I’ve just learned that writer and SF fan Julian May passed away on October 17 at the age of 86. Her oeuvre includes more than 300 books, including the very popular Pliocene Exile series which began with The Many-Coloured Land–which was also my introduction to her work. She was active in fandom from her teens, and chaired the 1952 Worldcon at the age of 21.
Julian very kindly provided a cover quote for my first novel, though we weren’t in any way acquainted at the time. As things played out over the years, our paths never did cross, so I didn’t have an opportunity to thank her in person.
Point of reflection: my social media persona is older than Facebook, older than Snapchat and Skype, older than Instagram, WhatsApp, Tumblr, or Twitter. Older than Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, AOL, and GoogleTalk. Older than the word blog, or any platform to host same. Older than any part of the Web (on which this personal site first saw light in 1995). My online persona has its roots in the 300bps dial-up days of computer bulletin boards and PLATO, and came of age in CompuServe and GEnie’s science fiction fora.
And I -still- have never gotten comfortable with the performance art aspect of being a writer online, of the implicit expectation that you should always be in Entertaining mode, always trying to raise your profile, to build and keep an audience for your books. Which, I suppose, accounts for why I’m so bad at it. I have <50 Twitter followers, <500 Friends on my personal and pro accounts (Facebook’s 5000-friend limit holds no fear for me).
Now we’ve crossed over into an era in which many creative people find it necessary and/or desirable to not just leverage but monetize their digital presence, by directly selling Items and seeking sponsors (Patreon, GoFundMe). And more power to them, it’s tough to make a living in the arts, but I can’t seem to get comfortable there, either.
Example: I have copies of my back titles, quite a few copies, in some instances, and would be more than happy to sell them to readers new or old. But I’ve never really earnestly tried to make that easy, whether on my own web site, through a store on an e-commerce site, or even just periodically saying out loud on Facebook “Hey, by the way, folks, I have these out-of-print titles/editions available at these modest prices.”
Admittedly, some of that is probably fear of [crickets]. But mostly it’s that I came online, and stayed here, for contact with an interesting mix of people otherwise unreachable. I am here for my tribe, for faraway friends and the friends I’ve never met. It’s a reflection of my disposition toward being at a con–even when I’ve been a GOH, I haven’t gone there to hold court, monopolize the conversation, and Sell! Sell! Sell! My main reason for going was always to spend some time hanging out in the alternate social reality my friend Barry Childs-Helton calls the “flying island of fandom.”
That’s my main reason for being here, too.
But it’s a changed world, and I am coming to accept that sometimes we need to fight against our own reflexes shaped in other times. Evolve or die, as the pragmatists say.
So today I’m here with a modest request, and a Yellow Alert.
The request is this: if you’ve never posted a review of one of my books on Amazon or B&N or GoodReads or the like, please consider doing so for whatever work of mine happens to be your favorite. I’m still working on getting my backlist released as ebooks, I’ve begun actively working on a new novel, and positive energy will help with both.
The Yellow Alert is that I AM going to go into my personal warehouse, make a list, do an inventory, and in the very near future post here the particulars of how You, yes, You, could sponsor and adopt one or more rare, endangered dead-tree varieties of my past writings. If this will make -you- uncomfortable, be prepared to avert your eyes. If, on the other hand, this will make you happy, you can start picking up pennies from the sidewalk and searching the couch for loose change now.
Have a great weekend, everyone.