I had an article published on Star City Games yesterday. This is nothing new. Neither is the criticism I received in the comments. What was new was my reaction: for the first time, I felt uneasy. I felt like someone had hit me right in the emotion box. Maybe it was because I was reading it at 8am, or maybe it was because the criticism was articulate and did not attack me, but rather attacked the site for publishing my content.
I am not one to shy away from criticism- I actively strive to improve my output. Whether it is writing, my work, or just being a friend- I want to do better. Unlike work and life, writing necessitates a separation from the time of intent and the reaction of the public. Even with the quick turnaround time of Magic writing, I can write an article and have it sit for a week before it goes live. This is nothing compared to books and other publications, which can sit for long periods of time, going through multiple revisions and little deaths before the final product is consumed. My writing is far more raw- one, two, maybe three vut downs and adds, distilling my perfect thought into crude words. Nothing I write is ever exactly what I want to write, but just a gross approximation- the shadows on the walls of a cave.
But this is the death every author, every writer, has to experience. One of my favorite moments of college was learning about Barthes' "Death of the Author." As I learned it- as it was instructed in English 301- Introduction to Theory and Criticism- the basic idea is that once a work is released into the world, the author no longer has any say in how it is received. The intended meaning does not matter, as the work now belongs to the masses and everyone can assign their own, sometimes personal, interpretation.
This resonated with me for many reasons, not the least of which was the Star Wars Prequels were out at the time. Being a huge Star Wars fan, it struck me as arrogant that George Lucas could go and revive his authorship of the Star Wars Universe, one that was "owned" by the world, and turn it on its ear. Lucas yanked Star Wars away from the fans, away from people who had loved it for their entire lives and changed it. We were the authors of our own imagination, but Lucas erased that with a metric-fuck-ton of CGI.
In the modern world, can the author ever really die? The internet makes feedback instantaneous and visceral. Trolls proliferate, sometimes just for the sake of being critics. This loop means that the author and critic can have a nearly real time conversation, where the stronger will can impose his/her meaning for the world to see.
The Force is strong with this one.
I try avoid commenting in my articles (unless I make a glaring omission or want to clarify a point), The truth is, I am rarely happy with what I write. I expect it to be dissected and critiqued. I use it as fuel to improve, and source material for more writing (such as this piece here). So do I die as an author? I'm not entirely sure. I think for any one who is an internet person, Barthes' death is more akin to the state of Schrodinger's Cat.
But who is going to check the box?