China’s First Twitter Novel

While Twitter remains generally blocked in China, that has not stopped tech-savvy Chinese from putting the microblog platform to creative uses, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

This week, influential blogger Lian Yue started publishing a novel on Twitter, believed to be the first time a Chinese-language novel is released on the popular service.

The novel, entitled “2020,” revolves around a character named Mao Zhiyong, described as a pale, overweight middle-aged man, and it will be written in regular installments through the year 2020. In Wednesday’s chapter, the protagonist Mao became a father to twin boys and was promoted to head of the Communist Party propaganda department in the city where he lives.

The author announced plans to start the Twitter novel on his blog late last year. “It will only be available on Twitter,” he wrote. “If you are interested, try getting a Twitter account.”

Even though Twitter -- like other foreign social media sites such as YouTube and Facebook -- is currently blocked in mainland China, Internet users can find their way around the restrictions by using proxy servers or third-party applications.

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Lian Yue is the pen name of Zhong Xiaoyong, a writer and social critic based in the east China city of Xiamen. He has written freelance columns for various Chinese publications and published several books, including “I Love Asking Lian Yue,” a collection based on his “I Am Chicken Soup” column that ran in the newspaper Shanghai Weekly.

The decision to write a Twitter novel was described in the following terms: “This is like singing in the shower. When you are relaxed, you will entertain yourself; you have the passion to be creative and expressive. Shower singing cannot be public. Those who happen to hear it may suffer. But the guy who’s enjoying himself in the misty bathroom can’t control himself.”

Lian Yue said he plans to write no more than 20 novel-tweets a day and will limit updates to four times a week in order to “avoid the overload of information that both gets on people’s nerves and slows down the work.”

The debut has already caused stirrings of anticipation among China’s active internet community, with some people setting up new Twitter accounts just to read the popular writer’s work.
To date, Lian Yue has nearly 33,000 followers on Twitter.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal.