Hashtags creeping into your Facebook posts? Animated GIFs in your email? This is merely the beginning. The eccentricities of social media, says writer and critic Shawn Syms, are becoming part of our storytelling.
"As a book critic, I began to notice more and more short-story writers, like Greg Kearney and Zoe Whittall, using the conventions of social media in the form and content of their stories. Really inventive pieces where email and texting and blogging became a part of the work. I was curious about what this might mean in the evolution of fiction."
Syms’s exploration led to his new anthology, Friend. Follow. Text. #storiesFromLivingOnline, which collects a wide range of stories on how our various internet obsessions enrich, enlighten or unravel our lives. Joining the award-winning Kearney and Whittall in its pages are queer authors Trevor Corkum, K Tait Jarboe and Alex Leslie, Gay Times Book of the Year winner Clayton Littlewood and playwrights Marcy Rogers and Dorianne Emmerton.
"I really wanted to make space for women, queer and trans writers and writers of colour,” Syms says, “and I’m really happy with how things turned out in that regard. I love the breadth and depth and variety of the pieces in this book. And I think some of the more experimental ones may be really rewarding for adventurous readers. As one example, Angelique Stevens’s story Spiral is told entirely through a transcript of voice mails, texts, emails and phone calls. From this unique formal approach, a coherent story emerges — as spring turns to summer, family members come together and apart as they respond to a sister whose life is spiralling out of control."
In looking at our brave new world of 24/7 interconnectedness from such a wide range of viewpoints, did any one image emerge from all the tweets?
"I think that the advent of social media — including social media as used for dating, chat and hookups — has increased the opportunities for different types and different generations of queers to connect and meet one another and ways that might have been much more difficult before,” Syms says. “It’s also played a part in making us all aware of how our lives and struggles and experiences differ from one another, both across the city and across the globe. It gives a chance to be part of, say, the Church Street Village and the global village, at the exact same time."
Friend. Follow. Text. #storiesFromLivingOnline
Edited by Shawn Syms
Enfield & Wizenty, $19.95
Available at Glad Day Bookshop
Launch party at Playful Grounds
605 College St
Wed, Oct 23, 6pm
Music by DJ duo Hussy & Pants