Monday, August 21, 2006

Fiction, Blogs, and Fiction Blogs

So I'm planning on having something of a Savant novel draft by year's end (preferably earlier), and then knocking the thing into shape by end of next spring. I'm going to jump through the usual hoops involving query letters to agents and editors, and if that goes nowhere, I'm going the POD route.

It's rather lonely work, especially compared to the blog.

I am regularly tempted to start another blog. I have a couple of ideas that I've been playing with. As of yet none has quite come together. And I'm wary of getting too distracted when I need to be spending my few moments of leisure time working on the book.

But then I start checking out blogs, and I think, man, I've got to get back into this. There's just so much to make fun of.

No day goes by without one of the big bloggers writing some self-congratulatory post about how wonderful blogs are. Certainly they are wonderful new tools, and they've proven their worth, from exposing frauds from politicians and the mainstream media, to riveting accounts from flooded New Orleans and war-torn Lebanon, to just providing access to new and interesting voices. And that's just political/news blogs, which are actually only a small minority of blogs, though you'd never know it.

What always gets me is that despite the praise that political bloggers heap upon themselves, the liberal and conservative blog camps are mostly mirror images, and the images ain't pretty. On any given day you can visit a blog on either side and find the blogger and commenters saying the exact same things about the other: the [liberals/conservatives] are evil because they think X; you can't discuss anything with a [liberal/conservative] because they're intellectually dishonest; [liberals/conservatives] claim to support X but secretly they're [Stalinists/Nazis]. Repeat 100 times.

This is fun?

I suppose it's happened somewhere, but I just can't recall ever reading a comment on any political blog that said, "Wow, I was of the opposite opinion, and you changed my mind about this subject," or at the very least "You've given me something to think about." No, usually the response is something like, "I'm glad to see you think just like I do" or "I disagree with you, and because of that, you're a jackass" (often accompanied by colorful metaphors).

That's not to say there's not discussion, but invariably it's mostly internal, questioning whether the writer's view is orthodox conservatism/liberalism. No real exchange beyond a somewhat more granular version of the appalling Crossfire or Hannity & Colmes, wherein shouting boilerplate ideology is supposed to pass for debate. There have been some notable nonpartisan projects in support of Katrina and tsunami relief, or criticizing pork-barrel spending. And I imagine there are some interesting blogs somewhere with serious, reasonable back-and-forth, but I don't know about them because they don't make enough racket. But those are exceptions, whereas the rule is preaching to the saved.

I guess most people just enjoy having their own views read back to them.

What's the point? Chum to the sharks? That's what it seems like most of the time. I suppose there's some ostensible value in saturation meming: repeated often enough, some people on the fence will eventually come around to the notion that Bush is a totalitarian troglodyte or that all Arabs need to go to a fenced-in camp for the forseeable future. But now you're talking about propaganda, not argument.

For a while reading such stuff passes the time, but I get bored fast----at least if I take it seriously. I guess I've always been a bit mystified by intense passion for anything other than a member of the opposite sex, one's children, and consumption and creation of fiction. I mean, I like Bruce Springsteen, but not enough to devote countless hours developing and running a website about him. Likewise, I have strong political feelings, but I just can't see spending all the time necessary reading and writing to run a decent political blog. Not that there's anything wrong with that; if you're absolutely convinced that WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE and/or you're making all or part of your livelihood off your writing (and strive for honesty rather than sophistry), or it just makes you happy to write and read about the crushing misery of the real world, more power to you. To each his own. I have friends who do it and do it well. I just don't understand.

Me, I'd rather make up stuff. If that makes me shallow, insufficiently outraged/alarmed by world events, then so be it. But I'll tell you that for some time after 9/11, I spent many sleepless hours constructing nightmare scenarios, and I eventually realized that I just can't obsess like that. I cannot stay sane.

What does appeal to me is playing with the rampant narcissistic rabidity of the political (and non-political) blogosphere. Such was the origin of the Irate Savant, and the book I'm developing based on the blog is intended to capture that spirit and intent as best I can.

Still, I'd like to have something going online, too. I think the Savant has run its course as a blog, but the concept of a blog that makes fun of blogs has not. I have yet to come many others trying to toy with the medium the same way as I did with the Savant (one notable exception being the sadly defunct Brown Trout's site). There's a lot of potential there, and potential to do it much better.

I've been toying with the idea of gathering together a group of likeminded souls from varying political views and backgrounds (it won't work any other way) to do a collaborative blog, featuring opinion from a panel of hyperexaggerated, hyperarrogant fictional personages. I'm always deeply wary of collaboration, though, because participants tend to drop out and/or develop resentments toward others. But I'd have a go at this anyway. With multiple voices, no single person would bear the burden of the entire site, and we might be able to attract readers from across the spectrum.

So if any of you longtime Savant readers--or anyone else--are out there and intrigued by the idea of contributing to this project, leave a comment or drop me a line, and we'll talk.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Happy Baby

I actually have an even better picture, but Shannon wouldn't let me put it up because she's using it for an announcement.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Money for Old Rope

Paul Youngson has undertaken an 18-month quest to trade items for something better each time--it's in the same vein as the oneredpaperclip guy, but Youngson says he's doing it for charity and to raise awareness about congenital heart disease.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What's Next

Logan's appointment with the St. Louis surgeon went great. He and the Columbia cardiologist both describe him as a "normal kid." He should be off the diuretic before long, and then he'll only be on one medicine, apparently entirely unrelated to his heart condition, and we're hoping he'll be off that one eventually as well. While the doctors have said that for several months he may be behind developmentally, he shows few signs of it, other than being on the small side: he can roll on his side, track with his eyes, smile. Remarkable for being in the hospital, often unconscious and almost always restrained, for about seven weeks of his three-month existence.

It's difficult to believe that we've reached this point after so many terrible days. If someone had told me on the evening of April 26 that we'd have Logan home and healthy with a very much normal functioning heart, I never would have believed it.

The doctors several times described the arterial switch as a “curative procedure.” Now, I'm a perpetual worrier, so I'm not about to take Logan's health--or anyone else's--for granted anytime soon. But it’s actually conceivable that he might not experience any further health problems related to his heart, leaving this blog—happily—without a raison d'etre.

I’m also trying to work on the Irate Savant novel, something that isn’t easy to do with a full time job and two little kids.

But I’m extremely aware of just how fortunate my family is just for Logan to have come this far. It’s an odd experience to go very quickly from the despair of “Why us?” to suddenly feeling incredibly lucky that Logan’s heart developed the way it did and other events conspired to allow him to have the surgery when he did (and there’s much more to that than I’ve indicated before, which I think best to refrain from discussing). As we could plainly see, many, many children with CHD are not candidates for the arterial switch, and many of those face difficulties throughout their lives, if they even make it.

I don’t want to forget that, or the people I’ve met on this blog who have faced similar struggles. So I’m going to keep the blog going—perhaps, if circumstances continue to allow, spending more time writing about other subjects, but always keeping a focus on congenital heart disease.

In the short term, I may post infrequently and instead concentrate on enjoying these two little guys and working in some Savant writing where I can. I’ve imposed some artificial deadlines on myself, and I’ve got to get cracking. (I may just have to start up another "fictional" blog sometime, too; I miss it that much. Up to you to find it.) But feel free to drop me a line.