Wed 26 Jan
In a roundabout, flirty kind of way, what I was asking in yesterday’s post was, “What is a weblog?” The question itself is so open-ended and suggests no definitive answers that even those who pose it seem to do so a bit wearily, which explains why I didn’t come out and state it that way. It deserves to be asked though, and I think a reasonable if still evasive way of answering it might be, “What is a book?” The most literal answer might be: it’s a technological vehicle for the delivery of ideas. But the form itself suggests few inherent purposes, uses or opportunities beyond the very basic one of communication, so why should a blog? Both a book and a blog can take just about any form that can be contained within their own rudimentary technical limits.
So if, like a book, weblogs are primarily about communication, then I would say that, for the most part, what we’ve been communicating with weblogs thus far has been along the lines of exposition or proselytizing; dissecting the minutiae of our lives (figuring out how to get more out of our Macs, for instance) or explaining the reasoning behind our opinions (insert the name of any given political blog here). What we haven’t been doing much of is communicating in narrative form. In blogs, we have the means to conscript nearly every net-based innovation — from push-button publishing to dynamic community building to multimedia — into the service of storytelling. That’s powerful and it’s something books can’t do, nor can film for that matter.
As I stated in some comments at Feed the Book, it’s my opinion that the weblog that manages to wed compelling fiction to the particulars of the blog medium will be a blockbuster, the ‘breakout’ weblog that starts to really stir bloggers’ imaginations. I’m not talking about just a novel that’s released in serialized form, but rather a just-in-time kind of story, told in entries posted a few times a week, with a minimum of editing, and in a style that is incredibly responsive to current events and even reader comments. I know there have been some attempts at this out there already, but they fall short in my opinion because they fail the test of being written well — above all else, it has to be as good as Dickens. Sometimes I flatter myself that maybe I could write that blog novel, but I’m far too deficient a writer for that. I do know, though, that I absolutely, one hundred and ten percent want to be the person who designs that weblog.