Taking the time to look back over my blog-posting history for the last year or so (since Tuesday, 18th of June, 2013, actually) I am struck by one particular detail.
I’m not really very good at blogging.*
There, I said it. I’m not. No idea why, really. I mean, it’s not as if I can’t words put order right in the together. And it’s not as if I don’t have either the facility or willpower to write every day.
The truth is, the last year or so has obviously been an extended effort by me to construct an ongoing post-modern blog, a sort of un-blog or anti-blog, exploring the inner dynamics of the unsaid and unwritten. I mean, it’s all there for you to see. My post about writing blogs in invisible ink. My post about the unspoken blog. My four incisive posts about my efforts to blog telepathically. My guest blog by Mr Griffen of Iping, West Sussex. My blog post from the Microverse (sorry about the sub-atomic rescaling failure with the text on that one). My innovative experiments in blogging with smoke signals. The semaphore blog. My blog using the medium of mime. My blog post about all the reasons I like the work of One Direction.
You’re not buying it, are you?
The real truth is, some people are natural bloggers and some are not. I can think of many blogs I read regularly that I admire, and then think “how did they do that?” Not just “how did they find something amusing to say?” but “Where did they find the necessary energy with which to say it?”
Nik’s a very good blogger, for example. Check her out here. Not only does she find interesting topics to discuss, she blogs regularly. The double threat. She’s not afraid to engage with provocative subjects and talk about them openly. And, you know, have an opinion that might be unpopular.
Why can’t I do that, I wonder? Am I just a people-pleaser? Do I see my blog as simply a social network tool with which I can shop-window stuff, a process that eventually becomes vacuous and repetitive even for me? Am I afraid of being contentious?
Can I just not be arsed?**
Part of the problem (no, ‘problem’ is too big a word), part of the issue is the society of the internet. This has been written about many many times, with greater depth and understanding by better, cleverer commentators with better, cleverer blogs and better, cleverer insight (and better, cleverer grammar) so this is an infantile generalisation that barely begins to even point at the surface let alone scratch it, BUT… The moment someone posts even the mildest opinion on-line, you know that by the intricate, arcane action-begets-reaction algorithms of the internet, someone somewhere MUST take giant fucking exception to it. And then respond in the most outraged way. ***
And then... then the temptation is to respond, to gently and politely explain that “no, that’s not quite what I meant...” and the next thing you know it’s ramped up to flaming and trolling and land wars in Asia before bedtime.
I’m not, for a moment, suggesting that I want to adopt the mahooosively hypocritical stance of saying that I’d like to use my blog to express my opinions on this or that, but I’d prefer it if you kept your ignorant disagreements with said opinion to your own fucking selves. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, and the sharing of said opinions is one of the beautiful freedoms of the on-line world.
It’s just that... well, people. People are people (I speak on the basis of being one of them). Protocol and manners, just basic manners, on the internet, are pants-awful. The on-line mask seems to empower folks to just say, out loud, with real words, stuff they would never even dream of saying (or even thinking) in person. That’s one thing.
The other is that the general scope of digital comments (I’m including not only blogs and their comments threads, but also forums, emails, texts, Facebook etc) generally and obviously lack nuance, subtlety and inflection. People bash out comments fast and casually (just as they should, immediacy of response is just another of the internet’s virtues), often without reflection or redraft (or, you know, spellcheck). Because they can, and why shouldn’t they? What seems like a joke or a light-hearted quip when you bang it out gets read as rude or invasive (or simply perceived as such) at the other end. We all do that. I do it. I read innocuously-meant comments on Facebook and think, “oh well, entirely fuck you” and then realise that it was not at all intended as a ‘fuck you’ eliciting comment. If I’d heard it in person I’d have got the tone.
Maybe my blog post history for the last year is, in fact, the model example of perfect on-line expression, a sublimation of blogging. I have a blog. I posted nothing on it. No nuance was therefore lacking, and thus no one could be offended.
Except, of course, for the comments I’ve got about what a tiresome cockwomble I am for not blogging for over a year (don’t look for them - I deleted them, with a stabby finger).
So, do we call for a new digital protocol where nuance is stated in advance of a comment, so feathers can’t be accidentally ruffled? Do we start a comment with “This is a joke, meant light-heartedly and affectionately. I am smiling at you. My comment is [comment follows]. My name is [name here]” ?
Of course we don’t.
Grow a thicker skin, Abnett? Yeah, okay. Mine’s pretty thick already. I don’t think it’s that.
I guess I’ve realized that if I’m going to maintain a blog, it’s got to be a blog where I talk about things that interest me. You know, have an opinion and everything. Not just repost press releases and cool covers (lord knows, I’ll do that too).
That’s when I tense up. Here’s an example. I was reading a comic trade the other day. It was an acclaimed book by an acclaimed writer. I liked it, but I also had issues with it. Shock, there were things about it that I didn’t like. Can you even imagine? Anyway, I thought I’d write about it. I didn’t want to offend the writer, or damn the book. I just wanted to talk about the things in it that I found problematic. But I didn’t because that would immediately become ‘comic writer slags off other comic writer’. Hello offences un-meant but very much taken. Hello being quoted out of context on news sites. Hello ‘that escalated quickly’.
But maybe I will. Maybe instead of not blogging at all because I find Internet manners and reactions wearisomely depressing, instead of waiting for the ‘it’s never going to happen’ moment when anonymous internet arseholery vanishes forever, I should just do what everyone else does and man up. Flames, trolls, misunderstanding? Oh what the fuck. Okay. Okay, if that’s an inevitable part of it. I can’t pick and choose.
I’m going to restart my blog. I’m going to give it one last go. I’m going to post the sort of things I did before, like work updates and appearance notices, and reports on events, but I’m also going to express my ideas and actual opinions (oh, the horror) once in a while, or I’ll lose interest again, the blog will become a bland, self-promoting dirge, and it will wither and die once more.
Am I going to post every day? Fuck that. Am I going to post regularly, and with some conviction? That’s the idea. Am I going to stop being a people-pleaser and just be a person? Y-huh.
Let’s see how long this lasts.
Tune in next time to hear Nurse Chapel say “Captain, how the hell did I end up in the muppets?”
* Copyright 2014, UK Department of Understatement.
** a distinct possibility.
*** It’s always extra helpful, I find, if this response is delivered a) with the least possible regard for spelling and grammar and b) anonymously.
You are not wrong about the online community "at large". What is even more pernicious is the amount of self censoring that those non-trolls amongst us - the whole human race excepting half a percentile I guess - do in response.
I've lost track of the number of times I've deleted a remark or post because "I just don't want the hassle" of the howling hordes of reactionaries out there. Trouble is, this means that we surrender the internet. "Don't feed the trolls" has mutated into "leave the comments section to the worst, most reactionary facets of society". Thus any casual reader only encounters howling lunacy (newspaper comment sections are almost entirely like this these days).
I think we should fight. Argue against the trolls, demonstrate that they are wrong and only if they persist in poking us with sticks THEN declare them as such and refuse to engage any more. That way at least the intertubes has dissenting opinions from normal humans on it as well as the noise of the endless entrenched oppositions.
Of course, this is wearisome. But I hope you succeed in allowing you to be yourself online. Its tough but will be more interesting to the followers and - hopefully - more satisfying for you.
Good luck :)
Completely understand your thinking on this one and where you are coming from re: expressing opinions on work from an industry you are involved in (and therefore how others will perceive those comments). But, at the same time I think sometimes it's better to put yourself out there and share your thoughts than to not do so - I know I'd love to hear them whether they align with my own opinions, or against.
Some people will approach the opinions and thoughts of others with an open mind, a willingness to understand and interpret and untimely an openness to have their opinions changed, shaped or refined as a result. Others won't. Such is life :)
P.S. Good job on a thoroughly interesting and entertaining first post for the blog reboot - I do love the footnotes :)
Andrew (aka CMDante)
Someone's missing a 'ZZIINNGG"
And Dan's Blogging again...
You go girl!
OK… Can't pull that off, then.
They will misinterpret and they will comment. They will post anonymously and troll, and sometimes, just sometimes it will feel bloody awful.
Here's the thing, though. You hold the floor. This is your blog with your name and your face on it.
No one came here to read the anonymous venom of some sad bastard who's got nothing better to do with his life. He's just along for the ride
Say what you think and enjoy it. I did and do, and I'm still here.
BTW, have you seen the very shiny comments you've had so far? Looks as if you've got the majority with you so far. Smiles.
Wow - very interesting. I think it's entirely possible I've got a false perception of you, Dan, through the fact I've only 'got to know you' through your online presence up until now. That being quite restrained and polite, I thought for a second that ADB had got your blog password. (Please don't take that as belittling your own passions; simply that he has up until now more vocally expressed himself in this way online)
Nothing wrong with being more direct and honest either. The science of 'cyberpsychology' being in its infancy means that we don't really know what causes trollism, but it is indeed prevalent. Your choice of how to deal with it is your own, and from a purely selfish perspective, I think I will appreciate your choice. I hope your other blog followers will too.
Looking forward to hearing more from you Dan!
Welcome back dude! Seems to be a running theme of not knowing what to blog. At the moment, I just post a youtube video of music and call it a thing with a pun-tastic title. Yeah okay, that was just as bad...
And I agree with Nik, look at all the peoples...
He's back! Yes!
I love a bit of skull-hinging, that bit of 'unclasp the cerebellum and let's get the brain pan in the open air' moment when you see where the author has seen an open bit of page that needs filling and decides to run across it with his arms in the air screaming 'yeaah! Look at what I can do!'
Unleash some of those please indeed do.
Cockwomble has been added to my phones autocorrect as well, thanks for that Mr A.
If it comes down to more blog posts or more books from Dan Abnett, I want more books from the man.
Arguing with anyone, about anything, on the internet is pretty pointless. Facts are ignored, direct questions glossed over and the whole things ends with people being called homosexuals.
Anytime a writer has any sort of criticism for another person's work, accusations of sock puppets and what not will fly and the underlying assumption that the critical party is somehow jealous of the other's success. So why bother?
But updates about appearances and releases are all well and good.
Also, when will the internet at large start a campaign for Dan Abnett to have a cameo in the next Guardians of the Galaxies movie?
Harry Frankfurt has written a nice little thing "On Bullshit" a while ago. The main difference between lying and bullshitting is the concern for truth: If you're a liar you at leat need to know and concern yourself with the truth, so you can avoid telling it. For the bullshitter, truth is not an issue, you just say anything (sometimes even something true!) to achieve your goals. Being (aggressively) offendend at considered opinions, flaming and trolling are of course just that, bullshit. These people are not playing the truth-game and they're not playing the reason-game, they don't ask for or give reasons. So fuck them. Just keep on blogging for those of us sincerely interested in the thoughts of our favourite grimdark Sci-Fi author. Suffer not the offended, the flamer, the troll. The emperor protects.
Welcome back to the land of the blogging!
All you can really do with the trolls is to respond reasonably and know that, as this is your blog, most of the visitors will pay far more attention to what you say than those who are trying to upset you.
The worry about upsetting someone in the same industry is a more thorny issue, however. I guess so long as it's written in the tone of relatively constructive criticism, you can always point back to the post when people try to take it out of context.
Welcome back to the blogosphere! I was just wondering yesterday why there hasn't been any video Q&A sessions with you since ... 2012, I think? I quite enjoyed them!
Only just realised you had a blog today. I just want to say that your work is incredibly inspiring to me. Having just finished 'Legion', I thought to myself "man, I think I have to start writing, even if it's just dodgy fan fiction".
Thankyou Mr Abnett.
A loyal fan
Dan is blogging again - fethingly fantastic. Now some great stuff would follow, I'm sure of it
I am very much looking forward to hearing (reading) your opinions and ideas beyond the scope of your other writing!
It is also worth noting that I laughed a lot at what you have written above, your comedic talents have been grossly underestimated and understated, that needs to change.
people disagree with you? or generally don't respond with "that was *insert effusive praise here*! Dan Abnett, you're my hero." ?!?!?!!
point me in their general direction and I'll see to that, quicker than you can say "snicker-snack"!
(like for reals, yo)
anyways, it's always nice to take the time to read anything you have taken the time to write.
Dan Abnett, you're my hero.
Dan, thank you for blogging at all! It's so refreshing to have an accessible down to earth guy doing his own stuff. I tend to delete blogs that don't update, but I have never deleted yours. In always interested I. What you have to say, however frequently or not it is.
I've been hooked since eisenhorn, but now in the social media age (and having met you at least twice!) it's about so much more. I have to agree with your wife as well. I come to this blog to read what you have to say. That's what makes It interesting. You could spend a month writing about cheeses or wines Or chocolates, and I would try and buy on your recommendation :)
An interesting return Blog. Part of the problem I think is people forget that a blog is largely a one way stream of communication. It is either self advertising or an expression of opinion not debate. The authors previous work giving the author validation to write on a chosen topic.
I really enjoy reading Niks Blogs although they sometimes go over the head of a simpleton like me, and I don't agree with everything she says.. or err types. I am not sure the trolling community is as big as some believe but I do think we can all be guilty of asshattery, giving the reader the ability to respond with immediacy without reflecting on what they have read can be dangerous.
A personal example, I remember last year reading Niks opinions on Steven Fry and depression. The details are vague but I remember some righteous indignation at what was being said. This irrational need to respond immediately, probably using capital letters and lots of exclamation marks. Then I stopped, it was my decision to read said blog I knew this was an opinion piece. I remembered something i saw on the cover of a Bill Hicks biography, 'I don't agree with everything you said but I am glad you said it.' It is the viewers responsibility to understand what is being said whether you agree or disagree with the piece it has helped you develop critical thinking skills, something the world probably needs more than ever. However right to respond critically needs to be earned to have any validity. Any response I had made would have no context to my background, no previous works for others to view to back up my right to critical response.
Blogs that aren't self serving advertising are generally deeply personal, maybe we think the anonymity of the internet protects us even when our names are slapped across the front page and this leaves us vulnerable to very reasonable people who see the same anonymous face when they respond with such venom.
Or maybe people are just arseholes. I personally wouldn't take the words of a drop out A-level english student too seriously. Let me go find some dick jokes...
Nice to see you back online. You have been missed.
I take my blog offline from time to free myself from the responsibility, I tend then to blog only about the things I really want to chat about .
Also I Just wanted to say I really enjoyed Alien Isolation and my son really enjoyed the orc characters in Shadow of Mordor too.
Yyyeeeesssss Mr. Abnett is back (yes I know it's a little late sorry, just found out!). Welcome back, now I need to catch up on your blogs.
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