Kaycee Nicole

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Beginning in August 1999, a high school student named Kaycee Nicole began a weblog about her ongoing fight with cancer. Her weblog began on the day she reentered the hospital, her disease having left remission, and for the next two years it described her struggle with the disease and her complex relationship with her family, friends, physicians, and with readers of her weblog. The weblog, which was widely read, ended with her death in May, 2001.

Shortly after Kaycee died, some careful readers noticed some small discrepancies in her narrative. The small contradictions loomed larger, and a few days later Kaycee's mother confessed that Kaycee was an invention, a fictional character she had created [1][2] [3].

The affair prompted a good deal of press coverage, perhaps the first widespread discussion of weblogs in the mainstream news media. Much of the initial discussion was cast in terms of hoaxes and deceptions. It appears clear, in retrospect, that the author's intent was not fraudulent -- she did not solicit or accept gifts, and indeed went to some lengths to avoid accepting offerings from Kaycee's readers. Her motivation, in fact, was familiar to all fiction writers: she wanted to reach an audience with a gripping and important story.

In a real sense, Kaycee Nicole's story became the death of Little Nell for the emerging medium of the weblog.

Randall van der Woning, the gentleman who hosted Kaycee's weblog, was not aware of the fiction. He was understandably upset by her death, and even more upset by the news that she was an invention, and removed her weblog from his server soon after the fiction was unveiled. Many archives from Kaycee's weblog, and the parallel weblog notionally kept by Kaycee's mother, are available here [4].

One key to the artistic success of Kaycee's story was the artlessness of the writing; Kaycee's voice is convincing because the writing was frequently bad. Interestingly, Kaycee systematically avoided visual media. Kaycee claimed she chose to avoid images because she was attractive and so feared that her picture would lead to unwanted attention. Readers conjectured that the ravages of prolonged illness and chemotherapy might have made her reluctant to confront her appearance. Again, the combination was both plausible and convincing.

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-- Last edited October 27, 2002

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