One Year Online: A Look Back

Right, so as of yesterday, Unusual Things has been online for a whole year. You likely knew that. After all, it’s the reason for the big sale I’ve got going on this week. You know, the one where all my books are super cheap?

Yes, that was a shameless plug. It’s my site.

And yes, I know it’s not the only place I post online. Being a Better Writer is, actually, three years old this month. But since I initially ran that on another site before moving over here … semantics!

Anyway, I figured for the fun of it, now that one year has expired, a look back on Unusual Things‘ stats in that time would be amusing and insightful. I’ve got numbers! Let’s look at them! For fun! And maybe some sort of science!

So, where to start? How about with the number of views Unusual Things has landed in its first year of operation? A quick look at the site’s stats board and some simple addition says …


Hey, you know what? That’s not bad. Not bad at all. Ten thousand views, while nothing to those with heavy advertising budgets and ten thousand fans, is pretty good for a one-year blog on writing, a subject not a lot of people care about.

Actually, let’s dig into that one a bit more. What’s been the post with the highest number of views, the one that’s caught the most attention?

I’m Not a Fan of Science-Fiction and Fantasy? from May 30th, 2015, with 741 views.

You might remember that post. That was the post where I reacted to a number of statements from the Insular crowd during last year’s Hugo insanity, statements that, well, in line with their given moniker of “Insulars,” was all about how certain “casual” fans needed to be kept out of the Hugos, suggesting that they weren’t “real” fans of Sci-Fi and Fantasy because they hadn’t passed some invisible, societal conscientious litmus test that made them a “real fan.”

Anyway, it was followed a few months later by a follow-up, Casual Readers Not Welcomein which GRRM (of Thrones fame) openly supporting the idea that “casual readers,” as he called them, were not welcome at conventions like the Hugo Awards, where only true fans matter.

Anyway, I can’t say I’m surprised by the post’s popularity (nor that of its follow-up, which also appeared on the top list). It’s got controversy, and everyone loves controversy.

Being a Better Writer
But what about something not controversial? What about Being a Better Writer? How’s that fairing? Well, a quick check shows that while they don’t have the draw of GRRM saying crazy, isolationist things, BaBW still does pretty well. Top post?

Reader Comprehension, with 252 views. I’ll admit, this one comes as a bit of a surprise to me. Of all the now hundred+ topics out there, reader comprehension isn’t one I’d expected to be the go-to top post on my site. And yet it is. by a healthy margin.

Which isn’t to say that the rest of the BaBW posts are being left out in the cold. Quite the contrary. In fact, many of them are starting to pick up daily hits from search engines and moving to the top of those lists (several search topics on writing, in fact, list BaBW on the first page of results, which is most likely contributing to those daily hits).

Worldwide Audience
Another fun thing to look at is the nationality of my varied audience. One of the great things about the internet is the global accessibility of information (well, unless you’re in China or using Twitter these days), and it’s fun to see where and when a lot of my audience comes from.

It’s not too surprising that the majority of my views come from the US, seeing as my work spreads mostly by word of mouth, and the US has a very large compliment of people who spend a lot of time online. 7,266 of my views last year came from the United States.

But what about the other 2,500 or so?

Turns out, the United Kingdom grabs a good 500 or so of those. Australia grabs a surprising 200, as do Finland, Germany, and Sweden.

But then we’ve also got some surprising but fun hits, like Brazil, New Zealand, and with about 150 hits, the Philippines!

Rad. Even Egypt, South Africa, and Mozambique stop by from time to time. That’s pretty cool.

Followers and Other Stats
So, a few last numbers to throw out. Since its inception, Unusual Things has picked up 60 followers. Not a titanic number, but still cool nonetheless. It has picked up 148 comments across 177 total posts. The most popular tag is Fun Stuff, followed by Writing Tips. The top three referrers to the site are (in order) FacebookFile 770, and Fimfiction. The most amusing search term that led someone to my site (and granted, most search terms are blocked, so I don’t see many of these) is the question “Why would a writer intentionally misdirect their audience?” I hope they found their answer.

Another Year Ahead
All in all, I think it was a pretty good year, especially for what essentially was a near-zero start. Looking at the numbers for the last few months, this year is going to be in good hands.

So, I need to get back you work, and you need to pick up a copy of Unusual Events if you haven’t already, so we’ve both got work to do!

See you through the rest of this year!

2 thoughts on “One Year Online: A Look Back

  1. Hi Max. Congratulations on getting through a year and seeing positive growth! Many bloggers get tired of the slog – regardless of the response they get, so you can count that as a success as well.

    I re-read the comments from your I’m Not a Fan of Science-Fiction and Fantasy? post and did some thinking about it during my taxi service duties this morning.

    The first thing that struck me was that my own comments seem to come across as far more strident than I had intended. The emotional content was different from my intended purpose, and for that I apologize. What I was hoping to convey is my belief and experience that a lot of fans who feel as you expressed at the time ARE welcome, but perhaps more background and exposure to a wider range of fandom might alter their perceptions.

    The thought I kept on coming back to this morning were two fanspeak words that never came up in prior conversation, and how they encompass two different kinds of fans (both of which are Fans), as well as illustrating that the divide you perceive has been in place at least since the 50s.

    The two words are FIAWOL and FIJAGH. Fandom Is A Way Of Life and Fandom Is Just A Goddamned Hobby.

    This first is an expression that one would use to describe the feelings and level of engagement of what is known as the “Trufan”. These people have prioritized not just the reading and viewing of science fiction and fantasy, but also include the community and its many expressions, such as conventions or fanzines or clubs & etc.

    These individuals have chosen to center their life and activities around the SF sub-culture – be it “traditional” fandom (which I consider to be the legacy of the first clubs, Worldcon, First Fandom, fanzine fandom, etc) or a sub-branch, such as Star Trek or Firefly fandom.

    These are people who (this is general and will not apply in any particular to every individual) for example, decide to attend the convention and worry about the rent later; accept lower-paying or non-career-oriented jobs so they can devote the necessary time to their “hobby” (or, alternatively, chose to make it big so they could do nothing BUT indulge their hobby). These are people who would rather eat ramen noodle every meal for a month rather than not work (for free) at a convention.

    FIJAGH, on the other hand describes the individual who is every bit as engaged with reading, viewing, creating SF/Fantasy/Horror; can be just as knowledgeable and well informed about the field, but who has not chosen to prioritize the sub-culture over “mundane” life. (Perhaps they are more well-adjusted and have a more balanced approach to life – though I’m sure I could find some fans who would argue that.) They may occasionally engage with the sub-culture, or something closely related to but not OF the sub-culture (such as giant media cons – to understand that distinction we’d have to discuss the mores, ethics and traditions of the sub-culture – happy to do it but we’ll skip for now) but it is not “A Way Of Life” for them.

    Objectively, that’s the difference I think.

    Most, but not all (more on that in a second) of the people who actually make the expressions of Trufandom happen (conventions, fanzines, clubs, etc), are the ones whose way of looking at and doing things set the tone and perpetuate the culture. Their level of commitment has caused them to be exposed to the shared history, the ideals, the traditions and they remained engaged after obtaining that exposure, which strongly suggests that they have bought into it. Of course not every bit of it exactly the same and not the entire panoply: there are plenty of folks who, for example, go to conventions, share this background and these sensibilities, who do nothing but costuming, or nothing but Filking. Yet they ARE part of the greater whole and accepted as such. (Side point about this not being a monolithic thing: At various times Filkers and Costumers – among others – have felt that they weren’t getting enough attention; they agitated for a while, obtained some improvements and eventually branched out to form clubs and run cons dedicated only to their special interest – but they still attend the more general focus cons, still promote their events through those conventions. The same thing happened with Star Trek fandom: they wanted more focus on Trek, traditional fandom wanted to stay generalized, so there was a split, but the two have gradually moved back together since the mid 70s. Because at root, they share a lot in common.)

    Layered on top of all of this is the fact that one of the “traditions” of fandom is that it doesn’t enforce conformity. It revels in individualism and seeks cooperation. Fandom was started by a bunch of quirky, non-conformist outcasts and they were loathe to do to each other what they felt mundane society was doing to them. Early fan feuds were first fought over who was going to be top dog in fandom; that morphed into a fight over ensuring that no one could ever be top dog in fandom. This is reflected to this day in the way in which WSFS is organized: it’s an “unincorporated literary society” – which means that no one can ever get themselves into a position of CEO or President and run the whole show.

    One can quibble and claim that there isn’t a single individual or group running things, but that there are influencers and a click of insiders who have taken on the role and that may even be true to some extent, but those influencers have achieved that position through their works and contributions and I think most will agree that when they’ve miss-stepped, fandom has been very quick to jump on them with both booted feet.

    And the fact remains that someone who is not currently a “Trufan” of the FIAWOL variety, can change that status not by cozying up to certain individuals, not by adopting any particular political viewpoint and certainly not by favoring one “kind” of science fiction over another, but by making fandom a way of life, pitching in, getting involved, learning the history, contributing.

    Or they can go the FIJAGH route, continue to enjoy the literature, pick and choose what they want to engage with of those other fannish things and accept the fact that they will not be at the center of fandom because they simply are not involved at that level.

    Both levels of engagement are entirely valid. That doesn’t prevent individuals of one persuasion or the other from being critical of the other point of view, of course, but criticism and disagreement doesn’t invalidate the individuals sense that they are a fan of one kind or another.

    The primary reason that the kerpupple got under my skin (fans are highly individualistic and I can not speak for any other) was because my perception was that a group of fans who were not sufficiently knowledgeable about how fandom does things started trying to tell fandom what to do. If the route they had taken had been to learn “why” no one had ever bloc-voted the Hugo Awards before, for example, they’d have learned of fandom’s highly individualistic nature; they’d have learned that fandom is largely focused on collective benefit rather than individual benefit. They’d have learned that giving recognition to yourself (I deserve a Hugo Award; I’m a SMOF) is not done: you get Egoboo from others by doing things that are generally accepted as positive contributions. They’d have learned that while we recognize the special place that authors and artists and editors have, we don’t automatically give them special status: everyone at a traditional convention is a “Member”; they all pay the same. They all ride the same elevators and don’t stand behind a paywall to sign autographs. (The “we’re all in it together” thing is one of the best qualities of fandom.) That’s because they are all Fans FIRST. Some fans happen to be authors. Others may be convention Division Heads, or someone running a Bid table, or just someone who wants to meet and greet people with shared interests. I may have a ribbon on my badge that says “Panelist”, but all that means is I’m giving more of my time to the convention. It doesn’t mean I have status greater than anyone else attending.

    The puppies might have learned all of that and still gone on to do what they did, but I venture to guess that the “fight” might have been more focused on “these kinds of works are not getting enough attention” and less focused on the largely meaningless ancillary mundane political BS. The “not enough attention” argument may or may not be valid but regardless, I know for sure that it would have gone down a lot easier if it had been made in ways that didn’t step on the toes of at least 77 years of tradition. You walk into a culture without being familiar with it and start making waves, there’s bound to be push-back. (I suspect that this may be the reason that some missionaries ended up in the soup.)

    And yes, there are times when tradition needs to be overthrown, but I do not believe that this was one of them – especially in light of the fact that there are other, already built-in methods for accommodating the kinds of changes the puppies seemed to be looking for. The Hugo Awards themselves are the result of changes, sometimes radical, that have been introduced over the years.

    Ultimately, every “fan” is the kind of fan they want to be, can afford to be (and this often changes, multiple times). We don’t get together to celebrate our sameness, we get together to celebrate the fact that we’re all so different and yet have found some things in common to share.

    I’ll close by giving you a quote from an editorial by Hugo Gernsback that ran in Science Wonder Stories magazine about the Science Fiction League (an attempt to bring all of fandom under one umbrella that had attached commercial interests; ultimately that was rejected by fandom because fandom was supposed to belong to everyone, and wasn’t supposed to be a commercial venture). Regardless, the quote itself encompasses thoughts about fandom that remain true today, with the happy conclusion that what Gernsback predicted has actually come true:

    “The founders of the SCIENCE FICTION LEAGUE sincerely believe that they have a great mission to fulfill. They believe in the seriousness of Science Fiction. They believe that there is nothing greater than human imagination, and the diverting of such imagination into constructive channels. They believe that Science Fiction is something more than literature. They sincerely believe that it can become a world-force of unparalleled magnitude in time to come.”


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