Archive for April, 2013

Internet friendships

Funny things, aren’t they, those “pen pal” relationships we strike up these days? Well, we have for some years, haven’t we? I have. I remember years ago using a social site called “Firefly.com” (no relation to the late, lamented television series), using ICQ to chat with people I hadn’t met.

Now it’s everywhere. Your parents are probably on Facebook, and maybe your grandparents, even if you wish they weren’t. You can leave comments everywhere, and I’m sure lots of you out there have struck up “e-pal” correspondences with a few people, at least from time to time. I certainly have. After I posted a story called Ghosts of the Forum on StoriesOnline.net, my current beta reader contacted me to say he liked the story despite the many (many, many) errors I’d made about Montreal and Canadian French. That was something like three years ago, and we’re good friends now.

Many of you know that MugsyB (aka Tamara Clarke) and I are good friends. I emailed her regarding her first hockey romance, answering her challenge to readers to identify the team and player she’d been thinking of while writing “The Ice, The Game, The Touch.” (I got it right!) We’ve been emailing for a good four years or so now.

My husband and I met because of one of those “small world” coincidences as the internet was growing in the late 1990s. I had struck up a correspondence with someone over the aforementioned Firefly site (which no longer exists, last I checked), and he had begun writing to someone after seeing a comment she’d left on a board for a SciFi channel show. It turned out that the guy I was writing to and the woman he was writing to were best friends. When they discovered that we both lived in the same state, they said, “Well, those two should be talking to each other!” So I sent him an email, and well, we’ve been married thirteen years and together for fifteen. (Whew.)

So sometimes things work out.

And sometimes not so well. This particular incident comes to mind for me every once in a while, and what can I say? It irks me a bit. When I began writing the hockey romances, I was also emailing another author, who said she wanted a hockey romance “for her,” and she’d write a story for me. We traded info on what we liked in stories, set a few soft limit so neither would feel overwhelmed. I also said at one point that I liked her stories well enough that even if some of what I liked in a story didn’t make it in, I’d probably enjoy it anyway. I ended up writing “Game Misconduct,” which she told me she really liked.

The story she wrote for me was a fantasy story, which is fine — I like my sf/f, as many of you may know — and although I can’t say I was crazy over it, and even though elements I’d hoped to see weren’t there, I enjoyed it well enough and it was fun that someone wrote it for me. She even added a character at the end with my name. However, later I saw some comments she made about the story which, what can I say, kind of hurt.

I believe it was on a forum about getting past writer’s block that she advised someone to write something, even something short or fluffy. She named the story she’d written for me, and said it had been just a quick thing she’d tossed off to get the juices flowing.

Well.

She later pulled the story down from the sites it had been posted on for some reworking, and again I saw comments about changes she’d planned, including renaming the character she’d named for me.

I haven’t named the other author and don’t plan to. It’s really not the point — she’s scored a publishing contract, which was her dream, and I’m pleased for her and that she’s having some success. I know she had a hard time and worked for ages before finding a publisher. This is not about any kind of getting even.

What has always gotten me about this situation is that I was so saddened when I had never met this woman in person. We’d never even talked on the phone. Our emails were friendly and congenial, but not quite regular. She was strictly an e-friend, and not one I’d grown close to like MugsyB or my beta reader. Still, it hurt that I’d put in some serious effort on the story I’d written — I included elements she said she liked, and also some in-jokes (which I gather no one but she and I understood, but that’s okay), and had fun writing it as a few things were a stretch for me. So when she said her story was just something she’d tossed off for no real reason, yeah, that hurt.

And that was what got me, like I said. Why was I so affected by the actions of someone I’d never met? And we run into this all the time, right? I’ve done it myself, gotten angrier or more upset than I meant to about posts on forums, comments on articles, things like that. And I occasionally make the mistake of “confronting” the commenter. Which is just useless, and doesn’t even have the small benefit of making me feel better.

I am frequently advising new writers to take any comments or votes with huge grains of salt. What do you care, I say, if a complete stranger who posts as “anonymous” doesn’t like your story? You’re anonymous, too. It’s two strangers trading insults, and what’s the point when they couldn’t pick each other out of a line up even if they were both in it? This is something I try to practice, not just preach. I have enough going on that to let the barbs of cyber-strangers upset me is just stress I don’t need. So I take a deep breath and remember Bill and Ted’s advice: “Be excellent to each other.”

Even on the internet.

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