A year of living in cyberspace

In his autobiography, Goodbye to All That (1929), the poet Robert Graves tells how he was once rescued from penury. When all seemed lost, his friends found him a job as a professor of English Literature at the Egyptian University, Cairo. He had already published several volumes of poetry, which had gained him a reputation but not sold particularly well. These were, however, enough to get him the job. Graves notes

The indirect proceeds from poem-writing can be enormously higher than the direct ones.

It’s true. A writer would have to be a few spondees short of an sonnet to think that they could make a living from writing verse. Yet, people don’t write poems to get rich, they write them because they love it. The same is true of blogging. Funnily enough, there are indirect rewards there too, as I have discovered during my twelve months of wandering in cyberspace.

In the beginning, I used to promote my blog by writing the odd reader review on the Guardian newspaper website. They then asked me to review Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared for their First Book Awards.

I accepted the offer, but as always, it was because I wanted to read the book anyway. They said no money was involved but the reward was a trip to the award ceremony in London. I went along to this and met a few authors and the editorial team, and also other people who comment on the site. It was interesting, especially when people introduced themselves with both their real name and their nom du keyboard. Nobody looked anything like their avatars.

Reviewing is always a big part of blogging. Any blogger quickly learns that if you want people to read your site, you have to read everyone else’s. It’s not a chore: it’s an absolute joy. Over the past year, I have discovered authors like Italo Calvino, or rediscovered old favourites like Dylan Thomas solely through reading other people’s blogs. This is so much better than hearing about new books through the newspaper. In the paper, they mainly review books that are newly published, so often they’re in hardback and prohibitively expensive for those of us who have to buy the damn things with our own money. Newspapers also rarely review the forgotten classics, and that’s where the bloggers beat the professional critics hands down.

One other benefit from blogging for me is that several people who read my blog got me in contact with possible publishers for my fantasy stories. We haven’t found a deal yet but it has been nice to get real attention to my work, and not just lurk with the woodlice at the bottom of the slush pile.

In a similar vein, I was asked to join the blogging team on the Amazing Stories website. Part off my activities there involved popping along to this year’s comic convention in Barcelona. That was a lot of fun, especially seeing the huge enthusiasm people have for imaginative fiction. Geekdom really has conquered the world, where in the past it was a hidden pursuit, with fantasy fiction passed from hand to hand like samizdat manuscripts.

The number of people doing cosplay this year in Barcelona was staggering. I felt out of place in my jacket and shirt combination  (I’d come from work). My favourite was the predator. Terrifyingly, his infra-red vision picked up my location just before I took his picture:

Note also the suitcase being dragged along by his compañero. This must be for their costumes. I guess the predator wasn’t able to travel invisibly through the city metro, unlike his silver screen homologue.

One other change has come to my life through blogging. I have become completely obsessed with filling in the map that shows you your site visitors from all around the world:

world map

When, oh when, will I get a hit from Greenland, Papua New Guinea or the Svalbard archipelago? Surely someone there wants to know what wodwo was?

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9 responses to “A year of living in cyberspace

  1. You are absolutely right. Mark Cousin’s talks about explorers of film culture blogging as they go. I have found many interesting avenues of culture through blogging.

    • Perhaps it’s also due to the international nature of blogging. I read the British newspapers but I encounter blogs from all around the world. It’s so cool to hear what people are reading in Canada, Australia, and lots of other places. I would never have heard of half the books I’ve read this year if it weren’t for WordPress.

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