I started my personal journal in 2008, when the format was already dying. Now after fifteen years it’s come back again–Twitter is done, newsletters rule the roost. I subscribe to like ten paid newsletters! And I’ve thought, you know, I probably shouldn’t ignore this phenomenon entirely.
At the same time, the only reason I am still here is that I’m on an open platform, accessible from the web at large, and one where I have free access to the data. If I’d had a lot invested in my Twitter account, that would be gone now, for instance. Same if I’d gotten big on, I dunno, Medium or TinyLetter, which both seem like wastelands.
It makes a lot of financial sense to get in early on a platform and try to make a lot of subscribers quick. Early in the life of a platform, they tend to incentivize and promote discovery of new accounts. Eventually, platforms begin to monetize potential discovery though, by introducing advertising, so if you want to grow you have to pay to acquire subscribers (Twitter is one of the few that even ten years into its life cycle allowed some kind of organic discovery even for non-paid accounts).
Which is just to say, it’s more sensible than not to chase the new platform and hope to grow quick enough that you can leap across platforms when the time comes. The moment of the open, freely-accessible internet will never come again. There’s never gonna be a time again when mere search engine discovery will get you new users. You will always need a platform that incentivizes user discovery, as Substack currently does.
Nonetheless I’m not moving to substack. Just would hurt my heart to give up my little piece of the Internet that I built on my own, for fifteen years, and to give it over to a platform that seems like a bit of a haven for transphobes, quite frankly. So…no. On WordPress I remain. I thought about mirroring to substack, but that’s not something either substack or wordpress wants you to do, so I thought fuck it, I’ll just stay here.
That being said, there’ll be a few changes around here! The first thing is a rebranding. I started to feel like the old layout was a bit stale, so I went with this new minimalist theme, it’s called Seedlet. It allows me to just focus on the content. Secondly, I’m renaming the site again. It used to be called Blotter-Paper. Then in like 2013 I changed it to The War On Loneliness. And now I’m changing it to Woman of Letters.
Why? Well, just to keep things fresh. But that’s also basically what I am.
As readers might know, I’ve gotten a bit heartsick over all the transphobia in the old-books-loving community. If Edmund Wilson or Lionel Trilling were alive right now, they’d most assuredly be transphobes. Most of the people online who are seriously interested in literature also seem to think the existence of trans people is somehow inexplicable or bizarre and go out of their way to invalidate us. As in the amusing case where an author decided to use they/them pronouns to describe people who had _only_ defined themselves as men. They argued that we can’t know how they identified. But can’t we? They identified as men! The use of they/them in this case was a middle-ground to allow some ambiguity in how they might’ve seen themselves and to avoid ahistorically ‘claiming’ them as trans people. But to not use male pronouns, especially for some of these people who lived and died as men, is a far greater anachronism! It’s literally forcing our own notions of biological essentialism upon them (Here’s the book, by the way).
I mean, yeah, but isn’t it ahistorical in a MUCH BIGGER way to call them women? And yet most people think this way. They’ve got blinders on. They’re like, oh, trans people are the crazy ones, projecting our notions onto the past, if we say a person who lived and died as a man, and often was regarded by their community as a man, was actually…a man. No, the litterateurs ay, they’re a woman. To say otherwise is to be ahistorical.
People literally can’t see the irony of this statement.
Part of me wants to go to war over this tendency, because it’s so smarmy. The, JK Rowling style “I love trans people, I just care that some MEN are MENACING WOMEN in WOMENS PRISONS AND JAILS.” Like, yeah, you love all trans people, except that “you” get to decide who’s really trans and who isn’t, and everyone who isn’t, you get to dismiss as ‘really’ a man. Rape is illegal, whether you’re a man or a woman. Men and women can rape. There is zero evidence that trans women are more likely than cis women to rape (though much more likely TO BE RAPED). So to dwell incessantly on the peculiar threat posed by trans women is the essence of transphobia.
And if people were just like, yeah I think trans women are gross and invalid, that would be one thing. But that very smarminess, that very pretense at caring, makes you think they could be reached. But they can’t.
My response has been to treat all dispatches from the outside world as mere textual documents. I imagine myself at the top of a very tall tower, equipped with a pneumatic tube, and I open the messages, read through them, chortle about the affairs of the fallen world, and then look through the books in my library to find that one obscure quote that I need for my article. Hence, woman of letters.
Okay, to get off the whole transphobes in the literary world thing, I also have to say, my career is weird.
This month, my YA novel went to copy edits, I wrote and had accepted a YA short story for an anthology, I saw a short story come out in Analog of all places, and I think that I had a poem come out somewhere too (The Tampa Review?) and I had the piece come out in Tablet too. Who the hell has something come out in Analog and the Tampa Review in the same month. Weird! The fact that I have amongst the most high-brow interests and tastes of anyone I know is consistently amusing to me, especially when I get slammed as an elitist or something.
Like, gurl, I write young adult novels! Some chick whose novel is coming out from Knopf and who went to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop is gonna be like, wow, this YA novelist and sci-fi writer is an elitist. Silly! Utterly silly! It’s consistently amusing the way that literary writers pretend to some kind of mass tastes. Whereas I don’t pretend to be of the people in any way, shape or form (in particular, I lack that mystical communion with the ‘average American’ that intellectuals love to channel in order to shout each other down), but out of all of us who write about literary stuff, I’m the only person selling books to average people!
Not a lot of average people, it’s true, and even if it was a lot, it would be meaningless, since popularity of any sort is mostly a fluke, but it’s still amusing!
No weekly links this week and maybe no more blog posts this week either. I’m getting over a bout of facial feminization surgery that I had last Monday. Was under the knife for twelve hours! Definitely quite fatigued for a week, and even today I’m not the tippy-toppiest, and my face is looking pretty rough. Will tell you about it later. Oh, and in the meantime, my new URL is woman-of-letters.com. The old ones will keep working indefinitely too of course! And of course here’s the subscription link, if you want to start getting my newsletter as emails.