State of the Blog: Re-defining, Re-purposing, Focus

Jeff VanderMeer • February 15th, 2011 @ 6:50 pm • Culture

The pace of projects has overtaken me lately, along with the energy and effort required to stay patient and focused even while so many things are in flux. Part of my stress relief has been messing around on facebook, and that’s diluted some of my focus on this blog. I’ve been posting little snippets there rather than here because blogs and snippets don’t seem as suited for each other.

But I’ve also been thinking about this blog in terms of what I want out of my writing life and my reading life, which has slowed me down a bit. I don’t want this blog to just be ceaseless adverts, no matter how info-filled, for various book projects. I don’t want it to be too linky, in terms of cross-posting from Omnivoracious and elsewhere.

I also don’t want, anymore, to engage, for the most part, in the kind of heated debate that occurs when you tackle controversial topics—in part because I don’t have the time and in part because 90% of the topics “in play” tend to repeat discussions had time and again on the intertubes and in the meat world over the last 20 years. I feel a bit like saying “Why don’t you just Google it?!?” It’s exhausting.

In particular, any discussions about genre vs mainstream, subculture tribalism of any kind, any generalized discussions about types of fiction that don’t talk in specifics and start from false foundations based on received ideas rather than actual reading…none of this is worth correcting to, engaging with, or in any way acknowledging, and I’m going to try to avoid doing so from this point on.

What do I find myself passionate about? The creation of unique and meaningful books and other projects. The celebration of and analysis of unique and meaningful books, and especially to continue to bring attention to under-appreciated material that deserves your attention. (I would also like to have the time to talk more about Shared Worlds, the teen writing camp I help run, because the two weeks I spend there are among the most fulfilling of my year.)

At the center of the philosophy I think most healthy is the idea that the division between genre and mainstream fiction, between genre and literary fiction, is an artificial and harmful one, and that the best way to combat this disconnect, this partition of one alike thing from the other in the name of category, is to pretend it doesn’t exist in people’s minds. This is also harmful when considering fiction outside of the Anglosphere, because if we, for example, think just in terms of genre, we automatically render invisible the rich mimetic traditions in many countries, and their relationship to more fantastical material in those same places.

Which is to say, I want to continue to emphasize books from all over the landscape and to continue in our anthology projects to invite writers from all over the map–whether that map be geographical or reflecting the spectrum of types of fiction.

I have no idea if that sounds boring or fascinating. All I know is that the bloggers I follow have passion that translates into insights about what they love, what invigorates and moves them—the subject matter almost isn’t important. And that is what I want to continue to do, while balancing the demands of posting here with a sane daily schedule and our many books.

Site stats remain steady, but comments on this blog are way down. So, you’re out there, reading. But I don’t really know what you’re thinking.

And, inasmuch as I am able to take requests, what kinds of things would you like to see covered here?

22 Responses to “State of the Blog: Re-defining, Re-purposing, Focus”

  1. J. T. Glover says:

    I’d like to see continued discussion of what you’re reading, both new and old material. Frequently you mention books and authors I’ve never heard of, and that expands my world. I also like the world/international fantastic stuff, as well as your personal, eclectic discussions of art.

  2. J. T. Glover says:

    (And to respond to the actual post…)

    I’m glad to hear you affirming a desire to write about what you care about. Seems like it should result in more long-term life satisfaction, and from a purely selfish standpoint, I’d rather read more Jeff VanderMeer fiction than blog posts between now and 2021. It’s easy to fall into arguments and fights, because bad stuff is always going down, and likewise, the pressure to push information out on all fronts seems to be getting stronger, even as we realize it decreases quality of life, nobody likes it, etc.

  3. Jeremy Zerfoss says:

    I always wondered what music you listened too while writing, since ‘Finch’ had a musical project attached to it.

  4. Jeremy LC Jones says:

    The “meat world”? Ew!

    I’ve always enjoyed when you talk about how you made or are making something–a novel, a story, an anthology, other projects–and about how other people make things. The look into Scott Eagle’s studio was great. A novel in two months was too. And it’s a delightful bonus when your post leads to other people talking about making things.

  5. ethan says:

    Sounds fascinating, of course.

  6. Damien G Walter says:

    I am thinking that I agree. Those are boring subjects of conversation, and I don’t want to talk about them anymore either.

  7. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    yay! *poke*

  8. Larry says:

    I want the talking squirrel back, pronto.

    Oh, and the occasional “reading list” of things you like to read outside those for review outlets. Sometimes I discover some fascinating authors from those asides.

  9. anon says:

    I think you’re doing a fine job with the blog these days, JeffV. The blog’s current temperament is serious and sober-minded, with an almost zero tolerance for bullshit. You’re writing and sharing what you truly care about as a writer, a reader, and as an editor. What more could your visitors ask for? Carry on, please.

  10. Alex says:

    Please keep bringing new or under-appreciated authors to our attention. Just ordered ‘God’s War’ and ‘The Orange Eats Creeps’ based on your reviews. I agree with Jeremy: your how-I-do-it process is fascinating. For example, when you decided Borne was going to be a novel instead of a novella, mapping out how you were going to rewrite it…and the pics you post of your first draft edits, the crazy scrawl across your manuscripts…inspiring.

  11. K. J. Fellows says:

    I agree with J. T. Glover about your recommendations and suggestions. I always like learning what other people are reading and I find your selections very enlightening. Your suggestion of Stina Leicht’s latest was wonderful. I also second Alex on the presentation of bits of the writing process you go through. It is inspirational.

  12. susie says:

    i first bookmarked this site for updates on your work, and now it’s my favorite source of free internet bookporn. i’ve discovered many authors and books through your blog and hope you continue to highlight new/obscure/international works. i especially loved your “seven views of the narrator.”
    i also hope for more posts about your production process, more weird art to supplement weird words, and the occasional capybara.

  13. Claire Massey says:

    I think it’s obvious when blogging is a chore for a writer and is just something to be ticked off on a required list of promotional activities. But your blog doesn’t ever read like that. Neither does it read like a narcissistic journal. I think you’ve got a healthy mix, sharing details of projects and links, wonderfully insightful posts about the writing and editing and reading life, and fantastic recommendations for works that could far too easily go unnoticed. You’re blogging because you’re driven to talk about those things and it shows. It might sound daftly obvious, but I think blogging should be fun. As long as you’re writing about what you’re passionate about everyone benefits, you and us.

  14. Justin Patrick Moore says:

    I like what you’ve shared with me so far, since I’ve subscribed to this feed, which hasn’t been terribly long. Like others have mentioned, I enjoy being turned on to new books I might not have heard of. I work at a library, and I can sometimes make a suggestion as to something we should add to our collection, and this is useful in that regard. Or we already have it, and I can go hunt down the reading material. I’d also like to read more of your musings on other mediums, and it is nice to keep up with your projects-in-progress. Keep at it. I’ll be sticking around.

  15. The Skillz Of Online Debate says:

    [...] Posted on Jeff VanderMeer’s blog recently: I also don’t want, anymore, to engage, for the most part, in the kind of heated debate that occurs when you tackle controversial topics—in part because I don’t have the time and in part because 90% of the topics “in play” tend to repeat discussions had time and again on the intertubes and in the meat world over the last 20 years. I feel a bit like saying “Why don’t you just Google it?!?” It’s exhausting. [...]

  16. Mark Sheftick says:

    I, as with others, do strongly support your attempt to bring under-appreciated materials to our attention. With so much out there vying for my attention, it helps to have an easily available source of new material to investigate.

    I enjoy material relevant to your works, both current and older. The Third Bear Carnival was a good example. I finished the book and then checked out the Carnival to find what might be of interest.

    Please don’t lessen the amount of discussion on your own forthcoming projects. I need to go somewhere to discover interesting forthcoming books/projects. The source really is the best place for info.

  17. Karen Lord says:

    ‘…if we, for example, think just in terms of genre, we automatically render invisible the rich mimetic traditions in many countries, and their relationship to more fantastical material in those same places.”

    THANK YOU for saying this! (Now convince a few more publishers, please!)

    As for the blogging, continue to write whatever you are moved to write. You bring to my attention authors and illustrators from all over the world – people often overlooked by other bloggers. Your writing-process posts are also a great read.

  18. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Karen: That is a pet peeve of mine. Our own projects are often what I would call mimics. They are meant to look semi-normal/usual while either providing space within that paradigm for stuff that’s different or they’re actually quite strange and different once you get past the front cover…

    Thanks, all, for this feedback, which is much appreciated. It’s hard sometimes to know how things are appearing to others, and a blog is most definitely an attempt to communicate; I don’t treat this space like a personal diary. So, thanks.

    Jeff

  19. m says:

    I like to read about what you’re working on and to see what you’re reading and watching. I do use your movies reviews to try and convince the husband that we really need to go see certain films – “but Vandermeer said it was good.”

  20. John Ginsberg-Steven says:

    I think focusing on specific readings and breaking down restrictions is a fine goal. I personally love some of the genre debates when they advance our understanding of how people receive and perceive literature (it’s the anthropologist in me), but I think discussing the depth and diversity of the literature around us will make for a great blog.

  21. Will Hindmarch says:

    I come here to learn. I come here to learn about new writers and new books. I come to learn other ways to write, outside of the ways that I already know, or to have familiar ways reexamined and bolstered. I come here when I’m trying to write and it just isn’t happening—when I’m waiting to start. I come here to have my eyes opened and stung by the smoke of incense while you tell stories and whirl about in the main room of a storefront converted into a kind of temple to the book. I come for the cat pictures.

  22. Gary Farber says:

    I feel a bit like saying “Why don’t you just Google it?!?” It’s exhausting.

    LMGTFY.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>