Monday, January 2

A while back, I added a simple tag system to this site. Going back and skimming old entries to tag them, it’s hard not to be overcome by this kind of creeping self-hatred and regret for just about everything I’ve ever written.

I was pretty young when I started writing Brennen’s Homepage, or whatever I called it at the time.1 I started, if this tells you anything, on GeoCities, and then rented a shell account from a guy named Robert Hardesty who had a Unix box somewhere in Boston.

The earliest entry I have here is from April of 1997, which means I was 16 and the Internet was still a place (or a thing) that it’s hard to realistically remember at all now.

I want to think of my failings recorded here as the product of something like childhood ignorance, even if they lasted well into my 30s.

I suppose that a lot of the last ~375000 words aren’t something I’d write now partly because the web was smaller and it made sense to write confessional bullshit out where anyone could see it (probably because in fact only internet weirdos like you would see it).

Most of the early blogs and LiveJournals and GeoCities sites have evaporated now. They survive, if at all on the public web, only in the recesses of archive.org. Mostly they died of bitrot, but there’s been plenty of deliberate clean-slating too. People look at something they started writing when they were still kids, and then they take it out back to shoot it. A final mercy for those cringier traces of their younger selves.

I know people who burn all their journals. The impulse makes a lot of sense.

That’s all something of a cop-out, though. Even if everything I felt bad about writing was gone, I’d still have written it. I’m trying to take this collection of terrible writing as a useful index to some things, like what I have (despite myself) actually learned since I was a teenager.

Here are some things I’ll own:

  • I’ve written a lot of stupid, embarrassing shit about women. I’ve also written some stupid, unthinking, racist nonsense.

  • I’ve done more than my fair share of tasteless appropriation.

  • I grew up so embedded in midwestern American cultural and religious conservatism that its dimensions were basically invisible to me.

  • I soaked up a whole lot of SFnal libertarianism (and much stranger stuff) and then Free Software hit my nascent political brain like a ton of lead bricks. I danced around anarchism for a long time without understanding it. At 35, I do not have a coherent political philosophy. My writing, no doubt, reflects this.

  • I both repeat and contradict myself constantly. I adopt a posture of expertise or certainty far more often than is warranted.

  • My enthusiasm for art has usually been poorly contextualized, embarrassingly naive, or just a bad idea.2

  • I write poems without any real grounding in poetry as such, and they are for the most part very bad poems.

  • I almost never know what the fuck is going on.

I could go on in this vein for a while, but I suppose the point is this: If you needed for some reason to discover that I’m a ridiculous asshole, or convict me of a wide range of ideological offenses (or crimes against basic good taste), you’d have an easy enough time of it. However ill you want to think of me, the text here is likely sufficient to your needs.

I’m not going to delete all this stuff, though. I’m not sure if I can quite say why. I don’t blame anyone else for that impulse, but it’s not for me right now. Maybe I’m just too obsessed with memory to deliberately efface one of the few artifacts I’ve made out of it. Or too conscious of how little else I’ve built than a pile of words, as I near an age when it’s just as likely the bulk of my accomplishments are in the past.

What I would say is: If you find something here you’re repulsed by, well, you might be right. You might well be under no obligation to cut me much slack, but there’s a decent chance I’m trying to do better. At any rate, I’m all too aware I haven’t been doing so hot as it stands.

1 There was, for a little while, this kind of computer gaming zine that I made in Microsoft Publisher and called "Feed The Machine". It was full of cheatcodes I copied from other places and screenshots of demos installed off of the PC Gamer disc. I think it had a web incarnation for about 5 minutes somewhere in there.

2 The opinions I had in public on Usenet... Look, I'm sorry, ok?