Teju Cole’s Seven Short Stories: The Drone Effect

Similar to Morgan, I to found the abrupt deaths written in 140 characters or less to be quite powerful. Cole’s idea to take away the hundreds of pages of back story that distinguish the infamous literary character’s resembles the process in which a drone strike would occur. You begin the first word of each tweet and seconds later someone is killed. Using twitter to highlight this global issue is possibly the closest way in which literature could mimic the unanticipated intensity of an air strike. In an interview, Teju Cole explains his reasoning to write these “Short Stories” was to get rid of the empathy gap towards these characters and their deaths. In the real world especially regarding drone warfare, there is no empathy between countries or for the thousands of civilians whose lives have been taken so quickly from an impersonal piece of technology.

On a different note, I also found it interesting that his tweets are being referred to as short stories. While a typical short story is many pages shorter than a novel, I would never think to define a short story by 140 characters. Is that all that is needed to communicate? Is a story defined by the pages of context and empathetical build up followed by an end? Or could it possibly be calculated by the impact that is left after it has been read, no matter the length?


One thought on “Teju Cole’s Seven Short Stories: The Drone Effect

  1. I agree with your point, specifically about how “short story” was redefined by Cole’s tweets. He created a narrative just by the title and the climax. Without any real contextual knowledge behind each character, or each person who actually existed, I was still able to sense a story. Even if an event seems random or without purpose, there is always a reason to why it happened. With a short story being so short Cole is able to get his point across with the efficiency of a drone. I did not need to know whether the people he tweeted about were fictional or not. I did not need to know the setting of the events beyond a flower shop or wedding. I did not need to know was that drones exist, are dangerous, and need to be use with caution in order to not kill innocent people going about their daily lives because he shows me that with his shorter short stories. The most vague one was his fourth tweet, but because it was in first person narrative it was the most personal. Cole’s concise language created an abrupt narrative. His writing mimics the outcome of the story. Lives are ended abruptly by drones. Drone strikes make lives shorter. Cole can get that emotional message across with only 140 words.


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