Friday, January 9, 2015

A NOVEL APPROACH: Queens NY Times Ledger Salute to Executive Severance!

Mystery novel told in 140-character chapters

By Terry Scileppi

January 9, 2015

In fact, when his body was found, the top half was right next to the bottom.

So begins author Bob Blechman's live-tweeted comic mystery tale, "Executive Severance," the first novel completely composed on Twitter.

The longtime Forest Hills resident has taken crime writing and the art of storytelling to a whole new level.

You can call it tweeting with a twist. He calls it "Twitstery."

"New media of communications are often met initially with fear and trepidation," said Blechman. "I wondered if Twitter didn't offer other possibilities."

With that, he began live tweeting twice a day, every day for the next 15 months to complete his murder mystery.

His tantalizing whodunit, originally told in 140 character, 800-plus real-time Twitter blasts, currently has about 800 curious followers who can't seem to get enough of those edge-of-your seat snippets proof that an alternative use of this medium may become a trend, since it's a sure fire way to get people to quickly read and enjoy entire novels as they go about their day.

"The 140-character limit of Twitter required intensive wordsmithing, creative editing, the omission of punctuation in some cases and a lot of counting," he said. "Right off the bat, you're faced with a critical decision: Does each tweet have to be interesting on its own?"

As Blechman composed each thread, he captured bits and pieces of the novel's humorous plot in which old school detective work meets modern day CSI-like forensics.

According to the author, with a tweeting detective as its narrator and protagonist, his novel sends up the murder mystery genre, social media conventions and cell phone behavior.

The investigating detective soon realizes that the victim was on Twitter when he was slain. Were his Twitter posts the key to solving his murder?

"Because I was creating a Twitter send-up of the murder mystery genre, I selected as my crime the most ridiculous, most unlikely method of murder I could think of, something that no one could ever take seriously," he said. "My victim was discovered literally cut in half."

Further along in the investigation, the detective is asked for his ID and flashes his cell phone:

"What are you showing me?"

"This is my badge."

"On your cell phone? What are you, a phony detective?"

"No. A true detective who tweets."

"To whom do you tweet?"

"To whoever follows me on Twitter."

His edgy style makes for a great read, even on traditional paper. Every tweet now appears on the pages of his recently published, "Executive Severance" book.

Even the publishing deal came via Twitter after he received a tweet asking if he was planning on turning the tweets into a book.

"I thought it was a joke. The idea of producing a book had never occurred to me," Blechman said. "I wrote back: Books are obsolete. Nobody reads books anymore."

That tweet, however, came from someone at NeoPoiesis Press, who assured Blechman that some people still read books and they would be interested in publishing his if he planned on finishing the story.

"I quickly replied, 'I am now,"' Blechman said.

As an adjunct professor at Fordham University, Blechman teaches social media, communication and technology, as well as other communications and media-relat- ed courses.

In order to fit his daily "Twitstering" into a busy schedule, there have been times when he has fired out tweets by cell phone from moving trains, coffee shops and restaurants, or while walking down the street.

Even a former technology executive can become a highly skilled wordsmith, and Blechman's bite-sized nuggets of pithy literature keep his readers coming back for more. For the past two years the folks at Twitter have sponsored an international "Twitter Fiction Festival," and he has actively participated in these online and live events.

Blechman continues to tweet at @RKBs_Twitstery and is hard at work on "The Golden Parachute," the follow-up Twitter novel to "Executive Severance," at his Twitter account @Twitstery.
Readers can find weekly compilations of the tweets with additional material at Whalefire (

The author's favorite writer, James Joyce, would have been proud of Blechman's talent because, as the author puts it, Joyce's writing is always challenging and suggests that rules are made to be broken.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Compendium of Executive Severance Reviews and Notices

Here at last in one post are all the great reviews, awards and notices for Executive Severance!

First there Andrey Miroshnichenko's review "Twitterature – Enjoying Literature in Bits"
which originally appeared in the Russian language netzine Colta.

"The writing technique became a legend of its own, making the novel a hit. In fact, Blechman invented a whole new genre: Twitstery.
Blechman’s Twitstery has its own metamessage, too: Wow, this novel is made up of tweets! But that’s not all. There is also a good story.
Executive Severance should occupy a place in world literature as the detective novel with the most direct or indirect McLuhan quotes.
Despite the prevailing new media signals, this is a classic well-written detective story. Critics were right to note author’s wit and humor."

Then there is On Twitter Literature, my guest blog on the Indies Unlimited blog site ("Celebrating Independent Authors").

"I believe there is hope for Twitter as a creative forum. To challenge the negative responses to Twitter I conceived a literary experiment: I would attempt to write a mystery story one Tweet at a time. I coined a new term Twitstery for the Twitter mystery genre and created a Twitter account '@RKBs_Twitstery' as a container for my detective tale. Starting on May 6, 2009 I posted a new tweet twice a day, every day, for 15 months, never missing a deadline."

Then there is Jerry Seeger's insightful review,"A Novel Written in Tweets" where he notes:

"There were occasional tweets that I sat back and admired just for their economy. Wee tiny poems. One thing for sure, doing a story in this medium requires skill (and the willingness to drop the occasional punctuation mark).

It is a thought-provoking story, not so much for what it says, but for what it is. Which is something the story itself tells us."

Leslie Wright's wonderful book review in Blogcritics and the Seattle PI:

"Writing a novel using twitter seems such a daunting task, and yet Blechman persevered and did it with certain panache."

My Books and Politics web interview is still available. Starts at about 50:00

Glynis Smy's fantastic indie book promoting page where she celebrates authors and their books and many thanks to everyone over at Indies Unlimited for their support!

Robert Barry Francos' terrific take on the Twitter novel genre:

"The book is a fast read, short and sweet, but it is worth the experience. If the reader is not laughing or wincing at the pun, or noting a particular reference, you are certainly enjoying the easy flow of the novel.

Throughout the book, there are a number of illustrations that are perfectly suited for the theme, done by crack cartoonist David Arshawsky."

Insight from Jeff Tone of The Liberal Curmudgeon

"Tweets are integral to both the form and plot of the novel. Along with this device are more traditional elements: a romantic interest, an evil character and a suspenseful ending. Blechman has succeeded in giving the genre a uniquely contemporary twist in this innovative, humorous and entertaining “twistery.”

Kirsten Ehrlich Davies asks "Could You Write Twitter Fiction?"

Praise from Mysterious Revews

"...Executive Severance is probably best enjoyed for what it is, a series of loosely connected comic tweets."

Plus the following outstanding comments:
  • My Web interview with John H. Byk on the Art of Twitter Storytelling.

  • A shout out from Kirsten Ehrlich Davies on her blog Wisprings co.

Finally, thanks again to Paul Levinson, Marleen S. Barr, Marvin Kitman and Michelle Anderson for reading advance copies of Executive Severance and providing wonderful jacket blurbs:

"A delightful 'twitstery' - a mystery written in real time Tweets - that is compelling, entertaining, and shows off what can be done in the 140-character form with style and mastery. Blechman's delight in the language shows in every tweet - that is to say, every thread of the story. His plot is tight, tingling, and diverting. Poe would have been proud of the new form Blechman has given to the mystery story."
-Paul Levinson, author New New Media (now in its 2nd Edition) and The Plot to Save Socrates

"Executive Severance, a laugh out loud comic mystery novel, epitomizes our current cultural moment in that it is born from the juxtaposition of authorial invention and technological communication innovation. Merging creative text with new electronic context, Robert K. Blechman's novel, which originally appeared as Twitter entries, can be read on a cell phone. His tweets which merge to form an entertaining novel can't be beat. Hold the phone; exalt in the mystery--engage with Blechman's story which signals the inception of a new literary art form.”
- Marleen S. Barr, author of Envisioning the Future: Science Fiction and the Next Millennium

"A He Dunit. Sometimes a little verbose, but OMG this is the best twitstery I ever read. It's got everything: narrative drive, mystery, comedy, thrills, tension, laughs. Blechman is on to something, a genre as important to literature as the invention of haiku in rhyme. ..."
- Marvin Kitman, author, The Man Who Wouldn't Shut Up: The Rise of Bill O’Reilly

“Embracing the challenges found in publishing via the medium Twitter, Bob Blechman’s super silly story Executive Severance is stuffed with punny dialogue, clever character conditions, and a total lack of adherence to the old “rules” of storytelling. It’s a meaty tale told in deliciously rare, bite-sized chunks that I'd recommend for consumption to anyone hungering for fiction that satisfies. Well-done, Bob!”
- Michelle Anderson, mediaChick, author of The Miracle in July - a digital love story

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Fox Anti-News

The problem with critiques of Fox News and most other right-wing media outlets is that they assume that Fox was originally set up as a legitimate news operation meant to compete with the so-called left-wing bias of the existing media outlets. This assumption is as much true of Media Matters for America as it is for the Columbia Journalism Review or The Daily Show. They criticize Fox News for supposedly doing a bad job of bringing us the news. Bringing us the news was never the intention of Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch and the rest. Their primary intention was to delegitimize news in general and weaken the effectiveness of the Fourth Estate as a check on government and corporate overreach.

Facts don't matter. Consistency doesn't matter. Fair and balanced doesn't matter. All that matters is to get out that day's talking points, to muddy the waters and generally to call into question the value of news in our society.

It doesn't matter how stupid or wrong-headed or reactionary they appear. By being ridiculous they demean all news operations. If, by trivializing the news, by giving the public what it wants rather than what it needs, or by hyping scandal and paranoia, they achieve ratings success (as entertainment rather than information), it's a win-win for them. Especially if other media agencies imitate their tactics in search of higher rating and economic rewards.
Fox News is not news. It is anti-news.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Probe Concerning MOOCs

Interesting discussions about MOOCs at yesterday's CUNY IT  Conference. Unfortunately, the panelists were not asking the right questions  about MOOCs. They should be analyzing MOOCs as a MEDIATED learning experience,  not as an equivalent to in-person learning. The MOOCs I've audited were all  one-way, video and reading assignment based with assessments consisting of  multiple choice questions and special projects  each week, of which only a few were discussed. Interactions happened between  participants in chat rooms or meet-ups, with little or no direct interaction  with the instructor. A MOOC learning experience is more like reading a textbook  than attending a lecture or symposium.

Another way to look at it is, What  would Socrates have said about MOOCs?

Socrates: You know Phaedrus, that's  the strange thing about a MOOC, which makes it truly analogous to painting. The  painter's products stand before us as though they were alive, but if you  question them, they maintain a most majestic silence. It is the same with a  MOOC; they seem to talk to you as though they were intelligent, but if you ask  them anything about what they say, for a desire to be instructed, they go on  telling you just the same thing forever. And once a thing is put into a MOOC,  the presentation, whatever it may be, drifts all over the place, getting into  the hands not only of those who understand it, but equally of those who have no  business with it; it doesn't know how to address the right people, and not  address the wrong.
-Adapted from Plato. The Collected Dialogues of Plato:  Phaedrus. (New
Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1961), p.  521.

In  fact, what MOOCs are is a rear-view mirror attempt by educators to create the  mass audience for education on the web that emulates the structures of the old  electronic media. Finally, educators are figuring out how to use the media  ecology of television to deliver academic content to numbers of viewers rivaling  television or radio in their prime. Can advertiser support for MOOCs be far  behind?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lightning Strikes Twice! Winner 2nd Week in a Row of Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Contest!

Greener Pastures
by Robert K. Blechman

Emma Moocow, handsome, clever, and creamy rich, with a comfortable pasture and placid disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

She was the youngest of the two calves of a most affectionate, indulgent bull; and had been herdtress of his pasture from a very early period. Her moother had died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct remembrance of her cowresses; and her place had been supplied by an excellent woman as milkmaid.

Sixteen years had Miss Milker been in Mr. Moocow’s family, less as a milkmaid than a friend, very fond of both calves, but particularly Emma. They had lived together as milker and milkee very mutually attached, and Emma doing just what she liked; highly esteeming Miss Milker’s judgment, but directed chiefly by her own.

Sorrow came—a gentle sorrow—but not at all in the shape of any disagreeable consciousness.—Miss Milker was replaced by a mechanical device. It was Miss Milker’s loss which first brought grief. It was on that milking-day that Emma first stood in mournful thought of any continuance. The milking over, and the dairy-people gone, her father and herself were left to chew the cud together, with no prospect of a third to cheer a long evening. Her father composed himself to sleep after dinner, as usual, and she had then only to sit and think of what she had lost.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

"Undeadwood" - Winner of Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Contest!

by Robert K. Blechman
 Another timberland-style killing. Five more skewered victims had been discovered. It looked like the undead trees were branching out.
 When felled timber refuses to log off, it’s a job for me: Paul Bunyan, Zombie Tree Killer. Time to sharpen my axe.
 With my blue ox, Babe, at my side, we headed into the deep woods. After many difficult miles through virgin forest we came to a copse of unrooted tree-corpses. All the most notorious zombie foliage was there: “The Widowmaker”. “Pine Barrens.” “Captain Acorn.” “The Mighty Oak.” “Weeping Willow.” “Treebeard.” “Stumpy.”
 I felt a sliver go up my spine and turned to find “Dutch Elm” with a twig against my back.

 “You’re really barking up the wrong tree this time, Bunyan” said Dutch.

 “Hello shrubs” I said. “If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s there, does it make a sound?”

 Dutch lowered his twig. “Gee” he said. “You got me stumped!”

 “Not yet.” I replied. Before you could shout “Timber!” I wielded my mighty axe. Soon no zombie tree was left standing. I surveyed the kindling all around me. Placing my arm around Babe, I said, “Our job here is done. Time to leaf.” Babe just groaned, as she always does.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Video: The Tedium is the Message

My presentation to the Institute of General Semantics on Twitter and Twitter Fiction, October 27, 2012

My slide presentation at the New York Public Library Authors Series: "The Tedium is the Message: Communicating and Creating with the New Social Media" September 4, 2012 is on Slideshare

Monday, November 19, 2012

My Web Interview on the Art of Twitter Storytelling

My interview with John Byk of 2012writersALIVE about Executive Severance and the art of Twitter storytelling:

Image for upcoming sequel to Executive Severance!

We go into a brief discussion of the discipline of Media Ecology. #twitterfiction

Friday, November 9, 2012

Twitter Poetry Comes of Age

Twitter election poetry in 140 characters or less? It's not just a fantasy anymore.
Elinor Lipman's Tweet Land of Liberty is a collection of the first 200 of what would become 500 election-related poems tweeted daily for the past year and a half. Witty, wise and sometimes acidic, the poems Lipman tweeted let us start each campaign day with a smile. Here's one of my favorites, and a prescient one at that:

Feb. 24
If Romney had his crystal ball out,
Mighta seen there'd be a fallout:
Use of "bankrupt"--sure to haunt him.
In 2012 Detroit won't want him

Tweet Land of Liberty is a wonderful 2012 election memento and a great holiday gift! I can't resist adding my own rhyme:

The challenge: Each day to rehearse
A quatrain for the Twitter-verse
Her campaign rhymes would come to be
A hit! Tweet Land of Liberty!

Saturday, October 6, 2012


I never really understood Green Arrow or Hawkeye as super heroes. Ruben Bolling nails it!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dredd 3D!

What would it be like to observe someone fall 200 stories in slow motion if you were the floor they land on? This is one of the important questions addressed by Dredd 3D, the latest attempt to bring a comic book icon to the big screen.
Long on graphic depictions of violence (how many different ways can you blow a man’s head off?) but short on originality, Dredd 3D takes place in a distopic future where it seems that our current economic and environmental policies have condemned our descendents to live in a sort of hyper East LA. As police, judge and executioner, Dredd (Karl Urban looking shell-shocked under a perma-helmet) has the combined power of all three branches of our current government, and like many campaign donors, he is not required to reveal his identity. Ghetto block justice replaces frontier justice as Dredd and his psychic protégé (Olivia Thirlby who isn't given the opportunity to hide behind a mask) deal out life and death sentences and then summarily carry them out with their voice-activated Swiss Army side arms. Or maybe he has an iPhone25.
Things start out all guts and gory but then go downhill from there as the Dredds capture a key member of a mob boss Ma-Ma’s (Lena Headey wearing her scars quite well, thank you) drug ring and rather than just dispensing their justice on the spot (why not here, why not now?) they threaten to take him back to headquarters for further questioning. Oh what secrets he’ll reveal! This can’t be allowed by Ma-Ma and she proceeds with a lockdown of her own, sealing off the 200 story building with mega blast doors and blocking all transmissions. This of course is not as big a deal in this future distopia than the secret Ma-Ma wants to keep: she has a new Slo-Mo drug to bring to market. Yes, taking over an entire apartment block will definitely attract less attention. What’s a Judge to do? With no access to the Law Enforcers’ iCloud and running low on ammunition, it’s survival of the Dreddest.
This type of gritty cell block paranoia was handled better in Attack the Block which at least had a sense of humor. As other reviewers have noted, much of the same ground was covered to better effect in the recent Indonesian film The Raid: Redemption. If it’s true that science fiction is written to prevent the future rather than to predict it, Dredd 3D gives us a solid case against future sequels.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Tedium is the Message?

My presentation at the New York Public Library Authors Series: "The Tedium is the Message: Communicating and Creating with the New Social Media" September 4, 2012 is on Slideshare