Interview with Carl V. Anderson (Stainless Steel Droppings)

I am running in the park with Carl V. Anderson of Stainless Steel Droppings, which has recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. Among many other things, Carl is a committee member and Event Marketer for Spectrum Fantastic Art Live, which has just concluded for this year. He is also an alarmingly fast runner.

SCy-Fy: Carl, you host various regular events on your site; what’s coming up next?

CA: I will host R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril (R.I.P.) from September 1st through October 31st. It is an annual reading event celebrating gothic/mystery/horror/suspense fiction and TV/film. This year will be the 9th annual R.I.P. event.

In December I will host The Sci-Fi Experience, which runs through the end of January and focuses on all things science fiction.

I have more running events scheduled this year, so I imagine Stainless Steel Droppings will see the return of the occasional running post.

Other than that, I hope to see more frequent blogging, with the focus remaining on art and literature in the SFF vein.

SCy-Fy: What is a typical blogging day for you?

CA: Unfortunately, of late a “blogging day” has been a very rare occurrence. However, typically when I know I have the time to write a blog post and the desire to do so, I do a mental pass through the post, or at least the beginning of the post. I tend to have a conversation in my head, as if I’m reading aloud to someone, telling someone a story, and running through some ideas for sentence structure in my head helps get the creative juices flowing. Of course, sometimes this happens when I am out running or on my drive to work, and the challenge is to try to remember that monologue in my head that seemed so brilliant to me when I was having it.

Another step is the process of finding images to go along with the post. I am a visual person and do not like to post words-only blog posts. I like there to be images to enhance the post, and not just when I’m doing a post about art.

SCy-Fy: Where do you go to for images to use?

CA: If I’m looking for specific types of images, I often use Flickr and select the Creative Commons filter so that I can find images that the owners have put out for use. Always credit those sources!

SCy-Fy: What about for words?

CA: I love I tend to use a lot of adjectives and it is easy to find myself repeating the same ones. I like to learn new ways to express myself, and it often spawns creativity when I see words that I am familiar with but don’t often use.

SCy-Fy: You’ve been blogging for a long time. What are the biggest challenges?

CA: I think that a current challenge, which will always remain, is a blogger’s struggle with relevancy and whether or not being “relevant” matters.

The SFF community can be a wonderful, engaged community, but it is also a bitter and divisive community because the trolls are ever-present, spreading narrow-minded ideas and generally treating other members of the community in an unacceptable manner. On the other end of that spectrum are folks who will push their social/political agenda with such an air of extremism that they alienate fans of SFF who would generally agree with them if they weren’t so militant.

I think there is a real challenge for those who feel the desire to write about more serious issues in the SFF community to champion tolerance while not themselves spreading intolerance for those with whom they disagree.

Another challenge is to build and maintain an audience. Facebook and Tumblr provide more quick-hit, bite-sized glimpses that seem to be more palatable in an age where people are multi-tasking and want to quickly go from one thing to the next, which makes it a challenge to get someone to take the extra time to read a blog post. That in turn leads to the temptation to wade into controversy for the sake of getting readers, vs. doing so because you feel that you have something legitimate to add to the conversation.

SCy-Fy: Do you have any advice for bloggers?

CA: Probably similar to what everyone would say, which is “be yourself”. Write about what you are interested in vs. what you think readers will be interested in. Pursue your passions. Learn what you like and what you think works from blogs that you enjoy and feel free to incorporate those things into what you do, but don’t simply copy another. Put your own unique voice in to what you write, how you structure your blog, etc. And realize that your “own unique voice” comes with the practice of writing. You won’t be the world’s greatest blogger right out of the gate.

SCy-Fy: Traps in SFF blogging?

CA: Trying to keep up with all the latest books/films/games can be a huge trap. There are reasons that fantastic sites like SF Signal utilize multiple volunteer writers and also have daily link posts. It is impossible to keep up with everything that is happening in the genre without blogging being your full-time job. So again, choose subjects for which you are passionate. Quantity is important, but not nearly as important as quality. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling you have to blog every day at the expense of writing something interesting and worth reading.

It can also be a trap to feel like you have to only blog about current books/films/games, etc. If you have a love of older SFF, blog about it. The internet is full of people who like the things that you like and who would love nothing more than to engage in conversation and exchange ideas/recommendations.

Blog about your passions!

SCy-Fy: Things that have kept you going in hard times?

CA: Friends that I have met over years of blogging that I would lose touch with if I didn’t keep writing and didn’t visit their blogs as well.

I feel honoured to be a part of the blogging and the SFF community in some small way. Blogging about the things that excite me has opened up the opportunity to communicate with so many wonderful people, some of whom I’ve had the pleasure to meet in person as well. It is those connections that keep me blogging and make the time and effort worthwhile.

Taking a break once in a while to read or game just for the sake of doing so, without feeling the pressure to do so quickly so I can blog about it. Also, making sure that blogging has its proper place in my list of priorities.

SCy-Fy: Posts of yours that have had the most impact or controversy?

CA: I tend to stay away from controversy, as more often than not I feel that blog posts that stir controversy only serve to either a) preach to the choir as one’s followers tend to have similar thoughts on issues, or b) gather the trolls to your location, which ultimately has them targeting your blog and making the experience less pleasurable. Some thrive on that energy and controversy. That is not what I am about. I’m about sharing passions, encouragement, opening the eyes of others to artists and authors I think are worthy of attention for what they create.

I think my posts about getting out of debt and building healthy eating/exercise habits had impact, as I took reasonable steps to achieve those ends.

SCy-Fy: What have been the best books you have read recently?

CA: The Uplift War by David Brin, The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, the first Man-Kzin Wars volume by Larry Niven, Poul Anderson and Dean Ing, Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman.

SCy-Fy: Which upcoming releases are you most looking forward to?

CA: A Liaden Universe Constellation, Volume III by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Realms: The Roleplaying Art of Tony DiTerlizzi, Imagery from the Bird’s Home: The Art of Bill Carman, The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny.

SCy-Fy: Well, we’ve finished our circuit of the park. Now I have to go and lie down for a few weeks.

CA: Thank you so much for this opportunity to take part in this event on your site. It is truly a pleasure.

SCy-Fy: Thank you, Carl.

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