Sunday, November 3, 2013

Blog, Stock and Barrel

The R’lyeh Tribune continues to have a fairly stable, albeit small readership with a steady output of nearly daily posts.  September and most of October saw average daily page views of about 40 per day, but this has since dropped off a bit.  I am not sure whether this is normal performance for a blog of this type, especially given that The R'lyeh Tribune is only about 5 months old.  But there is no lack of material or topics to write about—in my view at least, the horror, science fiction and fantasy literature produced between the world wars is a very deep well.  I am also consoled by the increasing number of folk from overseas who make repeated visits.  The other day I had a reader in the United Arab Emirates—marhaban!

Though obsessive and compulsive, my preoccupation with the statistics offered by Blogger has been helpful in understanding the natural history of an average blog.  It seems likely that my audience is not large, nor is it committed to reading my articles with the same regularity that I produce them.  And that is understandable--we are all so busy!  Admittedly, the niche is a limited one: early 20th century weird fiction.  Were I a more dedicated and professional writer it seems I would still have a relatively small readership. 

I still cannot determine clearly from the numbers which topics readers most enjoy hearing about.  The posts that have discussed Hodgson’s work, dream psychology, and aspects of writing seem to have been popular.  However, the patterns are often idiosyncratic.  A post about a story fragment written by Lovecraft got a lot of attention, as did a summary of George Allan England’s advice to pulp fiction writers, and a review of one of Hodgson’s Sargasso Sea stories.  I am always open to suggestions. 

Since one of the referral sites that links occasionally with my blog, (“”) is a pornography and hook-up site, I have the awful suspicion my frequent use of the name ‘Lovecraft’ is misperceived.  At least I am guaranteed return visits…

Maybe some of you read the recent commentary in The New York Times a couple weekends ago—“Slaves of the Internet Unite!”—which offered one writer’s lament about the very unlucrative nature of internet writing.  The author was especially vexed that frequent requests to write pieces for “exposure” rather than pay were impoverishing him and his colleagues.  It seems that the vast quantity of writing on blogs and other websites goes unremunerated or at best generates income only indirectly.  With few exceptions, monetizing a blog would seem to provide only a paltry recompense unless one were exceedingly diligent with marketing the site. 

In my limited internet forays I have found numerous blogs in my niche that are well established, with professional quality writing and impressive graphics, and stone cold dead.   The date of their last post is effectively the ‘R.I.P.’ All that work!  I feel I should whistle as I glance over them, just as I would if I were strolling by a graveyard.  ‘That could be me!’  That will be me eventually.

It’s a lot of work keep a blog alive, even for an amateur like me.  I am not whining—except about the increasing tendonitis in my left elbow.  I can now better appreciate what goes into creating a truly successful and professional blog.  It is my fortune that I do not need to make a living with my writing—I would have starved to death by now--it’s my love of the subject matter and writing about it that keeps me engaged in this project.

(It would be a fascinating sociological study to look at bloggers in general.  Who are they?  What are their favorite topics?  What is the impact of their unremunerated work on society?) 

A side effect of maintaining The R’lyeh Tribune is my growing familiarity—way too early to call it expertise—with early 20th century weird fiction.  This is becoming the dissertation in English Literature that I never got to write.  (Happily, it is my son who now gets to be the English major I always wanted to be.)  There is so much to learn about this material and the social and historical context in which it was created.  Even the history of the publishers and the evolution of pulp magazines are interesting and worth a closer look.   

Lovecraft is one of the planets I will be orbiting for some time to come, but I have since discovered quite a number of other authors from his time period well worth exploring:  Francis Stevens, A. Merritt, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and Walter De La Mare, among others.  For now, these explorations will continue, but I would also like to know more about what it was like to write and publish horror, science fiction and fantasy in the 1920s and 1930s.  I would appreciate suggestions for additional resources to consult.

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