September 13, 1998 was the day I sat down to write the first Whatever entry, motivated by a desire to keep my column-writing skills sharp and also, let’s be honest about these things, to give myself a way to keep myself busy when my newly-launched freelance writing career hit its inevitable lulls.
I had the vague hope that the writing I put on Whatever would lead to other things; I didn’t — and really in 1998 couldn’t — know how Whatever would become its own thing. But it has. It has become the column I was keeping my column skills sharp to write, and also the launching point for my forays into other media, and a place of enough significance in its own right that I can lend it to other writers to talk about their own new work.
And its audience keeps growing — by the end of the week, in fact, as many people will have visited Whatever this year as visited it in all of 2011 (5.4 million officially, not counting RSS and other feeds, and remember my caveats about stats), and we still have three and a half months to go in the year. Considering how the buzz in the last year has been that blogs are dying as a format, I feel especially good about that.
There are times, in fact, when I wonder if, at the end of the day, and to the extent that I will be notable at all to future humans (or, hey, whatever follows humans — I’m not picky! Hello, intelligent roaches!), Whatever will be considered my actual life’s work, not the science fiction, or the non-fiction books, or the journalism that I did prior to any of that. There are reasons to suspect it’s possible. One, I’ve been doing it longer than I’ve been doing any one other thing in my life, save for breathing and being married. Two, it’s a record of life in the United States roughly contiguous with the rise of the Internet as a social force, and a constant commentary on the culture that’s grown up and around that particular force. Three, it is actually me — or a reader-friendly, public performance-oriented tuning of me — in a way that my other writing simply is not. In a very real sense, this is my autobiography and my collected letters, all the stuff that any poor bastard hoping to get a master’s degree off a study of my life will have to pore through (and if you are that poor bastard — dude, you got a lot to wade through. Hope you made a pot of coffee).
To be clear, I would be perfectly fine with being remembered primarily as the author of Whatever; when it comes down to it, given how quickly the evidence of our lives slide under the waves of history, it’d nice to be remembered for anything, now, wouldn’t it (well, not for being a serial killer or snuffing Presidents or such. You know what I mean). If one were to resurrect Samuel Pepys, he might be surprised that he was rather more famous for his diary than his turn as a minister of parliament or for his tenure at the admiralty; he might be surprised that he was remembered at all. You don’t get to pick how people remember you, should they bother to make the effort in the first place.
At least no one knows about the place in the basement where I render kittens down for felt. I’d hate to be remembered for that.
Hey, forget about that last paragraph, would you? Thank you.
Given our base-10 predilections as humans, the 14th anniversary of anything is not one that most of would consider particularly notable. Be that as it may, this 14th anniversary is still an important day for me, and I would like to do something special to commemorate it. For that reason, I’d like to use the occasion of the 14th anniversary of Whatever to announce that on the 15th anniversary of Whatever, September 13, 2013, Subterranean Press will release the second official collection of Whatever entries, entitled The Mallet of Loving Correction: Selected Writings from Whatever, 2008 – 2012. This collection will naturally include all the big hit entries of the last four years, plus a personal selection of favorites that I think are worth official enshrinement in the Library of Congress. Some of these might not even be written yet, because we still have time left on 2012, and you never know what the future will bring. Well, except for The Mallet of Loving Correction: Selected Writings from Whatever, 2008 – 2012, on September 13, 2013. We’re pretty sure about that part.
So, yes: Hey, I sold another book off of my blog! Turns out the thing has been useful after all. And once again I can say: thank you, Whatever. My life would quite literally — because there’s a book involved! Get it? GET IT?!? — not be the same without you.
And also: Thank you, dear reader. The not-so-secret secret of Whatever is I wouldn’t write it if I thought I was only talking to myself. I’m glad you’re here, that you read what I have to say, and also occasionally comment on what I have to say, too. Yes, even those of you I have to Mallet. Because, look! I got a book title out of it! See? Everything works out perfectly.