17 Years

On this day seventeen years ago I sat down and wrote the first-ever blog post on Whatever (or “the Whatever”; the disposition about the indefinite article was not resolved for a number of years). I’m still doing it, on a more or less daily basis. It’s the longest amount of time that I’ve ever kept time with something, excepting my marriage, and basic functions like respiration; even my daughter is younger than this blog by about three months. I’ve said this before and it continues to be true: In many ways, this blog is my life’s work.

More accurately, it chronicles a very specific time in my life. I started the blog in 1998, after I had been laid off at America Online and I had begun freelancing, first (ironically) for AOL and then for a number of other companies, and also for various newspapers and magazines. Two years in I published my first book; four years in I posted Old Man’s War, which then got bought and was published when the blog was six and a half. Before the blog, I was employed by a company, first the McClatchy newspapers and then America Online. The blog covers what happened when I became “my own man,” entirely responsible for whether I was working or not.

Oddly, until today I never really thought about it in that way. Obviously, I was aware when I started the blog, and the context in which the blog existed. I just hadn’t tied it to being a chronicle of this particular era of my life in any explicit way. But it is, and in that light is even more interesting to me because of it.

I’m not the same person I was when I started it. I’m older, of course (by seventeen years), but my position in the world is also rather a bit different. I was struggling when I started the blog, albeit, and significantly, that struggle was more for notability than financial stability, which fortunately came early. I don’t expect I could be said to be struggling in any sense today. I wrote things then that I probably wouldn’t write now; many of the things I would say I might phrase differently. I think I’ve generally become more tolerant, although specifically there are people who I am less tolerant of, mostly people superficially like me, whose monstrous sense of entitlement I find both appalling and wearying. I’m more comfortable with the idea that my opinions are not necessarily an accurate model of How The World Really Is For Everyone. I’m definitely balder.

I feel a direct connection with the John Scalzi of seventeen years ago, who started this blog; he was me. But I am me now, and I like me today. I think he’s probably a better person in some critical ways. There’s always room for improvement, mind you. I hope in another seventeen years(!) future John Scalzi sees the same sort of forward motion.

Last year at this time, I noted that how I use Whatever was changing, in part because of other social media (notably, for me, Twitter) and in part because of the circumstances of my life changing — me getting busier, basically. This continues to be the case, and I’m also experiencing something like fatigue on a number of topics, most clearly politics. I find it difficult to write about politics these days because what I mostly feel about them is exasperation, and exasperation is kind of a Twitter thing, which is to say, nicely expressed in 140 characters, somewhat dreary after that. I do imagine I will write more about it the closer we get to the presidential election; I don’t imagine it will become less exasperating, but it might have more daily relevance for my life, and that will help, in terms of kvetching about it here.

And once again, no matter what form Whatever takes in the next year, I do intend to keep writing it. I’ve been doing this for seventeen years, after all, and for as long as I’ve been in this part of my career. It’s an integral part of my life. I can’t imagine not doing it.


30 Comments on “17 Years”

  1. ‘Whatever’ is one of my daily required-stop websites. I find it both interesting and informative, and I also hope you keep on doing it. Here’s to the next 17 years!

  2. Whatever.scalzi rates a homepage tab on my browser. Only four other sites, most of the rest are boringly work related, have that prominence in my window to the WEB. Thank your varied and provocatively thoughtful commentary.

  3. I love the idea that Twitter is a well-suited medium for exasperation because of the length. Additionally, exasperation tends to be a spectator sport, occasionally garnering but not necessarily requiring interaction, which also aligns nicely with Twitter.

    Also, happy Whateversary!

  4. I have moved beyond exasperation and landed squarely in apathy. Are Trump and Clinton the best this country has to offer? Even if we find a better candidate they will still have to deal with the people in Congress.

  5. Congratulations on another year, John. As we know, and fathers especially, the next 17 will be here before we realize. Best wishes for that voyage.

  6. Wow–happy blogiversary! (I don’t think I found this blog before about 2000 [at work, yet], but it has been a daily stop for many many years, and isn’t it nice to be wiser as one ages? An awful lot of people work very hard to hold wisdom at bay or frozen at the emotional age of fifteen.)

  7. The final paragraph of your post is the one that’s most reassuring to me, Mr. Scalzi.

    I don’t twit, face-book or any of that other stuff, but I do come here daily for my fix of well-written commentary about all manner of things. You’ve introduced me to books I’d never have found otherwise, have pushed me to question my assumptions in ways that nobody else has managed, and you are responsible for many, many guffaws that have disturbed our cats, awoken my spouse, and (in one recent and memorable occasion) compelled me to have the keyboard of my laptop cleaned.

    So thank you, sir, for sharing your commentary here, and for allowing the rest of us to follow along and occasionally even comment. I hope you continue that for many years to come.

  8. Congrats on your 17th. I wonder if the sense of more busy-ness in the day is real, or a perceptual consequence of aging. I certainly feel like I have fewer hours in a day than I did as a young person, or even a twenty-years-ago person. Is that a consequence of being on the computer so much? In any case, I could use about 4 more hours in a day. I’ve come to the conclusion I live on the wrong planet. Suggestions?

  9. Sometimes I think about immortality with the idea that I am not the person I used to be. That person doesn’t exist anymore. Psychologists have found that we underestimate how much we are going to change in the future – after all, who I am today is who I *am*. If I live a thousand years, the person who is around then will be very different from myself. That kinship you have with the John Scalzi of 17 years ago is similar to the kinship your future self will have towards you.

  10. Sometimes success is the result of pure perseverance. Sometimes it is the product of good fortune, hard work or inspiration. In this instance, I think it is a happy combination of all of the foregoing. Congratulations and best wishes for your continued success!

  11. Happy 17!

    As for “exasperation is kind of a Twitter thing”, that may be part of why I never got into Twitter, despite multiple tries. It *seems* like that sort of quipish short form would appeal to me. And sometimes it does. But as I get older, it seems like I’m becoming more … well, more *exasperated* with the sort of reflexive exasperation, cynicism, sarcasm, and etc, of pop culture that’s particularly distilled in Twitter.

    I mean, I’m not immune to the visceral appeal of those things, and still personally indulge (in non-Twitter contexts), but when I take a step back it strikes me as mostly boring and lazy.

  12. I gotta admit, the tone of the piece had me worried until the last paragraph or so.

    It is odd, reading back through old writing. The project I’m working on at the moment has required me to comb through blog posts and written work dating back to 2001– not quite seventeen years, but not far off from that. I think I like now-me better than then-me too, but there are bits of him I wish I could recapture.

  13. Rosh Hashana (the Jewish new year) starts at sundown tonight. Happy Whateverversary and best wishes for a happy, healthy new year!

  14. Yeah, I have a personal journal that has been going on daily or every few days now for 25 years. Family does not even know it exists but Google will let them know about it after I have been dead for awhile. It chronicles personal, family and some professional aspects of my life including the births of my children, deaths and everything in between.

  15. In The Future, some doctoral student is going to use Whatever as their thesis material. Maybe in the near future. The funny bits will help them get through the academic grind. And the legend of The Radiant She, Bacon-Cat will live on (as it should).

  16. I can really relate to this post. I’m sure many who’ve been in the blogosphere for awhile can. I started blogging in high school and then changed to a different platform in college and to WordPress post-grad. I can honestly say it’s the best thing I ever did. It was there for me during rough times in high school, it helped me to find many “mentors,” who worked with me online to improve my writing and it was there when I got paid for the first time for a piece I wrote. I’m not there yet. I’m still struggling as a writer, but whether or not I ever “make it,” I know my blog will be there. This was a fantastic post. Thanks for sharing. Congratulations on your many successes. I enjoyed hearing your story and how things progressed for you. I don’t always comment, but I stop by your blog often. I hope the next 17 years are just as awesome for you!

  17. Well, belated Happy Whateversary.

    If it was British this blog could now learn to drive, and would only be a year off voting, buying alcohol and getting married without parental consent among other perks…

  18. The idea that Whatever has captured your upward trajectory from (potentially) starving writer to where you are today makes this a unique and potentially historical record. On another note, congratulations on 17 years and you can bet I’ll keep reading your blog for years to come!

  19. Have you ever blogged about how people learned ablout this blog? I think I go back about 5 years. I heard about this on the old time wastes forum. That was the forum used by Brandon Sanderson, Howard Taylor, etc… And other Utah SF writers and fans back in the day. It sounds like John had a pretty big following before he published SF books. How does this get around?

    Do the really old blog posts still exist?

  20. I also want to wish you a “Happy Anniversary”, except it feels a little odd because so much of the happiness has been ours, the readers. Thank you for graciously, movingly, and hilariously creating and sharing it for so many years.

  21. Guess, I know I’ve read some of the very earliest entries somewhere. Probably Internet Archive.

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