- Posted by Johanna on November 7, 2011 at 12:02 pm
- Category: Digital and Webcomics
T Campbell revisits the lessons he learned in writing A History of Webcomics. I never thought it was as bad a book as he did, although I didn’t see the abuse he apparently got because his perspective differed from others’. It’s a great essay that lists some key points you should keep in mind before writing non-fiction: You’ll make enemies. You can’t be unbiased. You’ll never be done, and you should act with confidence. As he looks back, he thinks:
… generally speaking, the book has done very well in reviews written after its first year in print–funny, considering how quickly parts of the book went out of date…. Reviewers now come to the book without axes to grind, and generally finish reading it before outlining their notes. And so every so often, I’ve picked the book up again, and done my best to self-assess.
In my view, it really is still that bad. Not so much because the ideas are wrong. By 2005 standards, the ideas are all right. But my conflicting desires to define the truth, to admit uncertainty about the truth, to be witty, to be fair, and to be kind resulted in half-hearted, half-baked half-work….
The root of my dissatisfaction, though, doesn’t come from anything that a fair critic could criticize. Even if you put “1993-2005” on the cover, a book like this can never be finished.
Speaking of getting attacked online, Peter David argues against anonymity, although he nicely casts it as a thank-you note to those who do use their real names. He talks about making the choice:
… to attach my name to my opinions. To not hide behind the comfort of anonymity. Even though this course of action has subjected me to: people trying to get me fired from Marvel; people trying to get me fired from DC; attempts at boycotts; my name showing up on blacklists; people challenging me to debates; people writing and publishing diatribes based upon things I never said; people shouting at me at conventions; people showing up at store signings and hurling a steady stream of abuse; and much more.
For me, living in a free society isn’t always a comfortable thing, and that’s the part we should appreciate–and often don’t.
I’m not such a stickler for “real” names as he is, but I do believe, even if you choose to go by Arwyn Thistleflower instead of Robin Jones, you should stick with that handle consistently and stand behind what you say under it. Your words build a past for you, and other people can, and should, evaluate your comments based on your history as well as your content.
I wish more people valued this online playground, because if they found use in it, maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to dirty it up.
These guys seem to be doing okay online, having come to terms with how they handle themselves. For a more cautionary tale, consider novelist Kiana Davenport. Creators today are told that they’re responsible for building their audience and that they need to put more effort into marketing themselves. Kiana did so, by releasing a self-published short story collection to promote her upcoming novel from Riverhead Books/Penguin — and the result was the publisher dropping her and suing to recover the advance money. She and the publisher aren’t talking about the details, but it seems that the publisher felt the author was competing with them.
Promoting yourself online is a fine line to walk. Most authors are told they should do so, but they have to be careful not to anger those giving them work — and sometimes, you won’t know what upsets them until after they’ve already gotten mad.