As recently as the last three weeks, I’ve hit a wall with how much I’m on 40K forums. This includes (but isn’t entirely limited to) Bolter & Chainsword, Warseer, Heresy-Online, /tg/, the Bolthole, the HH Facebook group, and Dakka Dakka.
I worked it out last weekend, and I’d spent almost as much time in October talking about 40K as I’d spent writing my novel. It was leaving me tired, irritable and pretty drained, let alone the fact it was eating up a massive amount of time every day. I write slow. I write really, really slow, with many an edit in-between when I should really just wait until the second draft for that sort of stuff. Most HH novels are written in 4-5 months. The First Heretic took me almost 10.
I’d abandoned the Bolthole a while ago, as I was largely cutting and pasting stuff I’d already said elsewhere (especially on my blog) and there was an increasing number of people who could get hold of me through other means. But the others (with /tg/ admittedly being a lot less frequent) were still eating up serious time.
In some ways, the frustration is born of the nature of writing, and by extension, my job. I was talking less and less about the game and lore, and more and more about books, the nature of GW canon, and so on. It’s increasingly circular, and pretty soul-sapping. To put it diplomatically, I wouldn’t swap my reputation online with any author working with my publisher, and my forum feedback is almost universally great, but even then, it can get disheartening after a while. In some ways, it’s the nature of the fandom itself that’s starting to get to me. The endless comparisons about which character is tougher than the others, and what “power levels” they rank up at; the amount of times people miss the point about canon or invent snide authorial intent and rage at each other over misunderstood “facts”.
These discussions… They’re not for me. I find them childish, and I think they miss the point. “Which primarch could beat X, Y and Z?” It’s not that simple. It’s not a matter of Paper always beating Rock, and Rock always beating Scissors. That’s why those “Which Primarch Is Toughest?” threads are so worthless. At their peaks, the primarchs are essentially the same, with things mostly dependent on circumstances. Fights are fights, with all the chaos of emotion, fear, fate, and the thousands of things that can go wrong. They’re not sterile events of “Well, he’s stronger, so he’ll always win.” No race or fight ever plays out that way. Don’t be allergic to nuance. That’s not cool.
These talks are getting everywhere, especially in Horus Heresy discussions. In a recent example over a canon debate (which was mature and awesome, but very time-consuming) there was me and a Forge World manager making the same points about canon, and still getting questioned about our take on it, because of common fan misunderstanding. I should note, I had those same misunderstandings until it was patiently explained to me 936 times by people in the company. And that was one of the better talks about canon. It just took eight million hours; that was the problem.
I enjoy being accessible to readers and fans. There’s (thankfully…) been no weird backlash against me or my work that’s making me write all this. What we’ve got here is a catastrophic fuckup in time management. The more I talk about all this, justify it, explain nuances, ins, outs and roundabouts, the less enthusiasm I have to write the books (seeing how many people assume the worst in any debate, rather than just think something through), and the less time I have to write, read, paint my own armies and suck in PvP on my level 85 Rogue. Working out my typing speed, I’d even spent about over five hours defending other authors last month. This is life, when you can’t shut up. This is existence as someone whose fingers hit keys before their brain is at the helm.
Funnily enough, when Jim and Dan and Graham warned me about the forums, I was convinced I’d prove them wrong. They avoided them like the plague, but I’d be the one who stuck it out. Oh, yes.
Little did I realise how much time I’d be spending on them three years later. To butcher my friend Chuck’s axiom, I was starting to talk about writing more than actually doing it. And that sucks – I’m pretty proud of not using forums as advertising; I was there anyway, before the whole writerly lark even entered into it. My career just turned me from a lurker into a poster.
This may seem stupid to you, but I’m not even kidding. I can waste 2-5 hours a day on those things. Imagine you spent that long not doing your job every day. That’s just not time I can spare right now.
Between Fuchsia arriving in four months; redecorating the house; trying to focus more on getting stuff done in WoW; trying to raise my 40K army, a Fantasy army and a Necromunda gang; actually updating my blog with something worthwhile; spending time with Cathy and actually getting my monstrous work schedule backlog cleared, I need to stop spending so long everyday messing about online. So I’ll be going relatively cold turkey on forums for a while, as I get my shit in order. Similarly, it’s one of the reasons I made the new Facebook page, to keep all my stuff in the same place. It was getting insanely messy with the daily feed showing me a million things all the time. I’m in the slow, slow process of checking Friend by Friend on my old page, and deleting several a day. It’s, uh… real fun.
You can still get hold of me easily enough, especially on Facebook or my blog. It’s more a matter of not spreading myself so thin across so many places.
My Facebook is here: http://www.facebook.com/aarondembskibowden.
My Twitter (which I’ve only just started using) is here: http://twitter.com/#!/adembskibowden.
I need to cut down on the amount of time I spend on forums.
Firstly, it eats up a surprising amount of time to reply to a bunch of stuff related to my work, and that’s despite having very little released yet. Secondly, I go to 40K forums, and have for years, for conversion ideas and painting inspiration. Add the natural cycle of forum clickage to my newfound commenting habits, and you’re racking up a lot of lost minutes. Thirdly, I’m aware that familiarity breeds contempt, and as someone wisely said: “You’re not their mate. It’s going well now, but when you do something wrong, the fact you’re there and they know you will make it easier to tear you to pieces.”
And I think there’s a serious truth to that. But still, I’ve been addicted to various forums for about 10 years now, and I enjoy answering questions, offering a little behind-the-scenes insight, and just generally talking to people about the fact we all like the same sort of stuff. That’s not the problem, really.
The problem is, I’m probably doing a bit too much of it, lately. Since I quit WoW a few months ago, fucking around on forums has taken up increasingly more of my time. Today, that sort of came to a head when I realised I’d spent 3 solid hours going across various sites, answering questions, generally chatting, and checking out how some guy had painted up his Black Legion. (Awesomely, by the way. They were painted up most excellently killerish.)
But 3 hours, man. That’s not good. This is not optimal. So I’ll work on it.
Recently, the BL website came back without forums, and I couldn’t be happier. I wasn’t a massive fan of the place anyway, the undercurrent of entitlement was a little ragged and raw, the amount of fanfic I got asked to read was unbelievable (although, please note, I’ll do that for my friends or nice people in a heartbeat, if I have the time), and too many people liked books I didn’t, so it was hard for me to take people’s opinions seriously. This is why I never read my favourite authors’ reviews, by the way. I got tired of going across various genre forums and getting throat-deep in shit-pits over the fact Robin Hobb isn’t boring, David Gemmell had more than one storyline, and Dan Abnett would be the next Frank Herbert by now if he didn’t do licensed fiction. “Have you read Legion? No? Then fuck off, because it’s liquid genius. On one hand, it’s one of the best sci-fi books of the decade. On the other hand, you smell like a rhino’s balls.”
But seriously, folks.
With the demise of the BL forum, I’m mostly pleased because adding another forum to my track list would bring me closer to one of those writers who just talks about writing instead of actually doing it. You know the type. If you’re at university on a writing degree, you probably are the type. We’ve all been there.
Here are the forums I go to. It’s a list that may or may not help any lost and lonely ex-BL forumite looking for a new home.
1. Heresy Online.
This place is killer. It’s quiet, but far from empty, and has a fairly sizable population. So far, all the reviews and chats I’ve either seen or been part of have all been decent conversations. It has a modest but keen BL section, in addition to all the various gaming/hobby stuff. I’m really keen on it, even if I’ve had to cut back on my posting there to get some actual writing done. But so far: smart people, good talking, nice conversion ideas to steal. This’d be the one I recommend to wayward BL forumites.
(They also have a cool medal thing, where, like, you get all these medals under your name if you do certain stuff on the site. They look fun.)
2. Bolter & Chainsword.
Definitely a hobby forum rather than a BL one, but the various subforums get a fair bit of discussion. On a forum this size you’re always going to get some… ineloquent debate… but I’ve been going to B&C for years now, and I’m an unashamed fan. The people that comment on the novels run the gamut, obviously, but the standard of debate is usually pretty damn high. The positive response to Soul Hunter there has absolutely floored me, with some really insightful discussion – whereas during the novel’s actual writing, it was the one place I was secretly certain they’d want me dead.
The king of 40K forums. Insanely huge traffic, and often referred to as Warsmear or Warsneer. When it’s good, it’s absolutely great. When it’s bad, it’s 6,000 kids screaming at each other and 12,000 adults sighing at how shit everything is. I do my best to check back there, but it’s a lot of effort to sift through everything, sometimes. So many of the users seem to hate absolutely everything – although I have to say, Soul Hunter’s reception there has been pretty much as awesome as everywhere else, thankfully.
It’s kinda weird, but as a wiser man than me once said: “Gamers are haters”.
I don’t post there, but I’ve looked around for a few years. I don’t really know why. They hate a lot of stuff, too. Unless it’s not popular, in which case, it rocks. RPGnet used to be like that.
5. The Black Library Bolthole.
I’m divided about this. Some BL fans are on this mental, sneering tirade about the death of the official forums, and it’s difficult to look at people behaving like that and respect them, even if you know they’re the people that might be buying your work. I also hate the site’s colours, and can’t work out how to edit my posts, because I’m a glorious retard. And since it’s the most recent (only been lurking there since BLL), it’s difficult to muster enthusiasm for adding another site to the cycle, especially when it’s currently rammed with self-important, misguided people whining about the Death of Everything because BL decided it was bored of moderating forums. It’s also the closest thing to an official BL site, though it’s currently fairly humble in size.
On the other hand, it has an Ask the Author section that I should probably at least try to engage in, and is run by Sarah, who I adore – despite the fact she’s a LARPer.
So consider yourself updated.