Wednesday, February 03, 2016

10 Years

10 years ago I uploaded the first post to this blog (please don’t judge me by the quality of my first post J). Those that know me in real life would not consider me particularly introspective or such (my wife would laugh at the concept), but those who have read this blog over the years have seen a different side of me. And as one may expect from a blog post about a blog’s anniversary there’s a fair bit of introspection (or self wankery?) below. Read as you will, but at least let me say that it’s been a wild ride for 10 years and I have no plans to stop anytime soon.

This blog began rather simply – as a place to throw up a few attempts I had made at writing reviews. I had been active on a few forums (mostly Wheel of Time forums – remember wotmania?) and people actually seemed to care what I thought of books I was reading. The format of wotmania was rather terrible, so I threw my fledgling reviews up on a blog as a repository of sorts and because blogs seemed be gaining popularity in genre circles and even drawing attention away from forums and the like. I never actually expected people would read that blog, so I was quite surprised to find that people were – I was even more surprised when I learned that some of the people commenting on the blog worked for publishers. Eventually I worked up some courage to ask for a review copy of a book – and then I discovered the key to blog happiness – free books, or at least a way to finally address my book buying habit and cut that annual expense by several hundred dollars.

OK, it’s not really about the free books and it never was, though I’d be lying if I pretended it hasn’t been a factor. It’s pretty cool to get books early. It was really cool to be in on the early trend of blogs. Did you know I was the first blogger to interview Patrick Rothfuss – he was completely unheard of and the publisher was trying hard to get his name out there (this was for another forum I was a part of and it seems to be lost to the intranets junkyard). Anyway, I’m indulging the wankery, so let’s move on.

What I really want to say with all this has little to do with the opportunities that this blog has afforded me or even the hundreds (thousands?) of books I’ve received over the years. I want to talk about how writing this blog has been an agent of change for me. I’ve said many times over the years that the reviews I write are really for me, and for the most part that’s actually true. The majority of my reviews are a conversation that I’m having with myself. And many of them are full of obscure references and jokes that only my warped sense of humor would find funny or even recognize as a joke. And through all of those conversations with myself, with other reviewers, with authors, with industry people, and with the multitude of fans I’ve had the opportunity to interact with, I’ve grown as a person.

Let’s face it, my life is an excellent example of cis-gendered, white male, privilege. 10 years ago I would have joyfully informed you how I was not racist or sexist and that I’m completely ‘colorblind’ and ‘genderblind’ in my selection of books to read. And the fact that 90% of the books I was reading were written by white men would have been written off with one excuse or another. Over the years I have become aware of this. Informed. I now strive to recognize the unconscious sexism and racism buried within me that’s been fed to me by society my entire life. I actively seek out diversity. I will look at the books I’ve read and say ‘gee, that’s 3 book in a row written by men, I need to read a few written by women’ or ‘when’s the last time you read a book written by a non-western writer, you need to do something about that’. Am I perfect? No, absolutely not. I have not achieved parity in this or even what is probably a reasonable balance. But I do continue to strive. Last year I think about 50% of the books I read were written by women, though I’d guess that only about 20% were written by people of color, non-western writers, or other disproportionally ‘overlooked’ peoples. So, there’s a lot of room for future growth.

But, what’s really making the difference for me, is that this all goes beyond reading and beyond the blog. Because in the real world I have a job where I interact with people and even supervise a few. In the real world I am a family man with an 8-year old son and a 5-year old daughter. I am more aware of the nasty racist and sexist messages society is trying to engrain in my children. I am aware of some of the ‘extra’ challenges faced by the young women I supervise. I am more aware of the challenges my wife faces as a research scientist surrounded by men who have the ‘freedom’ to work 80 hour weeks.

And I use this awareness. I’m the father who seeks out children’s books about girls and minorities. I’m the father browsing feminist book recommendations for children. Yes, I do this to help my daughter. But I don’t let my son off the hook – I read those books with him too. Books about girls are just as cool as books about boys. I’m the father who starts the conversation with my son about how Rey is my favorite character in the new Star Wars and how I admire how Finn makes very difficult decisions and comes around to make the right decisions in the end. And these things work – before such conversations he would talk about Han and Kylo Ren and such. But now, he talks about how Rey is his favorite too. I seek out ‘dolls’ for my daughter to play with that are engineers and scientists. I actively try to break societal expectations and show my children that it’s no accident. These are only a few examples of many that I can point to, but the point of all of this is that it began in a very different place with very different ideas and expectations 10 years ago with the start of yet another blog in yet another corner of an exponentially growing internet.

So, it has been a journey, a really spectacular journey. Maybe even a hero’s journey (OK, that’s way too far, but maybe you see the kernel buried in that analogy). I am thankful for journey and grateful that it has helped me improve as a human being.

And the journey will continue. I have no intention of stopping blogging anytime soon.

Party on!

And be excellent to each other!


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