I’ve been dreaming to big for my age. I haven’t posted to this blog in over a month even though I’ve started many essays. I just never finish them. Today, realization finally came that the essays I dream of writing are too big for me to actually finish. For example, last night I began the third attempt to write a review an anthology with twenty-four stories in it, one I’ve been reading on all summer. This morning I realized to write the review I mentally picture writing would take days and days of work, even weeks, and it would be thousands of words long. Most readers browsing the internet are barely willing to consume a few dozen words. Well, I can’t write that short, but I’ve got to stop writing too long.
This reflects a change in my reading habits. I’ve practically stopped reading novels. I now read several hundred short stories a year. My mind is now too impatient for novels, and I realize it’s also too impatient to write long essays. So, I’ve decided my aim is to write succinct pieces about short stories. I wanted to write overviews of anthologies, or overviews of science fictional themes, but those ambitions are too grand for my current levels of energy and concentration.
My new goal for this blog is to create distilled insights into science fiction short stories. This site was created for version 4 of The Classics of Science Fiction, but we moved version 5 to a new site. We streamlined it so it’s mostly data, getting rid of all my wordy essays. Now it gets way more hits. I need to streamline this site too. Don’t expect a huge transformation quickly, I’m switching to old man steps.
James Wallace Harris, 8/14/21
7 thoughts on “A Change of Ambitions”
Review a story a day and then finish off with a summary of the anthology.
Sounds like good advice. But you do that, and your site looks like a lot of work.
In total it’s a lot of work but that’s the way to break down the Dozois into manageable chunks.
I agree with Paul.
Break each anthology up into multiple shorter posts, an approach which should have at least a couple of advantages (maybe more), due to the shorter, more frequent posting schedule.
1) It will greatly increase the posting frequency and attract more viewers and subscribers (hopefully). Google ranking should also improve as a result of the higher post frequency.
2) It will make the blog easier to read (for most viewers – personally, I don’t mind long posts at all), due to the shorter posts and as a result should increase hits on the site.
Hard work? I don’t really see it like that. Sure, it might look like it over the long term. But in many ways, it’ll make things a lot easier for you as you actually do it. You will be posting in shorter, more digestible chunks, as you move through each anthology, reading and posting on each story individually. That sounds easier than reading the lot and then trying to do it the hard way, by composing what amounts to a single massive harder-to-read thesis on the entire anthology. Now THAT sounds far too much like hard work.
I’d recommend maybe structuring posts on each anthology in three sections, a bit like the following:
1) Introductory post on the anthology, plus Contents Listing, publication details, etc.
2) A series of short, individual posts on each story.
3) Closing Summary/Overview and finishing overall opinions/rating of the anthology.
Stick to this structure (or whatever structure you decide on) for every anthology. This will provide the blog with an overall consistency and familiarity for regular readers.
At least that’s how I would do it. 🙂 It’s actually the same plan that I made for my own blog a few years ago until “Real Life” intervened and scuppered the entire thing. Maybe I’ll get my blog restarted one of these days and put those plans into action.
Thanks, Phil. If you get your blog going, let me know.
The blog is still there, but I haven’t posted to it in a long time. It’s at https://sciencefictionreader.wordpress.com if you want to take a look at my old posts. Even back then, the blog was almost totally focused on short fiction, and I have quite a few rare old anthologies in my book collection. I haven’t read a novel in years.
As I said, “Real Life”, mostly in the form of multiple ongoing health issues, both physical and mental, brought the curtain down on that one about five years ago. I’m actually surprised that I managed to keep the blog going for as long as I did. I’ve suffered from severe depression for years now, since my son died back in 2006, and the old black dog squeezes the energy and motivation out of the strongest of us. There are long periods that I just give up on pretty much everything.
My vision has also declined drastically in the past couple of years – I’m effectively blind now in my left eye and my right eye ain’t so good either. This makes sitting at a computer and composing long posts a LOT more difficult and energy-sapping than it used to be. I used to be a lot more active posting on my blog, FB and various other groups and forums. Now I have trouble even reading posts, tiredness, headaches, etc. if I spend too long staring at a monitor. So I’m greatly limited in what I can do these days.
I’ve always intended to get back to posting on the blog, but have never quite got up the energy and motivation to restart it. First I haven’t posted in a few months, then, one day, I wake up and it’s been five years since I posted. Where the heck did all the time go so fast?
I’ve had lots of plans and ideas, but getting back to a regular ongoing posting schedule has been a step too far for me for quite a while now. If I’m going to get back to it, it’ll be baby steps for a bit until I can build up the rhythm and enthusiasm to keep at it and get a handle on and work around my more recent physical infirmities.
You said that this site is Version 4 of Classics of Science Fiction. Does this blog contain all of the material from Versions 1-3 of CofSF? Are all of your long essays on this site? Or are the earlier versions still available elsewhere online?
If you are thinking of streamlining this blog, please don’t get rid of the longer essays altogether. If you’re going to remove them from the blog, maybe a good way to preserve those longer essays would be to collate them into PDF ebooks and make them available as downloads from one of your sites, while keeping the shorter format for the blog posts. Maybe you can even put a few ebooks up on Amazon at one or two bucks a pop, and make a little money.
Ebooks might be a more suitable format for them than blog posts, and some of us old codgers do like to read those longer essays.