novel was written by Robert K. Blechman, a Media Studies professor at Fordham University in New York, USA.

By posting several tweets a day for 15 months, Blechman wrote 800 tweets, which make up the text of his novel.

The writing technique became a legend of its own, making the novel a hit. In fact, Blechman invented a whole new genre: Twitstery.

According to Clay Shirky, the message the new media are conveying is, “you can play this game too.” Content will follow.

Blechman’s Twitstery has its own metamessage, too: Wow, this novel is made up of tweets! But that’s not all. There is also a good story.

Robert K. Blechman received the 2012 Mary Shelley Award from the Media Ecology Association for Outstanding Fictional Work.

Executive Severance should occupy a place in world literature as the detective novel with the most direct or indirect McLuhan quotes.

Despite the prevailing new media signals, this is a classic well-written detective story. Critics were right to note author’s wit and humor.

The main character of the detective novel is, unsurprisingly, a police detective, who is a little clumsy and somewhat autistic.

Detective Arkaby is a conspiracy theorist who leaves odd things alone, but sees hidden meanings in the commonplace.

In a widow’s house he notices that the No. 5 honey jar is missing, and concludes that 5 is a key to the mystery and message from the killer.

In a mine, he receives a canary to detect gas. In a tense moment, he becomes calm seeing that the canary is sleeping peacefully in its cage.

Every guess he makes is absurd, but the investigation remains on the right track. In this, Arkaby resembles the Pink Panther detective.

Twitter itself is important to the plot. Not only the novel is published on Twitter, its characters also use the microblogging service.

The victim posts a message on Twitter at the time of the murder that reads: aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. A coded killer name or a stuck keyboard key?

Arkaby posts his tweets to describe the investigation progress. It turns out he has only 1 follower, and that follower is…

Arkaby seems to be an acronym made up of the author’s initials, although there is no direct evidence to this effect.

The author plays with two narrative layers: Twitter messages that become a novel and a novel that becomes a book.

The narrator is closely entwined with the main character, since the narrative takes place on Twitter. Jubilant post-postmodernism.

Sitting in a refrigerator, Arkaby turns to Twitter for advice. Feedback from real-life readers is featured in the novel as Twitter advice.

In a sequel Blechman goes further by switching to the present tense. Arkaby tweets during fights and accidents, and even unconsciously.

True emancipation of authorship. A story no longer depends on author’s state. It’s not us inhabiting social media, it’s them inhabiting us.

The sequel, The Golden Parachute, is currently being written on Twitter. You can follow it at @Twitstery.

As a book they still make for a better read, as tweets in it offer little text bites with empty space in between. Nothing like Tolstoyevsky.

And I forgot to mention. Since I’m retelling a detective story, I should say: the killer turns out to be the gardener.

(Originally published in Russian on Colta.ru)

Andrey Miroshnichenko

Author of Human as media. The emancipation of authorship – available on Amazon

Msm_amir_coverCC.indd

Advertisements


Categories: Emancipation of Authorship

Tags: , ,

2 replies

  1. Thank you for your insightful review! I’d be happy to answer any questions from your readers about “Executive Severance” or the Twitter Fiction movement in general. I can be reached at blechman@fordham.edu, or of course, on Twitter at @RKBs_Twitstery

  2. Below is some notes by Robert K Blechman published with his kind permission.

    >>>”Now, talks are voiceless, too. The written word converges with spoken language, with text increasingly focused on contact, not content.”

    Yes! I think this is the crux of the controversy about social media. Critics are looking for content where the primary intent is contact. I think things like the Twitter Fiction movement are attempts to show you can do both.

    >>>”Conventional literature sees the world as a long linear narrative. It is about diligence, not language. Old forms are losing momentum.”

    I think the distinction here is between the communication biases of orality vs. literacy, between the easily memorized aphorism as a method to convey knowledge versus the longer discourse that print enabled. In what Walter Ong calls our era of “Secondary Orality”, we may be moving to an age where aphorisms regain the prominence they had in oral cultures. Twitter may be our training ground for that.

    >>>”The main character of the detective novel is, unsurprisingly, a police detective, who is a little clumsy and somewhat autistic.”

    I don’t know if I would characterize Arkaby as autistic, which has the connotation of being non-communicative or out-of-touch, unless you are suggesting that addiction to social media is a form of autism. If anything my detective has too many wheels turning in his head which, as you note, leads him to find connections where none exist or miss obvious clues that are right in front of him. This is the result of a classical education which not only included McLuhan but also Joyce, Proust, Shakespeare, Chandler, Hammett, Spillane and Robert B. Parker. It also reflects the Twitter stream of consciousness, where the Twitter follower is presented with an endless stream of unconnected tweets and must somehow finding his or her own meaning.

    >>>”Arkaby seems to be an acronym made up of the author’s initials, although there is no direct evidence to this effect.”

    The jury is still out on that.

    Robert K Blechman

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: