The Ceremony of Innocence: The OF Blog Turns 10

August 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

On August 25, 2004, I began this blog as an extension of the now-defunct wotmania’s Other Fantasy section.  Originally I intended to make only occasional posts of interviews and other content originating on that site, but after three years and barely any posts (I think there were only 1-2 posts/month done by myself and my former co-mods at OF), I decided to try my hand at reviewing current fantasy fiction, despite having not grown up as a primarily SF/F-reading fan.  For a while, this was sufficient, as there were quite a few interesting works released in the wake of the past decade’s New Weird moment and I hadn’t had to deal with arguments about cover art related to hoods and chainmail yet.

But people change as they age.  When I founded The OF Blog as OF Blog of the Fallen (a reference to Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series),  I had just turned 30 the month before and I was planning on going back to college in order to work as a therapist instead of a public school teacher.  As I write this now, having turned 40 and suffering from several pains that the intervening years have inflicted upon me, it is hard to believe that a quarter of my life has been devoted to maintaining this site.  I have seen dozens, if not hundreds, of blogs start up and fail during this time.  I’ve seen forums like wotmania go under, with successor sites failing to capture any of the energy and creativity of those early years of the 21st century.  I was blogging before Facebook and Twitter rose to dominate the then-nascent “social media.”  I remember using MSN Messenger to keep in touch with friends and loved ones.  So much is dust, now.

I had contemplated making a series of posts reflecting the changes that had occurred here, but I became more and more depressed in glancing through the archives.  I saw glimpses of the arguments of the day:  should a blog’s focus be on current or overlooked works?  Should we worry about the influence that publishers might have on us by sending us review copies?  Are posts depicting “book porn” or cover art frivolous, detracting from a blog’s “true” purpose?

How strange those arguments back then, 5-7 years ago, compared to those of today!  This weekend, I was re-reading some of William Butler Yeats’ poetry when I encountered these lines from “The Second Coming”:

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Reflecting back, I feel as though this “ceremony of innocence,” this writing about books and poems and stories real and imagined, as though all of this were just dandelion puffs floating away under the force of a cold wind.  Today, I review as many books as ever (I just finished my 100th review for 2014), but there is little discussion about specific books here or anywhere else these days.  Oh, there are discussions that have books as a tangent, discussions about authors and their socio-political views, some of which are perhaps worthy debates, but there really aren’t places to discuss these specific stories.  If I’m lucky, there might be a couple of comments left here in a given month or maybe a handful of retweets on Twitter or Likes on Facebook, but there really isn’t any conversation about literature that appeals to me.

In their place are discussions of matters that make me uncomfortable to discuss.  Not because I often disagree with the main ideas introduced by people I follow, because I don’t, but rather because the way these ideas are presented are sometimes too strident for my academic-trained perspective.  It is a good thing to see a wider variety of people writing stories that touch upon their personal experiences, but sometimes I just want more of a discussion of those stories and less a denunciation of those who likely aren’t going to listen to their views in the first place.  I am far from the best in a whole host of areas, but I seem to be lacking in the conviction that so many others have in their views being not just correct, but “right” ones.

It’s hard being a dinosaur who has outlived his era.  I don’t want to see if my words spark any lightning; I am failing to rage against the dying of the light.  There are days where I just want to retire to this little corner and write secretly, none reading my words, about a wide range of works.  I don’t want to think about whether or not Author X or Critic Y has said something non-progressive about Topic Z.  At times, the arguments about identities, whether they be that of groups or of literary genres such as SF/F, divide without expanding the discussion to encompass a diversity of opinions.   I care, but there’s also a frustration that I’m not aware of enough discussion of excellent books that exist in a variety of genres due to this focus on authors at the expense of analyzing their works.  With so many people being labeled as fools or worse, I wonder if those epithets could be applied to me for just being unready to commit at the drop of a hat to a cause or a position. 

Then again, there are still worlds to visit and to describe.  Maybe what’s best is not to focus so much on matters outside of the realm of literature but to continue to accentuate what is enjoyable and delightful about the act of reading, about the power of poetry, about the music embedded in magical prose.  This is something that I fear I often fail to capture in my posts, but perhaps I am mistaken.  I shall endeavor to presume so and try to trudge on.  The OF Blog may now be 10 and it may no longer be oriented toward SF/F, but it is still a place of expression and hopefully a newer perspective will emerge that will make this a place where others can find discussions that they haven’t discovered elsewhere.  In the meantime, I’ll probably retire to being a voice crying in the wilderness, as surely some revelation is at hand.  But it’s alright, ma, it’s life and life only

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