Doubleblogging, OMW Review, Penguicon Schedule, Saul Bellow

A bunch of little things I’ve been thinking about:

* My pal Jeff Porten has revamped his Web site and now has two blog-esque elements to it: Portentia, for longer pieces (two pieces which are fronting at the moment include his memories of the end of his mother’s life, and his questions for the people reselling his book on eBay), and The Vast Jeff Wing Conspiracy, which is comprised of shorter, “bloglike” entries. about shiny, shiny Web objects that catch his eye. Naturally, I encourage you to check out both of them to see if there’s anything you like there.

I also think Jeff illustrates a trend I see, of people having more than one blog or online writing site. Quite a few people of my acquaintance do it, often to differentiate content. Of course, I am an example myself: I have the Whatever, and then I also have By The Way, and the two are somewhat different in content and presentation (although perhaps it’s not a brilliant example, since I get paid for By the Way, and its content is partially dictated by the needs of AOL and by congruent desire to be a useful “community leader” over there).

I see it most commonly with people who have LiveJournal accounts. Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden both have their “home” sites and LiveJournal accounts to which they will occasionally post; writer Marissa Lingen, whom I have briefly met, keeps an active LiveJournal but also an active Journal on her personal domain. Kate Nepveu and Chad Orzel both keep book blogs and personal journals. (I should note I have a LiveJournal account myself — a paid one, even — but I only write there if something has gone haywire with this site. Why did I pay for LiveJournal if I don’t use it? But I do! Meet my sweet, addictive Friends of Friends page. So many LiveJournal entries. So little time).

I don’t know that it necessarily represents anything, I’ve just been noticing these doubleblogs more as I go along. One does wonder if there’s an upper limit to the number of blogs one can responsibly keep, and if there’s a point at which — not unlike owning cats — you go to far and are defined by your blogs. I suggest that just as having more than three cats gets you labeled “Crazy Cat Person,” perhaps three blogs is the upper limit as well. Feel free to discuss.

* A nice review of OMW in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Scalzi’s execution is superb. His characters inhabit bodies that are barely human, but they talk, think and respond in familiar and appealing ways. His writing is graceful and clever, with descriptions of aliens, equipment and military encounters that are flat-out terrific. Smartly conceived and thoroughly entertaining, “Old Man’s War” is a splendid novel.

Neat. I do think that this is the first press review from Ohio. Dayton Daily News hasn’t dealt with it, but since they did a nice big positive write-up of Book of the Dumb 2 recently, I think we’re pretty square up.

* While we’re on the subject of science fiction, I got my appearance schedule for PenguinCon 3.0, the science fiction/open source convention in Michigan from April 22 – 24. Here are the panels on which I will appear:

Friday 4/22:
Collaborative Online Fiction, 7:30 to 8:30 PM.
Orion’s Arm is an example of a world-building project that is open to submissions from anyone in a peer-reviewed system. This and other forms of writing and shared worlds made possible by the internet will be discussed.
On the panel: Cory Doctorow; John Scalzi; Matt Arnold
Quick thoughts: This will be the first time Cory and I are on the same panel; naturally I think we could have a lot of fun.

Saturday 4/23
The Blog and Its Uses, 10:00 to 11:00 AM
Why blog? For that matter, what the heck is a blog? Find out in this exciting panel with some top talents in the blogosphere! This is an ALL LEVEL panel.
On the panel: John Scalzi; Peter Salus; CmdrTaco
Quick thoughts: This should actually be a very interesting panel; Salus is an Internet historian and CmdrTaco is the founder of Slashdot. And then there’s me.

How Do Writers Pay the Bills? 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM
Learn about how writers pay their bills – what writing jobs do they take to make ends meet?
On the Panel: Joan Vinge, Kevin Siembieda, Kathe Koja, M. Keaton, John Scalzi
Quick Thoughts: Another interesting one. I suspect (as is often the case) I’ll likely be the only one with a history in corporate writing (aside from technical manuals), and I likewise imagine we’ll have different ways to make non-SF related writing cash.

Sunday 4/24
Future of Sci Fi? Where to Now? 10:00 to 11:00AM
What is the future of the genre? Where is it going to be going now? Let luminaries speak to this and other things.
On the Panel: Joan Vinge; Tim Ryan; Jeff Beeler; M. Keaton; John Scalzi
Quick Thoughts: Heh heh heh heh.

* As with most lovers of fiction I was saddened to hear about the death of Saul Bellow, but what most of you may not know is that I had a personal connection with him: He was, briefly, my thesis advisor at the University of Chicago. I had approached him with the idea of doing an interdisciplinary thesis study with him on the individual in literature, and he agreed to be my advisor. Shortly thereafter, however, I was elected Student Ombudsman of the University and he had some other large project to devote his attention to, so we both agreed that circumstances were against us.

(My next thesis advisor was Ted Cohen, definitely no slouch himself in the brains department, but therein lies another tale, of how I became possibly the first U of C student to graduate without doing a thesis project (or whatever the equivalent is for the science students). This is probably best left for another time.)

Suffice to say that while I don’t actually regret the path I took, I do wish I had had the opportunity to spend more time with Bellow, picking his brain and arguing literature and the role of the individual with him. Fortunately, there are still his books.

13 Comments on “Doubleblogging, OMW Review, Penguicon Schedule, Saul Bellow”

  1. Actually, I have my A.B. (1990) from the U of C and never wrote a thesis either. It was not required in the Linguistics Department. By the way, I still have (somewhere) one of your Maroon columns…

  2. “Actually, I have my A.B. (1990) from the U of C and never wrote a thesis either.”


  3. As you know Bob (er, John), my differentiation of content is hard to quantify. Some of my lj posts are much, much shorter than my Novel Gazing entries. Some, with the help of cut-tags, are not. For me, friends-locking or filtering is a major feature. I also like not feeling a sense of obligation because of how a lot of people read livejournals (on their friendspage instead of checking a journal page): if I didn’t update, someone else probably did.

    I can’t see any reason I’d want a third blog, but I only want one dog, too, despite all the good reasons for having two dogs, so.

  4. I have two blogs. Wagner’s Weblog is a blog I keep as part of my job as a technology journalist. The blog covers the Internet, computers and technology. I don’t get paid directly for Wagblog, but it’s one of the things I do to earn my salary. It has ads.

    I make it a point to keep the blog focused on technology issues, and G-rated (with the occasional breathtakingly excited excursion into PG. Woo-hoo! Livin’ dangerously!). Large sectors of the audience for that blog would be offended by strong language and my strident political opinions.

    Monkeys in My Pants is my personal blog, where I give free rein to my strident, offensive, and stupid political opinions, and the penchant for swearing that I picked up in my youth on Long Island (motto: where the word “fuck” is just punctuation.). A couple of years ago, I submitted Monkeys to a directory of local blogs in the San Diego Union-Tribune, the guidelines said the blogs in the directory couldn’t be offensive, or involve pornography or hate-speech. I wrote the editor a nice note explaining that I swore a lot, and had strong political opinions that occasionally made me speak angrily and, while I did not link to porn for the purpose of arousing the readers, I would do so in a second if I thought a porn site was funny or worthy of comment in some other way. The editor said that was cool, and included the blog in the directory.

    As to the future of science fiction:

    A few weeks ago I was struck by an essay that ran in Strange Horizons (I think)(URL forgotten) that said that sf was, basically, dying. The themes were increasingly being adopted by the mainstream (frex, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, and the respectful obits Andre Norton received) but the genre itself, as a marketing category and a distinct art form, was losing readers every year, and the readers were aging.

    I became enamored with this theory.

    More recently, I saw an essay, apparently from the late 90s, by Ken McLeod, arguing that sf goes through periods where most of the major writers are telling variations of the same story.

    In the 40s and 50s, when Asimov, Heinlein and Anderson ruled the Earth, the story was manifest destiny and empire. The human race would venture off-planet in rickety spaceships (the equivalent of pre-historic wicker rafts sailing the ocean), and, eventually and slowly, reach the stars. An Edison or Henry Ford would invent faster-than-light travel and the species would colonize the galaxy, warring with other races (or not) and establishing a vast Galactic Empire, which would eventually decline. There would then be a Dark Age, and then the Second Empire.

    In the 60s, came the New Wave, with writers who decided to explore the decadence, debaucherie and mental illness that the Golden Age writers mostly ignored and, when they did deign to notice it, treated with contempt.

    In the 80s came the cyberpunks, writing about worlds where corporations ruled, government was obsolete, the middle class was dead (or invisible) and street kids battled with decks in cyberspace, and switchblades in real life.

    In the 90s, the dominant narrative was transhumanism. The unmodified and merely-augmented humans inhabited the walls and basement of universes increasingly dominated by artificial intelligences.

    And transhumanism is still the dominant narrative, 13 years after Vernor Vinge and “A Fire Upon the Deep.” Writers like Charles Stross do great work, but mostly, the narrative is getting as tired as the stories in a 1970 edition of “Analog.”

    I’m feeling optimistic today, so I think that sf will revive with another great narrative. I wonder what it will be. I wonder if the Heinlein/Moorcock/Gibson/Vinge of the New Big Thing has already published the seminal work of the New Big Thing, and I’m just unaware of it.

  5. Crap. I want my money back from U of C. Either that, or I’ll go talk to the Ombudsman.

  6. I, too, have two blogs — one personal, one professional. Given that I devote perhaps 1 hour a day to the personal and 3 to the professional, I could imagine doing 1 or 2 more, but only if they came with paychecks.

  7. I suppose my two blogs might be like cats in another way, in that I didn’t intend to get the second. The booklog came first, and then I got an LJ account to leave comments on other people’s LJs (I kept forgetting to add my name at the bottom of the comments). It was only gradually that I started posting to the LJ.

    I think the book stuff is a sufficiently well-defined set of content that it makes sense to keep it separate, even if I were starting over today, but who knows.

  8. On the Panel: Joan Vinge, Kevin Siembieda, Kathe Koja, M. Keaton, John Scalzi

    Oh lord! I forgot that Kevin Siembieda was a human being, that existed on this actual planet. I hadn’t noticed his existence since I stopped playing the Robotech RPG.

    Did I just semi-publically admit to playing the Robotech RPG? Yes, I think I did. Oops!

  9. I’ll chime in to note that I have two blogs largely because I started the booklog first (in August of 2001), and only later started up a general weblog (June of 2002). Had I started a general blog first, I probably wouldn’t’ve done two. I’ve kept them separate mostly out of inertia.

    I’ve occasionally thought of starting a third, pseudonymously, just so I could rant about things that I don’t feel safe ranting about in a public forum under my own name. It’d be too much work to keep them straight, though, so I’ll stick to the time-honored method of bitching at length to my friends and family in private.

    (Of course, even if I did start a pseudonymous third blog, I wouldn’t tell anyone about it…)

  10. Hey, John. Thanks for the mad street cred.

    I’ll mention that running a blog *is* pretty damn time-consuming, but that’s mainly because I’m an egohound who has spent far too much time writing databases to slice-and-dice my web log results so I can see who’s coming by and what they’re doing. (Such will probably be the topic of the next essay.)

    Just wanted to check in and say *why* I’ve got two blogs. It’s pretty simple — I put a lot of work into my essays, and it was heartbreaking back in 2001 to see the next ten throwaway blurbs make that puppy scroll off the screen and into the archives — where my stuff rarely gets looked at again. Maybe it’d be different with RSS these days, but it’s a habit now. And I’m thinking it’s not impossible to thing that some people might like the essays *or* the nifty web nuggets, but not the other.

  11. Yes, that’s right, Chad Orzel does not have a pseudonymous blog. And I am not his pseudonym. As a matter of fact, I am a real person and he and I have never met.

    I just thought I’d clear that up.