May 15, 2004

Blog fiction.

It will be interesting to see if novels can be successfully presented in the form of blogs. Remember when hypertext novels seemed like they might be important? Does anyone care about them now? There must be a lot of blogs that convey made-up stories about the blogger's life, with the blogger being a fictional first-person narrator. I Googled "fiction blog" and came up with a recent article in the Guardian, which included this:
Blogs are now so familiar that print writers are imitating them. An Opening Act of Unspeakable Evil, the fourth novel by Canadian author Jim Munroe takes the form of a blog written by a woman worried that her Goth flatmate is genuinely demonic. Munroe was tempted to make fun of blogging's stylistic tics. "But I tried to stay away from broader humour to look at how the character, a woman in her early 30s, uses the blog to explore her need to be public and private at the same time."

Appropriately enough, when the novel comes out in the US and Canada in September, Munroe will post the 100 entries that make up the story, one a day, on a real blog. He's also planning to add photos and links to fake sites connected to the story. "There'll also be an Is She or Isn't She? feature, where readers can vote on whether the roommate is, in fact, a demon. Depending on how the vote goes, I'll be writing and posting a bonus story that won't be in the print version."

Munroe's novel shows how blogs have become part of the cultural landscape. Rob Wittig thinks that blog fiction will become similarly popular. "I can easily see blog fiction becoming part of everyday computer-literate life, especially for the twentysomething generation. So much of their social life is being lived in messages already." Others suggest it will take a while for things to develop. The personal diary seems to work well in blog form at the moment, says Paul Ford. "But I don't think we have any way of knowing, just yet, what other sorts of stories are going to work. It's still too new."

So maybe novel-writing will end up where it started: in epistolary form, published in installments.

A sidenote: according to Munroe's website, he's going to be appearing in Madison soon, at "the world's only feminist science fiction convention."

UPDATE: My battery got too low at the café where I was writing that, so I didn't get to say what I had to say. So let me say it now. What I want from blog fiction is not a traditional print writer trying to get in on the blog action by breaking a novel up into a mere 100 entries, even if it includes a poll about what ending you want (like the movie of Clue). (Plus, please don't bore me with the following phrases: "cultural landscape," "computer-literate life," "twentysomething generation.") Good fiction blogging would involve several fictional characters, each with their own blog, linking to each other, discussing various fictional events in their lives, perhaps along with interesting other commentary on real world events. It would have to go on for years, like a comic strip that you read daily, and would contain thousands of entries.

ONE MORE THING: "Munroe was tempted to make fun of blogging's stylistic tics." Translation: Munroe doesn't care enough about blogging to have any usable ideas about how to satirize bloggers.


Anonymous said...

It's not a blog novel, but it's close. Sorcery and Cecilia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality Regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country is a novel whose structure revolves around the letters that two cousins, Cecilia and Kate, write back and forth to each other.

collected voices said...

Couldn't agree more with your analysis.

I have expanded on what makes a good fiction blog here:

It's all about using the constraints of the medium to your advantage