One of the best cartoons ever:
and one I thought about when I read Robin Hobb’s antiblogging rant.
I did think it ironic that RH wanted to distribute this thing, so she posted in on the internet–essentially, it is a blog post about how bad blog posts are.
On the other hand, as John Scalzi pointed out, she has a kind of point. Writing a blog and writing fiction are categorically different activities that some people may get confused.
On the other other hand, maybe some people are better off venting their spleen in a blog than trying to write fiction. (I don’t mean to sound supercilious: I’m willing to entertain the possibility that I’m in this group.)
On the other other other hand, I’m starting to think that the whole concept of writers having blogs as promotional tools is misguided, or at least should be guided by one’s own temperament. Someone who has a breezy and amusing personality and invests, you know, ten years of breezy and amusing posts in a daily blog, this person may be in a position to use his blog for promotional purposes. That’s not most people, whether they’re good writers or not.
But what’s the harm, anyway? Even if the average blog is a less-than-powerful promotional tool, at least it’s not going to hurt, right? In short, isn’t it time for the other other other other hand to appear?
Not really: this is the point I was setting out to make. For many writers, an internet platform (whether it’s a blog or something else) may well do more harm than good (strictly in a career sense). This occurred to me most recently when reading a post by a fellow-Black Gate writer, whose blog is emphatically worth reading for its wit, effervescence and thoughtfulness, which made me think of two writers I don’t read anymore, largely because of their online presence.
I’ve never restricted my reading to authors who agree with me on every issue. Neither Le Guin nor Heinlein, to cite two genre examples, take the trouble to reaffirm my personal worldview in everything they write, but I can forgive them this serious offense if they don’t waste my time as a reader (as Le Guin never has, and Heinlein never did until I Will Fear No Evil and its increasingly bloated and pointless successors).
But in the case of the two they-shall-be-nameless writers I’m talking about, their online presence frosted me to their offline work because of the intensity of hatred they displayed and their strange lack of intellectual honesty. As an academic, I’m prepared to debate the merits of almost any proposition and, as a perennial snarkmonger, I like a good fight. I don’t like being doused with internet venom and set on fire because I disagree with someone’s position on some foreign policy issue, or their definition of fantasy, or some other matter about which reasonable people could disagree, and even unreasonable people could talk about without screaming if, you know, they had something that might pass in a dim light for human decency.
Even reasonable people can be caught by this trap, because no one is reasonable all the time. Charles Stross, who may be the best of the newer writers of SF, posted a piece last summer that struck me as almost ridiculously narrow-minded. (It’s here, under the title “Pernicious Reporting.” I am not, by the way, a Tibetan monk and I don’t believe in reincarnation. I just think that people–even people I disagree with–have certain rights which, unfortunately, are far from inalienable.)
I fumed about it for a day or so, meditating various responses, until I realized that it was coloring my attitude toward his work. I decided what was more important to me, deleted his blog from my RSS feed, and by parting company with Stross-the-blogger I have maintained undiminished my enthusiasm for Stross-the-author.
They used to say that you should never try to meet your favorite author; it was bound to be a disappointment. Nowadays you hardly have to try; one Google-search and you’re likely to land in the thorniest part of any given author’s crotchet-patch. However this plays out for the reader, it really may not work in the writer’s favor. So maybe Hobb was even righter than she knew with antiblog rant.
In which case, you know, burn this blog before reading.