11 November 2011


Beware the blogger with bad teeth

Contagion was an interesting film for me, given that my blogfic project (now fully planned and well into the writing phase, posting expected from January 2013) concerns a deadly global flu pandemic.  I watched it with a certain amount of disconnection, more concerned with how the film’s narrative might overlap with mine than its quality as a film, and so I don’t seem to have been bothered by a lot of the faults that concerned others.  While my partner obsessed over Jude Law’s inexplicably crooked tooth and the WHO’s oversight in not removing its key operatives from compromised neighbourhoods, I was more interested in where the film was coming from politically, and especially what it had to say about the place of bloggers in a disaster scenario.
As you’d expect from a Hollywood film, it was relentlessly pro-state authority.  I found the Jude Law character interesting because he encompassed not just paranoia about radical agendas but mistrust of independent journalism and free communication networks.  The metaphor of the misinformation spreading like the virus, for which the state regrettably can’t develop an inoculation that wouldn’t also smother free speech, feels like the closest thing the film has to a point.  Not that it’s entirely authoritarian in its message – the scientist who makes the breakthrough after being told to stop work, the one who tests the new vaccine on herself and the doctor who warns his wife to leave town and gives his own inoculation to the janitor’s son are all deliberately disobeying orders or procedures, and are all lauded for it.  It’s only the blogger, who bypasses authority entirely rather than merely bending the rules, whose actions are unmitigatedly bad and damaging.  It’s interesting that they chose to have him team up with the shady investment bankers, making him a fully fledged con-artist, when they could so easily have made him merely a misguided conspiracy theorist.  That much didn’t ring true for me: that somebody who’d initially seemed motivated by the strength of his principles should be shown to have been self-serving to the extent that even the hedge-fund fraudsters shake their heads at him.  I would have liked a bit more ambiguity in this character, who up until that point was more interesting by far than any of the saintly doctors and scientists, risking their lives and reputations to do the Right Thing, or just doing their best under difficult circumstances while hounded by inconvenient mobs of faceless protesters.
Still, I’m quite glad that probably the nearest high profile pandemic story to the release of Bad Influences did feature blogging as a theme and did it from the polar opposite angle that I’ve planned to.  The significance of blogging, in both Contagion and Bad Influences, is as a communications network that can say things the mainstream press can’t or won’t, especially under circumstances in which population control becomes a matter of life and death.  Who controls the population under those circumstances, and to what effect, is a central theme of both narratives.  Contagion plays out the opposition between the benevolent authorities and the viral forces of rumour and misinformation, embodied in an irresponsible blogger.  Bad Influences will, I hope, use the multiple viewpoints of bloggers to investigate the struggle for control between the authorities and populations themselves.


  1. Hi Emma,

    I'm very interested in your research work on blog fiction. Is it finished yet? Publicly available? Do tell!

    I'm a writer myself, but also an avid roleplayer and I'm fascinated by the concept of blog fiction - as in fictional blogs (not 'fake blogs' like that Damascus Girl-thing which was big in the media a year ago or so). Unfortunately there seems to be not very many such blogs out there and I suspect that I will have to prowl the online RPG-communities, in all their permutations, to really find other 'players' to interact with - others who have made fictional blogs. (I prefer not to interact on real blogs with my fictional characters, but real people are of course more than welcome to leave comments on my fictional blog - if they respect the 'fourth wall').

    Anyway, I actually started writing online fiction (hyperfiction) - with a view to selling the best of it on the market place (that would be Amazon). I am almost there with my first 'let's-try-what-this-is-like' indie published short story. But I do have a lot of free fiction up on shadeofthemorningsun.com - a big story about the same character and her friends, over an entire lifetime. I'm using the blog software wordpress for dating the different stories. Some take place in 1995, for example.

    I'm not being consistent in writing from a particular POV, though. Some stories are 1st person, some are 3rd. Some are about my main protagonist, some about her relatives. But there's about 30-35 of them now and I like variation so I suspect that this will continue - i.e. that I will not keep to any particular 'angle' in my storytelling.

    Is it true blog fiction, then? Not in my book - and therefore it's only half the fun. I've recently created a separate blog - shadeofthemorningsun.blogspot.com for my main character, where she can act 'in character', as if she was blogging. It's not much yet, but it's coming along.

    Now that was an awful lot, and hopefully you won't regard this as a shameless plug for my websites (well, it is - a little). But I very much wanted to tell you why I was interested in your work. I'm pretty serious about this ...

    I'm not sure if we define blog fiction in the same way, of course, but now I've tried to describe what I'm doing at least, so ...

    Anyway, best of luck with your new project as well. I'll keep an eye out for that.


    1. Hi Chris - thanks for you interest! My progress has been slow over the last couple of years but the project is still very much ongoing and I'm planning to start posting it up from next January (2013).
      Your project looks interesting - I'd agree that the main project itself isn't blog fiction (I'm going on DustinM's definition here: http://blog.blogfiction.org/2008/08/blog-fiction-defined.html), but now that you've started Carrie's blog it encompasses a blog fiction. So rather than "half the fun" of blog fiction it's actually all the fun and then some! I'll have a proper read-through soon, but it seems to me that you're intending the blog fiction to have a real purpose as a storytelling medium in itself and a meaningful connection to the other fiction, which makes it much more interesting than most of the blog-fiction-as-DVD-extra blogs that pop up in connection with films and TV shows. I'd be interested in whether this has all been planned in advance or whether you're just adding to the story as you go, and how influenced you are by comments from readers.
      Incidentally, if you're looking for more blog fiction and web fiction I'd recommend scouring the archives at http://webfictionguide.com/. It's not updated as often as it used to be, but it's a great resource and also has an active forum.