Neil’s Great Interview Experiment, 2009
People, I’m participating in Neil‘s annual Interview Experiment this year and, as such, have interviewed a fellow blogger all in the name of “community” or some other kumbaya bullshit. I don’t know. Ask Neil — knowing him, it’s some roundabout means of him getting laid that probably won’t pan out. But I’ve learned not to ask questions. Anyway, in the name of the blog community as curated by Neil, please meet Zeptimius Hedrapor, who blogs at snowstone.com about this, that, and all of the other things. I suspect that isn’t his real name, but when you blog about things like the movie Three Kings and NaBloWriMo, it’s totally understandable why you’d need to stay under deep cover.
How long have you been blogging? What kind of technology and tools do you use?
My first post dates all the way back from September 21st, 2001. It’s a review of the movie Three Kings. I started blogging after I read an interview with Meg Hourihan, an early blogger and co-creator of the Blogger application, in the New Yorker. I fiddled around with Blogger but settled on Movable Type. It fits my needs quite nicely. I have upgraded once or twice over the years.
What were your original goals for your blogging when you started — did you see it as a creative outlet or were you looking to make new friends, etc.?
My original goal was mainly as a broad creative outlet, I’d say. I noticed that I had a lot of different things I did: writing fiction, making cartoons or comics, doing movie reviews of just being opinionated etc. There was no one channel that would let me combine this stuff, so a blog seemed like the perfect tool. People keep saying that a blog should be about one thing, but I just can’t bring myself to sacrifice all the other things I blog about.
Do you share your blog with people in your real life?
If it comes up in conversation, I won’t conceal the fact, but I won’t volunteer the information either. So some people know I have a blog, most people don’t. I am very aware, though, of the distinction between the private me and the online me. My name isn’t Zeptimius, for example, and by checking my blog, you won’t find out more about me than that I live in Amsterdam and what I look like. I also never blog about my job. (If you must know, I am actually a ninja assassin working for whichever government pays me most.)
A ninja assassin? Really?
You state in your about section that you prefer to use your blog for genres like fiction and poetry. Have you found it difficult to find an audience for this kind of writing online? Do you find that people are eager to comment on fiction and essays, or other types of writing that require the reader to think and digest a piece? Does it matter?
I think it’s hard to find an audience for any type of content unless your purposely go out of your way to get people to your site. I tried as hard as I could to make readable, interesting and short posts, but in the end, nothing spread like wildfire. I went to a talk in Amsterdam recently that featured Ze Frank (whom I urge you to check out if you don’t know him yet), who said, ‘If you want to, it’s very easy to get people to your site: just talk or write about anything that half the world finds objectionable, while the other half finds it great. Both sides will link to your site. But that’s not what I’m interested in.’
I agree; I’d be lying if I said I don’t want more people to visit my blog, but between ‘almost nobody’ and ‘trolls and haters’, I’ll take ‘almost nobody’ any day. I would love to find a way to get to blogs, YouTube channels etc that are neither the most popular nor the least popular, but somewhere in between. I’m guessing that I would find that kind of content the most interesting. It’s sad to think that there is a mountain of cool content out there that is just very hard to get to. It’s equally sad to think that what I make might be cool to tons of people who just never happen across my blog.
How long have you been cartooning? What are your favorite comic strips now (if any)? What does the cartoon strip offer you in terms of conveying meaning that you cannot gain from other genres?
I’ve been cartooning/doing comics since I was about 15, but with huge hiatuses (hiati?), and I’ve never pursued it seriously. My favorite comics would be European: Tintin, Gaston and the comics of Enki Bilal and Jacques Tardi. I also adore the early 20th century American comic Krazy Kat. I’ve always liked comics for their ability to mix text, camera work and graphic art in one medium. I also think that comics, or rather graphic novels, can be used to great effect to tell simple, poetic stories, or to make big, dramatic stories accessible, like in Art Spiegelman’s Maus books.
What is your favorite genre in which to write?
My favorite genre would be the generic ‘fiction’ I guess, not a specific genre like horror or sci-fi. I much prefer (reading or writing) short stories over novels, and lately I’m intrigued by very short stories (aka flash fiction), as found on sites like Six Sentences. I’m proud to have been published in one of their anthologies with a six-sentence story — the first time I appeared in print.
Who are your favorite bloggers?
I don’t know if you could rightly call him a blogger/vlogger, but the aforementioned Ze Frank really showed me what the medium can accomplish. My favorite real bloggers would be Skazka of Gem A Day, and ingrid of Ice Cream Is Nice Cream. But to be honest, these days I’m more focused on vloggers such as wheezywaiter or NFInternational, a collaborative YouTube channel featuring five vloggers from three continents. I also follow a lot of blogs and vlogs related to my job or to my hobby – learning Japanese.
Right. Because it would be important that a Ninja Assassin would know Japanese, I’d imagine. In fact, I’d have thought it’s a job requirement, you know, so you can communicate with the other Ninja Assasins.
So you guys use mostly hand signals to communicate, then?
You really take that whole “silent-but-deadly” thing seriously, huh?
OK. Well, moving on . . . your video series, jamoyt (“just a minute of your time”), features title sequences that echo the narrative technique of both Henry Fielding and Thomas Hardy. Are you a scholar of the “High” English novel, or just a fan? How would you compare the early English travel narrative with the post-modern blog? If Smollett wrote a blog, would you read it? Would anyone, do you think?
Actually, I’m not so much into English literature from the romantic period, but I did play with the idea of old literature recreated on the Web: I made a (highly condensed) version of Hamlet once on LiveJournal as well as a Microsoft Comic Chat version of Macbeth, which was never finished. It’s interesting that no weblog has emerged that became really popular because of the quality of its writing. I guess blogs are, strangely, just not the right medium.
[Editor’s Note: I disagree with this point. First of all, Smollett was neither a Romantic nor a particularly gifted writer. He shares with early bloggers the benefit of having been first. Also, I think that Penelope Trunk is popular in large part due to the quality of her writing, as well as Ben Casnocha‘s blog. In a different manner, Copyblogger‘s success is owing to the quality of its writing as well. Even if blogs get started for a different reason, or are popularized with the help of other means, the enduring quality is their writing. I also think, as I’ve said elsewhere, that the quality of writing in the blogosphere has been lacking quite a bit in its earliest years, and as more people join the blogosphere this changes, and will continue to change, as the market introduces additional quality control via competition.]
Why did you name your blog “snowstone”? Do you have a charming anecdote to share?
Alas, no, there’s no charming anecdote behind the name ‘snowstone’. I’m very happy to have gotten in on the game when domain names like these were still available, and today I wouldn’t part with it for the world. I looked for a name that would combine some very elementary natural words and easy to remember. I recall playing with alternatives like saltandpepper.com (to indicate a mix of humor and spiciness), but it was taken. I’m still happy with the name and the simple little ‘pebble logo’, a stone covered with a layer of snow, as seen on the front page.
People, check out Zeptimius’ blog at Snowstone.com for your comics and vlogging fixes, straight from Amsterdam!