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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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journal fiction

(Today's Blathering is part of an On Display collaborative project, and inspired by Mary's Conversations Among The Ruins)

Two years ago, a 19-year-old girl named Kaycee started an online journal. She was dying of leukemia.

Despite her circumstances, Kaycee remained friendly and relatively optimistic; she responded to e-mails, and even talked to several of her journal readers on the phone. She went into remission but then experienced some sort of liver failure. She died the day after Mother's Day of an aneurysm. Her mother also kept a weblog during the whole experience.

The online journalling community united in its support of Kaycee and her mother. As Kaycee's mother sat by her bedside during her final days, Kaycee's P.O. box was flooded with letters of support, cards, and money.

Just recently, it was discovered that the whole thing was a hoax. There was never a Kaycee. Word on the street is that several men were behind the hoax, though there may have also been a woman involved (there must have been, if people reported actually having talked to Kaycee on the phone). Another rumour claims that the journal was created with benevolent intent, that Kaycee was created out of bits and pieces of real people who once existed, and that somewhere behind the whole mess, someone really did die of cancer.

The Kaycee hoax is being hotly debated in the journalling community right now. Merav pointed out that the incident is the lead story today on Many feel betrayed and angry. Some are attempting to take something positive out of the whole experience. I had never heard of Kaycee until the hoax was revealed, and can understand both types of reaction.

Whatever the underlying circumstances, this incident has certainly highlighted one of the wonderful and scary things about the Internet: the anonymity and ability to be almost anyone and anything, at least at first glance. A single individual can create a Web site that looks like a well-funded corporate site. An incredibly shy or agoraphobic individual can more easily find the courage to interact with other people online. Several men can masquerade as a dying 19-year-old girl and her mother.

Just before I heard about Kaycee, I had proposed a new collaborative project to my fellow On Display members, a journal by a fictitious woman named Alice. I figured it would be a fun writing project, developing Alice's life and personality, trying to maintain a consistent writing style throughout all the entries by various authors.

The Kaycee fiasco, however, reminded me of how easily something like this could end up making readers feel betrayed. You make a certain emotional and time investment when you start regularly checking someone's blog or journal, with certain expectations. To not be warned ahead of time that the person never really existed in the first place would be like those movies of television episodes where all kinds of interesting and exciting things happen to the protagonist during the story, only to find out it was all a dream or hallucination at the very end. I hate those kind of stories.

So after much discussion with the other OD members, I've decided to launch The Alice Project anyway, but with a clear indication of its nature. At the top of every page, there will be a "READ FIRST" link, which will explain the collaborative nature of the project, and emphasize that Alice is not a real person.

I've always been highly intrigued by the possibilities of interactive fiction writing, but also aware of its limitations (wandering plot, inconsistent writing styles, etc.). It will be interesting to see what kind of person Alice turns out to be. :-)

Today's Blatherpics:

- Header for The Alice Project.

- Watching the last episode of Star Trek: Voyager last night with Reid, Luisa, Bryan, Jeff, Ronnie, and Michael.

- Reid with Michael and Ronnie.

Feel free to suggest a daily poll question.

Today's Poll: (Courtesy Amanda Snyder)

Do you like your name?

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