Dec 22, 2022Liked by Catherynne M. Valente

I... this should be be printed on beautiful tie-dyed paper and made into paper airplanes and big origami flowers and spread around the world. Printed on t-shirts, painted on park benches, put on posters boards in cafeterias and etched in stone on large tablets in dry arid lands where the tablets won't decay. Yes, everything and all of what you said.

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"Twitter is and was the home to so many small artists who clawed their way to an audience, who had the opportunity to be seen by the world without the intermediary of already-established success."

This is where I finally started crying. I've been online for nearly as long as you (I'm a little older, but wasn't able to get online until about '96), and have been through so many lost communities. Hell, LJ was where I found you and your work. Twitter, though. Twitter was the one where I was finally able to start seriously thinking I could make it as an artist. Twitter is where I found a community of artists, writers, and other weird little creators. The art community in my physical area isn't particularly online and is pretty much impossible to get into (and weirdly insular about letting non-artists near their work) unless you've already been an established gallery artist for years. Twitter is what allowed me to find my people. Twitter is where people started finding me and *my* art. Losing it is breaking my heart, and I am so. damned. angry. that we keep having to pack up and start over again every few years. I'm tired of losing people, and I'm terrified that my fragile, infant art business won't be able to survive the loss of community and I'm so. damned. angry. about all of it.

Sorry for the rant. That line, in particular, resonated a lot.

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Well damn, I just got a whole blast of your dragon fire and I love it. This is the right sort of rant - the one that actually means something, that comes from way deep down, that just needs to be screamed like a warrior's cry as she thunks her shield and sword and races into battle.

Phew. That's some energy.

I love connection, the internet has been such a wonderful place, even with all the assholes, and I've found wonder abd friendship and love and so much more here. And I've lost and moved on and lost again and moved on again. It's a bit like a real-life roguelite 😆

I loved this. Thank you.

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Dec 22, 2022·edited Dec 23, 2022

I want to give you 50,000 standing ovations and hugs. I could barely read this from shouting YES so hard.

So few of us remember Prodigy, but let me tell you this: I was the community leader/lead moderator for the Homelife bulletin boards on Prodigy. I was a contractor that every day talked to those people yelling at each other about cars and recipes and abortion and shih tzus and everything else that mattered to them, and I (and my team) found and pulled down the people who tried to ruin it. I might well have been watching over you and that grandma. And I told the Prodigy management over and over that the community was the value. They wanted people to log in and look at news and stock market reports, but I kept telling them that people logged in to talk to each other. They never believed me. I was a veteran of online communities for several years by then, so I knew in my bones what that meant. They decided the way to monetize the BBs was to switch from a flat monthly subscription rate to an hourly rate, and it was pandemonium. Ironic now that no service is metered and the social media sites want nothing more than to get people connected to them as long as possible.

Anyway.... I hear you so hard, and you're right. As a nearly-40-year veteran who kind of considers her nationality to be "Internetian", I'm right there fighting with you on the side of love, the thing we do better than anybody.

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Dec 22, 2022·edited Dec 28, 2022

Your article made me cry.

Here's one thing I remember about LJ that I will enthuse about to anyone who will listen: the LJ FriendFinder. It was a tool that would take your "interests" list -- which, you may recall, was just a list of things you typed out, separated by commas, that would link itself, hashtag-style, to other users who'd typed the same thing in their list -- and crank through all other users' interests, and spew out a list of LJ users you'd likely be friends with, ranked by the number of interests you had in common.... BUT (and here's the genius part), it was also *weighted* based on how rare a shared interest was. So if I typed in some super-obscure band, or some random phrase like "driving at night with the windows down," and someone else had the same thing, they'd appear at or nearer to the top of the FriendFinder list. So you could find a bunch of like-minded weirdos who enjoyed exactly the same oddball stuff you did.

Genius. And yep, I found friends. And kept them. Why the hell hasn't anyone else done this?

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Not to turn it all on its ear, but you should see the history of Russia’s social media sometime. VKontakte (or VK) as the Facebook of Russia... huge active user base... open and free... until the owner was forced to sell it to the Russian government. That led to Russians seeking western social media (LJ and Facebook being two examples), hoping to avoid their government taking over their conversation again. Instead, their government just restricted access until it became too frustrating for the Russian people to bother.

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Dec 22, 2022Liked by Catherynne M. Valente

Thank you for this <3

I am reminded by this favourite quote of mine, by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, that gets quoted by the Black Socialists of America often.

"Beneath the governmental machinery, in the shadow of political institutions, out of the sight of statemen and priests, society is producing its own organism, slowly and silently; and constructing a new order, the expression of its vitality and autonomy." (1851)

This is not just about the Internet. It's about our right to self determination that is continuously at threat. Yet we find ways to escape through the cracks that don't fit into their plans, the standards that they are trying to fit us into. We escape, we queer things and cover it with rainbows and flowers and glitter. We hide in safe spaces so that we can emerge in public and maintain some sanity.

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Dec 22, 2022Liked by Catherynne M. Valente

This might be the best thing I've ever read

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What you said here resonates with me so much. I was a Prodigy kid too (well, a Prodigy 20-something anyway), and have felt the loss of web-based communities a time or several myself. (For me, the big one was IMDb's user forums, which in retrospect were probably doomed after Amazon bought the IMDb.) More feelings stirred up here than I can easily express...but one thing for sure, I'm nominating your essay for a "related work" Hugo.

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Dec 27, 2022Liked by Catherynne M. Valente

"Don’t lose joy. Be us. Because us is what keeps the light on when the night comes closing in. Us doesn’t have a web address. We are wherever we gather. Mastodon, Substack, Patreon, Dreamwidth, AO3, Tumblr, Discord, even the ruins of Twitter, even Facebook and Instagram and Tiktok, god help us all. Even Diaryland.

It doesn’t matter. They’re just names. It doesn’t matter who owns them. Because we own ourselves and our words and the minute the jackals arrive is the same minute we put down the first new chairs in the next oasis. We make our place when we’re together. We make our magic when we connect, typing hands to typing hands.

Hello, world. Come in from the cold. This will be a good place. For awhile. And then we’ll make another one."

This is beautifully said, Cat.

And, reading it, I found myself realizing, "She's describing SURFING."

Not web surfing, but the real thing: paddling out, waiting on the board for a long time for a wave that you can catch... and more often than not wiping out. Paddling out again. And again.

I was never any good at surfing (I was decent at the "wiping out" part), but I did enough to understand the shape of it.

We tend to think of online communities as being analogous to real-world homes and villages, with the aspiration to permanence that that implies. I humbly submit that the rhythm and structure of finding an online community and living in it is really much more like catching waves, and working hard to stay on the board for as long as you can. No wave is permanent, but the urge to look for the next one is overwhelming.

Because the ecstasy of riding a wave when you do catch it is worth all of the work and waiting and disappointment.

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Dec 22, 2022Liked by Catherynne M. Valente

Thank you Cat, I needed to read this today

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This made me laugh and cry on a plane across the Atlantic. I've tried to put my feelings about all this on paper (or, well, Substack) but in trying to mitigate the severity of my feelings, lest I drown in them, the result was predictably a bit detached. This was catharsis embodied, and I'm really grateful you shared your thoughts and your heart on the issue. See you around cons and the internet, and thanks for the eyeshadow advice. 💙

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I've been feeling this fury and frustration building up in me about social media, Google whatnot for years now. This year it reached boiling point, and you describe my anger perfectly! Pretty tired of losing my communities over and over and over again. Not only this but being pushed around by algorithms that want you to behave or write a certain way. Each time Google pushes it's new SEO update I want to scream, "Enough, shut the eff up!"

Like you I was born in the 70s, so I saw the transition to the Internet age. The early years was so exciting. I built my first website in 1999 on Geocities. The comment threads were my social media. Then corporations took over the Internet, and I went from owner to vassal.

I'm pretty done with this paradigm.

Thanks for writing this piece.

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Dec 22, 2022Liked by Catherynne M. Valente

First time diving into your substack, and at the risk of leaning too far in to silver linings, I had forgotten how much I love your (non-novel) long form. You’re one of the first artists I truly discovered online, and to think of that opportunity being lost for so many artists and fans alike hurts my heart. Communities will find a way through times of change, but thank you for highlighting the core of what gets lost over and over again while not giving in to the kind of fatalism that causes one to go numb.

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Dec 26, 2022Liked by Catherynne M. Valente

Oh my, I feel you. I'm a 1971 solid Gen Xer, and remember my old prodigy I. D. (Mkmm33c) under my dad's account because I was a poor college kid. My 1991 boyfriend and I used up the free messages, so we'd post in code on the bulletin boards about what was going on that day.... Like when he was ranting about his stepmother not letting him wash his jeans at home, we turned it into a public post about the hardcore band "April's Laundry" that was "just insane, and have you heard the latest one, 'Hot Food Breaks the Fridge? ' "

Of course, as a daughter of a weird Navy guy who had Arpanet, I had been on the Internet since around 1981. I remember logging in with a telnet i.d. (and pretending to be 18 with) to chatter with some nice guy named "Psiman".

And so on... What were we saying?


I've always loved the connection potential online.

You inspired me to go back to my own Diaryland page, and I smiled, seeing it's all there, "underneath my eyelid," or whatever it is. I posted begging for peace on 9/11.

This is too long. But I hear you.

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Dec 23, 2022Liked by Catherynne M. Valente

I found you on Twitter, years ago, during the whole Bill Maher comic book thing.

And here we go again, on to the next online place. But I'm glad you're still out there and that I can still find you.

This is magnificent.

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