No one liked the idea of my tumblelog over at Bowblr.com (geddit?). Everyone said it was a stupid idea to abandon Bowblog after five-and-a-half-years, not least because I’d have been chucking away a huge amount of ‘Google equity’ in so doing (duh). So I’m back. I’ll keep blogging here and maybe I’ll just get myself a little redesign (wanna help? Write to me). I guess MT 4.0 might offer some relief too. Thanks for all the free advice (most along the lines of “you idiot. What are you doing?”).
William Gibson was in town. He was relaxed, stooped, quietly spoken. Tired, by the look of it. He’s promoting his new book. I’d never seen him before. Never even heard his voice, so it was very exciting, surprisingly like encountering a hero of punk. He didn’t seem jaded, showed no sign of the irritation you might expect of an author whose work is so minutely policed online.
In fact he welcomed the attention of the unappointed exegetes and redacters who assail his texts – even before they’re officially published. He ‘honoured the cloud of hypertext’ surrounding his work. So there was nothing tough about this encounter. No hostility, no cynicism at all. And I suppose that’s as it should be. No critics here. Only fans (we’d paid to be there, after all).
Gibson has always soaked up this geek love. Something about his attitude to life – to celebrity, to notoriety – never allowed him to reject all this unorthodox, slightly autistic attention. As a result he’s brought his fans with him. They’re not a millstone or a distraction. He’s never even thought about leaving them behind, despite his restlessness as to genre and period.
Gibson fans like and respect his openness to interpretation, his relaxed attitude to the fans’ rewriting and annotation of his words. There’s an implicit deal: Gibson says: “I won’t get uptight about your preposterous over-engagement with my stories provided you don’t complain that I periodically stop being a Sci-Fi writer”.
His fans would never read a ‘stylish noir thriller’ but, let’s face it, that’s what they’re doing. I was talking with my friend Paul about this this morning and we concluded that Gibson’s important not because he’s a great writer (he’s pacy but he’s no Hammett) but because of this remarkable receptiveness. He soaks up the now, finds it sufficient: all he needs to construct enduring narratives. So he rejects nothing. He’s the opposite of a grumpy old man. Engaged, present to the world, listening, absorbing.
I love Tumblr. It’s simple, it’s… Well, actually, that’s it. It’s simple. Also, I take the developers’ word for it when they say they’re going to add a way to leave comments sooner or later. So, allow me to introduce Bowblr, Bowblog’s little brother. I guess I shouldn’t get too carried away. I may decide Tumblr’s too simple by far and just come right back to Movable Type. Let’s give it a try…
This morning, at his very congenial Breakfast Bites event in D’Arblay Street, Mike Butcher introduced me to a friendly gang of new media types as ‘the grande dame of the UK web’. I’m not entirely sure how I should take this, since the image it produces is a bit too Dick Emery for my liking. Anyway, it was a genuinely interesting event and I learnt a lot from people like Luke “Blog Friends” Razzell, Lloyd “Perfect Path” Davis, Helen “Beepmarketing” Keegan, Alastair “MRM” Duncan and David “Alchemi” Jennings. Other interesting people were present: I just didn’t talk to them!
Been meaning to link to this lovely piece about Biotech by Freeman Dyson for a while. Fascinating to note that Dyson’s clever daughter Esther is one of the handful of super-successful people who’ve volunteered to publish their conveniently-sequenced genomes for startup 23AndMe. Juliet directed me to this fascinating piece from The Observer about the fate of feted Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. This feature about the US bottled water market from Fast Company is a real eye-opener – and there’s a really nifty timeline too
P.S. Let it be know that it was at Mike’s breakfast that I coined the phrase ‘social dialtone’ to describe our raised expectations of the social netoworks. Context: yesterday’s Facebook outage.