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BAD INFLUENCES

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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