Tag Archives: blogging

Isaac Asimov: Proto-blogger?

I have been reading some of Isaac Asimov’s essays on science fiction over the last few days. Over the course of his prolific career, the Good Doctor wrote thousands of essays ranging a wide variety of subjects. I’ve probably read most (although certainly not all) of these essays and it occurred to me yesterday that one might consider Isaac Asimov one of the earliest bloggers–or at the very least, a “proto-blogger”. In honor of his 91st birthday today, I thought I would discuss this in more detail.

There are some common features to most successful blog:

  1. They have an audience
  2. They are updated with some degree of regularity
  3. They often contain commentary on a specific topic area, although some run the gamut
  4. The engage readers in a discussion or dialog through the comment system

In the world of science fiction, blogging often involves any or all of the following:

  • Reviews or critiques of science fiction
  • Discussions of the writing process or the business of writing
  • Social commentary from the perspective of a science fiction writer
  • Occasional discussions of science as it relates to society (or science fiction)

And every now and then, the blogger will write about his or her personal life.

Isaac Asimov’s thousands of essays meet almost all these criteria and then some:

  • He had a huge audience, one that continued to grow from the mid-1950s (when his essays became more regular) until his death.
  • The essays appeared with an unprecedented degree of regularity. He wrote 399 consecutive monthly essays on science for the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; he wrote columns for American Way for a decade or more; he wrote columns for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate; and he wrote editorials for each issue of Asimov’s for more than 15 years.  In addition, he had essays appearing in all kinds of other places from TV Guide to the New York Times, to say nothing of the hundred of introductions he wrote for other people’s books.
  • Several of his columns focused on a broad area, such as science. Others were political commentary, or literary critiques, or personal essays about writing or about science fiction.

The most significant difference between Asimov’s essays and blogs today lies in the discussion aspect. And even there, readers of the essays could and did write to Asimov to engage him on various points and opinions in his essays. And where he could, Asimov responded (there were more than 100,000 letters in his files, according to his brother).

Reading Asimov’s essays on science fiction (many of which appeared as editorials for Asimov’s Science Fiction), I can’t help but look at them as a primitive form of blogging, a kind of Whatever, twenty years before Scalzi’s pioneering blog appeared. They often talked about science fiction or the writing of science fiction, but they sometimes also commented on some kind of social or political issue, and his views were discussed by fans in the letter columns, a kind of primitive comment system. He was what I call a proto-blogger.

I wonder what would have happened if he had lived into the early 21st century. Would he have become a full-fledged blogger? I suspect not? He was set in his ways and already had a vast audience for the essays he wrote. I think he would have approved of the notion of blogging, but I don’t think that he personally would have embraced it (in the way that, say, Frederik Pohl has).

Happy 91st birthday, Isaac!

Changes

I was at RavenCon this weekend (about which I will have more to say in a subsequent post) and while there, I attended a session on Blogging for Writers.  Among the panelists were   and Edmund Schubert, both great guys (and during this particular session, bon vivants). The discussion revolved around why writers blog, and the pros and cons thereof.  It so happened that I had been thinking about this topic for a while, and the discussion that took place convinced me of a decision that I had, perhaps, already subconsciously made:

I have to cut back on my blogging.

There are several reasons for this, but first and foremost is that I now have the feeling (as many writers before me have discovered) that most of the writing I do should be on stuff that I am trying to sell.  Granted, I write short stories.  Yet up until now, I’ve written two or three a year at most.  My aim is much higher now.  One might reasonably ask how a brief blog entry each day can really impact short story writing.  Let me answer in terms of real number.  Since I started my blog in January 2006, I have written just over a three-quarter of a million words.  That’s the equivalent of producing 8 or 9 science fiction novels in the span of three years (or two fantasy novels of the same amount of time).  Now, I don’t yet write novels.  And I certainly couldn’t write a quarter of a million words in short fiction.  But I can certainly use some of this time to do more fiction writing.

A second reason is obvious to anyone who follows this blog:  we have a baby coming soon, and caring for the baby will take lots of time.  Some things have to be sacrificed, and I feel that I can sacrifice the blog writing.

Finally, most of what I write on this blog amuses me, but isn’t really useful or interesting to anyone else.  So in that sense, why bother?

This doesn’t mean I’m quitting blogging cold turkey.  On the contrary, I am redirecting my aim.  Those blog entries I do write should be useful not only to myself but to others too.  It’s my idea that I will continue to blog about a few topics, primarily writing and science fiction.  Both of these are relevant to me, because they tie into my ambitions to be a science fiction writer.  But they might be useful to other writers as well.  I’m still a fairly new writer, and it’s my idea to write about those things that new writers experience and deal with.  Maybe this will help someone like me.  I can’t say that I won’t write any entries about the new baby or an occasional entry about some other topic, but going forward, the main theme of this blog will be on writing and science fiction.  And it won’t be everyday.  I imagine at first it will be several times a week, and eventually, fall into some regular schedule.

For those who do follow everyday, I’m sure most of you will be greatly relieved by this change.  For those who enjoyed all of the mundane stuff I wrote about, fear not:  I will be continuing to micro-blog on twitter (follow me) and these get relayed to Facebook.  Since these are fast and easy to do, I see no need to give these up.

Also, I will continue to read all of my friends blogs.  I couldn’t dream of giving that up at this point.

Word Press

Tonight, I installed WordPress on my domain server.  I did this primary as a content management tool to make it less time consuming to manage my new website.  However, the more I looked at the features and capabilities of Word Press, the more impressed I became.  And so, I’ve decided to give it a chance as a primary blogging tool as well.

This does not mean I’ve given up on LiveJournal!

I’m still heavily invested in LiveJournal as a social networking site.  I still read lots of blogs there and I plan to continue this.  I found a Word Press plug-in called LJ-XP that allows me to cross-post my blog entries at jamierubin.net to LiveJournal automatically.  This post, in fact, was automatically cross-posted.  You can still leave comments on LiveJournal, but you can also leave comments here.  Over time, I hope to make this my main site, although I plan on continuing to cross-post to LJ for the foreseeable future.

There is an easy import tool to get LJ posts imported into Word Press and I’ve done that for all my posts for 2009.  I’m still fooling around with things so the new site and new blog are not perfect yet.  They’ll get better over time.

Originally published at From the Desk of Jamie Todd Rubin. You can comment here or there.

Up for air

Fourth day in a row in which I’ve gone into my office, closed my door and worked without taking a break. Today, I didn’t stop until after 2 PM, and then it was only to get something to eat before moving on to some document review I needed to do. I’m now wrapping things up and can I just say I’m exhausted! It’s a good thing everything is re-runs. There’s absolutely no need for me to stay up and watch TV tonight, even though Tivo would be recording it anyway. I’d like to try and get some writing done today (I only managed around 800 words yesterday), but I’m pretty beat.

This week has flown by. Tomorrow is Friday! On Saturday, I’m going paint-balling with Kelly and a bunch of her friends. I’ve never done it before and it sounds like it might be fun.

I’m fast approaching the end of the B’s in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. I looked at my reading list for this year and it’s pitiful. My worst year ever in terms of total books read and total words read. It’s pathetic and will remain so, unless I finish the Encyclopedia before the year is out (which I doubt).

I’ve been working on a project to consolidate the tags that I use on my blog. I’ve used over 800 tags in the 2 years that I’ve been at this regularly. I’ve come up with a taxonomy and have been working on mapping old tags into the new taxonomy–which should be something much more manageable (one-eighth the number of tags). More on that once it’s been implemented.

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Six months of blogging

The end of June 30, 2006 marks 6 consecutive months of blogging in which I have not missed a day. In 6 months I’ve got 572 entries, which averages about pi entries per day (3.14).