18 August 2011

Eight years

The room in which The Mumpsimus was born. Photo from February 2007.

Well, golly. Today marks eight years since I created this blog back in 2003. I didn't post anything beyond the definition of the word "mumpsimus" on that first day, but then things got going with a post about a story by James Patrick Kelly after a brief statement of purpose.

The statement of purpose ended by saying, "Who knows what will come of all this?"

What became of it was certainly more than I ever expected. The busiest time for the blog, in terms of posts and of visits from readers, were the first few years, particularly 2004 and 2005. There weren't a whole lot of other people doing what I was doing, and it felt like everybody who was writing blogs about books and literature of any sort knew and read each other (hence the creation of the Litblog Co-op). But the blogosphere expanded rapidly, and one day it seemed like there were 1,000 book blogs out there. And a lot of us stopped thinking of ourselves as fundamentally book bloggers, for various reasons. I still write a few reviews a year, but usually for places other than this blog, and though I've always written about film here (the 6th post on the site was about Brazil), I've grown more and more interested in writing about it as over the last few years I've been involved in making some movies and have started teaching film and media courses.

The blog wouldn't have survived if it couldn't change along with me, and it really has -- not just visually, as this Wayback Machine capture of the site in the fall of 2003 attests. It's always been a place where I've tested out ideas, basically presenting a first-draft face to the world, which wasn't scary until suddenly, when I got some links from well-trafficked sites in 2004, people were looking. A lot of those early posts seem embarrassingly awkward, naive, and wrongheaded now, but there are recent posts that are awkward, naive, and wrongheaded, too. That's the territory, the necessary risk for any endeavor like this.

2003 feels awfully distant, in many ways far more distant than 8 years. If I'd told my 27-year-old self, sitting at an iMac G3, struggling to learn enough HTML to make the blog work, that in 2011 he'd still be writing the blog, I don't know what he'd say. I think his immediate response would be, "Really? My life will be that much of a waste?"

But then I could say, "Actually, in 2011, even the White House has a blog. It's not quite as dorky an activity as it is today."

"Does somebody correct Bush's spelling for him? Or help him with compound sentences?"

"Nobody cares about spelling on the web. But the president in 2011 isn't Bush, and he's fairly articulate, probably more articulate than he is effective, really. Oh, and he's black. And his name's Barack Obama. Barack Hussein Obama, actually. His dad was Kenyan."

"Now you're just messing with me," my younger self would say.

"No, it's true. And gay people can get married in New Hampshire and a few other states. Married to each other!"

"And pigs can fly and Pink Floyd's reunited, uh huh, sure."

"Pigs don't generally fly, but Pink Floyd did reunite for a couple of shows a few years apart, furthering the cause of peace by proving that old rich guys who hate each other's guts can actually work together occasionally."

"Sounds like utopia."

"Not even remotely. Political discourse will actually get stupider, which I know is hard to believe, but you haven't yet heard of Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, or Rick Perry, who all make W. look like a moderate and a scholar. And Obama will be a fascinating person, though generally conservative in his governing. The right will denounce him as a socialist, but, alas, they're completely wrong about that."

"But I'll still have this blog thing."

"Yes. And because of it, you'll get to work on some books and fun projects, you'll get reviewing assignments from real publishers, you'll write a column for Strange Horizons and another one about Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics--"

"I don't know anything about comics."

"Right. That's the point. And you'll publish some short stories, but the novel will continue to be drivel no matter how much you keep reconfiguring it, although you'll continue to dither with it. There'll be some minor film projects. You'll get a master's degree and a couple new jobs. Et cetera. It'll be a good time. Well, not always. Sometimes it will be awful, including easily the worst six months of your life. But mostly, a good time."

"Well, cool beans, then."

"Yes, indeed. And even after eight years, it will still feel like you're just beginning."

I'm grateful to the folks who have given moments of their life to reading the material here, questionable as much of it may be. Audiences help shape blogs, and I've been very, very lucky with my audience. So thanks for hanging around.

After all, who knows what will come of all this?


  1. Oh, Mr.Cheney!

    I was planning on covertly reading your blog and silently rejoicing that I was blessed to have such a weird and wonderful high school English teacher. However, your post today was just so hilarious and quirky and brilliant that I have to come out of hiding and proclaim: Mr. Cheney, YOU ARE AWESOME!

    By the way,on behalf of all of your students, ever, from beginingless time, I thank you for exploding our minds. Do you have any idea of the impact your lessons have had and continue to have on us?

    Stella Bonnie
    New Hampton School '05

  2. Hi Stella! Thanks for coming out of hiding, especially by saying such extraordinarily kind and generous things!

  3. Matt: Congrats on the Mumpsimus anniversary. I've enjoyed your posts through the years.

    Jeff Ford

  4. I'm not sure when I started reading your blog regularly. Over the years I've valued your thoughts, and, more than that, your expression of those thoughts (though they be, as I'm sure you'd say, inextricably intertwingled). You wrote a eulogy for Kurt Vonnegut that I still value. You played a key part in convincing me to give Samuel R Delany a read - for which I will always be grateful. And you have introduced me to so many artists, and ways of seeing art and the world. Thanks for blogging! I figure I'll keep reading as long as you keep writing.

    (And thank you also for your curation of posts in Google Reader, which is also an amazing source of written thoughts.)

  5. Congrats from a fellow warhorse. I only just now realized that I missed my own eighth blogiversary, this past May.

  6. Love your blog. Even though I don't comment as much as I ought -- I'm reading, and really enjoying it. You are a great writer & a shrewd wit. And SUCH an outstanding whittler. And an inspiring ukulele instructor. And a brilliant gad-about-town. I could go on. I sense you would prefer I pause. (from Liz Ahl)

  7. Congrats on reaching Year 8, Matt! I started reading this blog around the spring of 2004, if memory serves, and while I rarely comment, I do read and consider what you say quite seriously (an accomplishment for me these days ;)). Here's to many more years :D

  8. Thanks for the kind words, everybody -- thanks like this never really sound as thankful as they are, or at least should be, but I am, nonetheless, really grateful to you all.

  9. Don't forget the World Fantasy nomination!

  10. Don't forget the World Fantasy nomination!

    Unforgettable, indeed! Mostly because Eric Schaller finds great joy in reminding me that since I won the Last Drink Bird Head Award, I have actually won half the awards I've ever been nominated for! He really introduces me to people that way, and then has to explain, because they're thinking, "Oooh, Pulitzers and Oscars, this guy must be so much more than he seems to be!" -- and so Eric tells them -- and they usually say something like, "World Fantasy Award? Is that for porn or something? And Last Drink Bird Head, is that from, like, AA?"

    Oh, mine is a good life!

  11. Some congrats for year 8 here from Brazil. The post was deliciously fun. ^_^