Targets of Opportunism

Out there in the stupidosphere comes the suggestion that the reason that I write articles like this, or do things like this, is because I am a stone-cold opportunist who doesn’t really believe in these things, but says and does them to get ahead in science fiction, a genre apparently positively overrun by feminists and cowering males. My master plan is apparently to get in good with all the wimmins, reap all the awardz, and then profit! Or something.

(No, I’m not going to link to the blog post in question, because it is in the stupidosphere. You can probably find it if you make the effort. But why would you? Now, then -)


1. Well, you heard it here first, straight white gentlemen: The way to win all the things and sell all the books in science fiction and fantasy is to acknowledge your own stacked set of privilege conditions and to publicly sign on to the idea that all people regardless of race, sex, gender identification or physical ability should be able to enjoy a convention or gathering without fear of harassment or marginalization. Yes, with those two simple steps, a Hugo and a New York Times best seller slot will be yours. Who knew it would be so simple? Besides me, apparently?

2. Mind you, if the Feminist Diversity Cabal™ were actually running all the skiffy things, there would be the question of why it would need (or reward) me for anything at all. I think the answer, implicit in the assumption that I’m am doing and saying these things for coldly opportunistic reasons, is that I have craftily realized one of two things: One, the Feminist Diversity Cabal™ secretly craves recognition from straight white men and wishes to reward them for even the slightest of notice; Two, the Feminist Diversity Cabal™ needs a willing patsy to lull the Straight White Men of science fiction and fantasy into a state of complacent quiescence until The Night Of The Castrating Knives (i.e., The Hugo Awards Ceremony, 2014).

Or, hell, Three: Both! Then I will be king! Of the Feminist Diversity Cabal™! Insert maniacal laugh here!

Truly, I have been playing a very long game with this insidious, opportunistic plan of mine.

3. And, you know, it’s worked! For I now have a Hugo! And best sellers! And such! Thus, having achieved all the things I can finally TOSS OFF MY CLOAK OF LATTER DAY ALAN ALDA-NESS AND REVEAL MYSELF AS WHO I TRULY AM, THE ALPHA OF ALL ALPHAS. COMMENCE WITH THE SANDWICHINATION ALL YOU LESSER BEINGS —

Oh, wait, I haven’t won a Nebula yet.

4. So, uuuuuuuh, forget point three.

Go diversity!

5. Now, there is an alternate theory for why I do what I do. It involves a scenario in which I actually believe in what I do and say rather than being a Cat-Stroking Bond Villain for Feminism. But that’s not fun, nor does it feed into the “I am a complete asshole and therefore cannot conceive of others not being a complete asshole, especially people I don’t like” mindset of the stupidosphere. So never mind that.

6. Here is the one thing this dipshit in the stupidosphere was correct about: I am, in fact, all about taking advantage of opportunities. As it happens, I have many opportunities, due to my place in the world, to speak and act on things that are important to me. I also have the will to take the opportunities when they come up. And in the last year, events have conspired to give me even more opportunities to do so. So, guess what? I’m going to take them.

What will I do with those opportunities? Well, I will say this: I can pretty much guarantee the stupidosphere won’t like it.

Insert maniacal laugh here.

The Death of the Blog, Again, Again

Jason Kottke declares the blog dead over at Neiman Journalism Lab, which makes him the umpteenth millionth person to do so. The actual piece is a bit more nuanced than its headline — Kottke notes that the blog is still an integral part of the online experience — but the overall tone of it is that the blog’s day in the sun is done, replaced by things fresher, less “streamy” and otherwise tuned to the Way Kids Do It Today.

A couple of things about this:

1. Kottke’s not wrong. I’ve noted before that I thought the many of the people who had blogs a few years ago were better served by things like Twitter and Facebook, which are easier for most folks to handle and actually do what they wanted their blog to do — i.e., keep them in contact with all their friends and family and let them share what they were doing (and also, pictures of their pets and children). I love my blog (hello!) but for the large majority of people, I wouldn’t recommend doing one. Even the closest new analog to the blog — Tumblr — is streamlined and connected in ways a standalone blog isn’t.

This isn’t to say that a blog can’t be useful for the people who have a need or interest in them — they absolutely can be. For the people who want to be able to write longer posts, keep a permanent self-branded outpost, and (importantly) have much more substantial control of their online persona, blogs have no real substitute. I recommend them for writers and other creative folks precisely because they’re your own space, and with a nod to the folks who host me, one of the great things about WordPress is that it’s made having and keeping a blog pretty dead simple. But for your mom, who just wants to keep up with the grandkids? Meh, Facebook is fine.

This doesn’t mean the blog format is actually dead. It does mean that its centrality to online life is substantially diminished. Mind you, this assumes that it actually ever was central, which is somewhat debatable — first there was AOL, then there was online chat, then MySpace and then Facebook/Twitter, along with Snapchat, Tumblr and all other manner of services and spaces, all of which, again, have been better tuned to the person who just wants to be online to see what friends are up to, and announce to the world what’s on the menu for lunch.

What does seem true no matter what is that the community of personalities that existed around blog seems to have substantially dispersed — the people who were best known as bloggers are off doing other things now or at least have their presence as personalities less tied to their blogs. I can certainly speak to that; I am these days rather better known as an author than as a blogger. I’m not the only one who has seen their “portfolio of presence” expand or at least diversify. I’m fine with that, personally — I was long ambivalent about calling myself a blogger because I thought was I did (writing) shouldn’t be defined by its medium.

2. What’s more important now, in the middle part of the second decade of the twenty-first century, appears to be an aggregate presence online — the ability to speak (or at least to be seen) across a number of online platforms. Or as Zach Weiner put it when he, Warren Ellis and I were chatting about it on Twitter:

How one does this is the interesting bit. Personally, I keep the blog here active, because it’s congenial to how I want to be online, but I also find myself participating very actively on Twitter, because that medium is also but differently congenial to my personality. Other media — Facebook, Google Plus, Tumblr — I have a presence on but am otherwise less active with, since at the end of the day I have to, you know, write books and experience the real world with my family. I have to pick and choose. But the point Zach makes — that you have to go to your audience rather than simply hang out an online shingle and wait for it come to you — is a valid one. Personally speaking I don’t find doing this particularly difficult since I like farting around online anyway.

Also, I suspect in many ways a distributed presence online for a writer or creative person is a little bit like having multiple revenue streams, which is to say, a way to buffer yourself against one stream dipping or drying up. For example, this year, my blog readership looks like it will end up lower than it was last year — about 7.5 million recorded visits for the year, as opposed to 8.1 million in 2012. I attribute this to a couple of month-long “semi-hiatuses,” during which I posted less while I was writing books or on tour, a theory borne out by looking at the monthly numbers (November, which was one of those months, had the lowest visitorship of any month in two years). However, this year I also added 15,000 Twitter followers, most of whom (so far as I can tell) are actual real live people and not Twitter bots, and my Facebook and Google Plus public pages also saw growth.

(I should note 7.5 million visits still means 2013 is Whatever’s second best year ever, so I’m not exactly panicking over here in that regard. But again, the fact that my other online presences showed substantial growth works as an offset in any event.)

I don’t see myself ever not doing Whatever, because at the end of the day I want to control my own space online and say what I want to be able to say, unencumbered by character limits or SEO-driven advertisements in the sidebars or any other sort of distraction. But if it turns out that it’s just one part of an overall online presence portfolio, well, that’s no different than it ever was (remember (or don’t) my other online presences as GameDad, MediaOne’s music reviewer, AOL’s “Blog Mayor” or AMC’s science fiction film columnist) and it’s part and parcel of the fact that my presence is distributed in other ways as well — namely that in addition to writing the blog, I write books, work in other media, and even do appearances in the real world from time to time.

So, yes. I suspect I and Whatever will continue on even after this latest death of the blog. At least until writing it stops being fun for me and/or I decide to just stop writing. Short of no longer drawing breath, I don’t see either of those as very likely.