“We’re entering the era of the social artist.” (Warning: ranty)


If I paid any attention to the internet and the general zeitgeist, I’d think I was screwed.

Obviously, I’ve been working pretty hard on this new book, and epic fantasy it tough right now. So is urban fantasy. And what makes it even harder? Well, this is the era of the social artist.

That link gives the background to the latest overnight Kickstarter success story, which of course wasn’t overnight at all. We live in an era when artists of every kind are deeply engaged with their audiences–in fact, where artists are supposed to cultivate a fanbase by giving of their personal life and their privacy, and where the fans get to be right up in close to the artistic process and really feel part of things.

But I’m not doing that.

I have nothing against Palmer: I think she’s talented as hell, I like her music, and I admire what she’s done with her career. Unfortunately for me, I’m not her and I could never be like her. Nevermind that she’s making music and I’m writing books; I don’t want to share that much with you. Seriously. I have my private life and I like it that way. She can say that The ivory tower of the mysterious artist has crumbled she’s welcome to, but I’m not interested in the alternative.

On the days I write, I will often not talk to any living person outside my family except to order a coffee (although the local librarians have learned my name so we will exchange pleasantries occasionally). That’s fine. I like that. It gives me focus and it saves my energy. But I can’t be on Twitter several hours a day, and I long ago gave up the idea that this blog would be a nexus of activity.

But apparently this is what people expect now. I sometimes get emails from people who claim I make it hard to contact me. Yes, my email is on my website, but it’s a little buried. Yeah, comments are off. But I still have LJ, Facebook, and Twitter. Anyone who wants to can contact me there. Or they could turn up my email address. I do respond to everyone, even though that is not enough for some people, apparently. Once you get enough blog posts and Salon articles about the Way Things Are Done Now, everyone starts to expect it. I get readers telling me online, in their most patient tone, what’s expected of me as an author.

But I can’t be everyone’s friend. I’m just not made for it. Yes, I went to a convention once, as a member, and hung around for a few hours. No, I’ve never done a reading. No, I don’t have some kind of crippling anxiety that makes me a gibbering wreck in public. The truth is that I’m not that glib, not that clever, and I don’t back and forth with strangers very well.

And when you compare that to this article in the Guardian which dropped this little bombshell:

Because what fans want above all else – what in fact defines the very essence of fandom – is ownership of that which we adore.

Well, fuck that.

Here’s the thing: I don’t much like the idea of fans taking ownership of the things they like, not in the way that article states it. I’ll talk about this in the future maybe, but my ivory tower comes with a pleasant little desk and I like to sit at it and think about characters and sentences. When I go on Twitter I’m not planting bamboo, I’m hoping that someone posts something that will make me laugh. And when they do, I feel no obligation to run out and buy whatever stuff they made.

Yeah, sometimes I feel invisible. Sometimes I think my reticence is the reason the Twenty Palaces books got cancelled. Maybe that’s true (people have certainly tried to convince me so) but I seriously doubt it. I shake that kind of thinking off, because the only actions I do that really matter are the words I put on the page.

So here’s the deal with me, okay? I will write books. Sometimes they will not be very pleasant or happy, but they will always be the best I can manage. You, if you want, will read them. We can share funny stuff on Twitter, or you can drop me a note about whether you liked it on Facebook, or we can discuss whatever on LiveJournal. That’s all cool.

But I won’t be cultivating you. I won’t be growing your numbers like flies drawn in to a trap. And in return, you’ll understand that I’m just this guy with a job he really likes, and that I keep a certain distance because I have to guard my time and energy for my family, my health, and my work. I don’t have an assistant to read my emails or search my spam filters. I don’t have an interesting life.

And that’s all. If my books alone aren’t enough to make me successful, then I don’t think it’s worth having.