Not really much to say today: I have been extremely busy recently, and have not had a chance to update much though that will soon change. What does please me is to have a look at my blog today and see I have reached the 150,000 hits (since March 2009) milestone. It pleases me not because what I write is very important, or indeed of any interest, but because odd things like an essay on Futurism, the organisational structure of the NHS and various posts on games, psychical research, and history are clearly of use to some people. 🙂
I lived in that pre-internet age, where knowing stuff meant you either learned facts, or looked them up. Encyclopedias and huge book collections meant you could find stuff you needed, but people like Dave Sivier, Ed Woods and I had a wide range of (almost always) utterly useless knowledge. Tom Nowell is another example of someone who knows a bewildering amount of obscure facts. Of course you can’t know everything, and as I prove every week at the pub quiz I actually know very little, but for obscure pointless facts my generation were pretty good (and often very wrong – we learned something in 1985 and assumed it was still true today!)
The internet has really changed all that. Today research skills, such as google-fu, and critical thinking to assess the reliability of sources, are FAR more important than the rote learning we all indulged in, or the voracious reading and houses full of books that marks my generation. Not it often seems the biggest impediment to learning something new is lack of interest: curiosity drives us to look up all kinds of things, and I have often found myself talking to world class authorities on subject son the web, people I had heard of, but never dreamed I would end up one day talking to. I think it’s a wonderful thing, and I know that if I need to know something despite the gaps in my education I can find it out, or if it’s too technical for me to comprehend, find someone who can and will find the time to explain it to me.
Now I can talk to people all over the world who share my enthusiasm for poltergeist cases, Ars Magica, Agricola, Suffolk folklore, local history, and many many more things. Whereas once I was noted for my detailed knowledge of the life and work of one H.P.Lovecraft, I think Great Cthulhu and HPL’s fiction is now as well known as Star Trek, or so it feels, and I wonder how different my university life would have been if I had been born in the early 80’s instead of the late sixties. The jokes and games and esoteric discussions we had around the table in Fullwood at the Colleg eof St Paul and St Mary, where lunchtime conversation ranged from Bib. Crit to Aleister Crowley, from jokes about Shoggoths to Harry Price and Borley Rectory, hey today that would probably be pretty normal and mainstream, (The Triumph of the Geek?) And of course all those things I once exemplified I’m nor mediocre at best in, as a younger generation have learned far more than I ever did, without epic bus journeys to towns fifty miles away to scour second hand book shops for a ridiculously over-priced copy of The Horror in the Museum! Now that book is probably available as an e-text, a cheap download, or if not i can find it in seconds on E-bay or Amazon for a few quid at most, not the fifty quid I paid for a tatty paperback after a hundred mile round trip in 1986. The world has changed, and the weird geeks of B36 (my old college room) have become obsolete in a sense – jokes about Lovecraft or Cthulhu on the net now are far more obscure than ours, and yet understood by millions of people.
Obscurantism, pedantry, uber-geekery and elitist in-jokes, brought to a mass audience by the power of the web. 😀 I’m really glad. I just wished i still got royalties from Chaosium for my Call of Cthulhu monograph! However, while I’m rambling, one thing that does irk this rpg author. At least in the good old days, if we did not get royalties (we usually don’t) we did get a fee on reprints of our books. However .pdf sales come under subsidiary rights it seems, so we don’t get a penny for them. And of course people pirate our work, and share it, but hell at least they hopefully read it (though my experience suggests most people who download loads of pdf’s of rpg products never get round to reading them – I have bundles i bought to support charity events through Drivethru I have never yet had a chance to open and even browse!) Still as pdf sales become more important as e-readers and notebooks and tablets make taking stuff to games that way practical, I think we need to find a way to pay authors something for the pdf rights, and some version of the reprint fee: maybe repay every 3,000 or 30,000 or 300,000 pdf’s sold?
Anyway, enough! It’s a lovely sunny day so I will abandon the net and go walk; but I am pleased to think that 150,000 people have visited this blog, and hopefully found the answer to a question, something useful for an essay, or a picture of Mr. Blobby or Svalbard or whatever they are looking at, and I’d like to think my games reviews have shifted a few more copies of Polaris, Heroquest 2, Agricola etc, etc.
My blog is terribly self-indulgent — I write about whatever I want to — and I’m amazed at the number of people who still subscribe, given one week may be all about parapsychology, the next all about games, but you have my gratitude, and I’m even more humbled by the fact some of you actually seem to read it and comment! So a huge thank you, and hopefully my little essays occasionally add to the new information culture, even if I am a relic of the dark ages, and still live among heaps of books.