I woke up this morning to discover that the British Library and a collection of their National Trust partners had declared today a sort of national blog day.
In an attempt to capture the minutiae of ordinary life our nations bastions of learning have invited the normal everyday of people to toddle along to the History Matters website and post a diary of their oh so average lives.
Perhaps I’m alone in finding outreach work of this kind coming down from the lofty heights of such ivory towers more than a little bit patronising. It occurs to me that ordinary people have been sharing the details of everday life with each other for quite some time now, and archiving those thoughts as well.
Firstly it seems that in order to benefit from the BL’s generous offer to catalogue the lives of such mere mortals as ourselves, after so many years of neglect, the BL is asking us to go to their website and post our blog entry on their blo…this seems to miss one of the cardinal principles of blogging, that we as ordinary people have control of our words, how they are presented and stored and archived.
I also wonder at how representative a ‘day in the life’ of people who take part in this project will be. Is it possible that in a hundred years time the historians view of Tuesday 17th October will be coloured through the lens of a self selecting audience of Radio 4 listeners and amateur historians?
Perhaps a more effective historical document could be compiled by historains actualy going out and documenting all of the REAL blog posts made today. Certainly this would be more representative (even if it was weighted towards IT nerds and SF geeks…)
I applaud blog day as a great piece of PR for the history movement and wish it every success, but hope that the dedicated historians behind the scenes manage to live up to the promise of documenting the lives of ordinary people in the digital age. Even the cynical and sarcastic ones…
An idea I seem to have stumbled into three times in as many weeks…the ‘breakout’ artist.
Every type of art gets them from time to time. Folk music got Dylan. Kids books just got JK Rowling. Sports get them as well, basketball got Michael Jordan. Something about an individuals work gets them noticed far and above even their most succesful peers.
It seems like a long time since SF had one of these, if it ever did. Philip K Dick? William Gibson? I’m not sure any SF writer has really broken through into the popular imagination in that way. Well, theres always L Ron Hubbard. Throwing the net a bit wider to the whole of SF, Fantasy and Horror – Tolkien is a good example. As is Steven King. Neil Gaiman seems really close to that point, maybe after the new film is relased.
I’m wondering who might be the Next Big Thing? Its an impossible question to answer but maybe the folks over at the Asimovs board will have some suggestions. The two names that spring to mind for me are Charles Stross in the SF world and Joe Hill in horror – wouldn’t be the first son to inherit talent from his father. (I’ve been working my way through 20th Century Ghosts over the last few months, genuinely fantastic writing. I’m looking forward to the novel.) But something tells me that the fact I know who they are at this point means it probably won’t be them. They both have the talent but the ‘breakout’ status is more a thing of luck than skill. Perhaps theres somebody out there somewhere right now penning the next big SF/F/H novel.
I wish I could say I left Yahoo! as part of a principled stand against their activities in China, or as a protest against their horrendously corporate identity. Perhaps these things crossed my mind, but the truth is I left because Yahoo! stopped working.
There is no doubt that Yahoo! represents the worst of the mainstream internet. If you want to be forced fed advertising for every type of cultural lowest common denominator from teeny pop videos to mobile phone ring tones then Yahoo! is the place for you. I can’t imagine anybody over the age of 16 being anything but bored stupid by the utter shit that Yahoo! is pedalling. But this has been the case for years and I lived with it.
I loged onto Yahoo! everyday for the best part of a decade because they had the chore of hosting my webmail. For a long time it fulfilled that purpose admirably. And then one day I noticed that not only was I waiting way too long for the new video ads to load, but once they did they were so huge that my e-mail messages were being displayed at about three words per line. And then the final straw came when Yahoo! overhauled their whole e-mail system and the whole thing became completely unusable.
So I’ve moved over to Google. Maybe they are evil as well, but at least the site loads cleanly, the facilities are 5 star and I can read my e-mail properley.
But Yahoo! weren’t finished with me. Oh no! Not by half. It seems that when Yahoo! figured out I had defected they implemented their revenge by deleting my website on Yahoo! geocities. No warning, no message allowing to even capture the files. I go to log on and the whole thing has just been purged from their system.
So I knew Yahoo! were evil, and now I know they are also vindictive. Fortunately I have back ups for all the website files, but I can say without a doubt that if I can possibly manage it I will never type http://www.yahoo.com into my address bar again.
You know how it is. Or at least you do if you spend some small part of your time on web forums as I do. You find repeating themes in the posts you are reading, and in your answers to them. Ideas begin sparking in the tiny mind you (and I) have access to and then sometime later that idea reaches some kind fruition. So what do you do? Well, if your anything like me you splurge it out in a couple of posts with tenuous connection to the actual thread of the ongoing conversation and hope for the best. Excatly as I have done here –
So is SF really a genre at all? The thought that it isn’t has been entertaining me recently. Sure…there are some genres in SF – space opera, dying earth, high fantasy, cyberpunk. These have recognisable character archetypes, tropes, plot structures etc, all the toys a writer can play with within a genre. But SF is much bigger than these genres alone. SF, I would argue is more of a mode of writing than a genre.
A mode tells you something about the writer / reader relationship that a story is developing. The SF mode is all about taking the reader into their own imagination (by way of yours) and giving them an experience beyond reality. I’m sure every writer and reader has their own way of phrasing that sentiment, but I feel that the sense of taking the reader beyond the realms of their own experience is what glues all the otherwise diverse types of SF together into a whole.