We contain multitudes
James McConnachie, Editor
If authors are not interested in difference, who will be?
When this journal announced the death in 1892 of the SoA’s first President, a certain Alfred Tennyson, it reported that the membership was ‘nearly a thousand strong’ (see below). It is now officially more than ten times as great: for the first time, our membership has surpassed 10,000.
This is encouraging. But the headline masks another important kind of growth. In the last 125 years, the SoA has grown in variety as well as outright size. Consider the ways in which authors can earn a living, find a readership or otherwise flourish in 2017: this Summer issue looks at how writers are making successes of videogame writing, sports podcasting, poetry tweeting, blogging and YouTubing (yes, it’s a verb). We also hear from a collaborative writing and performance project that raised awareness of homelessness in Harrogate, and from a writer with a very particular but not uncommon dual identity: the writer as carer.
Of course, writers have always diversified. For much of the last 125 years, authors of books have traditionally attempted to pay the bills by writing journalism. And many of the new digital formats, platforms and channels, arguably, are varieties of journalism. (I exclude videogame writing; that one seems to me a strange chimera created from scriptwriting, technical writing and fiction. You have to defeat it on level five in order to progress...) The apparent diversity, if you follow that line, merely reflects how journalism has been shattered by the digital age. Blogging, YouTube, Twitter – these are the digital shards of the perfect print world.
That’s the view in the rear mirror, at least. Looking ahead, it is increasingly clear that digital formats and channels are not print reconstituted. They are changing what we write, how we write and how we relate to our readers. Which means they are changing why we write as well.
There is another important way in which the SoA is more various than it was in 1892. It is more diverse. I raise this in part because I’m aware that this issue is unusual in its gender imbalance. I don’t have quotas, but I do try to ensure that the SoA’s membership is fairly and richly represented by our contributors, and not just in terms of gender – that The Author is as inclusive as the SoA, in all ways. ‘Diversity’ is surely an essential principle of authorship.
As Daniel Hahn says, in his article about the value of translation, reading is about being ‘receptive, respectful, imaginative and empathetic’. If authors are not interested in difference, who will be? We are 10,000 strong, as Walt Whitman almost said. We contain multitudes.
mcconnachie.tumblr.com | @j_mcconnachie
The Author 125 years ago
Steering our little bark
The SoA was founded in 1882. Its first President was Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The Author included a black-bordered notice of his death in 1892, saying:
"Suffice it for us to acknowledge our deep debt of gratitude to the late Laureate for accepting the post of President to our infant Society. The service which he rendered us – and, we believe, through us, to literary men and women of every branch – by giving us his countenance and his protection at the outset when we were a small Society, doubtful whether we would survive the early storms of derision, and doubt, and disbelief against which we had to steer our little bark, was simply enormous.
Let it be remembered, now that we are nearly a thousand strong; let it be remembered when, in days not far distant, our membership will be five times as great... that Lord Tennyson made this possible."
In this issue...
- Publishing - George Walkley
- Translation - Daniel Hahn
New ways of writing
- Justifying the jaunt: podcasting - Richard Moore
- Insert coins to continue: videogames - Mata Haggis
- The accidental Twitter poet - Brian Bilston
- How to blog well - Kristen Harrison
- Why write books when there's YouTube? - Shoo Rayner
- Haunting Harrogate - Steve Toase
- Aftercare - Jim Green
The writer at work
- Böll’s cottage - Diana Bentley
- The trials of working tax credit - Herbert Penton
- In praise of the index - Suzanne Hinton
- VAT FAQs OMG - Barry Kernon
- Plumber’s block - Mark McCrum
- Five-star pyjamas: Amazon reviews - Barbara Lorna Hudson
- Books about bookshops - Michael Byrne
- Need to know
- Out and about - Julie Middleton
- To the Editor
- Booktrade news
- Grub Street - Andrew Taylor