Staying up late on Sunday nights is one of the true pleasures in life. I missed the hell out of it last year, when Mondays were a day-job day, but then, I missed a great many things in 2012 that I seem to have gotten back this year.
It’s eleven o’clock and I’m listening to Antony and the Johnsons while I kick around the internet, gearing up for the few hours of writing that’ll kick off once I finish this post. Brisbane is in the grip of early Autumn already, hammering us with the kind of cold and relentless rain that has always made this one of my favourite times of year in a strange, melancholy kind of way.
And, as I often do when I sit down to write a post, I find myself thinking of you guys.
Back in the days when I taught writing a lot, I used to tell students that writing is an ongoing conversation you’re having with the writers who came before you (and, sometimes, the writers who came after). I mean, William Gibson’s cyberpunk novels are a conversation he’s having with the hard-boiled authors of the 50s, who in turn were having a conversation with the writers of cosy detective novel that preceded them.
I always liked “conversation” rather than “influence” as the explanation ’cause it’s not a one-sided thing. Seeing Gibson experiment with the genre-structure of the detective novel changes the way you read his predecessors in subtle ways. There’s a give-and-take occurring, even if we’re not conscious of it.
One of the things I enjoyed about my job was making people conscious of those conversations. Some folks it helped with their writing. Some it did not. Both those results are okay – no one approach to writing is the one true way and there are plenty of people who figured out alternate approaches.
I have a lot of conversations with other writers. Metaphoric conversations, in stories, and real conversations, in person. I have a lot more conversations with readers as well. With people who, and it still bewilders me when they say it, consider themselves fans.
And the thing I never told students, back in my university days, is exactly how much the conversations with readers end up meaning to you, whether they’re face-to-face or the far more abstract conversations that happen when stories are released into the world and people read and talk about them.
I didn’t tell my students ’cause I didn’t know. I had readers, in those days, but there wasn’t any way to connect with them. No blogs. No website. No twitter or facebook or easy ways to find my email address. Reviews, if they happened, took place in locations I didn’t know about.
I did get a letter via snail-mail when I was twenty-three or so. That one stuck with me, but at twenty-three I wasn’t really equipped to deal with letters. Or people in general, really.
And I’m not saying that I’ve got an army of millions at my beck and call with all this. I’m a short-story writer. A science fiction short story writer. And of late my output, both in terms of published fiction and on this here blog, is best described as sporadic. Given all these things I generally assume I can count my regular readers on my fingers, but I’m also generally blessed with a series of really interesting people showing up when I get the chance to talk to people on-on-one at cons or on email.
What I’m saying is this: when a conversation springs up around my work, or when people who have enjoyed my stories want to find me, it’s a pretty easy thing to Google me and find this site and say hi in whatever form they’re comfortable with. I’m sitting here tonight, thinking about readers, ’cause I had a story come out last week and it’s resulted in a handful of emails.
And that kinda blows my mind, all things considered.
Fuck the people who complain about the future not having flying cars. Given the choice, I’d be taking this over airborne automobiles any day. For one thing, this is incredible. For another, I’ve seen people drive when their cars are on the ground; I have no faith in their ability to pilot the damn things in the air.
It’s twelve-ten now. I’ve been pondering this for the better part of an hour. Antony and the Johnsons has given way to some old Mountain Goat albums. The rain stopped, for a time, but I expect it’ll start again before the writing’s done.
The future is kinda brilliant right now.
And so are you guys. The folks I’ve got to know over the last few years, and the folks who just drop by and check things out every now and then.
As ever, thank you for reading.