It’s been a busy week.
I had a meeting with my editor down in Nottingham last Tuesday and have a bunch of edits to start cracking on with. Project: Loophole rises from the ashes like an ever-so-slightly lethargic phoenix cracking one eye open and going ‘eh?’ I enjoyed writing this particular story and am looking forward to getting my chops around it again. It’s been a while since I was able to properly get my head into that of my Silver Skulls and they’re sat there, waiting for me. Possibly grinning in a crocodile kind of way.
Around this, I am also cracking on with Project: Carpark. It’s picked up some nice momentum now and I have actually started to tease out the threads that will lead to the ending. I’ve done something new with this particular project and that is to write it out of order. I have left placeholders for scenes I know that need to be written but just didn’t want to write at the time and gone ahead with other parts of the novel regardless. This has actually worked remarkably well for me, which surprised me. I’m a linear kind of person. I like the most direct route from A to B, although I have occasionally been known to take the meandering path. Peaks and troughs are, after all, different from the endless straight bits.
What’s been best of all is the return of my enthusiasm for writing. I’ve made no secret of the fact that last year whacked me around the head with some fairly horrible low periods of depression, something I’ve had to deal with pretty much all my adult life. I know my own moods very well now; over the years, I’ve learned to recognise the oncoming storm, as it were, and make preparations accordingly. But it’s a weird, fickle thing, depression. You can brace for impact, anticipating it and then you wait. Then you wait some more. Then you wait just a little more. Then you find yourself saying ‘oh, maybe I got it wrong OH GOD, WHY BOTHER?’
It’s very hard to lever yourself out of that pit when you are stuck in it. No matter how much you want to, you can’t. It’s like… being caught inside the body of a sad, unhappy person and screaming to be let out. When you do finally break free, when that first ray of sunshine pierces the gloom, it’s the most glorious feeling. I am phenomenally lucky that I only hit that sort of low perhaps once every five years or so. But it’s horrible when it happens. The old ‘smiling on the outside, crying inside’ adage is true.
The good news is that I am most definitely almost back to the top of Mood Mountain. I will soon be planting my little flag and stopping for a bottle of beer and a sandwich. Recent boosts of confidence have helped this enormously; the pleasure of being invited to write a 1,000 flash-fic short for the Black Library’s Angels of Death series and the subsequent response to that, for example. People have started messaging me asking when I will be doing more and that is the best tonic you can start to imagine.
(The answer to that question is: see second paragraph).
There has been some exceptional unpleasantness on the internet in the past week surrounding an author whose work I enjoy very much. He has been on the receiving end of some incredibly unpleasant internet rage which culminated in people firing off messages that included suggestions of burning his work, etc., etc., etc. As a consequence of all this unpleasantness, the author in question has removed himself permanently from direct involvement with fandom. It’s a topic that has had a few online people stirred up in the past and raises the question about how much interaction should you have with a readership and/or fanbase.
Now, I love meeting people. The signings I’ve done so far have been great fun and it’s always a pleasure to have a few minutes to chat with people about a shared interest. I have also engaged with Warhammer 40k fora around the internet in the past, but apart from regular posts at the Black Library Bolthole and a couple of specific threads on the Bolter and Chainsword, I tend not to visit them any more. For the most part, people are lovely. But there are one or two people in any fandom who take it to extremes and generate a less pleasant environment. The internet gives them a certain anonymity that empowers them to become needlessly rude and abrasive.
The Husband (who is being re-christened ‘The Servitor’) found that he was getting so irate with ‘the only opinion that matters is mine’ attitudes that he swore off internet fora completely. I have abandoned one or two of them because the levels of venom being directed towards authors, companies and worse – each other – are pretty much an example of bullying in action. I suffered the bullying thing at school (see: depression) and don’t need it now I’m older. The difference is, I can walk away from this kind.
The first time I saw something exceptionally negative about me – not my work, but about me personally – on a forum, I was really upset about it. But then I stepped back and viewed it objectively. These people don’t know me, I thought. They think they have the right to tear into me and rip me to shreds without even knowing anything about me at all. When I thought of it that way, I realised just how silly being upset about it actually was. I learned very quickly not to rise to it. There’s no point. If people want to engage in adult conversation, I’m all for it.
Of course people will always be entitled to their opinion. It would be a dull world indeed if everyone like the same things. But there are ways of expressing dislike of something. Simply posting ‘huh, that was [insert expletive of choice]’, say why. Critically appraise, don’t criticise. ‘I didn’t enjoy xxx because…’ It’s really not that difficult. And the correct response to someone who disagrees with you isn’t ‘well, I’m right and you’re wrong’.
I don’t know the full details of why it was that this particular author reached the decision to withdraw from fandom entirely. I am sure that internet fuckwittery is involved somewhere down the line; the fact that on the internet, everything you say can and will be misconstrued in a negative way. Maybe in this modern day and age, English classes should contain a module on ‘communicating via social media – basic etiquette’. Whatever the reasons, I think it’s a real shame.
I am just glad that the majority of people with whom I communicate are brilliant, enthusiastic and interested. Keep it that way. You? You’re awesome. And yes, I’m talking about you.