Apparently I need to resign myself to being more reclusive

At some point in the early 2000s I pretty much lost interest in trying to be part of the "webcomics community." I was never really a big part of it to begin with, because when I started in 1996 there WAS no community, and most of the people in that community (as it formed) were people who either had serious artistic skills or who were interested in developing them. I wasn't -- for me, the comic was a means to an end. (I always considered Help Desk a political comic with a very narrow focus -- the computer industry -- and it was my platform to rant about the idiocies that plagued it). But I joined Keenspot shortly after it formed, so I did actually get to meet (and develop some friendships with) other cartoonists.


But it pretty much stopped there.


At some point, in the early 2000s, cartoonists began to get very concerned about their "respectability." It's understandable, in hindsight, because that was when there were a wave of success stories, including Penny Arcade and PvP, and when syndicated cartoonists started to notice... a little bit. And their reactions were dismissive. Generally the way a part of the traditionally published crowd is now, actually. And there was a movement within the webcomicosphere to try to purge the ranks of webcomics of the "undesirable" cartoonists -- the ones who were just trying it for a laugh, or who weren't talented, or who were clearly not serious about improving themselves, and taking themselves seriously. It created some very entertaining flame wars (and attacking other artists was one way to gather publicity back in those days. Scott Kurtz was pretty good at it. I actually benefited from one of his rants when he decided to open up on User Friendly and used me as a "better" example. My site crashed from all the new traffic on that day).


Honestly? I really hated that whole scene. But that "scene" became a pretty big thing, and I started ignoring most of the webcomic community as a result. There are individual webcomics I read and artists I like and admire, but I don't consider it my home. My webcomic is something I do because I do it, and that's pretty much the extent of my identity as a "webcomic person."


Around the same time I started doing Help Desk I was also involved in the online music community at MP3.com. It was a pretty different experience. I was horribly unsuccessful at it to a great extent, but I was part of that community, because that community wound up being inclusive even when it really didn't want to be. I mean, before MP3.com I didn't pay attention to other genres. I was a punk musician and my interests were: punk rock (and associated genres -- oi, ska, etc.), industrial music, Lyle Lovett, and Johnny Cash. After MP3.com I started listening to more rap, country, jazz, big band, R&B, etc. because I was introduced to all these people and I got to read about them and the process they used to actual build their music. I'm still mostly a punk and industrial guy but the exposure to a community that was open to different things helped me appreciate those things.


What was the difference? Well I think the difference was that music has a strong tradition of indie music to begin with, and punk rock has always had a DIY ("Do it yourself") ethos which was adopted by indie musicians of all stripes to varying degrees. There were indie comics, but they were thought of as "other" from mainstream comics. That's just my theory. It could be wrong.


The music community disintegrated, eventually, because of money. MP3.com went public, then instituted Payback for Playback, which offered a limited pool of money to a very large pool of musicians, and that started teeth-and-elbows competition that tore MP3.com apart. Then they got sued out of existence, and musicians drifted to a number of different sites that tried to fix those problems in different ways. But they didn't. I've lost touch with all those musicians. I still play their music, though. Damn, there was some good music.


Anyway, I'm starting to get that webcomic vibe in the world of writing these days. I've been slowly scaling back the writing sites I lurk in, and I'm pretty much down to three places now. I think very soon this will be the only site left. I really can't tolerate the vibe at the Passive Voice any more. I occasionally go to other writer sites because the writers themselves are entertaining, but I have no patience for closed communities and cliques and I can't be bothered.


Which is a shame, because I don't know a lot of people who do what I do except for on the internet. And while I'm not a particularly social person, it does help to know and hear from and read posts from people who are going through the same things, and struggling through the same things. But there's too much exclusionary, sniping, self-congratulatory bullshit going on, in both the self-publishing and traditionally published worlds, and I just don't care. None of the people engaging in this behavior has impressed me enough to give a damn what they think the rest of the world should be like.


Part of this is because I am an unbelievably arrogant human being. But most of it, I think, is because I think there's too much of a "we got to take advantage of this unique level of accessibility, and now we're trying to close the door behind us and not let anyone else in" mentality that inevitably seems to set in when a community that was traditionally exclusive is broken wide open. The first few waves in "invaders" get successful enough that they want the world to be exclusive again. They want to be the new star-bellied Sneetches.


Anyway. I'm posting this here because this is one of the few places where DON'T see this mentality. For which I am eternally grateful. Maybe it's because webfiction has been around long enough that everyone got past it? I don't know. At any rate, the way things are going this will be the only community where I lurk, and that time is coming pretty soon. I don't know if there's a word for "sort of like misanthropy, but not that acute and not that generally applied, focused only on artistic communities" but I'm headed there quick.


Hey Uber - the writing world is definitely firmly entrenched into two camps (self-pub vs. traditional pub.). I do agree it's annoying and,at times, distracting. (Like you, I can barely tolerate Passive Voice and the comments of their vocal readership but acknowledge the site provides a service in aggregating blogs so I don't have to.)


In general, I believe that you should always be selective about where you participate since that's time that takes away from the primary job you have as a creator -w hich is to create.


Right now I don't participate in communities and forums unless I get as much out as I put in. I don't bother now with writers forums.


The writing world is very odd compared to the art world. Literary writers hate all genre. Writers from different genres don't have the same rules and seem to shun the other buckets. (Case in point: Everyone rags on romance.) It's toxic to some extent to hang with only writers because they seem to be really competitive. (The amount of crap about Twilight from authors is stupid to the point of being petty. )


I tend to prefer reader comms/forums because from a commercial standpoint and an audience standpoint - it seems more pragmatic to me to care about them vs. the peers.


But this might be really an indie mentality. I just don't care about unnecessary barriers at this point. Life's too short to deal with satisfying the elite :)


Web serials/webfiction are kind of funny thing in that they're both very old and relatively new. I often liken them to the indie game movement for video games in that respect.


Like web serials, indie games have been around for long enough that you could say they've always been there (obviously less so with webfiction, which couldn't predate the web, but yeah), but they're not quite well known enough that you could raise the subject with a relative stranger and have them know what you're talking about. Very fringe.


In both cases (indies and web serials) there's very few people who make money at it and less people who make a living at it... but there's more of those people showing up over time.


Indies made the first foray into the public consciousness with Cave Story, which was a retro-style metroidvania platforming game with a hell of a lot of effort put into it. Webfiction made a first foray into the public consciousness, IMO, when Tales of MU started advertising on major sites like Penny Arcade.


This is where things separated though. Indies went on, over the following years, to release hits like Braid, Minecraft and La Mulana. Web serials have yet to have a serious 'second generation' wave that push them from the fringe to general awareness. Basically, you can't ask a non-gamer what an indie game is and expect a response, but you could ask a gamer and they'd probably know. Not so with web serials and non-readers vs. readers.


But I'm getting off track with my analogy.


It's a fact of society that, as something gains popularity, you'll have extremists gathering. People will take sides, in some cases they have to take sides, because that's how we function when interacting with others. On a similar level, the same thing happens with people aspiring to be on top. Hell, I know I have a little of that in me (and I'm surprised it's there), keeping an eye on where Worm falls in the rankings or such. The cynic in me says that if web serials were to take off with a second generation of stories that are lucky/good enough to capture the public's attention, we'd go down the same road as any of those communities. It's sad but unavoidable.


I'm seeing it happen with indie games, slowly but surely, and I'm fairly convinced that if we're following the same general pattern, it's a ways off for us.


To relate to what you were saying, I play pen & paper roleplaying games on a (very?) casual level, and I get frustrated with communities that center around those things. Myth Weavers, Giant in the Playground, all of those, they seem to implode with divisiveness and moderators with too-heavy an approach (maybe another sad fact of life, that geeks and nerds tend to become tyrants when given power). I get frustrated and walk away because my whole reason for going there seems to dissolve.


It's frustrating, but it's easier to deal with provided I focus on remembering the good stuff and shrugging off the bad. I try to keep in touch with the few people I like and cut ties with the ones I don't. Sometimes that's only 1-2 people for a community I spent years with.


But the TL;DR of it all is that people, on average, suck. The more people there are, the more popularity something has, the more they suck. I, too, appreciate you guys, because you're cool people and you're interested in what I'm interested in, and you sit well outside the statistical mean.


Amen.


I left Kindleboards a year or so ago over that. And I often have to shut down my interaction on Passive Voice for the same reason. In the past, I've seen it happen to some extent even in good groups. I'm not sure any group can survive too much growth or success.


I really like this group too. (And I like Passive Voice when it doesn't turn into a snark party.) I read a bunch of blogs, but the only other place I really hang out is Twitter. The great thing about twitter is that you have to go to effort to get wrapped up in those kinds of conversations. I read certain hashtags (mostly the #row80 writing challenge and sometimes #amwriting, because they are not about opinions, they are about writing).


But mostly I kinda thank Kindleboards for driving me away so I have more time to write.


Camille


I found my interest in such things started waning about the time I stopped trying to convince myself I was a "real writer." (A personal observation, not a generalized one: this was my specific reason!) I wanted to move among the in crowd because it made me feel like I was one of them. That was important to me when I was struggling through traditional writing and the sales were infrequent. Because with sales the only other form of validation, what's left in the lean between times except the pats on the shoulder from your more successful peers?


These days I actively stay away from those communities so I don't get tempted to start score-keeping by other people's standards. Here are the ones that matter to me:


1. People read my work.

2. People like it.

3. People give me money for my work in recognition that what I do is work, and so I can buy food.


That's it. And we live in a society that makes it very hard to keep your eyes on the essentials. :/


Despite that, though, I try to make a safe place wherever I am "online" for people who want to hear about the life of an indie artist/writer and what I do to make money, because it's important to me. The people who helped me were a big deal to me when I was struggling, and that was back when there was only one way to make it. Now that there are dozens of ways to make it, having more people offering to explain how it works for them feels even more important to me. Or something like that. :)


I'm gonna go ahead and echo Wildbow in this one. People do, generally, suck.


I think this is a problem in any community, writing, art, gaming, reading, surfing, sharing, talking, fanning, basket weaving, any community. You can compare it to anything, but for the sake of pointed metaphors, let's just go ahead and compare it to children on a playground. There're always those kids that think they're better than everybody else whether that be because they're older or they're better at sports or they have nicer shoes or what ever and because they are so superior because of (arbitrary reason), they won't share the foursquare court in case the usurper is here to take their crown as 'foursquare champion'.


It's a shame that childish politics carry over into adult social interaction, but it can honestly be seen anywhere. Fandoms are notorious for 'I've liked ____ longer than you so I'm better'. Personally, I haven't had much experience with it in the writing community, but then I haven't been part of it for that long so I'm trusting the rest of you for judgment on that.


But let's be honest here. Everyone likes to feel superior. Everyone's got a bit of competition in them. We're all guilty of ego and there's nothing wrong with that. Feeling superior's not the problem, acting superior is. The unfortunate truth is that while (hopefully) children grow up and realize that you can't go around acting like an entitled spitwad because you'll face hatred and consequences, the internet has that wonderful anonymity factor. On the internet, you can be the oldest man alive and act like a douche and there's nothing anyone can do about it. Anonymity breeds entitlement and general douche-baggery which, as you said, is unfortunate since it also opens us up to a wider field of like-minded people.


There's not really a solution. People with low self-confidence are bound to be self-righteous jerks anywhere and everywhere. I second your idea to just exclude yourself from it. What's the point of wasting time on other people's bullshit?


I think M.C.A.'s point about personal reasons for joining a group is relevant. Different people may have very different reasons for joining groups, and what I've noticed in many groups is problems arise when the most established group got together for one reason, and then newcomers have a whole different reason for being there.


Or the reason to get together changes for the whole group as they mature:


One natural problem for many groups is one that affected our old computer user group decades ago. Everybody joined to learn about computing. The people who had the most knowledge would find themselves overwhelmed with questions, and cut back or drop out, because after a while they weren't getting anything out of the group, and they were giving everything. So soon the people who joined last month were the main ones helping the people who joined this month. If the group was lucky some of those "old" newbies would both be good at digging out information, AND get a kick out of helping people. If the group was unlucky, the "old" newbies would didn't know much, but loved the spotlight and would turn the group into a platform for their own self-aggrandizement.


I think a really healthy group is usually one where the membership has diverse reasons for being there, and diverse experiences. So everybody learns, and everybody contributes, everybody gets support. (And that describes this group.)


Camille


Of course "small" also describes our group. I think we have all of... ten or eleven frequent posters? It's easier to keep the pool clean and people playing by the rules when there's only ten people using it. :,


Hehe this is a funny post. I love you all, too! ;)


I think dealing with snark and annoying people is part of the internet experience, but I do my best to filter it out. If I find a group of people that act like they're aware another HUMAN BEING is on the other side of the screen, I stick around. If I find a group where they forget about humanity, then I leave. It seems to work for me.


True, this being a small group helps.


I've been in larger groups which stay on an even keel, too. The Short Mystery Fiction Society will sometimes have some flamewars, but not usually the kind of "insider/outsider" snark that happens in many writer groups. The reason is because it has some strong moderators.


Yes, a group with a strong moderator is subject to the prejudices of the moderator, but it will remain consistent and it's easier to know right off if it's the group for you. You can find out the rules and the prejudices pretty easily and quickly.


The problem is finding a moderated group that has 1) effective moderators, 2.) is a good fit for what you need and want, and 3.) is big enough to sustain itself.


Camille


Uber - the weird thing is now that there are craploads of comics, I think people have stopped ganging up on comics. Now people are like "if you don't like it, don't read it." The backlash against the Bad Webcomics Wiki is fascinating because it now is viewed as a bunch of people simply "trolling"... and I think the majority of webcomic review sites are not very influential. (The only one that seems to be around and have good traffic is El Santo's and he's very fair actually overall.)


But I do agree that there is something to this idea that "at a certain point" communities get weird. Definitely when money /fame/ egos are involved there's tension.


(Kindleboards I've heard have been horrible for some time. Goodreads flame wars also received quite a bit of attention last year. Frankly put authors/readers and authors/authors are a pretty crappy mix anywhere on the internet.)


I'm not sure where webfiction is in the cycle of things. The term itself puzzles me because I've never heard of it before someone told me. And it largely maps to a group of folks who precede a lot of us except maybe Jim. (Like if you go back and look at novelr and the early threads here, it seemed like this guide started because Alexandra Erin had to close down her index. But another group went off in other directions and formed muses-success.info. I suspect this split was the origin for the dual use of the #weblit and #webfic terms.)


Webfiction is largely the term that this group of folks put together, although to me, it feels like a recent term.


I've been reading online fiction stuff since USENET, although the majority of it back in the 90s was fanwork.


So for me, the entry point that brings me here is fandom, which tends to breed less competition and more mutual admiration. So it surprises me to see the ugly side of the writing world, where people take to blogs/comments to rail against those who are more successful. I find it a strange philosophy that some authors hold. It's as if they believe someone reading Book A will never read Book B.


I had high hopes for online fiction when fictionpress.com launched. Sadly, opening a site clone of fanfiction.net was doomed to fail. Fanfiction.net was always rife with accusations of plagiarism and poor enforcement - whether it was stealing from known authors or each other - the mods were too few and lax. So those problems carried over to fp.com which was supposed to house original fiction. It was not a safe place to post work and, from some accounts, still is not.


On a tangent - as long as whatever we do lacks a standard name, I think the communities that spring up will be small. Some of us will be at this "webfiction" water cooler, while others will be at the "serial" one, and still others wander off to Coliloquoy or Jukepop's hangouts completely unaware of these .


But maybe that isn't bad.


Sgl: A few side notes and minor corrections on WFG's history.


I don't really know where the term web fiction comes from. I suspect it was coined (largely unintentionally) when Chris bought the domain name for this site.


When I started doing this (only five years ago), I typically described what was doing as a web serial or a story blog. A few years ago (2? 3?), people tried to brand this as "Weblit" or "Web literature," but mostly people used "web fiction," so weblit never did become dominant except on Twitter.


It's got no connection with Muses Success. It does have a connection with Weblit.us, which was supposed to become a hub for promoting/marketing web fiction, but died quietly after many of the most enthusiastic members got busy with other stuff. It was a good idea though (promoting the idea of web fiction, that is. "Web Literature" never struck me as a great term).


Web Fiction Guide came about (in 2008) because Alexandra Erin had a similar site called Pages Unbound (starting in 2007). Unfortunately, she didn't really have time for it. When Chris Poirier found that it took a really long time to list his serial, he decided he could do a better job. He got a hold of a number of us through Novelr and brought us in as editors.


Within a week of opening WFG, Alexandra Erin announced that she would close up Pages Unbound. She was persuaded not to, but it closed within a year anyway. Her announcement prompted the creation of Muses Success by Chris Clarke, a friend of a writer who had known Pages Unbound was closing, but hadn't known Web Fiction Guide had been created.


Incidentally, I find it funny that I'm apparently some sort of community elder. I tend to think of old online writing as the kind centered around Epiguide. Epiguide has been the center of a community creating online soaps in prose as far back as the mid-90's.


I wonder if I'm an elder reader because I started reading Tales of Mu in 2007 when it was only a few weeks into Mackenzie's life (so a few months in real time lol), and I remember Pages Unbound?

I read webfiction before that too...I remember once on a whim searching for "free science fiction stories" and I found some stuff..it's all disappeared since.


Well - I went back and reviewed WFG posts at least twice in these two years and I noticed there were cycles of groups of posters every two years. Your name appears most consistently so that makes you institutional memory, aka "the elder."


THanks for clarifying the whole directory thing as well as the origin of the two hashtags. When I first joined WFG and followed people on twitter, it drove me bonkers that there were two hashtags that everyone used and I couldn't get a clear idea of why when I asked some folks.


How did everyone find one another back in the pre directory days? I'm curious if there was a livejournal connection of some sort. I remember vaguely that a lot of people used to serialize on LJ as well as participate in group RP writing comms...


ETA: Fiona, you probably are a WFG elder xD. Share your wisdom!


Prior to directories, people mostly didn't find each other--at least in my experience. That said, I became aware that there was readable fiction being posted online for free only when I discovered Tales of MU (through ads on web comics). I ran across a few people I know now in Tales of MU's comments (on LiveJournal and then her own site). Specifically, I discovered that Gavin was commenting and also writing "No Man an Island." I think Sarah Suleski and Sonja Nitschke appeared in the comments as well (both wrote serials and were early WFG editors). I also discovered that Novelr existed when Alexandra Erin wrote a guest post there as well as when Eli James reviewed her serial. I'm not sure which happened first. Either way, both events predated directories.


The earliest group of Web Fiction Guide editors were forum regulars at Pages Unbound. That's where I got to know people a little. I got to know everyone considerably better in Novelr's comments and (later) forums.


I don't know what happened previous to directories in a big way. Kira of Epiguide would have a better idea.


I think it's weird we're talking about it like it's "history" since it's only been 5 years. I think I might have been the first or second person to post a story on "Pages Unbound" and that's how I met Sarah and Sonja, and Sarah asked me to come be an editor here when it collapsed.


I started reading Jim's stuff when it was on Pages Unbound and Fiona was one of my favourite NMAI commenters. And I don't remember "hanging out" on Pages Unbound directly (did it even have a forum?) -- I remember commenting profusely on the stories I liked and somehow pestering people into coming to check out my story, so eventually there was a dialogue back and forth between writers.


I still do that but mainly only with Wildbow and Jim -- ask their opinion of stuff I'm working on, let them know my thoughts on their projects. Sonja took her stories down I think, and Sarah still updates Qof7 but she's not really active in the community much anymore.


My own time has been taken up since the twins were born, getting promoted and my aunt dying all this year, so I have trouble writing my own story let alone reviewing new ones or finding much to say in the forum. So it's not intentional, but I'm just as reclusive.


I really appreciate this community, I keep an eye on the forum even when I'm not participating directly -- so I enjoy seeing Wildbow, Camille, Sgl, MCA, ubersoft et al. throwing ideas around. We have a small, friendly community, and I like that, but I think it relies on vocal, communicative personalities and when they're not talking it wanes fast. I'm surprised so many people list stories here and then never make their way over to the forums.


I'm way more likely now to check out someone participating in the forum than I am a story where the author isn't talking to us. That's one way I've saved myself some time and been reclusive too, so maybe it's just more selective.


Hmm. I don't even remember how I ran into WFG. My first experience with web serials was "Tails of the City," which was running in 1997! And I started serializing Godkin on Livejournal in... 2003? Something like that. It must have been around the time I was doing the Aphorisms, though, since that's the first one I listed here. 2007, then, around?


Now how did I find you all? *puzzle*


Well it was easy for me. I was trying to figure out what to do with Pay Me, Bug! and I did a Google search. Poof! There you were.


Uber, Kurtz holding you up as "example" is how I found you back in the day, actually!


See? It was probably my most successful moment in the history of my comic. :)