Clickbait Experiment Taboos You Should Break

Inspired by a link Jennie Rigg posted, I’m going to try something for the next week or two. I’m going to see if using clickbait headlines — while changing nothing else about the posts — causes my blog traffic to go up, down, or stay the same.
I suspect that if anything, the traffic will go down — that people who read my blog don’t like clickbaity headlines, and that other people still won’t come to the blog — but it’ll be interesting to see what happens. I have a mental block about doing anything that seems like promoting my writing, because basically it makes me feel low-status and rather soiled — experimenting this way might be a good way to let me find real ways in which I can promote my writing.
What I’m going to do is write each blog post as normal, then enter a one- or two-word summary (in the case of this post it will be “clickbait experiment”) into this clickbait headline generator, and keep generating random headlines til it hits one that will work (so for example in this post I won’t accept anything with “ten best ways to…” in, because it makes no sense for the post). When it’s something like the Cal Dreaming posts, which have a standard naming scheme, I’ll put that in brackets after the main headline.
Do tell me if you find this annoying, or funny, or whatever, but I’ll keep doing it at least a week, and almost certainly no longer than two weeks.

Also, a note to my Patreons — I didn’t make my 20,000 word target in February, because the shortest month of the year coincided with a particularly bad one for my health. I intend to make this up by doing at least 30,000 words this month, and if I don’t hit that target I’ll take no payments for March.

Batpost later tonight.

Post 1000

I was going to try to write something special for this thousandth post, but actually my head is full of writing that isn’t really appropriate. I’m currently working on something that won’t be out for a year, that I can’t seralise here, and that I can’t talk about yet. I’m also planning my post on Saturday’s Doctor Who for Mindless Ones and the post I’m going to do tomorrow here on the Surf’s Up album, and various other things of that nature. Nothing life-changing.

Then I thought about doing some grand summing-up of all my posts to date, perhaps paraphrasing Orwell and saying “Every line of serious work that I have written since 2008 has been written, directly or indirectly, against closed systems of thought and for freedom and openness, as I understand it.” — except that judging from the stats for the most popular posts on this blog, most readers either come to the blog looking for a jpeg of the Sgt Pepper album cover or they just like it when I swear.

I get very depressed when I think of that kind of thing. Assuming that each post took an average of two hours, that’s 2000 hours I’ve spent writing on here — eighty-three days out of the last four years, when to a first approximation I could just have written a single post, titled Batman, consisting of the words “pee po belly bum drawers” and a scan of a Beatles album cover, and I’d have had roughly 90% of the traffic I’ve had.

But the odd thing is, this blog *has* made a difference, usually when I’ve thought it hasn’t. A couple of people have told me that they’ve taken part in the AV campaign or No2ID because of things I’ve said here, even when those posts have been unpopular. One of the writers in the new collection of Faction Paradox stories out this month only became interested in Faction Paradox after reading one of my posts. A friend (I’m not sure I’m allowed to talk about this publicly, so I’m being vague) has written a (wonderful) novel based around one of my non-fiction books. I’ve been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, appeared on Radio Ulster, and been quoted on the back of a collection of one of my favourite comics.

None of which is said to be self-aggrandising. I’m under no illusions about the importance or influence of this blog. To an extent I’ve actively sabotaged chances at becoming an ‘influential blogger’ by doing things like having a massively public stroppy falling out with Sunny Hundal and quitting Liberal Conspiracy, or turning down Rich Johnston’s offer to write for Bleeding Cool. Influence wouldn’t suit me, and the few times a large number of new readers have come to this blog have usually been those times I’ve been most stressed and felt like quitting.

But somehow, some of what I’ve written has actually mattered to some people. And so I suppose, since I feel obliged to try to say something pompous and so on for this post, I’ll say this: If you’re doing something because it’s what you genuinely think you should be doing, whether it’s writing, or activism, or playing music, or proving mathematical theorems, or *anything*… if you’re doing it not to make money, or for peer approval (even though those things are nice), it’ll matter to *someone*.

Sorry for this, anyway. No more posts along these lines until post 2000.

Short Break From Blogging – Plus Linkblogging

I’ll be taking a little break from regular blogging for the next few days. I will be posting the next Mindless Who post on Thursday, but otherwise things will be quiet here for a while (I’ll do a linkblog most days though).

This is not because I’ll have stopped writing – rather the opposite.

I now have enough short stories to make up half a decent-sized collection – the three actual stories from Four Stories About The Singularity (“Are We Living In A Comic Book?” is already collected in Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!), plus Bubble Universe, The Shakespeare Code and Boltzmann And Boltzwoman. I also have a title for the collection – Ideas And Entities.

So my plan for the next short while is to write six more stories to go with them. I’m going to submit them all to paying markets – multiple ones in some cases – but will post them up here if/when they get rejected. Once I have twelve stories total that are available for collection (if I sell a story to a magazine they’ll have a limited period of exclusivity for that story) I’ll put the collection together.

Incidentally, would anyone be interested in such a collection? My fiction tends to get linked rather heavily by my friends, but few people buy the ebooks. I’m *hoping* that’s just because people don’t buy short stories, rather than because they’re crap…

Once I’ve got six decent stories written, I’m going to typeset PEP! 3 and then return properly.

Anyway, links:

Arkhonia’s posted a summary page for his mammoth set of posts about Smile

Dean Wesley Smith on the actual costs involved in self-publishing

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, on the way people are shamed for reading romance novels.
There’s an element of this with any genre fiction, of course, but doubly so for romance because of sexist double standards…

Alex Wilcock is doing a short series of posts on Things To Remember About Labour. Here’s parts one, two and three.

Lance Parkin on digital comics

And finally, the Beach Boys tour dates are going to be announced tomorrow.

Where I’ve Been, And A Favour To Ask

Some of you are wondering why I’ve not blogged for a week or so. The reason is that I have actually written the same amount of stuff I’d normally write, but just not posted it here.

I was asked about two weeks ago, by a writer whose work I enjoy, to contribute a story to a shared-world anthology s/he’s working on, involving several other writers whose company I am very proud to be in. I emailed the story off yesterday, and it’s been accepted.

I can’t tell you much about the anthology yet, because it’s not been publicly announced and I don’t want to steal anyone’s thunder, but I can tell you a little about my story. It’s called Twenty Voices, it’s 5000 words long (so about as many words as I normally turn out in a week and a half here, but much more work, as it had to fit in someone else’s world – I actually wrote at least 10000 words for it…) and it consists of eighteen monologues and a dialogue. Those who’ve read my previous fiction will see several of the same themes I’ve used before recurring – rather nicely, the theme of the anthology is a perfect fit for my kind of stuff. I don’t want to give too much away, but when I tell you it features at least two Popes, two murderers and a Campaign for Fictional Rights I might whet some of your appetites.

As always when I write fiction, I was very unhappy with the end result, but the editor seemed very pleased, and Millennium’s Daddy Richard (to whom I emailed a copy to give a quick look over) was positively effusive, so the consensus seems to be it’s my best piece of fiction to date. I don’t know what the publication date is going to be, but I hope to be able to announce more details some time in the first half of next year.

This is quite a milestone for me, actually, as I’ve written stuff on commission before (for example for the High Hat and Prism) and I’ve written paying material before, but it’s the first time anyone has actually sought me out and asked me to write a story for money. It’s a nice feeling.

And now the request – as I said, the story contains eighteen monologues and a dialogue. *ONE* of those monologues is, to my mind, problematic. Without giving away too much, it portrays someone who has had gender reassignment surgery, but not for the normal reasons, and I am worried it may come across as transphobic. That’s certainly not the intent, but it might do. For various reasons, I can’t cut that monologue out of the story, but I *would* like it if any of my friends who are trans or in other ways don’t conform to normal gender binaries could have a look at it and see if there are any ways I could improve it without getting rid of the main thrust of it? (If any of you don’t want to out yourselves but also don’t have my email, just leave a comment with a fake name – all first-time commenters are screened, and I’ll see the email address…)

Normal posts resume tomorrow.

Oh, and plans for the blog as it goes on

I’m going to try to keep a rough schedule for the next few months:
Weekends – comics posts.
Mondays I’m going to start reviewing every ‘classic’ Doctor Who story in order, starting with An Unearthly Child tomorrow, until I get bored (probably somewhere in series 2).
Tuesdays will be Spotify playlists.
Fridays will be book reviews – I’m not going to try to continue reviewing *every* book I’ve read this year, as the backlog is already greater than the number I’ve reviewed, but I do want to talk about, for example, I, Claudius (*especially* since after reading that I read two Faction Paradox books in a row, one of which I’ve already reviewed, which relied heavily on that book for inspiration),
The other days will be whatever comes into my head – possibly politics (though I’m trying to steer clear of that for a while) more likely linkblogging or rest days.
ETA The plan already has a problem – spent the time I planned to write the post doing phone tech support for my dad…