Twittering through Time

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a free social net­work­ing and micro-blog­ging ser­vice that allows users to send “updates” (or “tweets”; text-based posts, up to 140 char­ac­ters long) to the Twitter web­site, via short mes­sage ser­vice (e.g. on a cell phone), instant mes­saging, or a third-party applic­a­tion such as Twitterrific or Facebook.

You’ll have noticed that I include my Twitter feed in the foot­er text of this web­site. So, when I’m drink­ing a cof­fee and feel that the world needs to know; or I’m stuck on a train out­side Basingstoke; or I’m watch­ing Dr Who…then I can tweet.

Twitter is one of those tech­no­lo­gies that gives Web 2.0 a bad name. That is, whenev­er I explain it to people who don’t use social net­work­ing thingies, they look at me like I’m a com­plete idi­ot.

Just like you’re look­ing at your web browser right now, very prob­ably.

For a long while, I’ve been inter­ested in some­how cap­tur­ing — live — the pro­cess of cre­at­ing a nov­el. I’d like to put togeth­er a form of par­al­lel art that mir­rors the inser­tion, dele­tion and move­ment of words around the manu­script, and per­haps make a time-lapse film of it. I’m still a long way from being able to do this. Some spe­cies of screen cap­ture tech­no­logy poin­ted at my word pro­cessor might do the trick, but the band­width implic­a­tion makes me dizzy.

So, as part of this exper­i­ment­a­tion with reflect­ing the ongo­ing devel­op­ment of a nov­el, I have cre­ated a Twitter account for my heroine, Saskia Brandt. The cur­rent nov­el (my third in this series; the first was pub­lished as Déjà Vu) is set in 1907. That’s where my time trav­el­ler has wound up.

Who is Saskia Brandt? (If you haven’t read Déjà Vu and think you might, look away now.) Saskia is phys­ic­ally fit, about 30 years old — nobody is quite sure of her age — and a former detect­ive with the European Föderatives Investigationsbüro, a spe­cial­ist organ­isa­tion set up in 2019 to address EU-wide com­puter crime. She was for­cibly put through an exper­i­ment­al pro­ced­ure that left her with a small, glass-covered chip at the back of her brain. It con­tains a digit­al copy of a murdered woman’s mind. It con­tains what is, essen­tially, Saskia’s per­son­al­ity. The ori­gin­al per­son­al­ity of her phys­ic­al brain is sup­pressed; though it can usurp con­trol in her dreams and moments of stress. Various skills were flashed onto the chip before inser­tion, includ­ing weapons hand­ling, lan­guage com­pet­ency (she under­stands more than 6000 lan­guages), and spe­cial pro­grams that post-pro­cess sens­ory inform­a­tion. In 2023, she trav­elled back­wards in time and is cur­rently being hunted by her former employ­ers. Now she’s in St Petersburg in 1907.

Saskia Brandt is going to tweet her ‘status’ as the cur­rent nov­el is being writ­ten. You’re very wel­come to add Saskia to your Twitter friends, if you have an account. She’ll add you straight back. Her Twitter address is: http://twitter.com/saskiabrandt You don’t, by the way, need an account to fol­low her. Her status updates are now included in the page foot­er, and you can vis­it the above address manu­ally.

Here are some rules:

  • She will update her status about once a day; her time frame is ‘live’ in the sense that she will tweet about things hap­pen­ing to her in that day’s writ­ing ses­sion
  • Her statuses will con­tain teas­ers, not spoil­ers
  • Though she is updat­ing her status as though she had a mobile phone in 1907, the char­ac­ter in the final nov­el will not be stop­ping every few pages to send a tweet
  • Saskia will reply to your ques­tions if you ask them, but will not spoil the story

Interested? Then make Saskia a Twitter friend. I’m cur­rently 4400 words into the manu­script (which will total around 100,000), so Saskia will be tweet­ing for the next few months. Here’s the latest tweet. For her, it’s November 1907 and she’s trav­el­ling into St Petersburg on behalf of a crim­in­al organ­isa­tion which (I think) she’s just betrayed.

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

6 thoughts on “Twittering through Time”

  1. Sincerely great idea, Ian. I’ve set up a Twitter account for my own main char­ac­ter too — although he’s yet to Tweet about any­thing. Given that he’s a time-trav­el­ler too I’m sure he’d be most happy say­ing hello to Saskia.

  2. Hello, I will add Saskia to my twit­ter right now. I was look­ing to cases of people using twit­ter in inter­est­ing ways (spe­cially with fic­tion) and Maxine Clarke sug­ges­ted your blog. Nice to meet you.

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