I’ve added Far From Streets (my out of print novella from Dunhams Manor Press) to Goodreads.com — it’s sold out, so you can’t buy a copy, but if anybody’s interested in rating or reviewing it, they can find it here:
It’s been a while since I updated about my writing.
First, as to recent publications, I’ve continued to receive generally very positive responses to Far From Streets (my standalone novella, now out of print, published by Dunhams Manor Press) and “Firedancing,” my story which appeared in The Children of Old Leech.
Most of my time in the past few months has been spent finishing the last two length pieces intended for my planned collection. In June I finished a novelette code-named JEWEL, then took a break of about six weeks to work on two stories for anthology invitations. When those were done in mid-August, I started on the big novella, code-named BLACK VEIN, intended to be the last piece in the collection. This novella is giant and showing no signs of becoming anything but larger, so I won’t meet my original self-imposed deadline of finishing it by the end of September. I’ve given myself an extra month, but I figure three months (almost) to write a 30,000 novella isn’t too bad.
I’ll need to take another break soon to write two new stories, as I’ve received a couple more exciting invitations this summer. It’s wonderful to be have editors asking for my work, especially new editors with whom I haven’t published before. This means a lot of extra work, but it gives me hope that next year will not only see the publication of my first collection, but also a substantial number of stories in anthologies by a variety of editors and publishers.
Certainly I’ll give more specifics about these pending works as soon as possible. For now, though, I’m as busy as I’ve ever been, and excited about the coming year.
A lot of people are talking about the downfall of Facebook and the need for newer, better social networks. This talk, roughly coincident with the rise of a new social net called ello, has me thinking a lot about how these social networks operate, what we can hope to derive from them, and why so often things go wrong.
Everyone seems to assume that because social networks start out small, and there’s not a lot of money to be made, the founders tend to be idealistic and focused on human-scale goals, such as creating a solid user experience and giving people a compelling virtual environment in which to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones.
Then the story goes, with the growth of a user base and monetization of the attention of millions (eventually tens or hundreds of millions) of members, focus shifts from optimizing user experience to maximizing revenue growth. I agree this is true. Part of what went wrong with MySpace and what’s going wrong with Facebook has to do with what I perceive to be management seeing their user base increasingly as a very large data set, rather than human beings.
The more I think about this and look at how things work on Facebook and Twitter and others, though, the more I become convinced that the biggest problem, the greatest factor which causes the deterioration of the user experience on a social network, is us.
You might imagine that we would primarily “follow” or “friend” a person on a social network because we want to interact with that person, be entertained by them, or get to know them. Increasingly, though, people send out friend/follow requests on a wholesale, indiscriminate basis, not looking for what interaction might be had, but instead seeking what they can gain by receiving that person’s attention in return.
On Twitter, the “follow-back” seems to be almost a given for most people. They follow you, not because they want to see what you post in their Twitter feed, but because they expect you will follow them back, and they can then impose their promotional efforts upon you in spam-like fashion.
At the very least, even if they don’t think you’ll see or notice their posts, you’re increasing their “followers” number, which actually seems to be important to many people. I’ve seen self-published writers, or “indie” bands, whose work clearly is not widely-known or “bestselling,” yet they have a number of followers in the tens or hundreds of thousands. There is simply no way to achieve that number of followers, if you’re not a famous person, except by gaming the system. These people either “buy” sham followers from services who sell them, or they mass-follow huge numbers of people with the expectation of receiving an automatic “follow-back.”
On Facebook, the problem is different, because the “one-way” connection is almost unknown. If you send me a friend request and I accept it, then we are BOTH friends. So if someone reaches out to you and sends you what seems like a friendly gesture, seems to say “I want to know you,” the friendly thing would seem to be acceptance. Then you’re friends. The problem is, most people are not sending you friend requests because they want to get to know you. In many cases they’re doing it because they want to promote themselves and want a large audience to receive their message.
The problem of accumulating numbers of followers as on Twitter is less of an issue on Facebook, because personal accounts can’t have more than 5,000 friends. What happens a lot, though, is total strangers sending out lots of friend requests, then as soon as the request is accepted, firing off a request to “like” their page. Again, the transaction feels very much like spam or junk mail, nothing like what a true social interaction is supposed to feel like.
The newest thing is ello, a new, comparatively small and minimal social network. I was an early member there, and during the first week, it felt like such a breath of fresh air. I only had a few “friends” there, but everything that I saw posted in my friends feed was interesting, relevant, funny, or something. Generally, it felt like socializing. We goofed around with ello, posted things, talked about the interface and features. It was so refreshing, I felt tempted to believe that the problem was the system itself, and not the users.
But with the initial success of ello, much publicity has followed. Suddenly there’s an influx of spam type accounts, mass-following everyone in sight. If someone has an account just 8 hours old and is already following 3,000+ people, that’s a fairly good clue that the person didn’t create an account to socialize. They’re finding random lists of people and clicking “friend, friend, friend, friend” all the way down the list, for hours on end.
These people are operating completely in bad faith, hoping the tricks that allowed them to game the system with Twitter and Facebook will apply with ello. In fact, it could be worse, as there’s no 5,000 friend limit. It’s my intention not to follow anybody who can’t approach ello like a true social network, trying to get to know people and communicate with them one on one, rather than just harvesting a huge mailing list to spam their self-promotional bullshit.
This lesson learned through ello is something I’m taking back to Twitter and Facebook. I’ve been going through Twitter and unfollowing several dozen people every day. On Facebook, I’m doing some unfriending, some un-liking, and some un-following. It’s partly my own fault that the experience on these networks has become so unpleasant. My news feed is full of garbage and spam because I have allowed people like that to hook me into their “I’ll follow you, so you follow me” game. That’s a recipe that ends up ruining the whole thing for everyone. From now on, I opt out.
Recently I mentioned a few initial reactions to Far From Streets, my novella published this summer by Dunhams Manor Press.
I don’t intend to make another new blog post every single time someone says anything about it, but comments recently made by Christopher Slatsky on Facebook [HERE] delighted me sufficiently that I want to mention them. Follow the link if you want to read what he said, which ends with: “Fantastic accomplishment here. Very highly recommended.”
My first stand-alone novella Far From Streets, from Dunhams Manor Press, sold out in pre-order. It’s finally been published, and purchased copies have begun to find their way into the hands of readers. I also handed out several copies at ReaderCon, and some of those people have already given feedback.
Only my wife and one editor friend had read the story in the year since I finished writing it. Their responses were positive, but you never really know until a wider variety of readers weighs in.
First, I received a brief but very positive email from a very respected weird/experimental writer, who had apparently read it as soon as he returned from Readercon. This is a guy who doesn’t seem to go around handing out empty praise, so I though that was a great start.
Soon after, I started getting nice comments from people saying they were reading, and enjoying it. A few posted pictures of their copies of the book, always fun to see. Today, there were more pictures, and the first two public reviews or comments about the book.
Justin Steele includes Far From Streets in a July-ending rounding up of recent reads, HERE. Justin says:
“The book is about obsession and relationships as much as it’s about the difference between suburbia and the wilderness, and manages to be far more than just a surreal creep-out fest because of this. Griffin becomes more and more impressive, and this is my favorite work of his to date.”
Later this afternoon, Alicia Graves posted her reaction HERE, including the following very flattering description:
“It was striking, strange, and fluid. I described it to one friend as what I think a mash between Barron and Langan would feel like. Did I mention well written?”
My very sincere thanks to Justin and Alicia and everyone else who has given their time and attention to my work. If you missed out on preordering Far From Streets but would still like to read it, all is not lost. My intention is to include it in the story collection I’m assembling this summer, so you’ll just have to wait until next year when the collection would presumably appear.
Why did nobody tell me that Ellen Datlow said the following in Year’s Best Horror 6?
In case that image doesn’t display for you, the text says:
The Grimscribe’s Puppets, edited by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. (Miskatonic River Press), is a tribute to weird fiction writer Thomas Ligotti with twenty-two stories, all but one published for the first time. Most of the contributors do an admirable job using Ligotti’s dense, visionary, strange work to create their own weird fictions. There were notable stories by Livia Llewellyn, John Langan, Gemma Files, Jeffrey Thomas, Paul G. Tremblay, Nicole Cushing, Richard Gavin, Michael Griffin, Michael Kelly, Joel Lane and Kaaron Warren.
Most years, I buy the Best Horror of the Year right away. For some reason this year I hadn’t purchased one yet, but the moment I saw this, I had to grab it.
Yeah! Thanks, Ellen!
BARNES AND NOBLE:
This past weekend I attended ReaderCon in Burlington, an outlying suburb of Boston, MA. One of the highlights of the weekend, and really the last major event on Sunday, the final day, was the ceremony for the Shirley Jackson Awards.
All kinds of genre fiction awards exist, such as the Bram Stoker Awards, the Hugos, the Nebulas, the World Fantasy Award, the Locus Awards, among many others. In many cases, the awards are controversial, surrounded by accusations of vote-trading, log-rolling or other manipulations via insider influence. The Shirley Jackson Awards are relatively newer, and appear to exist free from the negative accusations that plague the others.
This was my first time attending ReaderCon, so of course I hadn’t attended SJAs before. Not only did several of my friends and associates have their own work nominated, but Joe Pulver was nominated for editing The Grimscribe’s Puppets, a Thomas Ligotti tribute anthology published by Miskatonic River Press, in which my story “Diamond Dust” appeared. Because Joe lives in Berlin, he wasn’t able to attend the awards, and asked me to accept on his behalf should he win.
I’d made the same promise at the Stoker awards, for which Grimscribe’s was also nominated, but it didn’t win. I felt a superstitious certainty that I had ruined Joe’s chance of winning the Stoker by thinking too much in advance of what I’d say if I had to go up and accept on Joe’s behalf.
So this time, even though Joe emailed me a short statement to read, I didn’t look at it carefully, didn’t print it out, and certainly didn’t memorize it. As I sat in the audience of 100+, I concentrated on texting absent friends the results of winners in earlier categories such as short story, novella and collection. At the same time, I was flipping over to Facebook and posting updates about the category winners. I posted “Next is anthology” and never had a chance to follow-up by posting the winner, because I heard Andrea Hairston say, “The winner is Grimscribe’s Puppets by Joseph S Pulver Sr, who is not present, so the award will be accepted by Mike Griffin.”
I stopped posting updates, stood and switched my phone from Facebook to the app where I’d stored Joe’s acceptance speech. For some reason, the app displayed the lines of text much wider than the screen, so that only the center of each line was onscreen, and other text extended well off to the left and right edges. As I started up the aisle toward the stage, I tried to resize the text but it didn’t work. At that moment, I thought I would be unable to read Joe’s acceptance speech, and have to improvise. “He said something about thanking the awards committee, and the writers with stories in the book, and the publisher…” and slink offstage.
I was able to swipe left and scroll right repeatedly and read each line of the acceptance speech. At the time, it felt very awkward and I kept thinking: It doesn’t matter if I’m doing a terrible job reading this. What matters is that Joe won! Just get through it, grab the award, and get offstage.
There’s official video of the event, and as it turns out, my reading of the acceptance wasn’t as awful as I imagined. Here’s the portion of the ceremony where awards are given out. About 6:45 into the video is where we get to “Best Anthology.” You can see me pause on the way up the aisle, messing with my phone. At that point, I’m thinking “Oh, shit! I’m about to make a fool of myself in front of Peter Straub and Ellen Datlow and a hundred other VIPs in the field of horror.”
It was a wonderful treat to participate in the ceremony during the first Shirley Jackson Awards I attended. I’m so happy for Joe, for the rest of the writers in The Grimscribe’s Puppets, for Miskatonic River Press, and for those who wanted to see Thomas Ligotti get a bit more recognition as the great influence that he is. Here’s a picture of the award, gripped in my sweaty palm, as soon as I sat back down.
I’ll say again, the Shirley Jackson Awards a great event, a wonderful award, and a swell bunch of people. The people giving out the other genre awards ought to take notes. This is how it should be done.
Today’s the official release date of THE CHILDREN OF OLD LEECH, the Laird Barron tribute anthology edited by Ross E. Lockhart and Justin Steele. Cheers, everybody!
You should buy this book, if you haven’t!
BARNES AND NOBLE:
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
– Introduction: Of Whisky and Doppelgängers by Justin Steele
– The Harrow by Gemma Files
– Pale Apostle by Jesse Bullington & J.T. Glover
– Walpurgisnacht by Orrin Grey
– Learn to Kill by Michael Cisco
– Good Lord, Show Me The Way by Molly Tanzer
– Snake Wine by Jeffrey Thomas
– Love Songs From The Hydrogen Jukebox by Ted E. Grau
– The Old Pageant by Richard Gavin
– Notes for “The Barn in the Wild” by Paul Tremblay
– Firedancing by Michael Griffin
– The Golden Stars at Night by Allyson Bird
– The Last Crossroads on a Calendar of Yesterdays by Joseph S. Pulver Sr.
– The Woman of the Wood by Daniel Mills
– Brushdogs by Stephen Graham Jones
– Ymir by John Langan
– Of a Thousand Cuts by Cody Goodfellow
– Tenebrionidae by Scott Nicolay & Jesse James Douthit-Nicolay
– Afterword by Ross E. Lockhart