Aishi Online

Miscellany Media Studios boasts an impressive collection of podcasts, all created by MJ Bailey. The Oracle of Dusk, Aishi Online, my #hugot, The Mountain’s Heart, Temporal Light, and the non-fiction podcast Miscellany Media Reviews, are all currently available as of July 2020.

I did things in a bit of an upside down way with Miscellany Media, as I started listening to Aishi Online before I was caught up with The Oracle of Dusk. Around the time of the launch of Aishi Online, MJ promoted it in episodes of The Oracle of Dusk, as being “the story of the voice you know all too well”. I would definitely recommend listening to at least some of The Oracle of Dusk to get a sense of that story, you don’t necessarily need to be caught up, but as Aishi Online was born out of the existence of The Oracle of Dusk, the two podcasts are heavily intertwined.

The concept of Aishi Online instantly appealed to me, a story from the early 2000s about an internet friendship. I first ventured onto the internet in 2001, and I remember the days of dial-up internet all too well. The days of message boards, before social media was invented. It was much easier to lose track of friends in those days, if they stopped frequenting that particular message board where you’d met, you’d often have no way of tracking them down. You might have their email, but there was no Facebook, or Twitter, or even Myspace back then. There was much more of a reluctance to give out names, even to people who you considered friends. People could easily disappear into the ether, leaving friends wondering what had happened. 

Aishi Online is a tale from that era. In the universe of this podcast, this story is born out of the creation of The Oracle of Dusk. In order to publicise the show and to communicate with the audience, MJ creates a Twitter account for it, and her return to social media and the issues created by trying to maintain an in-universe account for a fictional podcast bring up memories from the past. Memories from a time when she used to play a text-based online game, which was known as the Funhouse Hallway. A game which has since disappeared from the internet without a trace. She starts going through her journals from that time, and reads parts of her entries in the podcast.

MJ and Aishi44713 meet on a message board dedicated to the game, known as The Forum. They soon become friends, even though MJ knows little about Aishi’s offline life. Then one day, Aishi disappears from The Forum, and MJ is left dealing with the absence of a friend she never really knew. The story deals with the dynamics on this message board, which transports me back nearly 20 years. People coming and going, power dynamics shifting, conflict – all this while people hide behind nicknames, choosing how much or how little of their real identity they give out to others. 

All this happens against the background of MJ’s home life. Her diaries from the time of the Funhouse Hallway also cover a major event for her family – a move – and back then, moving house meant losing all access to the internet for a few days, at least. She spends some time describing the logistics of the move, and the relief of being able to access the Funhouse Hallway in her new home is palpable.

Aishi Online is also a story of how the lines between reality and fiction can be blurred, and the consequences of this. The story of the Funhouse Hallway, and MJ’s friendship with Aishi, is also told against MJ’s present-day experiences of being a podcaster, and of having created the story of The Oracle of Dusk. She spends some time discussing her relationship with social media – her discussion of how an in-universe Twitter account that seems to have developed into something more personal becomes part of a much larger story. She has to deal with the consequences of creating a Twitter account for Delphi, the narrator of Oracle of Dusk, and using that identity online. 

Season one of Aishi Online consists of 15 episodes, and season 2 is due to launch on July 26th 2020. After her experience working on season 1, MJ has promised that there will be a new story next season. A completely new story. If, or how much, this will overlap with the Funhouse Hallway, however, remains to be seen.

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