"Live-Tweeting the Apocalypse" by Ian Creasey — story background

Eric Bullen  @EricBullen

So this is the end of the world. Where are all the superheroes when you really need them?

Marie Sainte-Beuve  @MarieSainteBeuve

I'm sorry, but before anyone destroys the Earth I must insist on seeing some proper ID.

CureFan17  @CureFan17

This is why I'm a goth. Vindication at last!

"Live-Tweeting the Apocalypse" is a piece of flash fiction about the end of the world, as seen on Twitter.  (Flash fiction means a very short story of under 1000 words.)  The idea came to me while I was hiking in the moors somewhere north of Hebden Bridge.  Normally I can offer some account of what inspired any particular idea, but in this case I can't.  It just arrived without warning, out of nothing — rather like the end of the world itself, I suppose.  It was an unexpected idea because at the time, I wasn't even on Twitter.  I had to subsequently join Twitter in order to research the format and confirm my vague impression of how it worked.

In writing the story, the main challenge I faced was the tension between realism and readability.  For instance, Twitter publishes the most recent tweets at the top of the screen, so a realistic rendition of the story would begin with the final tweet and work backward; however, I felt that this was perhaps asking too much of readers.  Similarly, one critiquer of my first draft complained that the text was "a little too well-typed and well-phrased" for Twitter, to which I responded: "this is just an extension of the literary convention that dialogue is a tidier version of what would actually be said."

My notes contain some out-takes that didn't make it into the final draft.  For example, I originally intended to include someone tweeting "Regrets, I've had a few...", which would be followed by several variations of the famous lyrics, based on the theme of regrets at the end of the world.  But since "My Way" is such a well-known song, and likely to be vigorously defended by copyright lawyers, I figured that I couldn't risk using any of the original lyrics — not even a single line.  I amended this aspect of the story, and invented the hashtag #TooLateNow for people to discuss their regrets.

As to the nature of these final regrets, I suspect that if the end of the world really arrived, then there would probably be an outpouring of racist, sexist and homophobic abuse as people decided they might as well let loose with sentiments they'd always longed to express — e.g. "I never killed a faggot #TooLateNow".  But I decided to suppress this cynical vision, and instead use some more personal and light-hearted items.  Fiction is a tidier version of what would actually happen.

Page last updated: 2 September 2015