Jennifer Egan on the steps of her home in Brooklyn last April. (Henny Ray Abrams/AP)
Twitter isn't just for headlines and humblebrags. At 8 p.m. Thursday, The New Yorker magazine will begin tweeting a short story by the novelist Jennifer Egan in 140-character installments. The magazine's fiction department—@NYerFiction—will blast out 60 lines from the short story each night for 10 days. The futuristic spy story features a character from Egan's novel "A Visit from the Goon Squad" and will run in full in the magazine's science fiction issue, out Monday.
Egan wrote the spy story in a series of short, 140-character paragraphs with Twitter in mind. Deborah Treisman, the New Yorker's fiction editor, told Yahoo News that she didn't realize when she was reading Egan's story that it was written for Twitter. After she told Egan she wanted to publish it, the novelist asked that it be published in bite-size pieces over the social network. Treisman says she hopes the new format will pull in new readers. "We're hoping to reach a wider audience than we do with the print magazine," she said.
Egan told the New Yorker that she'd been pondering "how to write fiction whose structure would lend itself to serialization on Twitter."
This is not a new idea, of course, but it's a rich one—because of the intimacy of reaching people through their phones, and because of the odd poetry that can happen in a hundred and forty characters. I found myself imagining a series of terse mental dispatches from a female spy of the future, working undercover by the Mediterranean Sea. I wrote these bulletins by hand in a Japanese notebook that had eight rectangles on each page. The story was originally nearly twice its present length; it took me a year, on and off, to control and calibrate the material into what is now "Black Box."
Egan told the New York Times that she isn't a fan of using Twitter personally. "I felt tongue-tied. It seemed phony," she said. "I felt really self-conscious." She's written only six tweets over two years.
Treisman says the New Yorker retains the rights to the story even though it is published over Twitter. Other authors have experimented with publishing over Twitter, including "Goosebumps" writer R.L. Stine and fantasy writer Neil Gaiman.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified the number of lines the New Yorker will publish per day on Twitter.
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