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Blog fiction

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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 of 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")

Forms of Blog Fiction and The Ambiguity of Truth

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. All blog fiction explicitly or implicitly questions whether a "true" blog is even possible because, ineluctably, all autobiography and memoir writing engages in some degree of self-fictionalization. Blog fiction studies and Blog Studies more generally, therefore connect to discussions of creative nonfiction in interesting ways, an area of New Media Studies which merits more scholarly attention.

The Crisis of Legitimation

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.

Genre Conventions

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. The oft-used "quotidian details trope" within blog fiction, for example, establishes a dialectical and critical relationship to "real" (non-fiction) blogs, which also often describe the details of one's life in ways that, in turn, implicitly comment upon realism within philosophy, the arts, literature and journalism. Several blogs explicitly parody the quotidian details convention, namely The dullest blog in the world and The Second Most Boring Blog in the 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 practice the language arts 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 quotidian details of everyday life described in excruciating detail. For instance, the March 29, 2004 blog entry describes the minutes of Sunday's literary lunch in exile.

Blog Fiction and Critical Theory

Blog fiction thus may be said to be a genre of postmodern metafiction as it draws attention to the ways in which reality is socially-constructed through language and how fiction imparts upon readers a sense that "it really happened" in ways that are culturally-historically specific and conventional. Blog fiction points to the ways in which the perception of the "real world" is not transparent but forever mediatized and textualized. Challenging the conventional assumptions of New Criticism, it also reformulates the relationship between parts and a supposed "organic unity" of a written work. As with much of postmodern fiction, blog fiction revels in the fragmentation of narrative and the subject; self-fictionalization; multiple formats and points of view; the unstable relationship between the signifier and the signified; twisted genre fictions; self-reflexivity; and explorations of how truth and fiction are discursive productions.

At the same time, blog fiction is also an interesting case for reader-response theory within discussions of postmodernism because it not only points to the "imagined virtual communities" (IVCs) of readers formed by the World Wide Web but illustrates a new form of immediacy for the writer-audience relationship. Indeed, as with wikis, blog authors may revise their work based on reader comments and collective writing is much easier: a situation that allows blog fiction to be a much more aleatory and malleable form of writing than print-based culture, where a version of the narrative is frozen within a published edition of a work.

More broadly, while other forms of New Media such as Hypertext fiction are often "finished" products available online or via hardcopy CDs and DVDs, blog fiction and wiki fiction participate more fluidly in larger Internet Age forms of collective writing by authors who may have no commercial motives or overall narrative arc or hyper-linked web in mind during the composition process. Blog fiction thus maintains a closer, more ongoing relationship amongst blog fiction writers and readers who may have no contact with each other than in cyberspace: an example of virtual communities only made available to an extreme degree by the World Wide Web. Online gaming and role-playing sites are examples of IVCs where an even closer relationship can potentially develop amongst its participants than in blog fiction, wiki fiction, or collective writing.

References: Works Cited and Consulted

  • Blog-fiction: ...Where the Story Begins
  • How to write a blog-buster by Jim McClellan, Guardian Unlimited
  • Positioning the Reader: The affordances of digital fiction by Angela Thomas, University of Sydney
  • Rob Wittig and Friends Practice the Language Arts by Rob Wittig
  • "What Is Plan B?" by Diego Doval
  • "Where to Begin" by Isabella V.
  • Honestly Kid by Dan Damkoehler
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