We Need to Talk About Twitter

Yesterday, when talking about the New Weird with Jared of Pornokitsch and Jon Courtney Grimwood on Twitter, I shared some word documents containing the early forum discussions involving many of its key participants. [1] Not only do these documents have historical and critical value, but I’d like to think that those forum posts encouraged and inspired those involved to do cool shit. Now everyone uses Twitter or their own websites to publish opinions and because of this something seems lost in the jigsaw of tweets, posts and comments. Twitter is too limited for complex conversation, although it can prompt them. However, individual websites are too distant from each other to enable an overview of the conversation to be easily acquired.

An example. The recent discussion about the exhaustion exhibited in contemporary works of science fiction prompted by Paul Kincaid’s review The Widening Gyre elicited tens of thousands of words on blog posts, hundreds of comments, immeasurable tweets, and several hours of podcasts.[2] None of this was bad, but a lot of energy was wasted repeating definitions and assumptions without moving forward, which has affected how the discussion has been received. And by being a scattered collage of essays, reviews and interviews the cycle of call & response that exists between writers & critics is weakened. As such, I doubt many writers of fiction see Paul Kincaid’s and Jonathan McCalmont’s position as challenges to be met and overcome. The disparate conversations make it easier for the substance of what is being said to be ignored or forgotten.

What I’d like to negate these problems is a progressive & intelligent forum or mailing list dedicated to talking about difficult & interesting things involved in the production and consumption of fiction. A place that allows for of conversations, like those New Weird threads, to exist again.

Am I alone in thinking that this is a good idea?

[1] The word documents were archived by Kathryn Cramer and can be found here.

[2] Paul Kincaid’s own further thoughts are here & here. Jonathan McCalmont’s essay on the subject is here. The two podcasts that I can think of are both episodes of the Coode Street Podcast that can be found here & here.




  1. Steve Worsethandetroit May 25, 2013

    I think this is the reason they started Branch (http://www.branch.com/), but having never used it I can’t say how successful that is at solving the problem you outline.

  2. Tim Maughan May 26, 2013

    I think you’ve identified a genuine problem, but can’t help feeling that your solution offers more problems than the status quo. Take a look around at the various forums and organisations that exist today: the SFWA, the BSFA, the worldcon committee, the various shadowing talent selecting writers workshops, the Secret Masters Of Their Own Fucking Arseholes or whatever group of self important basement dwellers have decided to call themselves ‘grand masters’ this week. I know what your proposing is nothing like these organisations – but guess how they all probably started out? Given enough time and exposure organisations like this end up believing their own hype and thus that their approach or world view is THE WAY, and thus become engines of conservatism, exclusivity and decay.

    No. It’s far from perfect, but embrace the open season aspect of islands in the net. Embrace the decentralisation, the adhocracy, the shit throwing and the clamouring to be heard. Embrace the chaos. If it’s not giving you the results you want then try harder. Everything changes, and nobody said it would be easy.

  3. Will Ellwood May 27, 2013

    Tim – Aye, I think you are right with the problems. My only solution is keep things temporary from the very start. Give things expiration dates. I remember Warren Ellis experimented with similar things. I have no idea how well those examples worked out though. Anyway, this suggestion isn’t going to stop things from being exclusive since by design they are places you have to know about while they are alive to get involved.

    I like quite a lot about our present polyphonic state. What I don’t like are the inefficiencies and that it is easy for things to get derailed or obscured by sloppy attention grabbing shit. Hacker me wants to use all of the available tools for the job [discussing fiction], and not have to rely on just Twitter and blogs.

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