Weekend Getaway: The Shortest of Fictions

This Weekend Getaway is a short one. Really short, in fact. I only expect you to read 140 characters at a time. Why yes, I am talking about a Twitter-based piece of writing. In fact, there are two things I will send you out to look at today.

First, we have Thaumatrope, a Twitter-based science fiction, fantasy, and horror magazine. You can learn a little about the background of the zine here. All the stories on Thaumatrope are 140 characters or less, and the zine has featured work from writers such as Cory Doctorow, Mary Robinette Kowal, John Scalzi, Tim Pratt, Althea Kontis, and many more. As might be expected, the quality is hit and miss. Many of the stories work with being punny or have twist endings, which can get tiring if you read a bunch of them at once. It’s better to dip in now and again, or subscribe to it with your phone or favorite Twitter interface, and read them as they come.

Similarly, Orbit author Jeff Somers (The Electric Church, The Digital Plague, and The Eternal Prison) has written a story using Twitter*. Of course, now that the story is complete, it can be hard to read as Twitter displays updates from newest back to oldest, i.e., you’ll see the end of the story first if you click on that link. Here is the link to the first update. Although, you don’t get an option to move forward through the updates from there, so you’ll have to go to the first page of updates (currently page eight), and read from the bottom of the page to the top and work towards the newest page. Think of it as reading Manga and you should be fine.

I know that neither of these conceits will appeal to everyone. For me, I appreciate that people are trying something new in storytelling. Using Twitter or SMS for stories may not work well for Latin-based languages where a word is made up of several characters (unlike Japanese or Chinese where each character represents a word or a concept) since it can take many updates to tell a story of any substance.

In November 2006, Wired magazine challenged a number of authors to write six word stories. According to Wired, this was inspired by an Ernest Hemingway six-word story: ”For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Allegedly Hemingway considered this some of his best work.

So that’s three places to go do some reading this weekend, but it’s all short.


* In case you’re wondering, there are about 50 updates for the Somers Twitter story, and calculating update length at an average of 23 words, the story is approximately 1200 words long.

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