It had to happen eventually: Someone has created a literary award for those online scribes known as bloggers. On April 3, self-publishing website Lulu.com will award the world's first Blooker Prizes. The name is both a play on the prestigious Booker Prize and a nod to the new medium of "blooks" -- books based on blogs or websites.
Lulu has chosen finalists in the categories of fiction, nonfiction and comics. Winners in each category will net $1000, and the author of the best blook will pocket another grand.
Stowe resident Tom Evslin's murder mystery hackoff.com made the short list for this year's fiction award. Evslin blogs at blog.tomevslin.com -- a site he calls "Fractals of Change." His self-published novel qualifies as a blook because he published it first at hackoff.com.
Evslin's murder mystery investigates the shooting death of Larry Lazard, CEO of a fictional online security company. The story takes place in the late 1990s, but Evslin still calls it "a historical novel." "History is moving fast in the days of the Internet," he quips.
Evslin, 62, ought to know -- the long-time techie drew his material from his own experiences in the software industry. He founded a software company after moving to Vermont in 1970. For years he lived in Worcester with his wife Mary and their three kids, serving as town moderator, and as transportation secretary under Governor Richard Snelling in 1981-82.
Evslin sold his company to Microsoft in 1991 and moved to Vancouver, then Seattle, while helping the software giant develop applications such as Microsoft Mail, Exchange and Outlook. He departed Microsoft for AT&T in 1994, and left that company three years later to found Internet start-up ITXC Corp. with his wife. The Evslins got caught in the tech bubble: Their stock rose from $12 a share to $120, then plummeted to $1. The couple sold their company in 2004 for $3 a share and retired; they moved back to Vermont in January of this year.
Evslin, whose mother Dorothy and late father Bernard both published books, says he always wanted to write a novel about his heady years as an Internet company CEO. He admits that his mother is "still a little appalled" that he decided to self-publish.
Hard copies of Evslin's blook are now available at Barnes & Noble and on Amazon.com, but readers can find the whole thing for free on the blook's website. They can even choose to have it delivered chapter by chapter to their computers via RSS feed -- in text form, or as a podcast. Giving the novel away for free online might seem counterintuitive, but Evslin points out that he's made it accessible to bloggers who might want to give it some virtual ink. Most newspapers, including Seven Days, rarely review self-published books.
Besides, Evslin says, "If there was any place people knew me, it was on the Internet."
If traditional newspapers turn their noses up at blooks, they're nonetheless increasingly eager to incorporate blogs into their operations. Take ExploreNewEngland.com, an online media venture owned by the Boston Globe and Boston.com. ExploreNewEngland serves as a portal site for tourists, offering travel info and advertising, as well as articles from the print edition of the Boston Globe.
In an effort to feed online readers more local content, the site's creators also hired six bloggers, one from each of the six states. A Google search for "Vermont vacation blog," for example, turns up a link to the site's Vermont blog, written -- until recently -- by Burlington resident Matt Mahoney.
"Local resident Matt Mahoney is your connection to Vermont," says the description that still pops up on Google. "Check in with his blog for all things cool in the Green Mountain State."
For several months Mahoney, who on his profile listed his occupation as "banker," recommended various events and destinations to his readers, signing his posts "vtblogger." In a post dated March 9, he touted the Peking Acrobats show at the Flynn. What Mahoney failed to note was that his preview of the show was copied word for word from a Seven Days calendar spotlight. In fact, Seven Days calendar writer Meghan Dewald discovered four more spotlights posted, unattributed, on Mahoney's blog.
Seven Days contacted Ron Agrella, the features content manager at Boston.com, who promptly fired Mahoney and deleted his site, offering no explanation as to why Mahoney took work from Seven Days and passed it off as his own.
Mahoney did not return emails for this story. Perhaps he will start his own blog to explain.