Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? …or Don’t be such a jackass in the comments section…

So ever since RaceFail, I’ve been keeping an eye on what people are buzzing about in the writing world. The latest is an anthology to be published by called The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF. Take a look at the table of contents. Notice anything about them? Now take a look at the comments.

Mind-blowing indeed.

When I was doing the 31 days to Build a Better Blog, one of the things they suggest is to contribute to the comment section in blogs you like. But sometimes, when I look at what brews there, it’s like looking at shark-infested waters. Ain’t no way I’m sticking a toe in there, much less my opinion.

Part of that may be due to my own insecurities. When I was younger, I used to think that no one would value what I had to say. That’s why I wrote stories. Much easier to hide my opinions in them. But another part is that I dislike heated arguments. Especially when they stray from intellectual debate to name calling, F-bombs, slurs, nastiness, etc. It happened in RaceFail. It happened with the whole ROF cover thing (and for a great summary of what happened with that, check out this visual summation here. Hilarious!). It’s almost becoming a cliché: a post appears that makes a bunch of people comment, then an idiot makes a knee-jerk comment, people get up in arms, more commenters defend the slanderer, and soon we got FAIL this and FAIL that.

That’s the ease and the curse of the internet. It’s so easy to type something out and hit enter. You don’t think of consequences. The people you’re writing to are faceless. You don’t see them laugh. You don’t see them flinch. You don’t see the anger, or the hurt on their faces. They’re voiceless until they put their own fingers to the keyboard.

What really gets me in all of this is that, well, aside from those who contribute or read such things,  no one else really knows…or cares. I can go up to my mother, or my co-workers, or people at church and talk about RaceFail, and they’ll give me blank looks, or politely just nod their heads. For all the talk and hype and brouhaha we do in comments and LiveJournal, it’s all so insular.

And the real sad thing is, these are legitimate issues. They deserve to be discussed. For instance, someone asked a question on a reading list I’m on: "Should we, as consumers, make it mandatory that every SF anthology, no matter how small or archaic, include female and POC writers?" That is a very good question. And from what I’ve seen of the discussion so far, it’s been very insightful. So it is possible to express one’s view with intelligence and respect.

I know. There will always be jackasses who will say anything they want, flamers who just want to stir up controversy for the fun of it, and folks who say stuff that they’d wish they slept a night on instead of posting right off.  But I guess the best way to counter stupid comments is to take Mur Lafferty’s advice. Don’t be an ass. Be polite. Don’t say anything that will haunt you later on. If you disagree with someone, say so. But don’t slander. Don’t call names. It’s really not that big of a deal. If the greater world don’t care about it, it shouldn’t get our panties in a wad either.

And frankly, in regards to the all-white guy anthology, I don’t think it ever entered the editor’s head to include any females or POC, because, well, it didn’t really occur to him to do so. He just wanted to get some of his favorite authors together and print some stories of them. It’s what he considers the best science fiction. It reflects his tastes. Me? I looked at the table of contents, and the only author who looked interesting to me was Robert Silverberg, because I like his Valentine series. Everyone else…meh. But see, that reflects my tastes. I like to read stuff with more diversity.

Now…if you excuse me, I’m going to finish reading Kelly Link’s Stranger Things Happen so I can dive into my Dark Matter: Reading the Bones anthology. Not only has Link’s book blown my mind, it has smashed it to smithereens, then took all the mushy bits and mashed them together into a likeness of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Surreal, yet impressive.

We’re All Connected (the Fun of Networking)

So over the weekend, I succumbed and got myself a LiveJournal account. This after a couple of months of being on Facebook.

It’s not that I’ve been reluctant to get on LiveJournal (that’s more my feelings towards MySpace). On the contrary–I seriously considered it when I decided to jump on the blogging bandwagon. But one look at what they had to offer had me going into a corner and tugging on the few gray hairs that I have. When it comes to networking, I’m more from the old school–underground email lists. The occasional forum or two. I think I missed the LJ boat by ten years–if it had been around in the 90s, I would’ve been all over it, coloring my posts with different avatar icons, moods of the day, the like. As it is, I’m still wondering how I’m gonna coordination LJ with the Cafe. Should I just keep the LJ account so I can keep tabs on friends? Make it more of an anime flavor?

Actually, there’s a more basic reason why I decided to get on LJ (and look at me, already reducing it to an acronym. What next, injecting geekspeak into all my posts? shoing mi mad leet skillz?) It’s all because of Networking.

Establishing a fanbase on the Internet is easy nowadays. Writers aren’t limited to obscure print journals anymore. A whole slew of online publications has opened up where we can send our submissions to, many in which are free to read. So it’s certainly easier to find someone, anyone’s work online. You don’t even need a journal. If a writer is truly desperate, they will put their work up on their own site, themselves. But most likely, they would provide links to where the stories are at online.

But it could sit there forever if no one knows about it. So the writer posts to many different places. Hey, come see my work! He posts it to his friends. He posts it to the forum he’s on. If he’s smart, he’ll put enough tags on it so that it shows up in Google searches. Now he’s getting hits. Not everyone checks out the story, but a few interested individuals do. If the writer is exceptionally good (and this is what separates the average look-at-me-I-can-write-a-story writer from a writer) that person will subscribe to the website and keep a look out for new material from the writer. Pretty soon, he’s built up a fanbase. And if that fanbase really likes his work, then when he does get that book deal, he can put a call out for his fans to buy his books off of Amazon, and they will do it

I’m seeing it happen several times already. Heck, I’m going to be part of it myself. When Mur Lafferty’s book, Playing for Keeps come out in a couple of weeks, I’m going to get it. Even though she already has the whole book out as a podcast. I’m going to support her work, because, well, I’m a fan of her podcast.

So what does this have to do with me being on LJ?

Well, obviously, I’m at the low end of the writer’s spectrum. I got a few short stories out, I’m working on more. I’m putting a lot of time and effort on my work (so much so that it’s been a little hard balancing it with Willow–but that’s a post for another time) But it all doesn’t mean diddley-squat if no one knows it’s out there. One of the first things writers get advised on is establishing a presence out on the Net, so people who read your work will go to a place that has one-stop information about you. It’s why webpages are so important for a writer. But I think it goes deeper than that. I think in order to establish a presence, you not only need to have a webpage, you need to be involved. Actually network with people, so they can remember your name.

So that means getting involved in forums. Leaving comments on blogs. Not being a wallflower. It’s not hyping your writing everywhere you go–that gets obnoxious fast. You simply get out there, make some friends, show off your interests, and leave your website as a calling card. That’s it. That’s all. And the best part is, you gain a lot out of it. You meet new people, get to express your opinion. Gaining more confidence.

So I got LJ up and running. I’ve been pushing myself to get more involved in forums. In fact, I just became a moderator for the Agony Booth forum, which is a new thing for me. And though I can’t say I have a definite fanbase yet, I’m working on it. In fact, I just had someone tell me the other day that they started reading “Daughters of Sarah”, intending to just read a couple of pages, and wound up getting sucked in all the way. She looks forward to reading more of my stuff.

Granted, it’s someone who’s in my writing group, but still…that’s one.