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Blog fiction is a form of fiction writing that uses blogs to reach its readership. It is a small-scale fringe activity in the world of blogging, and although it has generated some literary critical interest, it remains isolated. It is presented in many forms, from a pretend diary or posted novel to a serialblog.
Using weblogs to explore various possibilities for constructing fictional works, blog fiction is a burgeoning format for creative digital writing and distribution on the Internet, rising in popularity when free, automated blog generators began appearing in 1999 and, most likely, will come to full artistic fruition within the iGeneration. Echoing eighteenth century pamphleteering and the serialized publication of fictional works from the eighteenth century to the present day, such as Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (1759-67), many of Charles Dickens' novels, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series, and Henry James' The Ambassadors (1903, with each of its twelve parts appearing in The North American Review before being published as a whole that same year), blog fiction appears in short installments of textual pieces, lexia, that must both stand on their own and work towards a larger whole.
Congruent with the general shrinking attention spans of the Internet Age, each episode in blog fiction is much shorter than a serialized nineteenth century or early twentieth century novel. As blog fictionist Diego Doval asks, "is it possible to create a story that makes sense, keeps the reader engaged, and yet can be 'consumed' in bits and pieces, maybe even in any order?" (see "What is Plan B?"). Doval's comment reflects the contemporary writer's conundrum, caught between models of high literature and the avant-garde that dare to provoke, challenge and even bore readers on one hand and the insatiable desires of late capitalist consumers for "entertainment" within a channel-flicking, website-saturated universe of endless choices. The sheer volume of quickly-accessible written material within "clickable culture" exacerbates the artistic quandary for the blog fictionist, especially because of the myriad non-fiction blogs and electronic writing available. Isabella V likewise comments, "You, humble reader, if you do in fact exist. If you even care. You are my safety net. In return I suppose I have to keep you entertained. Keep you reading. That's the bargain. Keep your watchful eye on me- so that you might notice if I vanish suddenly. So that you might ask the questions that would save me. I will, in turn, try to keep you reading" (see "Where to Begin")
Truth or Fake?
Some blog fiction takes the form of a fake blog by a fictitious person that may or may not announce its own fictional status. Many "non-fiction" blogs may likewise be elaborate sets of fictionalized personae, a situation which points to the seemingly limitless possibilities for identity production in cyberspace. Therefore, it is difficult to determine how many fictionalized "real" blogs there are on the Internet. Some adopt a portraiture style, trying to depict fictional lives or people, some engage in mock diaries, such as Fake Steve Jobs and Noni Jones in Harlem in which an anonymous author writes from the perspective of three fictional characters. The story lines are interwoven.Letter Off Dead approaches blog fiction through a correspondence between two characters, one alive and one dead. Some attempt to tell serialized stories like a syndicated magazine (called a serialblog). Some blogs, such as Belle de Jour, have been accused of being fictional, with mixed results. Some blogs, such as The User Pool, are fictional but based on real experiences.
Though a relatively new genre, blog fiction has begun to develop its own set of conventions, whose antecedents can be found in innovative fiction such as The Journalist by Harry Mathews. It is common for fictional blogs to link into real world articles, or even other faked articles, to construct the illusion of a character within a world.
Within the realm of critical theory and literature, blog fiction establishes a critical conversation with Roland Barthes' conception of a "reality effect" or '"realistic effect" (effet de réel), which posits that the accumulation of redundant, superfluous and minute details within historiography or a fictional narrative may not forward the plot yet persuasively signifies verisimilitude. Indeed, Rob Wittig: Rob Wittig & Friends is a faux group blog that follows the blog format closely and points to some of its conventions, such as 'in speak,' photographs, hyper-links and the details of everyday life described in excruciating detail.
The blog Asher Marr incorporates an element of interactivity, allowing readers to comment as if speaking to the fictional character, participating in the world of the story and resulting blog posts. Additionally, the story itself can be influenced by reader feedback, as the author absorbs the feedback and produces the next post, naturally affected. This is intended to generate a feeling of alternate reality. As the character Asher moves throughout the story, his position is tracked and linked with Google Maps Street View, layering on more reality effect. The concurrent time-line of Asher Marr, written in present-tense, and blog posts mentioning current or developing events with links to real-world articles or media also contributes to this sense of a reality effect, transcending the traditional static literary work as instead a live, unfolding fiction event.
The ability for blog fiction authors to create a believable virtual-identity is expanding. Asher Marr is now micro-blogging in-character on Twitter. Noni Aminah Jones, the main character of Noni Jones in Harlem, has established a virtual identity by means of the blog itself, twitter, and participation in other blog communities using the 'Noni' alias.
Though many critics and literary scholars dismiss blog fiction as an inferior and faddish literary form, there is a trend towards the recognition of blogs as a legitimate arena of fiction production. For instance, self-publishing provider Lulu sponsors the "Blooker" prize, which began in 2006. The Blooker prize is an award given to the best "blook" of the year: a work of fiction begun as blog fiction and then transformed into a printed publication. Thus, even despite the radical and democratizing potential of blog fiction, printed works still maintain greater authority and "official" status in the world of fiction and academia.
However, many fictional blogs do not survive to this stage, and there exists no common recognition in general internet readership for fictional blogs per se at this time.
The blog Asher Marr puts forth the notion that blog fiction can stand on its own as a separate social-media object of live literary entertainment, attributes which static literary works, especially those in print, simply cannot match.
References: Works Cited and Consulted
- Blog-fiction: ...Where the Story Begins
- How to write a blog-buster by Jim McClellan, Guardian Unlimited
- Rob Wittig and Friends Practice the Language Arts by Rob Wittig
- Noni Jones in Harlem Anonymous
- Letter Off Dead edited by Tom Llewellyn
- "What Is Plan B?" by Diego Doval
- "Where to Begin" by Isabella V.
- Honestly Kid by Dan Damkoehler
- Asher Marr by Xander Davis
- NewFiction: A Fiction Blog
- American NonFiction In Media anything passes for Non Fiction
- News Groper: A Collection of Fake Political and Celebrity Blogs
- Blogfiction.org: Discussing Blog-fiction
- Web Fiction Guide: Free Online Novels, Story Collections and Reviews
- Diary of a Heretic: pure fiction
- Dan Leo