Note that this was written last...Thursday? I've spent the time between then and now deciding on a host and going with Wix because simple and flexible and I have to do even less work than I did with Wordpress and I'm all about doing less work whenever I can.
So things got strange this week.
Oh, this has nothing to do with anything in news or politics. That's all strange now and it's going to be permanently strange.
This has to do with fictions and outposts, no maps for these territories sorts of stuff. Went to fire up my web browser on Monday and got the message that the domain highway-62.com, which is where I've had my online writing and website up since 2005, is no more. Well, not no more, but the domain is expired.
Which was news to me, as I hadn't gotten a single request to renew the lease on the domain. And companies, well, they're usually interested in easy money, so you'd figure that they'd let me know so they could have some money so I could have a website. Win-win, right? Emails to them have returned only "we have expedited this ticket" and "Mr. Steven is looking into this personally." But no website, no domain, no highway-62.com. I even dug around the site that owns the firm that I registered the domain with originally, made a request, nothing.
I could easily make a stink about this with ICANN. I would probably even get the domain back without having to spend money on it, though it would take some energy and time.
But here's the thing. Perhaps that old URL isn't that important now? My email is not routed through that domain (though I've had it on my ebooks as a 'reach the author' thing forever, which tells you how effective *that* gambit is.) As far as I can tell, the site itself hasn't gotten a lick of work, and only attracts spammers who still think that spamming comment threads of half-dead blog threads is a way to get eyeballs (I know, they're just putting up numbers for brainless clients who use bottom-feeding advertising formats). It's just not that imporant.
So I'm going to let it die. What the hell, right? Besides, I'm approaching a milestone birthday, just let it go.
Which leaves me with having to create a new website. Probably something I should have done anyways a long time ago. I've only revised my old one substantially once since 2005 (and after migrating from blogspot, so that's how long I've been doing this sort of thing.)
You'd think that I should be a lot more attached to this digital identity, right? I mean, we're all becoming creatures of the internet, so we should grow to really become these handles, drop the whole meatspace thing. But see, these identities are lies. Now I'm not gonna lay some Lynch/Stanton "There is no self" trip on you, though there's a lot of truth to what they say, even if it's not a particularly comforting one. There is some essential self, but it's probably not the one that everyone sees (though it's certainly reflected in the external.)
Illustration. One of my favorite stories about one of my favorite authors, being William Gibson, the Great Dismal himself. I'm pretty sure I first heard this story in 1991 while waiting in line to get my copy of THE DIFFERENCE ENGINE (by Mr. Gibson and Mr. Bruce Sterling) signed at a bookstore in La Jolla. Half a lifetime, a touch more. Anyways, Mr. Gibson was talking about a signing he was at and this huge, cybergoth-type dude in leather and chains approaches the table and looks the author over. Now it might be noted here that Mr. Gibson is not an author who looks like the stuff he writes. He's a tall and lanky guy, very personal, avuncular, even, with a great speaking voice. But he doesn't dress the cyberpunk part at all. I doubt he has a single piercing or tattoo and has never sported any kind of tonsorial fancy in any picture I've seen of him. Normcore, for lack of a better word.
Anyways, the cybergoth fan stops and looks Mr. Gibson over. At this point, NEUROMANCER is *the* cyberpunk book, remaking science fiction. He's something of a countercultural hero. But the cybergoth dude is not impressed. Mr. Gibson himself is not hacking the network, at least in a literal sense. He doesn't dress for the subculture, and could disappear into a crowd at any given time (overlooking his height, which does make him stand out just a touch, but that can be overcome.)
And when telling this story, Mr. Gibson lets it be clear that the cybergoth registers his disappointment with reality, the reality that this maniac author who's rewriting the future is just...cyberpunk dad. Not even that. Just a guy. That fiction fell apart.
So the cybergoth sighs, shrugs his shoulders and lays out a beaten-up paperback copy of NEUROMANCER on the table for his idol to sign, but makes it clear that the veils have dropped away and that things aren't the same anymore.
Now I have to wonder if Mr. Cybergoth (let's give him a proper honorific and capitalization, shall we?) would be able to create such a fiction in his head today? Mr. Gibson is pretty active on Twitter and it's not too hard to find a picture of him (nor was it then, honestly) to shatter any illusions about his outward counter-cultureness. But then the punkest thing is not to be punk on the outside, right?
You know that I'm probably getting back to author-as-product and author-as-best-friend, right? Well, I already wrote an entire book that dovetailed into that subject. You can read it right here. Hell, I'll even drop the price this week.) I'll only add that this whole epi-phenomena is something that's more and more required these days. When publishers are looking over follower counts before they make acquisition decisions, you know that this is real. The author is the product. The book is just merch.
Perhaps I'm being unnecessarily caustic.
Oh, you ask what my reaction was to meeting my then-writing-idol William Gibson? Did he live up to expectation, etc?
The truth of it was that I didn't have much expectation. Remember, I grew up with parents who wrote, so it wasn't a mystery to me that these were just regular old humans who sat down in front of typewriters (likely) or computers (a little more exotic, but becoming normalized then) and wrote. I do remember that I liked his t-shirt, which I think was written out in katakana and asked him what it said and he replied "I have no idea." I then followed up with the equally-stupid "What do you feel about having invented cyberspace?" His reply was "You really should ask Jaron Lanier." Which is probably the nicest reply I could have expected to a question he was likely peppered with on a regular basis from gawky and earnest fan dudes.
Back to having to re-create my own website this (and honestly, next) week.
See, we're instructed that telling the truth is the best policy. As children, we're punished when we lie. Then we grow up and find out that liars reap the big rewards. I'm not just talking about the obvious examples, but the whole "print the legend" mindset. Legends sell papers. Legends harvest clicks. Legends may even sell books. I certainly see a whole lot of it out there, lots of folks trying in earnest to bootstrap themselves into whatever genre they're trying to rule. And yeah, you have to lock into one genre, which is pretty much the ultimate craziness, ultimate bad craziness.
You're setting yourself up to be just one thing. Which is not something that people are good at doing, ultimately. Though legends get along doing it just fine. Which is why people are so eager to tear them down, or to cheer their tearing down. Destroy yr idols isn't a call to just smash things out of a purely destructive impulse. It's self-preservation both for the worshiper and the idol themselves.
And yet, I'm having to appease the great and indifferent diety of Marketing, through acting as my own high priest of self-promotion. As is every creative person out there these days. Gotta do that hustle. Gotta play that game. Or as DH Lawrence put it:
“The bitch-goddess, as she is called, of Success, roamed, snarling and protective, round the half-humble, half-defiant Michaelis’ heels, and intimidated Clifford completely: for he wanted to prostitute himself to the bitch-goddess, Success also, if only she would have him.”
Tough, but not unfair.
So yeah, I think a lot about what I'm supposed to be as a writer-product, because it's not super-easy to pin me down on the basis of output. Which is something that publishers are uneasy with (and booksellers, and frankly, some authors.) I mean, get this, I find HPL not only problematic, but revered for the wrong reasons, and yet the place where I've first gotten traction is in "weird fiction" (which is a term I find as deeply meaningful as "cyberpunk," perhaps even less so as cyberpunk at least conforms to an aesthetic and design sense). Reminder, my novella, THE QUEEN OF NO TOMORROWS will be coming out early next year from Broken Eye Books. So, what persona sells weird cosmic horror mixed with street-level crime in 80s LA? Do I go denim or leather? Or do I post pics of me in cargo shorts and Birkenstocks, which I rock nearly year-round? Who wants to be my best friend?
These thought patterns just lead to psychic vapor-lock. And yet, we're told that we need to think them, to know what to present, to figure out what persona to wear (and keep all the others hidden.) Of course, seeing this play out in the news (hey, I'm really a nice guy except on my shitposting YouTube channel/column/Slack channel) leads me to think that maybe persona is the poison after all.
Stay tuned for the announcement of the new and updated website. Hopefully by early next week. Especially since I have a big surprise planned for my upcoming birthday (that's next Sunday, for those of you following along at home.)
And no, I didn't take razorwirenandneon.com, though I was sorely tempted to.