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Bad Influences by Emma Pooka

 

Bad Influences concerns the devastating spread of a fatal pandemic flu virus. The story is set exactly thirteen years from now – the posts and comments will go up in real time, on the same dates and at the same moments that the characters will post them in 2026. The story is told simultaneously from the viewpoint of four major characters from four distant corners of the world, and sometimes by their friends, family or random strangers who comment on their blogs.

Mei is an idealistic first year art student at Peking University, Jack is a comic artist and gamer living on his family’s farm in New Jersey, Elaine is a misanthropic supermarket greeter in Canberra and Ash is a nurse, husband, father and disillusioned ex-rebel in North London.

Note: Bad Influences contains some graphic violence and harsh language.


A complete blogfic

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Listed: Feb 10, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

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Subtle, clever, thoughtful, and surprising

By Fiona Gregory, editor

Feb 27, 2013: This is a true blogfic, not a first person narrative thinly disguised as a blog. The experience is more like watching a play than reading a novel. The stage is set by the four blogger’s pages, giving us an impression of each character before a word is read. Mei, the artist, has put up one of her beautiful watercolours of rooftops seen from her university dorm in Beijing. Jack, cartoonist, gamer, and American farmboy, has a comic with zombies eating cauliflowers. English-Iranian Ash, nurse and aspiring permaculturalist, is almost a generation older than the other three and has a clean, no-frills page with more formal language. Then there is Australian "Colmart" worker Elaine, with her stark white on black page and almost hysterical self-deprecating wit. I have her pegged as possibly bipolar.

The bloggers post, and then react to each other in the comments. Again, a picture says a thousands words: Jack posts a cartoon of them around a campfire in a tropical rainforest, and we find out they met and bonded this past summer during a volunteer experience in Thailand. Now they’ve redispersed to their four corners of the world and back into their own lives..but something is happening! A virulent strain of bird flu(?) has struck in China, and suddenly the government has cut off all contact to the regions where Mei’s family lives. The epidemic continues to spread . . . .as the impacts become more and more direct for Mei the tension builds with each post. How long before the others will be affected too?

It’s very clever. The tone is just right, and no detail is overlooked, right down to appropriate regional word use (e.g. "garden" instead of "yard" for Ash in England) Since it is thirteen years in the future, communications technology has advanced – the bloggers mention "W4" and "SkIMPing". The play unfolds in "real time", a couple posts and a flurry of comments at a time, then ominous silence for several days. Subscribing to both posts and comments in a reader is probably the best way to ensure you don’t miss anything. I’m intrigued enough to come along for the ride and see where this is heading.

Edit (22/10/13): I’ve been following this for over half a year now. I continue to be impressed by it. The detail and realism that goes into it is truly amazing. I guess it does take quite a long time for things to happen, spread out in real time like this. . . . I imagine it would be a totally different experience to blow through in a reading binge, and maybe in some ways it would have more impact that way. But as an experiment in blogfic, I’m glad I’m getting to live the complete experience from the ground floor. The characters feel like friends whom I will miss when this is over. I can feel the author putting her heart into the experiences that each character is going through, and then reflecting it through the lens of their distinct personalities. It may not grab everyone, and it may not live up to all the potential it could have (for example, if there had been more reader interaction), still, I see it as a thoughtfully crafted and original standout in the worlds of blog fiction and post-apocalyptic fiction. Everyone should check it out, and if you get in before the end, be a part of it and COMMENT!

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Most Helpful Member Reviews

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Credible science, personality development, and just like a real pandemic

By SgL, author of Tales of the Big Bad Wolf - Queen of Swans

Feb 14, 2013: Please note: This is a work still serializing. I have read everything in the archive thus far up to "Virtual Valentine – February 14, 2026" which is coincidentally the date of this review.

I decided to wait a few weeks to review this piece of fiction. In particular I wanted to make sure the author had a chance to post more installments and that I also understood the intent of the author before I [more . . .]

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Showing its Facade

By G.S. Williams, author of The Surprising Life and Death of Diggory Franklin

Feb 15, 2013: Slight Revision, February 15th 2013:

"Bad Influences" is presented as blog fiction. It focuses on a flu epidemic, narrated through the blogs of four characters and with comments from a few others, who are all fictional if I understand the structure and intent of the story.

Some of those fictional commenters may be readers, but they have rules for their interactions, which they agree to in order to participate in the game.

[more . . .]

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This epidemic starts off slow.

By Wildbow, author of Twig

Feb 10, 2013: Bad Influences takes the form of a ‘blogfic’. To summarize, it’s a fictional blog detailing fictional events from the perspective of the character(s). B.I. is divided into four linked blogs, with the story of an ongoing flu epidemic being told through their respective posts and comment sections with ficitonal characters. Readers can participate and post in the comment sections, provided they are willing to play along.

I already had a discussion with the author Emma Pooka about the issues I had [more . . .]

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