I haven’t been posting the fortnightly blog column I write for Business Standard, partly because it would feel redundant. The column is typically aimed at a newspaper reader who knows almost nothing about the subject and must be given a crash course in Blogging Basics; and it would seem very naïve to the experienced bloggers/blog-readers who drop by here. But I’ll make an exception this once, because the last column was on SFF writer Neil Gaiman’s journal – and now, as Samit (who I quoted in the piece) sweetly informs me, Gaiman has provided a link to the article on his blog (see here: small reference in the third-last paragraph).
While I’m nowhere near as clued in to SFF writing as Samit baba is, the lack of proper attention/respect being accorded to the genre is a major sour point for me. So more power to Gaiman and Basu and their ilk. (Here, by the way, is some more on Gaiman and Sandman: Nilanjana S Roy on how “the worlds of literature and genre fiction bleed into each other all the time”.)
And here goes the blog column (incidentally, the para breaks problem on the Business Standard website persists - while the column in print form had four longish paras, the one on the website has 11 teensy-weensy ones). Like I warned you, it's very basic:
The author as blogger
The solitariness of the writing process is an old, romantic cliché (and a largely true one) -- the image of a writer cooping himself up in a little room for weeks on end, restricting himself to the company of his Muse, is almost as old as literature itself. But while this old story hasn’t changed in its essence, the Internet has given it a piquant twist: today, reticent writers have the option of cutting themselves off from the physical world, even as they reach out to their fans online. A large number of published authors have their own websites, online journals or blogs, through which they can make themselves more accessible while guarding their cherished privacy. One of the most popular among these is fantasy writer Neil Gaiman’s personal homepage, which he started as far back as 2001.
A professional writer for more than 20 years, Gaiman has been at the forefront of the revolution that has seen comics/graphic novels gain a measure of literary respectability; his Sandman series is one of the most highly regarded works in the genre. Now his official website has a cult following that rivals his published work – with 400,000 unique visitors per month in 2004, and close to 600,000 per month expected in 2005. His online journal (which forms a section of the website) is syndicated to thousands of blog readers every day, and provides treasured insights into the writer’s inspiration, style, and working method. “As a diehard Gaiman fan I like seeing what he is up to, even if I have to wait a long time before getting my hands on his latest releases,” says Samit Basu, author of the science-fiction/fantasy (SFF) novel The Simoqin Prophecies and one of an ever-burgeoning group of Sandman addicts in India, where the comics are finally getting wide availability.
So what form does a blog run by a popular author like Gaiman take? Well, for starters he doesn’t have “Comments” enabled on his site – which is understandable, given the size of his web traffic. But he does showcase reader emails that he finds interesting, and responds to them in the form of posts on the blog. He talks about fellow artists and writers in his field, directs his readers to articles of interest and engages in online discussions on new literary trends – like the eBay auctions where people can bid to have a character in a novel named after them. There are also updates on his novels/comics, their release dates and availability.
Gaiman’s journal isn’t particularly neat in its design – the posts are unformatted and scattered, which adds to the image of the artist as a disorganized young man who uses the medium for convenience sake, not to make an aesthetic statement. But his fans won’t mind any of that. As Basu points out, this blog is an excellent resource for current work in a particular literary spectrum. “It’s very relevant for fans of SFF in India, because proper discussion on these genres of literature – which are not taken very seriously here – is practically non-existent.”