Blog Fail

I didn’t intend for this website to become a blog. Nonetheless, so far that’s what it’s become.

That would be okay if I had the sense that the posts, taken sequentially and cumulatively, were shaping a postcapitalist fictional reality that readers could glimpse, interact with, and possibly enter into. Alternatively, discussion might help refine and expand the ideas outlined in the posts, more fully fleshing out their imaginary substance.

Nearly three months and and a full forty posts in, my appraisal is that the blogging aspect of this website has been a failure. The site got off to what I deemed an auspicious debut, generating pretty robust traffic in first week. Those were the good old days: over the past month the site has averaged 1 visitor and 2 page views per day, generating one comment total written by someone other than me. From the first Erdman did a yeoman’s job in engaging with the content, stimulating thought and conversation with his comments — I appreciate it. But I never wanted to burden my old blogging buddies with responsibility for discussing an agenda of no interest to them. But there’s been nobody new.

Since this site wasn’t built to become a blog I’m not too disappointed that it’s failed to become one, failed to thrive as a locus of vibrant and stimulating discussions of mutually salient topics. Still, a blog is essentially what the site has been, and an unsuccessful one at that. To what do I attribute the blog fail?

It’s not the content: the posts have been uniformly excellent, elaborating the rationale and design components incrementally into the rudiments of a coherent framework on which a larger program could be built. I feel fairly confident in this appraisal, inasmuch as quite a bit of the content I had already written and edited as longer pieces months before launching the site. Disaggregating those pieces into blogpost-sized chunks prompted me to revisit the texts from a temporal distance while at the same time transforming them from private meditations into public pronouncements. Overall I’ve been eminently satisfied with the results. Still, the point was never for the site to serve as a stimulus for reflection and self-expression or as a self-publishing venue.

It’s certainly possible that the central scheme around which the website is organized — postcapitalist fictions — isn’t of widespread interest. If there are internet users out there searching for the kinds of things I’ve elaborated in this series of posts, then whatever search engine strategies they deploy would likely have landed on Ficticities at least once in a while. And if the content of Ficticities was in fact what they were looking for, then these visitors would have stuck around, continuing to read new posts as they came up. No dice; snake eyes.

Another possibility: the interest is there, but the blogs are dead. Certainly the blogosphere has contracted significantly since I started posting on Ktismatics over eleven years ago. But that’s just it: Ktismatics, inactive for 4 years now, gets way more traffic than the new and active Ficticities site. So there must be some people out there still looking for content that happens to appear on blogs. They just aren’t looking for or finding the content that appears on Ficticities.

Is it a bad idea, postcapitalist fiction? No, for all of the reasons I’ve outlined in the posts. Is it a good idea that can’t be implemented? That’s what I’d hoped to ascertain. I launched Ficticities with the idea of setting up a collaborative laboratory for experimenting with and simulating postcapitalist fictions, seeing how well the theory plays out in practice. I’ve always known that populating the lab with participants would require a proactive outreach rather than passively waiting for interested parties to show up. I had, however, expected that an initial phases of post-and-discussion would generate some momentum, word of mouth, connections, collaborators — a few narrow trajectories spanning the void, leading into the next more active and expansive phase of the laboratory. That hasn’t happened. What about blowback from critics who think the ideas are bad or impracticable? None of that either.

I’ve got more content I could post, more elaboration of the core premises. I haven’t even touched on the fifth plank of the initial platform: writers and readers running Schools of fiction. I might do it just for the sake of closure. But first I want to explore options for a possible next phase of Ficticities. That’ll be the next post.

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Blog Fail

  1. Ficticities: “Still, the point was never for the site to serve as a stimulus for reflection and self-expression or as a self-publishing venue.”

    Well, for what it’s worth, our discussions have helped shape my perspective on publishing, and even on my own writing and my approach to writing.

    F: “It’s certainly possible that the central scheme around which the website is organized — postcapitalist fictions — isn’t of widespread interest.”

    David Foster Wallace has a famous speech organized around the idea of fish in water. An older fish swims along and two younger fish pass him coming the other direction .

    “How’s the water,boys?” he asks.

    “What’s water?” is their reply.

    Since capitalism is the water we swim in, most humans – and particularly Americans – have no idea there is anything else or that capitalism even exists. Why does a fish even need to know what “water” is when there’s no other reality in which they can live? Why do we need to know what capitalism is, since there’s no other reality in which we can survive? I run into this quite a bit in discussing socialism.

    It’s hard enough to talk about capitalism as though it exists, even harder to talk about it as though it doesn’t exist (as though there is another reality). I empathize.

    I now think of myself more as an indie writer. Prior to our discussions here I was interested in floating my books out into the mainstream, if possible. Now I’m less motivated by being published and more interested in following whatever it is that interests me. I might still float my work around but I’m not writing for the industry in quite the same way that I had been.

    One of the inherent obstacles, I think, in your project, is that you are talking about an alternative to capitalism while people still swim in the water of capitalism. How does a person speak meaningfully about a non-capitalist alternative in only one small sector of society without talking about changing the whole society? Capitalism operates on an all-or-all-or-nothing basis, as does socialism.

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  2. [I made a correction to the original post: it’s not been two months that Ficticities has been up and running; it’s almost three months.]

    I agree that it’s hard to imagine alternatives to capitalism while immersed in it. It might also be hard to those who can see alternatives to imagine anything but an all-or-nothing scenario.

    Capitalists tend to disregard the socialist components of society, treating them as if they’re integral to capitalism. The most glaring socialistic aspect of the US is the military, administered and operated exclusively by the federal government. But the military is often run in service of global capitalistic interests of US-domiciled corporations. There are also hybrid institutions: partially capitalistic, partially socialistic. You’ve been an active proponent of single-payer healthcare, which is a hybrid: socialistic from the payer’s perspective but capitalistic from the provider’s perspective, the doctors and hospitals and drug companies continuing to function as independent for-profit contractors being paid by the government.

    The model for postcapitalist publishing that I’ve sketched out here is an anarcho-socialistic variant that could function in parallel with more traditional capitalistic arrangements within that particular industry, and without government intervention. In part it acknowledges that the capitalistic fantasy of writers has already collapsed or been superseded — that 99% of writers are already occupying a postcapitalistic economy, while the remaining 1% rely on a capitalistic business model that’s running on life support. I think that’s the main reason to rethink writing for the capitalist publishing industry — not because of an imagined postcapitalistic alternative, but because the actually existing capitalist book industry in all likelihood has no use for you, or for me either.

    As cyberpunk maven William Gibson once said, “The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.” There’s no question that a postcapitalistic publishing and distribution scheme would still be just a small flotation device bobbing along on the capitalist sea, but I think it could be a harbinger, a bellwether, a canary in the coal mine (to mix metaphors shamelessly).

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  3. Maybe it would be easier to put forward this model if it weren’t framed in capitalism-versus-socialism terms. E.g., I doubt that self-publishing was ever promoted as a way to make libertarian anarcho-capitalism a reality. Instead, self-publishing just sort of made sense, given the technological advances in e-books combined with the lack of opportunities for writers in traditional publishing. Then came Amazon — it didn’t tout itself as platform capitalism to the writers (though it did to investors); it just provided a way for self-publishers to display their books in a public way. It wasn’t long, of course, before it was either Amazon’s way or the highway — monopolistic control over distribution.

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