23 Years

Another September 13, and another year of Whatever in the (virtual, electronic) books. For the site, an unusual year, in that I was not the sole writer here — through most of it Athena wrote nearly as much as I did (more accurately, I had more posts, but more of my posts were cat pictures and sunsets, so she probably wrote more words). I think that change of tenor was a pretty good thing. Athena is back at school at the moment and we’ll figure out to what extent she’ll be involved here while she’s also doing classwork. Could be a little! Could be a lot! Could be none at all! We’ll see, and whatever it is, that’ll be fine, because she has a life outside this site.

Me? Slightly less so. We still have a plague going on, thank you very much dunderheads who won’t get vaccinated, so despite a couple of memorable forays out into the world, I’m still mostly at home. Whatever continues to be the place where I write out my longer thoughts on the world. In the last year, with the exception of the events between the election and Joe Biden’s inauguration, in which we were living in genuinely historical times, it feels to me I’ve steered away from commenting on politics as much as I normally do, partly because of burnout (who could be blamed for that, honestly) and partly because much of the politics of the moment boil down to “aspiring fascists having performative tantrums” and “literally everybody else,” and that’s not interesting to me to write about. Politics right now makes me cranky, basically, which is why I’ve been putting my political thoughts mostly on Twitter. There I’m cranky in 280 characters or less, and then can immediately follow up with a picture of a burrito or the dog de-sequeakifying some poor stuffed animal. I don’t not write about politics here (go back just a few posts, you’ll see), I just write about it less frequently than I have at other times. That may change in the next year, going into a mid-term election year as we are. We’ll see.

For all that I find Whatever to be a pleasant thing to do, and to have. The last year in particular it feels like it hummed along nicely, as Athena did her writing and posted Big Ideas, and I posted and tended to other things. I especially miss have someone else post up the Big Ideas; it’s not difficult but it takes time, and I’m still posting more of them than I have in years past because book tours and physical appearances are still thin on the ground thanks to the pandemic, and authors need all the help they can get. Perhaps I’ll get an intern (I probably won’t get an intern). Regardless, in the last year it was nice to have it here, doing its thing, often without me.

The funny thing about writing on the site for 23 years is that it seems like the “blogosphere” is coming back around again, it’s just that now we’re calling it “Substack” and “Medium” and “paid newsletters.” Nevertheless the dynamic is still the same: One writes in one’s own space, and people come around to read it (or have it delivered by feed or email). What is old is new again. While I have both Substack and Medium accounts, I am unlikely to turn Whatever into a paid newsletter. I feel it runs against the ethos of Whatever to turn it into a job replacement. I don’t need another job, and I don’t need your money (this way; please buy my books). But to the extent that this new flourishing of personal media begins to pull people away from the Facebook/Twitter/Instagram triopoly of attention, so much the better. I mean, use those sites! I use them too. But then go other places too. Of course I don’t need to tell you this, you’re already here. Tell other people, maybe.

Whatever will, of course, go on. At the moment there is no plan to stop, or to much change how this site works. I write what I want to write here; you get what you get when you come here. That’s been the deal for 23 years and it doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon, unless I drop dead, which to be clear I have no intention of doing, but which might not be entirely up to me. I like doing what I do here, and there is no reason to stop or change. In a way it’s nice. Fashions come and go, online media empires rise and fall, trends wax and wane, and through it all Whatever is here, doing its thing in its corner. Come around when you like, it’ll be here. Which means I will be here. Welcome.

— JS

21 Comments on “23 Years”

  1. I am also really burned out.

    But… I know that if everyone is burned out that the fascists will win and will win more easily.

    I’m not sure what to do about this. I’m trying to think of emotionally efficient ways to be activist once I recover some. But right now I’m mostly taking a break, having completely used up my activism spoons trying to keep my children safe from covid at school (partial success– they are now reporting when kids are exposed which they weren’t before, but still barely even a request for masking; for unvaccinated DC2 we ended up homeschooling).

    Which means I can’t even with the voter suppression and abortion and everything else. :( I wish I knew what to do and had the ability to do it. I guess technically I have joined a couple of lawsuits against my state which is a weird thing to think about.

  2. “…unless I drop dead, which to be clear I have no intention of doing, but which might not be entirely up to me.”

    Please allow me to be the first to point out that the burritos are entirely your own fault.

    Then, of course, there’s the possibility of rabid nazi burrito haters… which would NOT be your fault.

  3. I started reading Whatever when my son referred me to one you wrote when Trump came on the scene. I’ve been following you ever since, here and on Twitter. Also love Scamperbeasts. I find myself less involved in much of what is happening, mainly because competent people are back in charge.

    However, your point of view always makes me think and often I share Whatever. I’ll take what I can get.

    We all need to step back and gather ourselves.

  4. I don’t actually know anybody that is fighting anymore– everyone seems burned out, feeling hopeless, etc. Two years ago we had hope and were energized at the state level, then things got drastically worse with the promise of worse to come.

    I’ve only seen two episodes of Friends, but in one of the ones I saw, the blonde lady was pregnant and craving meat so one of the guys went vegetarian for her pregnancy so she could eat meat with a net zero effect on the planet. I wish I could do that but with activism. But who is left to volunteer?

    Don’t get me wrong, I would love to free-ride politically, which is something I’ve done most of my life. But once I’m able to again, I need to get back to fighting even though I don’t want to and never want to. Because if I don’t and people like me don’t, we could end up with another Trump. This time if that happens I want to be able to say I did my best (even if it wasn’t good enough), unlike the case with HRC.

  5. Cheers.

    I’m old-school – this isn’t the only blog that’s stayed active over the years, and I’ve bookmarked a few, each with its own community.

    It does seem like a lot to carry for one person; I’m glad it still suits you.

  6. @nicoleandmaggie
    “I don’t actually know anybody that is fighting anymore– everyone seems burned out, feeling hopeless, etc. ”

    I have no idea if this counts as fighting, but I get up every morning, fix my coffee, and make my morning calls to my Reps & Senators (state and federal). I’ve been doing it for 6 years now.

    I’m still sending postcards, contributing to candidates where and as I can, and voting in every local election that comes along – from school boards on up.

    The biggest problem is that none of that FEELS effective really. As one small blue dot in a sea of red, I 100% have the “burned out, hopeless” feelings. I keep doing it because, well, I don’t know what else to do.

  7. I’ve truly enjoyed the 9 years I’ve been reading your blog (and your books). I know it’s been 9 years because I discovered you from the video you posted where you introduce Athena to an LP, and I just checked the date of that video.

  8. Keep it up (or not, as you see fit, of course)! We’ll keep enjoying it if you do.

    One good thing on the “plague” front: in New York, today is the day new Covid regulations go into effect for restaurants and some other businesses (health clubs, I believe). We went out for brunch this morning and were pleasantly surprised to see that every restaurant in our neighborhood had a sign in the window informing potential diners that Proof of Vaccination is required to dine in. Inside, there were two more signs and a busboy assigned to check our Proof. It took all of a handful of seconds and was completely painless, and it made us feel a lot better about eating inside.

  9. John,

    Glad you won’t turn Whatever into a paid site. In turn, I pledge to keep buying your books. I will confess to being behind in reading them, but hey, with a schedule like mine, sort of typical. But I do retire soon, and then I will read them…

  10. I found this site years ago after reading a book called Old Man’s War. Did a search on the Internet thingy for this Scalzi guy and found Whatever. Been coming here pretty much daily since.
    John, you keep writing it and I’ll keep reading it.

  11. In the early 90’s, I subscribed to a LOT of email newsletters. But at that time, marketing emails were few and far between. Now that my inbox is a seething cauldron of dreck that has to be actively filtered, I’m not sorry that the newsletters have gone the way of all flesh. Substack is not the return of blogging. It is the return of newsletters, and I refuse to pay for further crapifying my inbox. In the end, the only newletter I actually miss is Robert Park’s What’s New, which died along with him.

    I lament the demise of blogging. It has freed up a substantial chunk of my day, but I much prefer visiting a site when I’m ready to having a vast number of newsletters that have to be filtered into a folder until I have time to deal with them.

  12. You got to work with Mike Royko? I have several of his books. He was fantastic. Knowing that I am going to have to go back and find those books and reread them. Good memories!

  13. Hey, you going to credit Ivan Brunetti for that illustration? He’s a good guy, doesn’t get enough credit!

  14. Dude, I used to be Ivan’s editor in college. I asked permission from him, like, 23 years ago, to use the image when I started the blog and use it every year for this annual post. I also have some very rare original work of his in storage somewhere.

  15. Happy Whateverversary!

    I’m glad that you continue to find if pleasant, because I continue to thoroughly enjoy reading it. I’m not sure how long I’ve been with you here, but I know it’s been well over a decade.

    Here’s to another 23 years, or however long you wish it to continue!

  16. Senility…can’t remember if I stumbled on this page first, or came here after reading one of John’s books. It may have been ‘The Android’s Dream”. Or OMW.

    Anyway, it’s a fun ride. Ok, mostly fun, life does throw serious shit at us sometimes.

  17. I too am glad you still feel moved to continue posting to Whatever, and am grateful for the authors I’ve discovered due to the Big Idea posts. Especially during the lock-down time of Covid, it was so great to check in every day or so and feel like I was part of a conversation, even if I only listened to what others had to say. Thank you!

  18. Very happy about the Cat Pics and Sunsets… Also, the writing. I like that a lot too… My grandson wants to expand his reading… Which of your books series do you recommend as a starter (he’s 16) ?… Thanks in advance for the guidance.