Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Essay: Blogging in the Speculative Fiction Community

Every Wednesday, I'll have an essay or a feature on any topic that catches my fancy!

This isn't going to be one of those blogging-launched-my-career type of essay. John Scalzi has a lot more authority on that subject matter more than I ever could talk about. Instead, what I want to dwell on are the habits of publishers/editors/writers/critics when it comes to blogs.

First off is the question where are all the SF&F blogs. Two years ago, it was a big surprise to me that a good chunk of the speculative fiction blogs were located in Livejournal. That's not to say everyone uses Livejournal. Wordpress and Blogger are popular as well but some writers who use Wordpress typically port over their blog entries to Livejournal as well. A question I want to ask is why. The allure of MySpace for musicians, in retrospect, makes sense: one can upload/download music in that particular blog. The same logic applies to deviantART and artists. But when it comes to Livejournal, is there anything innately superior that one can't do in other blogs? Text after all seems to be the currency that publishers/editors/writers peddle and all blog support that function. Perhaps it's all the extraneous functions of Livejournal, from the Friends Page (which doubles as my RSS reader) to the conduciveness to networking of the User Info page. Or maybe because Livejournal is the current status quo of the SF&F community and getting people to migrate to other sites is more difficult than it sounds. (If there's anything disadvantageous about Livejournal, it's the new social dynamics it's created, such as disclaimers on "friending/de-friending" policies or getting angry at people that "don't friend you back".)

Personally, my blog got a sudden surge in popularity only when I started porting over my relevant posts to Livejournal. More specifically, I got the attention of Ellen Datlow (Vera Nazarian described her as "...this amazing individual knows everyone on the planet and can graciously put you in touch with -- or at least connect you to someone else who does." and that pretty much describes the reality) and events progressed from there. (So thanks Ellen!)

Of course there are other blogging networks which annoy me. MySpace and Multiply blogs are all well and good until you want to comment. Facebook on the other hand is nigh impenetrable unless you have an account in the first place. But for some people, that lack of accessibility is a good thing. The inability to comment at MySpace and Multiply unless you've registered is certainly a detriment to trolling. And as far as Facebook is concerned, your posts are private unless they're part of your network as blog entries don't really show up in Google. Perhaps one thing going for Livejournal is that these options can be tweaked (i.e. certain posts are private, registered comments are enabled, etc.). I guess it all depends on what you want the blog to do for you. If you want to use it as a vehicle to promote your books, the more public blogs are definitely the sites you want to sign up for. On the other hand, even the more private blogging networks definitely have a target demographic. For all my complaints of Facebook, it's probably a vibrant, growing community (especially along the teens).

Nowadays, an interesting development is that such blogging choices are not either-or propositions. Jay Lake for example cross-posts from his Wordpress blog to Livejournal. And a few personalities have signed up everywhere in an attempt to be accessible and reach a large demographic. Which is all well and good until you run across my problem of blogging prolifically and cross-posting becomes an actual chore (hint: problems start to crop up when you start editing your posts). Some networks have applications which make such transitions easy (i.e. Wordpress to Livejournal). Unfortunately, there is no universal blogging translator (pssst, third party companies, this can be your niche).

How about you, where can "your community" be found? And where are your blogs located? Do you agree that a good bulk of the SF&F community is in Livejournal or is that simply an unwarranted conclusion on my part?


Unknown said...

In my experience a vast majority of SF/F book bloggers, amateur writers, newly publihed writers, etc. are using Wordpress or Blogger (an equal spread, I think). The really big names in SF/F tend to be on Livejournal, but I also find most of their blogs rather boring in comparison to some of the folks on Blogger, Wordpress, or even Typepad (Scalzi is on Moveable Type I think...).

It really depends. I think the reason you see a lot of the big names using Livejournal is because LJ was the big thing back when they were hitting it big. I find Livejournal horribly limited in comparison to other platforms, and I imagine a lot of new writers who have grown up in the Interwebs world are finding much the same thing, which is why you see more of their kind in the Blogger/Wordpress community.

It's entirely possible than in another 5 years we'll see Blogger/Wordpress become the new dominant niche platform for new popular writers.

Charles said...

Hi S.M.D.! Long time since we last heard from you. Glad to see that you're still reading my posts. =)

Anonymous said...

Happy to have been of help :-)

Chris McKitterick said...

I use LiveJournal primarily because it's easy to read and saves time, and I don't want to spend my days doing blog-related things.

The main reason it is easy is that I can put all the blogs I read in one place. Unless bloggers have a feed that works with LJ, I don't read them. I just don't even think about it, despite having saved several in my browser as favorites. The feeds that require me to leave LJ to comment also suck up too much time.

Also, unlike every other blogging tool, LJ provides nested commenting. There's nothing as frustrating and time-consuming as searching comments to find what responded to what.

Finally, I use LJ because it's where I started, the majority of other writers I know (and non-writer friends) use it, and it works. I'm also on Facebook and Myspace, but I have yet to find them useful except as advertising tools for upcoming releases, celebrations, workshops, etc.

PS: I got here from Jay Lake's LiveJournal blog.


Anonymous said...

Here via Jay Lake's LJ:

LiveJournal makes it easy to build community. It's also easy to add feeds from blogs outside LJ. If you have a paid account, you enter the URL in a specific field. If you don't, you ask your f-list to do it.

And the drama over reciprocal friending is overstated. It's never happened to me.


litlflame said...

nice article. My publisher advised me to start google alerts to get my work noticed. I'm hitting so many different blogs, having to create accounts all over the place. Now I have no clue how many I have, there should be less to choose from. Or I need to learn to connect them or something...

Author of G.E.N.I. Genetically Enhanced Natural Intelligence

Bridget C said...

I also came over from Jay Lake's LJ...

I actually have a presence on a lot of sites, but I'd say I use LJ primarily for my blogging and Facebook primarily for my personal one-on-one contacts.
I do, however, have my Facebook account set up to automatically cross post all my LJ posts.

One thing I find Facebook invaluable for is keeping contact with people in other countries (I'm and American expat in China myself- so this is an important issue to me.) Many people don't blog but will join FB and leave short status update notes, post photos of where they are, etc. Also, LJ and Blogspot have both been blocked by the Chinese govt before- they're open now- so that definitely made me more Facebook-oriented.

(I also think the LJ friend-unfriend drama is overstated, btw.)