If you’re on twitter and follow Neil Gaiman, you probably already know about his project with Blackberry, called Keep Moving. It started as an advertising campaign, and when I first heard about it in January, I was skeptical. Even with Gaiman involved, ads are ads. They can be great, but at the end of the day, the purpose is still to sell a product to me that I probably don’t need. Nevertheless, because I do follow him, and I don’t understand how to mute a user (or maybe because I’m just too lazy to do it), I’ve been keeping up with the project by default.
During the first week of February, Gaiman got the ball rolling on his end. He told his followers that for twelve hours, he would be posting (once an hour) writing prompts for every month of the year. At the end of the day, he would choose one for each month and write a story about it. He had about a week to write all twelve, and a crew from Blackberry would be documenting the process. If a person wanted to suggest a prompt to him, they should include the month’s hashtag (ie #KeepMoving #JanTale or OctTale or JulTale, etc). I was on vacation when this happened, and when I got back and checked my Twitter feed, it had exploded with all the prompts he had ended up retweeting. They were exquisite little stories in themselves, and if you’re curious about them, they can be found, infinitely, by searching the hashtags above. In fact, I highly recommend it, especially for writers, because as long as you aren’t going to publish a story based on one of those prompts without permission of the original poster (or if you are, do get permission from that person), they make for excellent story starters.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at Gaiman’s A Calendar of Tales and tell me he hasn’t crafted remarkable short stories out of 140 character tweets. I’m excited for the next stage of the project as well (although I haven’t been following it as closely), where people are asked to submit artwork to illustrate the stories he has written. My hope is that one day, the print art and the stories will be turned into a book for purchase; it’s something I would dearly love to own, even knowing that it emerged out of an advertising campaign.
I think it comes back to the idea I was discussing in the review I wrote about The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. We can’t always predict where or how the stories we love will enter the world. If we shun them just because they come from someplace unexpected, we’re going to miss out on a lot of great stuff, especially living in a world increasingly opened by world-wide access to the internet. It provides opportunities for all kinds of people to create and share new variations of art; in this case, it’s a well-known author, but it could be anybody. That’s the beauty of it. This kind of accessibility means we have opportunities to make stories together that we could not have imagined ten or fifty or five hundred years ago.
I don’t always post about books suitable for everyone, but these stories, emerging as they have from so many different hearts, have a hook for readers of nearly every age and genre. It’s possible none of them will resonate, but if that’s true, then go and read the thousands of other stories, and potential stories, that were created from this project. Or write your own, based on his question prompts. This is an idea that is, essentially, infinite.
And infinite, to me, just means there’s always room for one more.
Neil Gaiman can be found here, or on twitter @neilhimself.