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.


Blogger Invisible Lizard said...

I'd kick in a thought or two, if you need someone to play the part of "Semi Informed Blow Hard Who Jumps Too Quickly To Conclusions." I tend to eschew political discussions on my own blog because I'm not writing it just to entice heated discussion, but there have been many times that I wanted to rant ad nauseam about this or that.

On a separate topic, I'd be most interested in reading your Irate Savant book. If you ever get a publisher, let me know. I was sad to see you leave the site, because I found so many things there worth investigating further.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I would love to participate in a sort of roundtable blog like the one you describe, since I share many of your opinions regarding the majority of political blogs on the web in terms of the lack of fruitful discussion. One fictional persona I'd like to explore is that of a conservative academic on a liberal university campus. My own political views fall between the poles, and such a persona would give me an opportunity to lampoon the extremes at both ends. Let me know if there's something I can do to help get it off the ground. My current blog is primarily family-oriented so I'd enjoy an outlet for more opinionated writing.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Pursuit said...

I'll email you with some thoughts on the collaborative blog.

Much more importantly, I'd like to request that when the book becomes a movie, I get a small speaking role. Of course I'll need points off the gross,and a cut of the licensing, but considering my acting chops it'll be worth it. Oh and don't think you can trick me with any of that fancy schmancy hollywood bookkeeping that claims the film never made a dime!

9:41 AM  
Blogger TheOldMule said...

would love to engage as such...

10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would be interested. I could play the overly charged blue state hippie/humanist with a touch of paranoid and radical POV. I'm left of left. Way left.

You could present each week's topic as a heading and then have each person respond. You could link the political stance of each to the person's name. Because fo the element of paranoia, I'll be known as Anonymous.

If you're planning on throwing together a web page for this, make it like Google, the simpler the better, IMHO.

Just an idea.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh yeah, here's an e-mail for anonymous if you need contact:

11:00 AM  

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