So... let's just get this whole reflections thing out of the way so that next week I can start getting everything back to normal for real. Or as real as anything is around here. After my a to z series, I'm beginning to wonder what real really is.
Okay, not really... that's mostly the fault of my kids.
But what did I think of the whole A to Z thing? That's a good question that I don't have a good answer for. So, before I get to the part where I start trying to evade that question, let's deal with the stuff I do know.
The first thing I know is, wow! I had no clue that fiction, specifically science fiction, introduced so many ideas to the world. I mean, I knew that science fiction was responsible for some stuff. I figure we all knew that. But I had no idea it introduced SO MANY THINGS. You think I talked about a lot? You should see the list of things I didn't talk about! What amazed me most was how many of them, especially the stuff about space travel, tied directly back to the fiction with people saying, "I was inspired by this." That's pretty amazing, if you ask me. And I'm really glad my wife made this suggestion, because it was all very interesting and good research.
[At some point, I may talk about more of these things, so I'm gonna keep my lists and my links to myself for the moment. Maybe, I'll post some in the future. (before anyone asks)]
The second thing I know is that there are a bunch of books I want to read now. I've already ordered Snow Crash and also have plans to pick up some Vinge novels within the next couple of weeks (crossing my fingers that they still have them when I go to get them (because, yes, I already called)). Doing this series made me want to reread a bunch of stuff, too, like War of the Worlds, but I know I probably won't actually do that even though I want to. My reading list (of things I haven't read) is just too long, and I don't think I'll be able to work a bunch of rereading in (even if I am rereading Jekyll and Hyde).
Those are the things I know. But it's also raised a question.
Doing all of this has, in many ways, caused me to question literature. Not in a "what is literature?" kind of way, but in a "what's the point of most literature?" kind of way. After seeing the impact of so much of science fiction, it makes me wonder about the worthwhileness of whole genres of "literature." If reading doesn't prompt us to do something, what's the point? It doesn't have to be science fiction. Dickens didn't write science fiction, but his novels were often social commentary that prompted people to respond (like with Oliver Twist). Honestly, this has been a question I've struggled with since, well, since high school, even back when I was reading Piers Anthony (and most of his books don't do anything). And I get entertainment. I like being entertained. But isn't providing something more than just mere entertainment something we should be striving for? Of course, writing books that say something is a lot harder than just writing books. Writing books that say something well... well, that's pretty rare.
The A to Z challenge itself... was it worth it? I don't think I have an answer to that question. Looking at the numbers, just the numbers, I'd have to say "no." I mean that in that I put a whole lot more work into it than I got back from it. It didn't raise my daily traffic by any considerable amount. I did gain followers, but it certainly wasn't a huge number. No great increase in comments. In fact, that number dropped, but I'm sure it was because people got burned out by the end of the month. At any rate, I think it will take a couple or few months to actually see what the real impact of participating was. At the moment, I'm saying it was tiring, it made me cranky, and it made my wife cranky at me. And, see, I had, like, 9 posts completed before April started, but I only finished my "Z" post two days before it was due. And I worked on these almost every single day (I think I took a total of 3 days off from working on blog posts the whole month (which is why my wife was cranky at me)).
Here's what I observed:
People who wrote short "nothing" posts picked up more followers and got more comments. On one level, I get this. People want to zip through the blogs and check them out, because there are just a lot of them. However, in relation to people that I already followed, those that took this approach, I really just didn't read their blogs the whole month of April. Why? Because they didn't post about anything. Whatever it was that I like about their blog was just gone, so I didn't even bother. In that sense, it all feels like false advertising to me. The people that pulled the most new people in were the ones that "lied" about who they are by throwing up frivolous posts. And I just don't know how I feel about that overall. I think it makes me sad.
In the same way, I didn't find very many new blogs I felt were worth following. The few I did choose to follow were blogs that said something. Had significant posts that took some time to read. Some of these blogs picked up so few new followers as to be insignificant. And that makes me sad. It makes me feel like most people don't want to take the time to read something that will make them think. Actually, I know this is true, because most people don't read. And, here, among people that (supposedly) do read, they're only really attracted to the short, flashy posts with pictures of kittens.
But here's the thing, of the blogs that I skipped over because their A to Z posts were short, frivolous things (like A is for Apple (because I really came across that one (more than once))), how many of them actually have blogs worth following but were "lying" during the A to Z month because the short posts attract more flies? I'll never know.
And that... that's actually why I wrote long posts in the vein of what I normally do. I wanted the people that stopped by my blog to see what I'm actually about and make a decision based on me, not a "used car salesman" persona that I threw on during A to Z month to drive traffic in. Having said that, I did do one post that was "lighter" than the rest. It had more pictures than any other post I did and less of me talking. It felt natural to me to demonstrate that one through pictures because of the subject matter: exo-suits. They're just cool. And that post, the one I viewed as kind of a throwaway post, got twice as many page views as the next most viewed A to Z post. And I don't know how I feel about that, because, if I were to pick my top 3 posts of A to Z, or my top 5, or, even, my top 10, that one would not be in it.
I suppose it's just going to come down to a question of quantity vs quality. I chose to not go for quantity. I did that on purpose and, even, stated my decision to go the route I was going to one of the hosts. Unfortunately, quality is more difficult to measure, to >heh< quantify, so it may take me a while to figure out if the time I spent on A to Z was worth it in the grand scheme of things. I do think I picked up, at least, a few quality people, and, for that, I'm grateful. Beyond that, we'll just have to see how it goes.
[EDIT: As a follow up to my series and as an addition (specifically) to my Cyborg post, I just saw an article yesterday about the very first bionic eyes being implanted and returning (limited) sight to some people suffering from a degenerative genetic condition that causes blindness. This is pretty big news!]