Dan Sinker, otherwise known as @MayorEmanuel, turned the profane tweets of “Fuck these Angry Birds right in their motherfucking feathered fucking vents” into art, pissing off the real Rahm Emanuel in the process.
Now Sinker — a former punk magazine editor turned journalism professor in Chicago, tweeting his way into Chicagoan political fame — will begin a new Twitter-based short story project on The Huffington Post tomorrow, through its literary account @HuffPostBooks.
The story, which is set to begin Tuesday, is set “far in the future, at the very end of days for the book [as a tool for communication],” and will rely heavily on real-time interaction with Twitter followers and events set in the real world. Sinker has a few plot points he wants to hit, but will rely mostly on improvising as he goes along, much like the @MayorEmanuel story line.
Though he pioneered the form of Tweeting as literature, don’t expect the work to reach for highbrow distinction. “We should warn children and the faint of heart,” cautioned the Twitter feed. “Today’s story may include swearwords.”
If Sinker’s rise to Internet infamy is the stuff of online legend, the story he created after registering the handle “MayorEmanuel” on Twitter months before the Chicago mayoral election this March, is mythological in scale.
Satirizing the former Obama Chief of Staff’s famed habit of cursing, the Twitter feed started out as a self-admitted exercise in “creative profanity,” Sinker recounted in an interview with the Atlantic. As time went on, though, Sinker’s fake Rahm Emanuel began turning into a real character, stumping around a parallel universe version of Chicago with larger-than-life versions of his brother Ari, famed pollster David Axelrod and a mystical Mayor Richard Daley. New characters started filtering in, too: A hapless intern named Carl, a talking puppy and a mustached duck that ‘Emanuel’ named Quaxelrod.
As the election ground on, Chicagoans watching the Twitter feed were fascinated by how closely @MayorEmanuel reacted to news events in the real world. A Chicago Court of Appeals decision that Emanuel could not run, for instance, sparked an instantaneous reaction from @MayorEmanuel — a fictional violent rampage which took place for a day in real time.
By the time Sinker ended the @MayorEmanuel saga in March, anonymity intact, the account had nearly 40,000 followers and provoked a promise from the real Emanuel to donate $5,000 to the writer’s charity of choice if he revealed his identity. Though the Chicago Tribune urged him to remain anonymous and keep Tweeting, Sinker chose to unmask himself to the Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal.
“I was never really making fun of the guy,” Sinker said in an interview, explaining his motives. “I was making fun with the guy.”
The tweets have been turned into a book and he’s appeared on The Colbert Report. With this project on the Huffington Post, however, Sinker hopes to explore the boundaries between the 140-character tweet and literature… and smash them.
“I’m most excited about how journalists have been using it,” he said in an interview with the Huffington Post. “It’s been thrilling to watch their use of Twitter evolve over the last year or so from an RSS feed dump to real engagement, reporting, and real-time nonfiction storytelling.”