This is the very first outburst of a system I’m barely sure I understand. If there’s technical issues, if it’s ugly, if the links don’t work, if it gives you gas, please let me know.
Sensate Focus - X :: like the platonic ideal of dicking around with a sequencer
Hello, presumably carbon-based friends. I have, as you have no doubt deduced from this, decided to start a newsletter. Why in the name of the dark lords would I do such a thing?
Well, I’ve been inspired by, among other things, the work of Dan Hon and Warren Ellis, both of whom put out email bursts on a semiregular basis. Warren gives updates on his ongoing projects, glimpses into his process (invaluable for me as a writer trying to operate in a similar space), and general malevolent ambiance. Dan talks about, as the title says, things that caught his interest, which is mostly about the intersection of technology with humanity, and the increasingly weird definitions of both terms. Both are recommended.
Signing up for these newsletters, and also setting up Chuck Wendig’s blog to email me when he posts, has distinctly changed the way I interact with these streams. A bunch of people are saying ‘RSS is dead!’, and I think that’s wrong in the same way that ‘NNTP is dead!’ is, which is to say that Usenet still exists, but only, as far as I can tell, to move around pirated movies, and RSS is, to paraphrase Dan Hon’s last mail, a “way to let computers and a small subset of humans who are obsessed know when a thing has happened”. I lovingly crafted a series of RSS feeds (because moving data around is one of my self-treatments for depression), and I barely touch them. RSS is the thing I do when I’m stepping outside for a smoke and don’t want to risk getting sucked into a book. However, when a mail from one of these guys comes in, it tickles the serotonin response. In terms of the implicit hierarchy of what mail gets read first, these messages come between “mail from friends directly to me” and “mail from the mailing list comprised of people I mostly know personally” It’s weird, but I get a thrill from these newsletters from people who likely don’t even know I exist.
So I’m interested in email as a communications medium. In some ways it feels so old-school, a shack-in-the-woods response to the giant corporate Stacks. But there is a definite sense that the way we interact is shifting, even on the internet. Twitter allows us to have what feel like intimate conversations with celebrities, on occasion, but then as the scale shifts, they’re probably just as overwhelmed by requests on that medium as they are on older ones. At the risk of sounding like the Morrison to Warren Ellis’ Moore, here, Warren is a perfect example of this weirding for me: I can count six people who he and I are both friends with, and I read communication from him every day on twitter, so it feels like we should be friends, but we’ve never had a conversation. Strange notions of intimacy out here at the event horizon.
Another element here is the notion of the Morning Pages, a practice which gets recommended to anyone who writes. The idea is, essentially, Write Something Every Day, that’s not part of an ongoing project. Usually the formula is to write first thing in the morning, both as a warmup and as a way of accessing the unconscious when it’s still close to the surface. I know many writers who swear by this practice. And I’ve tried it many times, and every time what happens is that most days are just a sort of dump of the same crap that I wake up with all the time. “Woken by trash truck. Unhealthy dreams re: ex-girlfriend. Have to go to day job. Where’s my coffee.” etc etc etc. It’s even more boring to write than it is to read, trust me. But the act of semi-directed writing as a way of kicking out the jams definitely has some functionality for me. So I’m playing with the notion of writing something that’s just a tad more directed, here.
What will it be about? Expect, most likely, a lot of rambling about things that have caught my attention and how I perceive it shifting the world of people around, like that bit about RSS above. Also expect periodic updates on my writing projects, and complaining about the issues one faces when writing a novel for the first time (I could spend a week just complaining about character development, at this point). Also expect a minimum of editing. This is likely something akin to the textual equivalent of gesture drawing; loose, fast, practice in getting the idea down. Some of you are my friends who say that you don’t get to talk to me often enough, and since I mostly communicate by monologue, this seems nearly as effective. That said, please, please write back if you want. I want to see how much of this becomes dialog, that’s part of the experiment.
How often will it happen? No idea, depends on how much I produce, around everything else I have to do. I’m aiming for a 1k words or so burst about once a week. It could devolve into a novella once a month or a paragraph once a day. Again, feedback is encouraged in this regard. Let me know how you feel about what I’m putting out, here, both in terms of form and content. Ultimately this is an experiment on a number of levels. It might be the beginning of something else entirely, it might degrade into nothing but noise. But whatever it becomes, thank you for at least giving it a chance.
Oh and, one last reason: now, when someone drops that hoary old “I would like to subscribe to your newsletter,”“ I can finally scream ”GOTCHA!"
I look forward to hearing from you.
You just read issue #4 of Fractal Interpolation. You can also browse the full archives of this newsletter.