Win the New Kindle Paperwhite

New Kindle Paperwhite
Kindle Paperwhite

With one in five relationships starting online according to mysinglefriend.com, does this prove technology’s dominance in the field of love?

With Valentine’s Day soon upon us, we want to hear your best literary chat up lines (via haiku—we are a literary magazine after all), so step into the boots of the likes of Heathcliff and tweet us the lines he – or even, for that matter, Catherine Earnshaw – should have thrown at each other, to have stopped him from becoming such a bitter soul. The best lines will be posted online Friday 14th and a winning cupid will be chosen to win a New Kindle Paperwhite. Don’t worry, we’ve also got amazon e-gift cards to give away to runners-up as no one is a loser in Love. Send us a haiku (or a bunch of them) with your best one-liners.

To get you started, here’s one we made up at the office: “You’re going to think my last name is Caulfield, because I’ll be Holden you all night long” – can you do better? Get creative, be cheeky, and dedicate it to that special person or someone who sat next to you on the Tube and you wished you’d tried your lines on. You can post your haikus on our Twitter page or on our Facebook.

The winner will receive the latest piece of literary technology from Argos and runners up amazon e-gift cards
We’ll be bringing you a review of the Kindle Paperwhite next week once we’ve had a chance to put it through the Litro test.

Deadline: All haikus must be posted on or before Wednesday, February 12th




Into The Darkness: the Finished #LitroStory

Photo by Matthew Allard
Photo by Matthew Allard

During the holiday season we ran the second in our series of literary experiments on Twitter. We asked our followers to write a collective story, one tweet at a time. Novelist Wiley Cash (whose new novel This Dark Road to Mercy is the third title in the Litro Book Club) wrote the first line for us, and then we handed the story over to fate… and Twitter.

As our previous literary experiment on twitter proved, we had no idea how the story would turn out. Would readers want to take part during the Christmas break, put down their glasses and join us on twitter to complete the story? More importantly, would it come out as nonsense, or would the whole thing fizzle out like a Boxing Day hangover?

Well, the results are again in, and you can now read the finished story below. We’ve compiled the tweets in the order they were written, making the odd changes only to punctuation for the sake of clarity, and amending a change of person that seemed to be a mistake rather than artistic intention.

Again we have been pleasantly surprised with the outcome. Admittedly, it’s madder than a conversation with a stranger on a night bus on your way home after a night out, and at times careers from one plot idea to another, but it is a story, with a beginning, a middle and an end.

We are of course not the first to conceive of the notion of a collective online collaboration to complete a story, and there’s already a slew of work that embraces and plays with the possibilities of the web. We mentioned these in a post last year, but worthwhile mentioning again is flarf poetry, which uses “found” text as the material for a poem, and writers are using the net to engage readers in new ways, like Calum Kerr, who posted a flash fiction story every day for a year on his blog.

The Dutch writer Arnon Grunberg in November last year completed a Novella whilst wired up to electrodes, the stunt-turned-lab-experiment had him wired up to sensors, cameras which tracked his brain waves, heart rate, galvanic skin response (an electrical measure of emotional arousal) and facial expressions.

This autumn, when the book is published, some fifty ordinary people in the Netherlands will read it under similarly controlled circumstances, sensors and all. Researchers will then crunch the data to find patterns that may help illuminate links between the way art is created and enjoyed, and possibly the nature of creativity itself. But are these genuine literary innovations, or just publicity stunts, a bit of online fun to while away a lunch break?

Let’s be honest, we’re probably not on the brink of a new literary genre with our #Litrostory experiment. But we do think it raises some interesting questions about collaborative fiction, and how similar projects could be made to work in future. With all its faults, one thing the internet offers is the opportunities for collaboration and the cross-fertilization of ideas that are wider and more far-reaching than anything else in history.

Of course, the internet is also by its nature largely unedited, which is generally a pain – finding ways to sift the few grains of genius from the morass of nonsense is getting harder by the day.

In a recent article in the New York Times, author Francine Prose captures this sense of chaos: performing a Google search to find information on ‘Freud and the Unconscious’ she was prompted to click through the top autofill suggestion, which was: “Freud and the Irish.” Freud and the Irish was way above Freud and the Unconscious.

“About 2.29 million results (0.18 seconds)”

The Irish, Freud said, are the only people impervious to psychoanalysis. She found out the Freud Museum had no reliable source saying he had ever said that.

In the movie the The Departed, he is said to have said that.

The screenplay writer was quoted as saying he had come across it on the Internet.

The way we find and read literature has already been fundamentally changed by digital technology. It seems likely that the way writers write will be similarly affected. There’ll still be plenty of them scribbling away with a biro in their garden shed, but there’ll also be revolutionary new approaches to how literature is produced, and by who. The challenge will be watching for the meaningful patterns in the noise.

Into The Darkness: the Finished #LitroStory

GOTHIC_WINTER_by_JTphoto

It wasn’t the sound that woke him as much as it was the sensation of something large and dangerous passing overhead. Could it be that time of year again, he thought to himself, donning his boots and gloves to make his way out into the cold… Before his eyes even had time to adjust to the scene before him, he was overcome with disbelief.

“It cannot be,” he murmured. There on the hard frozen ground was a trail of glitter leading out of sight into the darkness. He stood in the silence and stared at the glitter for a moment, and then he went back inside to make the inevitable phone call.

He stood still for a moment, warming his hands by the fire, before sighing, cursing, and then raising the telephone to dial. As he raised his hand to dial, his remaining fingers trembled. Then, it happened: the phone began to ring. He let it ring, feeling the vibrations through the numbness in his fingers. Ten, twenty times it rang. He waited.

He answered.

“Where is it?” said a man’s voice.

“Where’s what?” he asked in return.

“You know,” the man’s voice said.

“No, I don’t know… stop this shit now and tell me what’s going on.” Silence. He gripped the receiver, listening.

“Leave it at the front desk in the 41 and this ends now. One hour.”

Dial tone.

He exhaled and looked at the case lying on the bed. Locked. He was scared but tried to hide it; that was his downfall last time. He limped across the room and started to fiddle with the lock. His hands were slick and he struggled to get a grip. The trails in the snow, then the phone call. Like reliving a nightmare.

Thud, thud, thud.

Three hard knocks. It was happening again. He stared at the door, willing it to stay shut as his heart raced. The banging stopped. He glanced frantically around, gripping the handle, trying to think. He froze. The doorknob was rattling. Petrified, he moved his hands in the dark to switch on the lights but as it turned out, there was no power. The rattling continued. Meanwhile, the creature that woke him had circled the town three times, and started to turn into the most innocent shape it found.

There was nothing else for it. Yelling, he charged through the door and out into the snow, almost tripping over it. He was overcome by the stillness that a blanket of snow can bring, snapped out of his own personal horror, just for a moment. His breath came out in clouds as he struggled to walk. He dropped the case, watching it fall into the sea of snow beneath him. He meant to curse under his breath, but spoke aloud; “Damn it, Miroshnikov!” he said to himself, firmly. He had to get a grip on himself; he was letting his imagination run away with him – but what was that snuffling sound?

Then the purple closed in.

When he came to, he found himself surrounded by darkness; it made him smile. He didn’t know where he was, but it was warm, soft and silent. Had he somehow escaped? He really wanted to quit this work.

He was overcome first by her scent and then taken aback by her enormous shadow as the lady slunk in.

“The glitter was me.”

He had no sense of space, so sense of anything at all in such darkness. Such a strange feeling. He smiled again. So bewitched by her beauty, he didn’t notice ‘41’ painted on her forehead. Nor did he notice her hand stretching into the snow, it was dark after all. But he felt her breath, smelt the gentle scent of lavender, which made him smile more, a memory rekindled.

Abruptly, the smell of petrol igniting tore him from his euphoria. He stood up but she pulled him back towards her. The smell of lavender strengthened and he felt suddenly overcome by it all. What was happening? The glitter, the number 41, those strange noises… It was like a dream, but one that somehow had meaning.

She shook him. “Wake up, Edward! It’s just stun gas. They’re coming after us. If you want to leave for Brazil we need to move now.”

He eyed her sleepily. “You go without me.”

She ignored him and dragged him to his feet and they staggered away through the snow.

Thanks to all our Twitter writers who contributed lines to this story:

@WileyCash, @GETtoasted, @alisonfogg, @katiejlumsden, @Kate_Baguley, @DanCoxonAuthor, @BellaReidWriter, @pfsinkler, @Ahranya, @DorotheeLang, @RachGth, @EmilyJayne1609, @Leah_S19, @CherryJPotts, @seanbeaudoin, @AdrianGeorgeNic, @ChrisGNguyen, @hennabutt, @RodolfoBarradas, @scottkeir, @promonmars




#litrostory – The Story So Far…

**UPDATED 4th January**

We’re nearly at the conclusion of our twitter experiment, and the story is rapidly moving from crazy to crazier. If there’s anything to learn from the #litrostory experience so far, it’s that social media brings out the weirdness in people. We even switched tenses briefly a few days in, although the Litro team have exercised their editorial privileges and restored the story to a rough approximation of sense. There have been plot teasers aplenty – trails of glitter, circling beasts, a mysterious case, and the enigmatic ’41’ – but now comes the hard part. We have until January 6th to tie up all the loose ends and turn this chaos into a story.

If you haven’t contributed to #litrostory so far, you can find the details of this experiment in twitter fiction here. The story was started by Wiley Cash, author of this month’s book club selection, This Dark Road to Mercy – more details of that here.

As for the story, you can read it below, in all its bizarre glory. With over a week to go until the #litrostory concludes, there are still plenty of twists to come. So why not login to twitter and start flexing your typing fingers…

***

Photo by vastateparksstaff (copied from Flickr)
Photo by vastateparksstaff (copied from Flickr)

It wasn’t the sound that woke him as much as it was the sensation of something large and dangerous passing overhead. Could it be that time of year again, he thought to himself, donning his boots and gloves to make his way out into the cold… Before his eyes even had time to adjust to the scene before him, he was overcome with disbelief.

“It cannot be,” he murmured. There on the hard frozen ground was a trail of glitter leading out of sight into the darkness. He stood in the silence and stared at the glitter for a moment, and then he went back inside to make the inevitable phone call.

He stood still for a moment, warming his hands by the fire, before sighing, cursing, and then raising the telephone to dial. As he raised his hand to dial, his remaining fingers trembled.  Then, it happened: the phone began to ring. He let it ring, feeling the vibrations through the numbness in his fingers. Ten, twenty times it rang. He waited.

He answered.

“Where is it?” said a man’s voice.

“Where’s what?” he asked in return.

“You know,” the man’s voice said.

“No, I don’t know… stop this shit now and tell me what’s going on.” Silence. He gripped the receiver, listening.

“Leave it at the front desk in the 41 and this ends now. One hour.”

Dial tone.

He exhaled and looked at the case lying on the bed. Locked. He was scared but tried to hide it; that was his downfall last time. He limped across the room and started to fiddle with the lock. His hands were slick and he struggled to get a grip. The trails in the snow, then the phone call. Like reliving a nightmare.

Thud, thud, thud.

Three hard knocks. It was happening again. He stared at the door, willing it to stay shut as his heart raced. The banging stopped. He glanced frantically around, gripping the handle, trying to think. He froze. The doorknob was rattling. Petrified, he moved his hands in the dark to switch on the lights but as it turned out, there was no power. The rattling continued. Meanwhile, the creature that woke him had circled the town three times, and started to turn into the most innocent shape it found.

There was nothing else for it. Yelling, he charged through the door and out into the snow, almost tripping over it. He was overcome by the stillness that a blanket of snow can bring, snapped out of his own personal horror, just for a moment. His breath came out in clouds as he struggled to walk. He dropped the case, watching it fall into the sea of snow beneath him. He meant to curse under his breath, but spoke aloud; “Damn it, Miroshnikov!” he said to himself, firmly. He had to get a grip on himself; he was letting his imagination run away with him – but what was that snuffling sound?

Then the purple closed in.

When he came to, he found himself surrounded by darkness; it made him smile. He didn’t know where he was, but it was warm, soft and silent. Had he somehow escaped? He really wanted to quit this work.

He was overcome first by her scent and then taken aback by her enormous shadow as the lady slunk in.

“The glitter was me.”

He had no sense of space, so sense of anything at all in such darkness. Such a strange feeling. He smiled again. So bewitched by her beauty, he didn’t notice ’41’ painted on her forehead. Nor did he notice her hand stretching into the snow, it was dark after all. But he felt her breath, smelt the gentle scent of lavender, which made him smile more, a memory rekindled.

Abruptly, the smell of petrol igniting tore him from his euphoria. He stood up but she pulled him back towards her. The smell of lavender strengthened and he felt suddenly overcome by it all.

To be concluded…

(Contributors so far: @WileyCash, @Eric_Akoto, @GETtoasted, @alisonfogg, @katiejlumsden, @Kate_Baguley, @DanCoxonAuthor, @BellaReidWriter, @pfsinkler, @Ahranya, @DorotheeLang, @RachGth, @EmilyJayne1609, @Leah_S19, @CherryJPotts, @seanbeaudoin, @AdrianGeorgeNic, @ChrisGNguyen, @hennabutt, @RodolfoBarradas, @scottkeir, @promonmars)




A Moment of Weakness: the Finished #LitroStory

Photo by Matthew Allard
Photo by Matthew Allard

Last week we ran a literary experiment on Twitter. We asked our followers to write a collective story, one tweet at a time. Novelist Russ Litten (whose new crime novel Swear Down is the first title in the Litro Book Club) wrote the first line for us, and then we handed the story over to fate … and Twitter.

We had no idea how the experiment would turn out. Could a story written this way work? Would it come out as nonsense, or the whole thing fizzle out in a day?

Well, the results are in, and you can now read the finished story below. We’ve compiled the tweets in the order they were written, making changes only to punctuation for the sake of clarity, and amending a change of person that seemed to be a mistake rather than artistic intention.

We’re rather pleased with it – admittedly, it’s madder than a bag of ferrets, makes little sense, careers from one plot idea to another and ends more confusingly than it started, but it is a story, with a beginning, a middle and an end.

There’s been much discussion in recent years about what the internet will mean for literature in the long run, and there’s already a slew of work that embraces and plays with the possibilities of the web. There’s flarf poetry, which uses “found” text as the material for a poem, and writers are using the net to engage readers in new ways, like Calum Kerr, who posted a flash fiction story every day for a year on his blog. Fantasy author Silvia Hartmann recently wrote a novel live on Google Docs, inviting fans to watch it come out, word by word, as she typed.

But are these genuine literary innovations, or just publicity stunts, a bit of online fun to while away a lunch break?

Let’s be honest, we’re probably not on the brink of a new literary genre with our Twitfic experiment. But we do think it raises some interesting questions about collaborative fiction, and how similar projects could be made to work in future. The internet offers opportunities for collaboration and the cross-fertilization of ideas that are wider and more far-reaching than anything else in history. We’re already fantasising about getting a group of novelists to write together on Twitter. (Imagine it – Margaret Atwood and Bret Easton Ellis, compiling a joint magnum opus, tweet by tweet…)

Of course, the internet is also by its nature largely unedited, which is generally a pain – finding ways to sift the few grains of genius from the morass of nonsense is getting harder by the day. But perhaps the unedited net is also something to be embraced.

We rather admire (although we don’t recommend) Silvia Hartmann’s decision not to do re-writes on her novel, because, she says, “as far as I can tell, the metaphors are all in order, the timelines sound and the personae who they are all the way through.” So the finished e-book she puts out will truly be an artefact, the “live” novel that her fans watched her create online.

The way we find and read literature has already been fundamentally changed by digital technology. It seems likely that the way writers write will be similarly affected. There’ll still be plenty of them scribbling away with a biro in their garden shed, but there’ll also be revolutionary new approaches to how literature is produced, and by who. The challenge will be watching for the meaningful patterns in the noise.


A Moment of Weakness: A Twitter Story

Photo by Hartwig HKD
Photo by Hartwig HKD

It was a moment of weakness. Nothing more. A chance for a lie-in – but afterwards she would torture herself by asking, what if I had taken him to school that morning, instead of letting him tag along with the kids from up the road?

She could hear the neighbour’s radio from her bed. They were playing Thelonious Monk, but she was too exhausted to get up. She couldn’t face the reality that the sounds of Thelonius brought back the memory of a romantic evening that ended in the disastrous meeting with the man who had called himself Messenger.

She still perfectly remembered the first time she caught that mysterious glimpse in his dark black eyes, drawn, but yet fearful of what it might lead to. She let him take her hand, though he was a perfect stranger, and he took her in his arms, looked into her eyes, and she signed for the delivery of a motorcycle tire for number 30.

“I always wanted to go on a motorcycle trip,” she remembered. Her eyes turned dark, with the memory of her lost dreams rising. Thinking of that chilly April morning when she’d learned of her father’s horrific crash, she mourned both her dad and her dream. It had taken her a lot to put that horrific episode behind her and move on with her life. She knew now that she couldn’t escape the Talents which made her special. The Messenger had come to tell her it was time to make her father proud.

She sat up in bed, and pulled back the covers. Her son was probably safe at school now. She could go anywhere, do anything.

Her mind kept wandering back to Messenger. Last time was a disaster but he called to her. She scrolled through her phone. Could she do it? She scrolled down for the number. Her hands, slippery with anticipation, dropped the phone. She listened to the dial tone stutter. Paralyzed by regret she waited for the phone to go silent. “Is this a bad time?” she gasped.

“Bad times,” he said, the signal chopping his voice into pieces. “But you know that. I want you to come to the cliffs. You know the place.”

Her heart thudded. She knew. “Midday,” he said. “You’ll be there?” The line crackled and then went dead. “I’ll be there,” she said.

She hung up and couldn’t do anything but hold her breath. She looked at the clock on the wall, the hands were pointing at 11:27 am. There were enough reasons not to go, but Billy would be safe at school by now. She had nothing but time. She kicked off the covers and stumbled into the bathroom. The face staring back at her was calmer than she felt. Every time she blinked, it blurred a bit more.

No painkiller in the world could take away the ache she felt in her chest. Like her heart had been picked apart by angry ravens. Angry ravens that followed him home. His territory mocking Poe, his version of the urban becoming a den of the strange.

Sometimes, though, it was enough to just take yourself to the front door, stand on the step, and open your nostrils to the day.

There was no use in worrying about it. She dressed quickly, grabbed her car key and headed up to the cliffs. He was already there. She took a deep breath and got out of the car. He started to walk towards her, his coat flapping in the wind. She tried to smile.

“Here is your next assignment,” he said, passing her a fat manila envelope and not waiting for a reply

Her hands were shaking. She opened it and his name was there. She put it back but The Messenger stopped her. “You know you have no choice.”

They locked eyes.

“There’s always a choice, and the choice is mine to make, mine alone.” She squared her shoulders & pushed him aside. “That’s trouble with choices. Power to choose means responsibility for the choice.” A thin smile, and she headed to the cliff edge.

She threw the envelope. It hit the water like something dead. She didn’t need it. She knew where she’d find him. She turned, shouted his name into the darkness, the wind whispering it through the valley. She needed to know how far she could go. She walked towards his name into the darkness, the wind whispering it through the valley. She needed the echo of that name.

“Come find, comfort and guide me. I know I have spirit but I’m not afraid to say I’m scared.” She looked into the pitiless face of Death, then calmly applied her eye liner. If she had a date with Destiny, she was going to look damn fine.

“Delaying the inevitable?” he called. “Why draw it out?” She turned, tossing the eyeliner after the folder. “A moment of weakness?”

He looked pointedly at the No Litter sign, “Can’t you use the bin like everyone else?” But he didn’t wait for an answer. Kneeling down, he picked the envelope out of the water and opened it again for her. “Do you really think you could hide by destroying the letter? I’ll never give up my hunt for the Messenger. Now read it out loud and tell me what you know in your heart. That you will. You have to. You’re a chosen one without any choice. She sighed & started to read but the writing was blurred, the black ink flashing red. What was happening to her eyes? What language was this?

She didn’t know what to do. The tears in her eyes were blurring the words and her eyeliner. She took a hit from a flask she kept hidden in her purse. Hard stuff. Tasted like nail varnish but it was going to do the job. Then it was time to go. She jumped behind the wheel of the waiting car and put her foot down, leaving the crashing waves behind. Fire in her belly, rage in her heart but cold her resolve to end this tonight.

She tried to steady her shaking hands but only succeeded in gripping the steering wheel tighter. There was no turning back. Under mercury sky she smelt victory, the car pulling the horizon closer. It was a dark and stormy night. She roared into the gravelled lot and slammed to a stop.

Under the flashing neon, she felt for the switchblade in her garter. He’d called it “A tyre for No. 30”, but there was no No. 30 on her street. She pulled the box from the boot, and cut it open. Inside was a note. “If not for your father, for your son” it said, signed by him. She pulled the blade, and headed for the light.

 

Thanks to all our Twitter writers who contributed lines to this story:
@RussLitten @Ashfeld @EleOssola @WeirdJourno @GlenisStott @EmilyCleaver @patrickedunne @MarianneCronin @XavBlancmange @DorotheeLang @ChrisGNguyen  @hennabutt @patrickedunne @jadamthwaite @laurabesley @jlstroudjr @AnuNande @MichaeldeSoet @braket3 @365daystory @Paris_Franz @call_me_inga @BI_Blogfic @SmallPlays ‏@kiwirebecca @MrsCarlieLee @BokehFlux @BI_Blogfic @MirandaHqv @manickmanda @madlendavies @laurabesley @f_sd @hennabutt @AnuNande @braket3 @ormiga



#litrostory: The Story So Far…

#litrostorySMLThis is the #litrostory so far, a collective fiction being told one tweet at a time between Tuesday 26th February and midnight on Tuesday 5th March. Check the #litrostory hashtag on Twitter for the lastest lines and add your own.

THE STORY SO FAR:

@RussLitten
It was a moment of weakness.

@Ashfeld
Nothing more. A chance for a lie-in – but afterwards she would torture herself by asking…

@Ashfeldt
…what if I had taken him to school that morning, instead of letting him tag along with the kids from up the road?

@EleOssola
She could heard the neighbour’s radio from her bed. They were playing Thelonious Monk

@WeirdJourno
…but she was too exhausted to get up. She couldn’t face the reality…

@GlenisStott
that the sounds of Thelonius brought back the memory of a romantic evening that ended in …

@EmilyCleaver
…the disastrous meeting with the man who had called himself Messenger.

@EleOssola
She still perfectly remembers the first time she caught that mysterious glimpse in his dark black eyes.

@patrickedunne
Drawn but yet fearful of what it might lead to

@MarianneCronin
She let him take her hand, though he was a perfect stranger

@WeirdJourno
…and he took her in his arms, looked into her eyes, and….

@XavBlancmange
She signed for the delivery of a motorcycle tire for No. 30

@DorotheeLang
“I always wanted to go on a motorcycle trip,” she remembered. Her eyes turned dark, with the memory of her lost dreams rising.

@ChrisGNguyen
Thinking of that chilly April morning when she’d learned of her father’s horrific crash, she mourned both her dad and her dream.

@WeirdJourno
It had taken her a lot to put that horrific episode behind her and move on with her life. She…

@hennabutt
…knew now that she couldn’t escape the Talents which made her special. The Messenger had come to tell her it was time…

@patrickedunne
to make her father proud

@MarianneCronin
She sat up in bed, and pulled back the covers. Her son was probably safe at school now. She could go anywhere, do anything,,.

@jadamthwaite
… Her mind kept wandering back to Messenger. Last time was a disaster but he called to her. She scrolled through her phone…

@laurabesley
Could she do it? She scrolled down for the number. Her hands, slippery with anticipation, dropped the phone. She…

@jlstroudjr
…listened to the dialtone stutter. Paralyzed by regret she waited for the phone to go silent. “Is this a bad time?” She gasped

@EmilyCleaver
“Bad times,” he said, the signal chopping his voice into pieces. “But you know that. I want you to come to…”

@jadamthwaite
… the cliffs. You know the place.” My heart thudded. I knew. “Midday,” he said. “You’ll be there?” The line crackled…

@RussLitten
and then went dead. “I’ll be there.” I said.

@EleOssola
I hung up and couldn’t do anything but hold my breath. I looked at the clock on the wall, the hands were pointing at 11:27 am

@jadamthwaite
There were enough reasons not to go but Billy would be safe at school by now. I had nothing but time. I kicked off the covers.

@AnuNande
and stumbled into the bathroom. The face staring back at me was calmer than I felt. Everytime I blinked, it blurred a bit more

@MichaeldeSoet
no painkiller in the world could take away the ache I feel in my chest. Like my heart has been picked apart by angry ravens

@braket3
Angry ravens that followed him home. His territory mocking Poe, his version of the urban becoming a den of the strange.

@365daystory
Sometimes, though, it was enough to just take yourself to the front door, stand on the step, and open your nostrils to the day.

@jadamthwaite
There was no use in worrying about it. I dressed quickly, grabbed my car key and headed up to the cliffs. He was already there.

@Paris_Franz
I took a deep breath and got out of the car. He started to walk towards me, his coat flapping in the wind. I tried to smile.

@XavBlancmange
‘Here is your next assignment,’ he said, passing me a fat manila envelope and not waiting for a reply

@EleOssola
My hands were shaking.I opened it and his name was there.I put it back but The Messenger stopped me’You know you have no choice’

@call_me_inga
We locked eyes, “there’s always a choice..& the choice is mine to make, mine alone”..I squared my shoulders & pushed him aside

@BI_Blogfic
That’s trouble with choices. Power to choose means responsibility for the choice. A thin smile, and I headed to the cliff edge.

@SmallPlays
I threw the envelope. It hit the water like something dead. I didn’t need it, I knew where I’d find him. I turned, shouted … #litrostory

‏@kiwirebecca
his name into the darkness, the wind whispering it through the valley. I needed ..

@MrsCarlieLee
to know how far I could go. I walked towards…

@kiwirebecca
his name into the darkness, the wind whispering it through the valley. I needed …

@BokehFlux
… the echo of that name. Come find, comfort and guide me. I know I have spirit but I’m not afriad to say I’m scared. I looked

@call_me_inga
..into the pitiless face of Death, then calmly applied my eye liner. If I had a date with Destiny,I was going to look damn fine

@BI_Blogfic
“Delaying the inevitable?” he called. “Why draw it out?” I turned, tossing the eyeliner after the folder. “A moment of weakness?”

@XavBlancmange
He looked pointedly at the No Litter sign, ‘Can’t you use the bin like everyone else ?’ but didn’t wait for an answer

@DorotheeLang
Kneeling down, he picked the envelope out of the water and opened it again for me. “Do you really think you could…”

@MirandaHqv
..hide by destroying the letter? I’ll never give up my hunt for the Messenger. Now read it out loud and tell me…

@manickmanda
what you know in your heart. That you will. You have to. You’re a chosen one without any choice. She sighed & started to read ..

@madlendavies
..but the writing was blurred, the black ink flashing red. What was happening to her eyes? What language was this?

@laurabesley
She didn’t know what to do. The tears in her eyes were blurring the words and her eyeliner. She…

@f_sd
took a hit from a flask she kept hidden in her purse. Hard stuff. Tasted like nail varnish but it was going to do the job.

@hennabutt
Then it was time to go. She jumped behind the wheel of the waiting car & put her foot down leaving the crashing waves behind

@call_me_inga
Fire in her belly, rage in her heart but cold her resolve to end this tonight.

@AnuNande
She tried to steady her shaking hands but only succeeded in gripping the steering wheel tighter. There was no turning back.

@braket3
#litrostory And on to the next opposition, the tired #twitstory. Under mercury sky she smelt victory, the car pulling the horizon closer…

@ormiga
it was a dark and stormy night…

@call_me_inga
She roared into the gravelled lot& slammed to a stop. Under the flashing neon, she felt for the switch blade in her garter

@MarianneCronin
He’d called it ‘A tyre for No. 30’, but there was no No. 30 on her street. She pulled the box from the boot, and cut it open…

@kiwirebecca
inside was a note ‘If not for your father, for your son’ it said, signed by him. She pulled the blade, and headed for the light.

(This page is not a live update – check the #litrostory hashtag on Twitter to get the latest lines and add your own.)

#litrostory rules

  • To take part, you just have to add the next line. Check out the Twitter hashtag #litrostory to read the story so far, and add your line, using the same hashtag at the end. You’ll have to be quick, or someone else might get there first!
  • You can take the story in any direction you want to, but remember that the aim is to end up with something readable, so please consider the next contributor before going too crazy.
  • You can add as many lines as you want to the story, but not consecutively. Please wait for someone else to add another before you add again.



The Tower of Babble: Borges’ Library and the Blogosphere

(c) april-mo
(c) april-mo

I’d never heard of “text miners” until recently, but apparently there’s a National Centre of them here in London, bringing to mind ticklishly unlikely images of programmers arriving at work in hard hats or jamming a pickaxe beneath the spacebar. They’re part of the growth industry of data mining, and the fact that they exist at all is testament to a world that’s gasping beneath the weight of its own archives, however incorporeal these archives may be.

Seventy years ago the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) wrote “The Library of Babel”, a short story about a cosmically vast library that contained all possible books — a whole universe based on the inconceivable number of permutations a length of text would allow, making possible not only all the books ever written, but all the ones that could be written. What a wonderful conceit at a time when print was still expanding, and the surfeit of magazines, supplements, fanzines and free zines that avalanched our world in the years before the web was beginning to emerge; when “records” meant cavernous filing cabinets and punch cards, deep-recess shelves and cryptic, Cabbalistic microfiches; when librarianship was still cinematic.

It was a richly imaginative idea in its day, but the metaphor of Borges’ Babel Library has, in the last decade, gained a relevance it could never hitherto possess. What expresses better our long slogs through the internet — the insipid pulse of Twittertopia, the unceasing verbal slurry of the blogosphere, and the multitude of social networks — than this Piranesian prism of senselessness: literature as chimera, jumbled apocrypha, and verbal ephemera? Borges’ Library made works of great beauty possible, but it also buried them beneath a quasi-infinity of trivia — an idea he originally explored in his essay “The Total Library”: “For every sensible line or accurate fact,” as he would have it, “there would be millions of meaningless cacophonies, verbal farragoes, and babblings.”

True, the web’s not quite on the scale of the whole universe, but to us helpless human beings it may as well be: to read what is posted today around the world in just one minute would quite possibly take more than a lifetime (I say “possibly” because nobody actually knows; the web is simply too huge to be properly measured.) There are estimated, or loosely guestimated, to be 350,000,000 websites registered around the world, and like the universe itself, the whole thing’s expanding at an exponential rate. And of course, static web domains are no longer where the action is, but rather in the mighty social networks: the world’s greatest talk shop, Twitter, now oversees 340 million tweets a day. In this “Library of Babble”, can something meaningful still matter when it’s drowned out by a tide of trivia?

Borges’ Babel Library is part ghastly premonition, part seductive fantasy. Borges was able to see the poetry of a world filled with almost infinite literary possibility — how it would not just replicate the great works of civilisation, but furnish us with the ones civilisation never got around to writing. As he put it, we’d find in there “the detailed history of the future, Aeschylus’ The Egyptians, the exact number of times that the waters of the Ganges have reflected the flight of a falcon… my dreams and half-dreams at dawn on August 14, 1934… the unwritten chapters of Edwin Drood, those same chapters translated into the language spoken by the Garamantes…”

Borges’ Library would not only contain a complete catalogue, but also a text detailing, point by point, every single inaccuracy and falsehood of that catalogue. And presumably there would be another detailing every single inaccuracy and falsehood of that, too — and so on, like watching a piece of controversial draft legislation make its way through Parliament, watching a retweet go viral, or a comment thread raised to the level of the cosmic. Like the web, the Babel library would be more a place of reproduction than production.

And it’s perhaps this power to give form to the hypothetical, to the stories that could be, that lends a tantalising excitement to the bagginess of the web. Fan fiction — not native to the internet, but given room to flourish by its expansive boundaries — comprises, to quote a recent Ewan Morrison article on the subject, “crossover, AU, Hentai, OoC, Uber, Mary Sue, slash fic, hate fic, anti fic and even wing fic”. Its most popular sub-genre, alternative universe, where Borgesian permutations on a text are explored at novel length, has already spawned 130,137 reworkings of the Twilight franchise alone. It may not quite be the “several hundred thousand imperfect facsimiles: works which differ only in a letter or a comma” of Borges’ Babel Library, but it does speak of a culture increasingly interested in what could be, rather than what is written.

This is the upside to the web’s oceans of verbiage. By sheer laws of scale, there must presumably be works of genius taking shape on a server somewhere: tweets of finely crafted beauty, Shakespearean gmails, Facebook posts so sublime they effortlessly express the human condition — or at least the human condition as it was two seconds ago — beside a fun animated graphic that links to a website that sells cheap holidays. They must be there, hidden in the depths. But they’re hard to find amongst the dross.

Similarly, it’s this near-identical repetition that renders the Babel Library almost useless, and indeed even destructive, spawning superstitious creeds and desperate mystics among its users. When rare profundity is buried in almost endless trivia, the search for any meaning at all becomes maddening. But since the internet is humanly rather than randomly generated, the “tyranny of the irrelevant” we face stems from our own shortcomings as authors. Leaving aside social networks and the terabytes of Javababble they generate every day, you only need to trawl the seabed of the blogosphere to be submerged in repetition, crude cut-and-paste, inane commentary, embryonic factoids, lazy hearsay and puerile humour — all collated like a cloud of car exhaust and wafted onto the world’s computer screens.

Of course, anyone who points this out tends to come over as a cultural elitist and clog-burning Luddite who’s wandered in dressed in a smock from the late eighteenth century — and indeed, the web is replete with exceptions: we all know wonderful blogs, and wonderful online platforms for new writing. But many more lie undiscovered somewhere down in the subterranean reaches of the Google rankings, buried beneath the weight of the banal, just as the “precious books” of Borges library remain unlocated and unread. Instead we get hashed and rehashed opinion and the endless documentation of our lives (which must surely be one of the web’s evolutionary dead ends: how long can any interest be sustained in something so innately uninteresting?) Teasing out the transcendent in the banal has always been the editor’s charge, but since the blogosphere is largely a world with no editors, the banal is given free reign. Indeed, to judge by some of the celebrity bloggers of the last decade (Perez Hilton or Coco Rocha heading an illustrious list of gossip-mongerers), the banal is big business. We’re witnesses to the rise, and rise, of the seriously trivial.

But perhaps this is all simply the price we pay for powers of composition on a cosmic scale? The precious, mystic tomes of Borges’ Babel Library only exist in the context of the galaxies of gibberish that surround them: Babel could not exist without the babble. Maybe we should accept that combing the web’s intestines in search of the profound is almost as endless as scouting for apocryphal books in a universe-sized library, and make do with the tit-bits of meaning we stumble upon. Borges was gloomy about those who committed their lives to searching: his Inquisitors are crushed by the Sisyphean scale of their task. “Obviously,” he tells us, “no one expects to discover anything.” Stick with the websites we know — and besides which, perhaps a dose of the trivial does us all good now and again. It’s hard to know what Borges himself would have made of the blogosphere, of Twitter and a platform for speech given almost infinite scope, but I have a feeling he’d have probably loved it.




Introducing Litro Library

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What is Litro Library?

At Litro Magazine we aim to bring together a broad community of readers with a common interest in good literature. We want to know what you are reading that is worth reading, and we think others would like to know too. That’s why we are launching Litro Library, an interactive gallery of books recommended by you, our readers, to other like-minded book enthusiasts. You may never be stuck for your next new read again, as we will continually update our virtual shelves.

Get Involved

You can check-in your book (any number of books you wish) by tweeting a photo of the cover and a brief description of the book to @litromagazine, along with the hashtag #litrolib. A summary of the entries will appear each month here on our website.

So, what are you reading? Get tweeting and let us know!

Here’s an example to get everyone started:

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Storytelling in 140 Characters

Manoj Pandey

Brevity is difficult. It’s hard enough having to “cull” our stories to make them tighter, what about doing it in only 140 characters?

Well, Manoj Pandey can. And he invited the world to join him when he created Tales on Tweet, which has gone from India to international, garnering the attention of some of the top writers in the world, including Salman Rushdie, Shashi TharoorMargaret Atwood and Roger Smith.

Here are some of their stories:

She died. He followed her into the underworld. She refused to return, preferring Hades. It was a long way to go to be dumped.  Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie

Gandhi saw the misery of Partition & broke his vow of silence. He wept.  –Shashi Tharoor

Drunk, Bell shot his wife and kid. Turned the gun on himself but survived. Blind when they gave him the chair, he smelled his flesh burning.  –Roger Smith

Red footprint, white footprint. An axe in the snow. But no body. Was a large bird involved? He scratched his head and made notes.  –Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood

Elsewhere, others have also experimented with Twitter as a medium to tell their stories. The New Yorker recently published “The Black Box“, a short story by  Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan (A Visit to the Goon Squad), on Twitter in instalments. @140novel tells a story over several months. The Story So Far lets you suggest and vote on the next line of the story.

Tales on Tweet will soon release a limited edition book featuring 140-character tales from some of the best-known authors around. Meanwhile, how good are you at mixing story with brevity? If you’d like to submit a brief burst of genius, follow @TalesOnTweet and post a twitter tale, using the hashtag #talesontweet.