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On the Net: Breathing the Blogosphere by James Patrick Kelly


courting obsolescence

It took me years to write this one. You see, as your internet print columnist, the astonishing growth of the blogosphere has intimidated me. Every time I sit down to type a new installment, I can feel the pressure of tens of millions of fingers curled over keyboards across the world. Bloggers do pretty much the same thing I do, only they do more, more, more. Their writing is more timely, they visit way more sites and there are way, way more of them than there are of me. Millions more, as a matter of fact. As I write this in the early fall of 2004, Technorati <http://www.technorati.com>, a site that aspires to be the Google <http://www.google.com> of the blogosphere, is tracking over four million blogs. Of course, I can’t possibly point you toward four million blogs or four thousand or even four hundred. But I’m worried that if I point you toward, say, forty excellent blogs that explore our little corner of literature, then this column might well become obsolete, nothing more than a speed bump on the way from Robert Silverberg’s <http://www.majipoor.com> Reflections to the first gripping yarn of the month.

Sure, go ahead, Jim. Cut your own throat.

The thing is, when I took this gig in 1998, there weren’t very many blogs. In fact, the term weblog had just recently been coined by one Jorn Barger <http://www.robotwisdom.com> the previous year. And even by early 1999, when Peter Merholz <http://www.peterme.com/archives/00000205.html> decided to shorten Barger’s neologism to blog, there probably weren’t more than a couple or three dozen of the things. But later that year saw the coming of Blogger <http://www.blogger.com> and LiveJournal <http://www.livejournal.com>, two of the first dedicated blog-publishing tools. Instead of coding each entry in HTML, users could submit posts just by filling forms on a website. Even Ten Thumb Tom and your future-shocked Grandma could manage that! Shortly thereafter, blog became a verb (as in to blog, that is to post to a weblog). By the turn of the century, blogging had become a new social phenomenon.

For a more detailed history of blogging, check out the entry in the ever-reliable Wikipedia <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog> or blog pioneer Rebecca Blood’s <http://www.rebeccablood.net> thoughtful essay, weblogs: a history and perspective <http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/weblog_history.html>. And to put our modern movement into historical perspective, nip over to Blogumentary <http://blogumentary.typepad.com> and watch Chuck Olsen’s <http://blogumentary.typepad.com/about.html> diverting QuickTime tour of blogging <http://blogumentary.typepad.com/chuck/2004/09/blog_history.html> in which he argues that the first blogger was Samuel Pepys <http://www.pepysdiary.com> and that Founding Fathers Thomas Paine <http://www.ushistory.org/paine> and Samuel Adams <http://www.lucidcafe.com/library/95sep/adams.html> were the literary progenitors of the pundits of Blogistan.



So, forty blogs, as promised. My selection criteria? Just that the posts be interesting, regularly updated and touch on genre, at least occasionally.

1. John Joseph Adams <http://www.tuginternet.com/jja/journal> The Slush God Speaketh . . .

2. Barth Anderson <http://www.barthanderson.com/wordblog> on fatherhood, writing, food, and what not.

3. Chris Barzak <http://zakbar.blogspot.com> Meditations in an Emergency

4. Elizabeth Bear <http://matociquala.livejournal.com> turns steel into peanut brittle

5. Gwenda Bond <http://bondgirl.blogspot.com> shaken & stirred

6. Tobias S. Buckell Online <http://www.tobiasbuckell.com/weblog.html> Walking The Thin Line Between Insomnia and Insanity Online Since 1998

7. Suzy McKee Charnas <http://www.livejournal.com/users/suzych> Suzy Says

8. Matt Cheney <http://mumpsimus.blogspot.com> The Mumpsimus

9. Kathryn Cramer <http://www.kathryncramer.com/wblog> lives in Pleasantville, NY

10. Alan DeNiro <http://ptarmigan.blogspot.com> Ptarmigan

11. Cory Doctorow, Mark Frauenfelder, David Pescovitz, Xeni Jardin, John Battelle <http://boingboing.net> Boing Boing–A Directory of Wonderful Things

12. Neil Gaiman <http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/journal.asp> Journal

13. David Gerrold <http://www.gerrold.com/soup/page.htm> Bottomless Soup

14. Jed Hartman <http://www.kith.org/logos/journal> Lorem Ipsum

15. Patrick Nielsen Hayden <http://www.nielsenhayden.com/electrolyte> Electrolite–Growing luminous by eating light

16. Teresa Nielsen Hayden <http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight> Making Light–Language, fraud, folly, truth, history, and knitting. Et cetera.

17. Nalo Hopkinson <http://www.sff.net/people/nalo/writing/naloblogger.html> an intermittent web diary pertaining to my writing life . . .

18. Michael Jasper <http://www.journalscape.com/mjjwrecked> Journal

19. JP and Jon <http://www.sfsignal.com> SFSignal

20. Mark R. Kelly <http://locusmag.blogspot.com> Views from Medina Road

21. Claude Lalumière <http://lostpages.net/blog/lostpagesblog.html> Lost Pages | Found Pages–Readings, writings, and other despatches from author/editor Claude Lalumière

22. Justine Larbalestier <http://www.justinelarbalestier.com/Musings/muse.htm> Musings, Rants, and Essays

23. Alan Lattimore <http://www.alattimore.com/bin/geeklog> FutureTense

24. Chris Lawson <http://members.ozemail.com.au/~claw/frankenblogger.htm> Frankenstein Journal

25. Marissa Lingen <http://www.marissalingen.com/gazing.html> Novel Gazing

26. Jeremy Lyon, Christopher East, Judith Berman, Tobias S. Buckell, Alan Lattimore, Brian Wanamaker <http://futurismic.com> Futurismic

27. David Moles <http://www.chrononaut.org/log> Chrononautic Log

28. Ken MacLeod <http://www.kenmacleod.blogspot.com> The Early Days of a Better Nation

29. Nick Mamatas <http://www.livejournal.com/users/nihilistic_kid> Nick Mamatas’ Journal

30. Cheryl Morgan <http://www.cheryl-morgan.com/blog/blogger.html> Cheryl’s Mewsings

31. Derryl Murphy <http://coldground.typepad.com/cold_ground> Cold Ground

32. Tim Pratt <http://www.journalscape.com/tim> Tropism, Tim Pratt’s Journal

33. Jenn Reese <http://www.journalscape.com/jenn> Memory and Reason

34. Benjamin Rosenbaum <http://www.benjaminrosenbaum.com/blog> Journal

35. John Scalzi <http://www.scalzi.com/whatever> Whatever–Since 1998, your source for John Scalzi’s Internet rantings

36. Jonathan Strahan <http://notesfromcoodestreet.blogspot.com> More Notes from Coode Street

37. Bruce Sterling <http://blog.wired.com/sterling> Beyond the Beyond

38. Charles Stross <http://public.antipope.org/charlie/blosxom.cgi> Charlie’s Diary

39. Jeff VanderMeer <http://vanderworld.blogspot.com> VanderWorld–A blog about the writing life, with short observations, essays, and recommendations

40. Greg Van Eekhout <http://www.journalscape.com/greg> Writing and Snacks



I suppose I could review the blogs on my list, but I won’t. Discussing someone’s blog is even more personal than talking about their website. For the most part, there is little ironic distance between author and text in a blog. These are passionate people expressing themselves from the heart. Pointing out that SkiffyGuy has a tendency to whine or that GothGrrl needs to lay off the latte before she touches the keyboard is like critiquing someone’s comb-over or making fun of an accent.

Instead, let me offer some general comments. The first is that I suspect I’ve missed some fine work. My list is by no means scientific; it merely includes blogs I read from time to time. A few I check regularly, like Boing Boing and Futurismic, Bruce Sterling and Matt Cheney, to name just four. Most I read in fits and spurts. Many turn up in searches and beguile me into an idle half hour or so. I should mention here that in addition to Technorati, Bloglines <http://bloglines.com> and Feedster <http://www.feedster.com> are sites I use regularly to sample conditions in the blogosphere. Interestingly enough, each of the three seems to turn up hits that the others miss.

In my sample there are more men than women bloggers and more new faces than old. I wouldn’t make too much of the former, since it probably reflects a well-known genre demographic, but I’m intrigued that so many younger writers, editors, critics, and fans have embraced blogging. My hunch is that blogs and bulletin boards like Night Shade <http://www.nightshadebooks.com/discus> are fast becoming the new public forums of the genre, replacing the print ’zines of old: fanzines, personalzines, reviewzines, and criticalzines. And the Hugo for the Best Blog of 2009 goes to . . .

What are our bloggers blogging about? Well, they aren’t just writing about spaceships and robots, that’s for sure. One thing that strikes me is how concerned with politics they are. Of course, the election is less than a month away as I write this, but even excavating the archives turns up great steaming clumps of political rant. In addition there are lots of pointers to important news items, many of which have been grossly underplayed in the mainstream media. Elsewhere you’ll find geek speak of all stripes, as folks trade opinions of the latest gizmos, cutting edge software, hot games, comics, and music. And yes, look for plenty of new URLs to click–or avoid at all costs. Meanwhile the quotidian life of our community is here for all to see. Skiffy folks dine out and diet, own dogs, cats, snakes, and turtles, get sick and buy cars, get along with their moms (at long last), and are too often late for work, break up, make up, make out, and have the cutest kids you’ve ever seen. No, really!

For good or whatever, know that blogs are here. Resistance is futile. Hey, maybe if I can convince all of you out there in Readerland that this column is actually a kind of retroblog, you'll give me another chance!

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"On the Net: Breathing the Blogosphere" by James Patrick Kelly, copyright © 2005 with permission of the author.

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