Posted by: richardlp | November 2, 2015

The Spreadable Tale of Zola

This weekend, for the first time, I thought of an e-book as spreadable reading material. Then while reading chapter 5 of Spreadable Media, I thought of the capacity for applications like Twitter to make certain content go viral, and wondered if short stories or novels will one day be released through a similar medium. Maybe some of you saw the articles that came out last weekend concerning a novelized series of Twitter posts written by an exotic dancer who goes by Zola. Her tweets, which are definitely not safe for work, recount a series of misadventures she experienced while visiting Florida with another female sex worker, and immediately went viral.

The public and news media raved about these tweets, praising the author for her candor and sense of humor, and it’s since been “storified for reading convenience.” Time even perpetuated a conversation about “dream-casting a movie version.” In reality though, this is a traumatic story of forced prostitution and murder, but the way in which it’s framed and presented to the public allows it to be viewed through a filter of ironic attachment. People view it like they would any other link in an online thread, and as a result it can be easy to laugh off the grotesqueness of Zola’s tale. But it is supposed to be non-fiction, right? So, should we pay attention to this as if it’s an example of amateur gonzo journalism? Or is it just receiving so much attention because people are fascinated with bad news?

One example of “dream-casting” for Zola’s story.


  1. I like where your head is at! I am working on doing this as we speak. My publisher client is releasing a book of aphorisms, tiny sentences expressing some sort of interesting/ironic truth. That’s a crude definition. Anyways, the form is perfect for Twitter and we’re hoping to use the platform to toss out a bunch of bread crumbs and hopefully lead people back to the book, which is a collection of hundreds of aphorisms. There’s a lot of challenges involved, mainly in that most authors involved don’t use Twitter, but we’re experimenting with images to see if that makes the aphorisms more “spreadable.” We’ll do the same thing on Facebook. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    • Really cool — I appreciate a good aphorism, and totally agree that Twitter is a perfect place to promote that style of writing. Plenty of tweets, especially those written by social commentators and comedians, could be considered aphorisms. It’ll be interesting to see what effect that platform can have on the success of your client’s book. Thanks, Mike!

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