How not to be James Frey or Jonah Lehrer.
August 4, 2012 12:08 PM Subscribe
How careful and upfront do I need to be when writing an alternate history blog if I don't want to be a total asshole?
posted by 256 to writing & language (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So I've started a stealth-mode blog (live but unlinked) and I've got a strange moral quandary. The blog is essentially a work of alternate history fiction presented as genuine research.
For example, the blog might claim to have uncovered a personal letter of Jane Austen's in which she admits to having had an affair with George IV. Perhaps some portion or the entirety of the letter would be reproduced in the blog. But of course it would be entirely fictional, just another brick in the building alternate history narrative.
The question I am struggling with here is to what degree I owe it to my audience to make sure they understand it is fiction. The title of the blog hints at it.
Ideally, I would like for someone who stumbled on the blog to be initially taken in and only slowly start to question the reality of what they are reading. A sort of blair witch experience. At the same time, if I ever see one of my posts referenced elsewhere as a reputable source, I want to be secure in saying that the person quoting me did not do their due diligence.
On the one hand, The Onion does just fine despite their subhead of "America's Finest News Source" and a complete lack of disclaimer anywhere on the front page that everything is made up.
On the other hand, James Frey's defence that he was writing fiction under the guise of a memoir does not satisfy.
I would like to just put my email address somewhere prominent with a message for readers to email me if they have any questions about the authenticity or provenance of these documents. Upon receiving such an email, of course, I would promptly let the cat out of the bag.
Is this enough to not be an asshole?
Other options I am considering are some combination of:
1. Explicitly stating in the header (this is a tumblr blog) that this blog is a work of fiction.
2. Placing a "more information" link in the header which goes to an explanatory page.
3. Creating a backdated first entry laying it all out.
4. tagging every post #alternatehistory
What do you think I am morally obligated to do? What do you think I should do?