Brendan C. Byrne

Retweeting Fiction

New York City. Photograph by Teju Cole, via Flickr.

On the morning of January 8th, Teju Cole published a fiction in the form of 33 tweets, each posted from the account of a different "collaborator," and then retweeted sequentially by Cole. Titled "Hafiz," it took three hours and fifteen minutes to be published. Like most of Cole's experiments in Twitter publishing, it generated much more social media heat than actual critique. (There are a few notable exceptions.) But "Hafiz," both as a story and presentation, is worth examining, as it is both the closest @tejucole has come to Teju Cole's fiction and a singular commentary on it.

Incognito Mode for the 21st-Century Flâneur

 Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877).

If it's just a matter of avoiding "that guy" or helping its co-creator avoid his ex, then the new "anti-social" app Cloak—which sources your contacts' locations based on their check-ins on Foursquare and Instagram, so that you can avoid them—is just another coddling mechanism that allows us to construct miniature worlds from our "likes," excluding anything that causes us discomfort. This ends, of course, in a boring, predictable, and ultimately doomed utopia, when suddenly everyone is too "Nearby" on Cloak's green-on-black world map, and no one can be "Far enough."

The Horror of Google Street View

Jon Rafman, BR-265, Barbacena, Minas Gerais, Brazil, (2012). Archival pigment print on aluminium. Seventeen Gallery.

It is not a good opening paragraph, as opening paragraphs go: 

A friend of mine showed me how to use Google Maps. I'm sure you've seen it. It lets you use satellite images to look at locations all over the world. A few years ago, I was in a car accident.

Besides unnecessarily explaining Google Maps, "Satellite Images" begins by executing exposition with brutality and an utter disregard for the show-don't-tell "rule." But this is creepypasta, an authorless horror story from the bowels of the internet. A kind of new iteration of the urban legend, with the internet as its city, creepypasta generally takes the form of as FOAFlore (ie friend-of-a-friend lore), comments on a forum, or a final, strangled pleading blogpost, posing as authentic testimony rather than fiction. The genre thrives on anonymity and slipshod writing, both of which boost the stories' presumed veracity. Will Wiles describes the genre as having "an eerie air of having arisen from nowhere... a networked effort to deliver dread in as efficient a way as possible." 

To Program a Prose Machine


Nanni Balestrini, Tristano, copy #10750 (Verso, 2014).

In order to program a poetry machine, one would first have to repeat the entire Universe from the beginning—or at least a good piece of it.

— Stanislaw Lem [1]

"All directions are of equal importance." This is the second sentence in the second paragraph on page 88 of my copy of Nanni Balestrini's 1966 novel Tristano, #10750. You cannot read this novel, unless I lend it to you, as each of the 10,000 copies Verso publish this month contain different iterations of the same text.

Ikarie XB-1 and the Socialist Sci-Fi Space Ship

Still frame from Ikarie XB-1 (1963).

In his 1964 philosophical opus Summa Technologiae (the first English translation of which was published by The University of Minnesota Press last year), Polish author Stanisław Lem refers to the SF convention of "space 'ships,' including a brave 'crew'" as symptoms of a kind of "'reverse' nineteenth-century historical novel." "We can surely amuse ourselves like this," Lem wrote, "provided we remember we are only playing."

Discussions (5) Opportunities (0) Events (0) Jobs (0)

S.D. Chrostowska, Marie Calloway, and the New Media Novel

Zachary, Hey didn't know about this comment til I saw Michael's post today which mentioned it. Sounds like exactly the kind of thing I wanted for this piece. Will pick it up soon. (Congrats btw.)


To Program a Prose Machine

Photography of 'Tristano', copy #10750 by Jennette Cheung.


S.D. Chrostowska, Marie Calloway, and the New Media Novel

Emily Gould informs me that the chat layout in question was eventually based on that used in Choire Sicha's 'A Very Recent History', which I neglected to read due to my inability to get the joking self-reference in his tweet.


Thomas M. Disch's "Endzone"

Donovan_S_Brain: Thanks much for the invaluable context and remembrance. That Disch envisaged comments barnacling to 'Endzone' long after his death offers another angle on his relationship with the platform. As I remember, comments were turned off for some time. I'm glad this has been rectified.

I also recommend readers view the comments, some quite intimate, on Disch's final post; many were posted near the anniversaries of his death.


Thomas M. Disch's "Endzone"

Minor correction: Henry Wessells informs me that 'Winter Journeys' has not yet been published by Payseur & Schmidt. The Poetry Foundation's statement that it was published in 2010 was obviously a flaw of optimism.