Saturday, 30 June 2012

The End


On  this day I begin my forty-eighth year.  Time, beaut-i-ful friends, to bring things to a discrete conclusion at this blog, I think.  Thank you to all those who've read and commented over the years; and I'm sorry to disappoint those of you who have asked me to keep going with it.  I have enjoyed doing it, by and large; but by the same token it has entailed a great many bouts of long, hard work, for which I have neither been paid nor enjoyed any other material benefit -- rather the reverse, indeed, as the myriad commentors who have deprecated my more negative reviews have assured me.  The energies that I've been putting into this blog are needed on another project.

Indeed, it seems to me that the interesting thing in a small non-event such as the closure of this blog is not the blog itself, which won't be missed (there being so many other online forums for SF discussion and review, many of which have done what I never have by way of garnering prizes and other testaments of community esteem).  No, what's interesting is the appearance of the word 'sorry' in the first paragraph there.  It is, I suppose, intriguingly symptomatic that I feel obliged to apologise for discontinuing the provision of free, publically available reviews and essays.  I'm not being sarcastic when I say that; I genuinely do feel bad for stopping punkadiddling; for even though my audience has never been very large, binning this blog still feels rather like letting them down.  In turn I wonder if that is one very small example of a very large shift in the Republic of Letters.  Once upon a time writers were paid in money, but now writers are paid (in the first instance at any rate) in eyeballs, which may or may not at a later stage, underpants-gnomically, turn into money.  Part of this new logic is that the writer ought to be grateful simply to have the attention of those eyeballs.  I'm as deep into this new economy as anybody, of course; I read many thousands of fresh new words, free, online every day.  But I wonder if it doesn't have more downsides than ups.  Take the material contained in the archives of this blog.  If the sort of thing I write is worth paying for then I'm a mug to give it away for free; and if it isn't worth paying for (of course a great deal of online writing isn't) then I'm wasting everyone's time, including my own, carrying on.  To quote my beloved William Blake: enough! Or too much?

54 comments:

Johan A said...

Sorry to see you go! I have enjoyed reading this blog.

I wish you a happy birthday and look forward to your being able to spend more time on other things!

Mike said...

Fare thee well. I suppose this means I should read a couple of your unread works that have been sitting on my shelves for a few years. (Don't feel bad about that, you're in very good literary company.)

Markhaa said...

Sorry to see the blog go, which I've enjoyed enormously. Best of luck on your other projects and happy birthday.

Space Bar said...

Thank you for all the posts over these years, Adam.

(Just to say, though, that the value of the work is not to be measured only in terms of what it earns you. So many of us in other parts of the world have a way into these dialogues only because they're free. You can't put a price on that.)

Good luck with the new project and best wishes,

Sridala

aelilea said...

Thankyou.

Here's hoping the problem of how to support work such as this gets solved soon. To measure its value in monetary terms is a category error though.

"which won't be missed (there being so many other online forums for SF discussion and review, many of which have done what I never have by way of garnering prizes and other testaments of community esteem)"

It will be sorely missed by those who find the community-esteemed "market leaders" rather unfulfilling.

Mark Newton said...

Very sad to see the end of this, Adam, but I absolutely understand about the pressures, demands and expectations of the online community.

Matt Hilliard said...

I wouldn't have thought you would endorse the notion that the market value of your writing on this blog is the accurate measure of its true value.

Although good reviews seem like they should be almost as valuable as a good short story or a good book, they generally don't stick in the mind the same way. I've read thousands of reviews over the last few years, but while I remember the quality of various venues, only a very few individual reviews are ready to hand when I think of really good reviews.

One of them was published on this blog, the Anathem review. Put me down as another person who will miss this blog. May the sinister gods of the new economy smile more favorably upon your new project!

Divers and Sundry said...

I'll miss it.

Happy birthday!

Nathaniel Katz said...

I'll join the general trend of "sorry to see you go." I only found Punkaddidle a year ago or so through your Strange Horizons reviews, but I've loved coming here ever since. Your reviews have a level of depth and wit matched by very few others critiquing at present.

Rich Puchalsky said...

This is a very, very difficult question. I'm about the same age, and it's a continuous question as to whether I should be participating in blogging / commenting at all, given that I could be spending more time with my wife and kids, working, writing poetry etc. It's very easy for people to say that the value of an activity is not measured in what it earns... but part of the monetization of attention is that yes, really, it is hard to say whether written work that people don't pay for is valued. At least when you're 48 and have serious bills.

This is only compounded when you're doing something like criticism, for which -- well, the whole society really doesn't know what criticism is for, if it ever did.

But thanks for doing it all this time. There were some very good pieces here, and I hope that the site stays up.

SEK said...

Boo! Now the only time I'll get to read you is when I buy your books, which I can't do, because they're not on the Kindle. Boo!

David Pretty said...

Sorry to see this blog go. Thanks a lot for some of the best writing on the web. Your Smurfs review had me laughing so hard it hurt.

Ruzz said...

I agree with Space Bar. This blog gave me a way
into a number of debates that I wdn't have been aware of otherwise. The fact that it's often very funny is a bonus. I'm very sad to see it go. Maybe blogs simply have a particular life span - especially where, as with you, you have other blogs for capturing daily thoughts. But Europrog doesn't have the sense of fun of this blog and I will miss it very much.

Ruzz said...

O - and n relation to your final point about pay, I think that this is wrong. REF-able material, paid for journalism, commercial writing of other kinds - these seem to me to occupy different spaces to the less formal writing that goes into blogs like this which operate as a more personal and ad hoc space. No one was going to pay you for your Smurfs review - but this blog gave you the space to try out your thoughts on the film - and might then have prompted a bigger or more formal piece. One's critical faculties don't only operate in relation to professional projects - and a piece that is less formal and less worked over doesn't become worthless simply because it occupies a different space. And I would imagine that sometimes things are worked out here that could then be the basis for a full scale commercial piece (your WOTR reviews for example). Sorry to go on but the closure of this space makes me think about how the other blogs that I follow have such different functions. Some act as collections of (and links to) professional writing - but with space to make other comments and more personal reflections. Some are clearly safety valves and insights into other people's professional - or sometimes personal - lives. Stopping doing this blog because it takes up time and energy that you need elsewhere - that I understand. Stopping it because if you're not getting paid then it can't be valuable seems to me to be more of a statement about being fed up than an accurate analysis. But we - the readers - have no right to your unpaid labours and this is just an over lengthy thank you for something that I have greatly enjoyed.

springer said...

If you do decide to keep writing Punkadiddle-style stuff, let us know in a few months or a year's time that you have a stash available. For a price. I for one would pay as much for that as I would for any book.

Heck, if you want to take your archives and turn 'em into a series of .epub files, I'll pay for those.

pixi666 said...

Sorry to see Punkadiddle end. You're the most insightful reviewer of science fiction, old or new, out there.

Therem said...

Alas! I will really miss your blogging, which combines keen intellect with a hilarious sense of humor in a way that I have not found elsewhere. To speak briefly to the "not getting paid" part... did you ever consider putting up a "tip jar" on the site? I would have put something in it, just as I periodically donate to "Ansible". Dunno what sort of pittance it would amount to over time, but it might whittle away at the hosting fees at least. And you'd still have an outlet for your more personal and/or difficult to publish pieces. For what it's worth, I will always treasure your "Wheel of Time" review series. And I was eagerly awaiting a piece on "Prometheus"!

Gareth Rees said...

I'll miss this blog, which I have enjoyed very much over the years, but I perfectly understand that family and paying work have to come first. We have been lucky to read the pieces you've written here. Good luck with your new projects!

A few of my personal favourites:

The brilliant review of Anathem by Neal Stephenson. This review is what persuaded me that I ought to read your novels.

The review of A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan in PowerPoint format.

The series on Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. I love the way these reviews become more desperate as the full prospect of what you have committed yourself to doing becomes clear. Also, the gathering of skirts.

The series on Ian Watson. Reminded me of being a teenager and discovering Watson's novels in the local library. Must read them again.

Dialogue on Greg Egan's Clockwork Rocket. I'm with Prœgan but you put the Antegan case very eloquently.

nostalgebraist said...

I second springer's statement -- I would definitely be willing to pay for a collection of this kind of stuff.

I think my favorite Punkadiddle moment was the part in one of the Wheel of Time reviews where you pointed out that with literature, unlike with alcohol, you don't have to pay a higher price for an experience that's equally "intoxicating" but less shoddily made. Since reading that review, I've often found myself thinking back to that point.

donny said...
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donny said...

Adam, thank you so much for this blog which provided me plenty of amusement and thoughtful ideas. Loved your endlessly entertaining (and importantly, funny) posts. Like the others here, really sorry to see you go.

You should do a Martin Amis and collect your favourite bits from this archive and put it out as a book for sale. Amis did so, I believe, for a lot of his articles and reviews. Get some kickback for the considerable body of work that appears here and nowhere else (which would not get any sort kick otherwise).

(reposted to correct a typo)

DC said...

Add my voice to the appreciative chorus! It's been great here - the most perspicacious and playful place for SF/F criticism that I've found. It doesn't feel like I need to say a teary 'toodles' however, as I am now a committed reader of Adam Roberts prose fiction - so it is instead "'til we meet again".

Still it seems appropriate to finish this-a-way:
"'Oh please don't go, we'll eat you up we love you so!'
But Max said 'No'."

DC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jared said...

Punkadiddle will be missed, but, to echo the many people above, I'm happy to continue getting my Roberts fix in every other way, shape and form.

Jonathan Strahan said...

Sorry to hear you're winding up Punkadiddle. It's been rewarding and provocative. I'll miss it.

Al R said...

Thank you for all the good reading, Adam.

I'd like to mention a particular kindness done to me by Adam - some while ago he posted something on Punkadiddle which was of great personal significance to me. I mentioned this to AR, delighted that he had solved a mystery running right back to my childhood, and he very generously sent me the item in question - a lovely gesture and much appreciated.

Ian said...

so many moments of gold. Dammit! Could you do an ebook and at least garner some recompense?

Camille said...

Actually, I think a "best-of" ebook would be an *excellent* idea.

Unknown said...

We'll I've read your books and bought your books in part because of this blog and your other blog. Sure they were used copies but I really enjoyed them.

Your reviews have frequently helped me distinguish why I dislike a book or added insight to my enjoyment. I've also taken a flyer on some of your recommendations and they've all been excellent.

So thanks! And I was kidding about used copies of your books. Three new copies of Yellow Blue Tibia and counting!

MAK said...

I've found your fiction (and the quality writings of more than a few others) through this blawg and am grateful for it. Thanks for that, this and everything else.

Jane Higgins said...

I agree with all of the above. Punkadiddle has been a regular stop for me for the last couple of years. Your reviews have been insightful, witty and often laugh-out-loud hilarious. (Plus you read the Wheel of Time so I didn't have to.)

Good luck for the future and thank you!

Tom said...

I'm so sorry to see the end of Punkadiddle. Yellow Blue Tibia was one of the novels that got me reading SFF again after a long break, and Punkadiddle became my first port of call for SFF criticism and thinking. It has distinguished itself by its wit, intelligence and erudition, and I'll miss it greatly. Like others above, I would pay for a collection!

Yetikeeper said...

As sad as it is to see the demise of the this blog I wish to sincerely proffer my hand across the digital aether to Adam Roberts and wish him the best for the future. One of the best ways to ensure him the best is to buy his latest novel, which I shall preorder later this month.

Also, I wish to add that my favourite review was that of 2666 by Roberto Bolaño - Mr. Roberts saved me from the equivalent of prose porridge with his detailed write up.

Adam Roberts said...

Everyone: thank you! I'm genuinely touched and moved by these comments. I very much take the force of the points made here, over and above the praise. The day I become independently wealthy, or at least wealthy enough not to have to worry about mortgage, kids and various looming expenses will be the day I re-open things here.

PeteY said...

Thanks Adam, sorry to see you move on.

Good luck with the "?"

Wally said...

Put simply: The 'diddle has/had one of the highest signal-to-noise ratios of any of the blogs-by-proper-writers I know of. I think I've read...what, all of it? Even the stuff on books & films I've never read or seen. I've long been irritated by how insightful/useful/funny your informal criticism is. Won't it be nice to have one fewer irritant in my life.

Well.

As for the second paragraph. The work here hasn't existed in a vacuum; it has given joy; it's been a part of your life, more or less. How can it possibly have been a waste of time, and what does a price tag have to do with any of it? What would the word 'waste' even mean, there?

(Would you have spent this time writing sequels? 2 Yellow 2 Tibia, maybe, or By Regular Food Too, As It Turns Out? Jesus Christ, now that I've typed it out I realize what an absolutely wonderful idea that would indeed have been.)

I was going to say something super nice to close but I couldn't stop reading your Anathem review and tittering in a dignified way.

See you around, boss. Thanks for this.

David Duffy said...

What they said! Always an excellent read, though sometimes causing beverages to run out from one's nose. But, I am reminded of the voluminous witty and wise letters the great thinkers used to write to each other, and which we read gathered up into posthumous collections. Those guys used to write hundreds of thousands of words with no pay in sight except the pleasure of the recipient. At least through the magic of the Intaanetto, we can all read them together instead of waiting for them to do the rounds.

JamesK said...

Bye & happy birthday.
I'll miss the blog.

I just bought your History of SF,
and I'll start reading it in your honor.

Let us know where you'll be publishing your future reviews and essays.

Best of luck.
Keep up the good work.

rog peppe said...

I'd definitely drop a quid or two in a jar towards another article. If there was such a jar, perhaps the occasion of it filling up (to whatever level you deemed appropriate) could prompt another post...

Martin Jenkins said...

Thank you very much for your really great blog.

I have been introduced to several really good books as a result of what I have read here - Dervish House, Quantum Thief, Tragic Universe to name but three; perhaps the authors should contribute!

Like you, I am a father in his forties - but I am in a different articulatory class and so very much appreciate your interesting and informative words.

Very best regards.

Mr. Ed. said...

I also will miss my punkadiddle fix. Your frankness and humour was refreshing, and your blog a gem. Lykke til, E.

Gareth Griffiths said...
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Gareth Griffiths said...
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Gareth Griffiths said...

I've loved reading Punkadiddle all these years, Adam. You're the best guide to SF I've ever found; witty and always thought-provoking.

I want you to know, too, that some may see you today as a crafty plotter of punchy, poetic SF. I agree of course: but to me, you'll always be that young lecturer in the 1992 RHUL prospectus, wearing a cable sweater.

Oh, and a fine teacher.

Get these essays to the publisher. We've had them for free: let us give a little back. All the best.

nick said...

Thanks from me too. You've pointed me to books that I would enjoy, and saved me from a lot that I'm now reasonably sure I wouldn't, always with flair and insight.

A note to people following this thread and missing their fix of Roberts reviews. He seems to have started reviewing the Booker longlist, on his other blog, europrogovision -- a project that seems to me to involve comparable self-sacrifice to reading the complete Wheel of Time.

Justina Robson said...

I've really enjoyed reading all your posts here, Adam, and thank you for writing every single one of them. You have been erudite, provoking, entertaining and selfless - things I mostly dream of but rarely actualise, so hats off to you.

I hope your other projects are hugely succesful. Justina.

Justina Robson said...

Thank you for all your hard work, energy and thought. I've always enjoyed reading this blog and admired your capacity for wide ranging critical and fanciful thought. I hope your new project is hugely successful.

Justina.

Justina Robson said...

I've really enjoyed reading all your posts here, Adam, and thank you for writing every single one of them. You have been erudite, provoking, entertaining and selfless - things I mostly dream of but rarely actualise, so hats off to you.

I hope your other projects are hugely succesful. Justina.

Viviana said...

I'll miss your blog, but understand too well your perspective. Once an activity moves from labor of love to just plain labor, I know longer enjoy it and will only do it if I'm getting paid.

I do enjoy your paid writing endeavors, acquiring them as I come across them in book stores here in the US.

Regards, and I look forward to reading more of your other work.

mary li said...

Sorry to hear that, in fact, I love your post so much. Looking forward to your back.
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Phil said...

I'll miss this blog, and I've only just discovered it (via the Jordan reviews, several of which made me cry with laughter). Can't fault your reasoning, though. Happy eyeball-gathering!

JS said...

Goodbye and good luck! I understand your reason but I'll miss your blog; this was one of the few really good ones.

JS said...

Goodbye and good luck! I understand your reason but I'll miss your blog; this was one of the few really good ones.

Chris Lawson said...

Well shit. I only just discovered you. I followed a link to the WOT reviews and was entertained enough to explore the rest of the blog.

I guess I'll just have to buy one of your books, you bastard.