- Start Reading
- Under the Influence
- Take Part
Those happy few who are following Bad Influences avidly will notice that I haven’t, as yet, made as much effort as I claimed I would to publicise it outside of my own Facebook and Twitter circles. Some of this is down to deadlines and other commitments, but there is also a slight issue of nerves. I wanted to have the characters and a little bit of plot established before submitting it to listing and review sites, some of which have pretty stringent criteria about how much you should have already written and clear pagination and reading order… which is tricky for me, as I want those options to be a little bit open.
It’s been pointed out to me recently that it’s difficult to see where to start reading Bad Influences from, and I’ve been wondering about the menu structure myself since I started using it. I don’t want to spoon-feed the reading order, I want there to be multiple options, but at the same time I don’t want the feed page to be overwhelming or confusing, and I’d like people to be able to see how to start at the beginning if that’s what they want to do. I’m going to try rearranging the menus of the main page so that the explanation of the reading options is more prominent, and have links to a few more of those options, as well as keeping the links to the blogs themselves prominent in the left sidebar. Once I’ve got everything sorted, I’ll start submitting the story to a few more directory sites, contacting other blog fiction writers to exchange links and asking you – yes, you – to give me some reviews and ratings. And, of course, I’ll be starting on some reviews and ratings of the blog fictions in my sidebar, which as far as I can tell are the majority of what’s out there the moment by the strict definition of blog fiction.
Which brings me to another point about blog fiction listings, blog fiction commentary and the use of the term “blog fiction” itself – they’re all somewhat sparser than when I first decided to make this my area of study, back in 2007. Five years is a long time on the internet. In academia, too, there has been no new work specifically on blog fiction since I completed my research proposal. When mentioned in academic texts at all, it remains a little-explored side-track in the landscape of New Media and Digital Art. Much has changed since I conceived the project, and Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr are now the go-to social outlets for most of us, while blogs are a more pretentiously professional platform, where experts, academics, journalists, artists and writers imagine that our observations are interesting enough to take up more than 140 characters of bandwidth without trying to sell something. There’s even been a recent Twitter Fiction festival, while blog fiction has been left on the virtual shelf, with no new Blooker Prize awards since 2007.
The small selection in my blogroll attests that, while blogfic does continue to be written, read and reviewed, it never became the Next Big Thing we were all expecting, or at least not for long. It’s become just one of many ways to write web fiction (a category that’s not huge itself just now, as SgL notes), not to be particularly distinguished from just writing a novel on a website, one chapter per page. The only review site that lists blog fiction as a specific category now is the Web Fiction Guide, and many of those it lists as ongoing have been abandoned or no longer even exist.
Did Bad Influences miss its Zeitgeist? LiveJournal, the most socially-networked of the blogging platforms, the place where the word “friend” became a verb before anybody had heard of Facebook, now only has around 2 million active users, but blogs are still read avidly, with WordPress.com counting 385 million readers of its 60 million blogs. After all, there has to be some actual content for everybody to share and retweet. Perhaps by the time of Bad Influences, when Socnets are used to organise all your work, bills and official connections, blogs will once more be regarded as tools for the personal and the social, where you take more time and space to write about your life for yourself and the people who matter. We might romanticise blogs in the same way that we have letter-writing since e-mails came along, as a more intimate and personal way to communicate. In truth, of course, our e-mails are as intimate and personal as our letters ever were, and our personal letters were very often quite perfunctory. E-mails have over letters the same thing that statuses and tweets have over blogs – the illusion of time-saving. And it is an illusion. Because e-mails arrive faster, we’re expected to respond to them faster. Tweets are quicker to write than blog entries, so people write more of them. I don’t know about you, but I spend as long reading Facebook or Twitter as I ever spent on LiveJournal, and I don’t seem to be getting much more information about my friends’ lives from the process, just more links to the blogs of people who’ve written things that they Like. A few of my friends put out the call on Facebook, semi-regularly, to come back to LiveJournal, where things were so much better, or to move on to Diaspora or Tumblr, where they will be better yet. In the end, most of us will spend most of our time where most of the action is, because that’s the point of a social network.
Just as the popularity of personal blogging will rise and fall as long as the practice of blogging remains, use of it as an epistolary form will have its peaks and troughs. If I’ve missed the blogfic Zeitgeist I’ve no doubt there’ll be another one along in a minute. And I have an interesting idea for a multi-character Twitfic that I might get time for just as the W4 comes along and everybody’s signing up for BLink and SkIMp.