Tweets as Fiction: Black Box by Jennifer Egan
In The New Yorker’s science fiction issue this week is a story by Jennifer Egan – Black Box – a sci-fi thriller featuring a character from her novel A Visit from the Goon Squad. In the novel, Lulu is the love-child of a publicist and a movie star named the General, and here we find her not only an adult but a sexy undercover spy musing on the realities of seducing a powerful and ruthless stranger. Written in 140-or-less character bursts, the story will also be systematically tweeted over the next ten days (well, five days now), at a rate of one tweet a minute for sixty minutes a day.
The concept is gimmicky, but only because it’s been framed as this innovative exploration of using twitter as a delivery system. This isn’t going to revitalise serialised fiction, especially not in the way they’re doing it. Why in God’s name would anybody want that pixelated duck-face preening next to each sentence, let alone the constant reminder that you’re reading ‘New Yorker Fiction’? At the very least, create an account for the character – this is one of the strengths of Twitter after all: disseminating bite-sized insights into the banalities of a stranger's life – case in point: Coffee Dad's day-to-day repression.
Thankfully the story can also be read here and so far, it’s a good time - poetic and powerful in ways that surprise, and it's remarkable how well she builds suspense given the constraints she's working under. I hugely admire Egan’s experimentation with form – her PowerPoint chapter in A Visit From The Goon Squad was one of the most exciting things I read last year – and it’s nice to see somebody exploring the medium and its potential instead of writing it off as “everything I oppose.”