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October 31, 2014 3:08 PM   Subscribe

"Black Box," a futuristic spy story by Jennifer Egan.

Published over the course of nine days in May 2012, the 8,500-word story was originally serialized in installments of ≤ 140 characters each:
I found myself imagining a series of terse mental dispatches from a female spy of the future, working undercover by the Mediterranean Sea. I wrote these bulletins by hand in a Japanese notebook that had eight rectangles on each page. The story was originally nearly twice its present length; it took me a year, on and off, to control and calibrate the material into what is now "Black Box."
posted by divined by radio (13 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
 
[Fixed broken first link, I think. Lemme know if that's not what it was supposed to be.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:23 PM on October 31, 2014


Thanks, cortex! *hangs head* I swear, it worked in preview.
posted by divined by radio at 3:27 PM on October 31, 2014


One more Jennifer Egan shout-out: her short story "Out of Body"--which I can't seem to find online but is published in "The Best American Short Stories" 2011 anthology--is the most emotionally enduring and fascinating short story I've ever read. Check it out.
posted by Taft at 3:36 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


Is this "Out of Body" the one you're referring to? It's a chapter in A Visit From the Goon Squad, her novel of intertwined short stories that is really amazing.

Looking forward to reading this new short story! Thanks for posting!
posted by danabanana at 4:22 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is great. Looking forward to the next story. Thanks for posting.
posted by wrawscom at 4:48 PM on October 31, 2014


Holy crap, that was powerful. I don't know if I like the one-sentence-at-a-time thing even here (annoys me otherwise), but damn. Wow.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:43 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


I’d also been wondering about how to write fiction whose structure would lend itself to serialization on Twitter. This is not a new idea, of course, but it’s a rich one—because of the intimacy of reaching people through their phones, and because of the odd poetry that can happen in a hundred and forty characters. I found myself imagining a series of terse mental dispatches from a female spy of the future, working undercover by the Mediterranean Sea. I wrote these bulletins by hand in a Japanese notebook that had eight rectangles on each page. The story was originally nearly twice its present length; it took me a year, on and off, to control and calibrate the material into what is now “Black Box.”

That's great. I knew nothing about the tweeting when I first saw this story in the 2012 New Yorker science fiction issue; it just read like a fascinating, episodic, almost robotic set of observations from a new kind of spy that really worked as a short story, and was by far the best thing in that issue of the magazine. It's great to learn more about what she was thinking, and also great to be reminded that when I finished the story I thought, "Damn that was good. I should read more by this person."
posted by mediareport at 8:56 PM on October 31, 2014


That was really good.
posted by procrastination at 4:39 AM on November 1, 2014


That's great. I knew nothing about the tweeting when I first saw this story in the 2012 New Yorker science fiction issue; it just read like a fascinating, episodic, almost robotic set of observations from a new kind of spy that really worked as a short story, and was by far the best thing in that issue of the magazine. It's great to learn more about what she was thinking, and also great to be reminded that when I finished the story I thought, "Damn that was good. I should read more by this person."

Yes, very much so. That issue was my first introduction to Egan and I've been meaning to look for more of her work ever since.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:32 AM on November 1, 2014


Quelle coincidence. She actually tweeted something yesterday. Well, kind of.
posted by surplus at 7:28 AM on November 1, 2014


Dip Flash you can't go wrong with "Visit From The Goon Squad". All the rock and roll references. Includes a sweet Powerpoint. So human and touching, but right on top of modern surfaces. You will iShare it with the world when you finish.
posted by surplus at 7:31 AM on November 1, 2014


"Visit" is great. And though I think I may be in the minority here, I thought "Look At Me" was one of the best of the decade.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:34 PM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm with you on *Look at Me*. It's a very unusual book with strange characters and bizarre plotlines, but she makes it work! I still have vivid images in my mind from reading it last year. Highly recommended.
posted by danabanana at 2:25 PM on November 3, 2014


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