Picture the scene: you’ve made it to the end of the horror movie. Someone’s been killing off every element of traditional publishing one by one, like a bottom of the barrel knock-off of Se7en, but you’ve managed to stay alive and now you’re the last girl standing (not to be sexist or anything guys, but c’mon – you ever seen one of these movies? If you’re still alive at this point, you’re definitely a girl, and you’re probably not getting any).
It’s time to unmask the killer. Every clue points to Amazon: the forward thinking business plan, the wide, eclectic user base, the global reach, the ubiquity in our daily lives. The killer’s distracted or asleep or checking Facebook or something. You reach for his hood, snatch it from his head and – no! It can’t be! Then all those clues were red herrings! Oh my God, all this time it was actually Twitter! Wait, what? No, it wasn’t. That’s just stupid. It definitely wasn’t Twitter. That doesn’t make sense even in the context of this weird hypothetical slasher flick where websites are people.
What it is, though, is a lengthy, nonsensical prelude to the news that mega-selling children’s and YA author R.L. Stine – the man behind the due-for-nostalgic-revival-any-day-now Goosebumps series and countless Point Horror novels about the surprisingly eventful, mildly titillating lives of babysitters – has found another way to bypass traditional publishing methods, taking to Twitter last week to knock out a micro-short story, 140 characters at a time and free of charge. Of course, the story wasn’t very good – so there’s a beam of light in a kitchen, and it’s a gateway to another dimension, I guess? And then that’s the end? – but in this case, the message is very definitely the medium.
Not that Stine’s the first to realise the narrative potential of Twitter. Far from it, in fact – there’s all sorts of stories being told, from the Tweeting Dead of @wausauloner to the Vic and Bob go mad in Dorset dadaism of @weirdhorse. Stine’s certainly one of the biggest names to have embraced the form so far, though, and let’s face it: it’s probably a more constructive use of time and resources than however Salman Rushdie uses it. Even as a purely formal exercise, it’d be interesting to see what similarly successful authors might come up with under Twitter’s unique set of constraints. Just imagine what Hemingway could have done with it. Other than killed a bear.