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BAD INFLUENCES

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 jumped in with a review.

Admittedly I was confused by the layout first, but looked at a few of the authorial notes about the project itself before I was cued into this fiction being much like what fiction cropped up in Livejournal communities in its better days.

This is where the technology used to deliver this fiction (i.e., WordPress) had limitations as it could not simulate that experience. However, once I understood the model, I used the option to read from the beginning (http://badinfluences.org.uk/how-to-read-it/just-the-posts-beginning-first/) .

Livejournal fiction communities themselves are hard to navigate as players and readers. In at least two of the ones I participated, even the players had to constantly discuss "where are we in the story" because the platform was hard to read as a straightforward experience.

However, I read this simply from the archive. And I think that this is where reading a backlog or when a "post/thread" is done works much better than trying to keep track of everything live.

Unlike most readers, the topic of an unfolding pandemic interests me far more than a zombie apocalpyse or the reaction to a blackout. I’m sure those would have been far more rewarding scenarios to use based on the popularity of those kind of fictions on topwebfiction (the WFG mirror site). But a pandemic does offer something the others don’t—and that’s the opportunity to show how human behavior can vary.

So far the good: 1) The four main characters voices to me do seem to come across as distinct. This is hard when an author has to roleplay them all with consistency. I’m particularly amused by "Jack" whose reactions to the unfolding pandemic are pretty spot on. I also love Mei’s disagreement with him although do have to say it’s quite plausible that with her country of origin she might be on media blackout – if not "now" in the current storyline, pretty soon.

2) And the only reason I bring that up is because so far, the science and the way the scenario is unfolding is (so far) technically consistent with classic H5N1 bird flu. (Or for those who know diseases – perhaps a bad flu like the killer 1918 strain.) The science makes sense.

Some other notes: The effort that is going into putting this work together is enormous. Posting comments at the right time in different timezones and then indexing it in multiple ways to enable readers to track the story is really a lot of work. That it also is the basis for a dissertation is pretty interesting because I suspect all the work has been fact-checked and picked over prior to posting.

True, it can’t breathe and be as interactive as the Livejournal predecessors it emulates, but it’s still a credible extension of the roleplay fiction that spawned a lot of writers once they exited that community.

Conclusion: As the topic really interests me (pan flu) and I think I’ve figured out how to read this story, I will be checking in from time to time.

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