Endings and Edges

Reflections prompted by Michael Sacasas’ wrapping up a decade of blogging.

Assumed Audience: other writers and thinkers-aloud with long-running public projects, or fans and followers of the same.

Over the past few years, I’ve linked to and otherwise referred to Michael Sacasas’ blog fairly often. His public thinking-aloud on matters of technology has been one of my major influences in the same space. As such, I was a bit sad when he announced a few weeks ago that he was bringing his blog The Frailest Thing to an end.

Over the past few weeks, though, my sadness abated. I remain a little sad not to have his blog as an ongoing thing in the world. But I sympathize with him — and as endings go, I like this one. When I wrapped up New Rustacean, I noted that there’s a goodness to ending a thing when it’s done, and not just letting it run on because it has been running. Publishing on the internet can make this feel far more difficult: no edges inhere in the publication itself.

A book needs to have an ending. Even if the ending is not the text concluded so much as merely stopped, the physicality of the thing forces a shape to it. Some books sprawl. Some demand inventive work of binding. But all, in the end, have the edge that is their end. Not so with a blog. It goes on, potentially endless.1

When a thing is done, though, it’s done. Recognizing as much is an act of particular maturity. I dare say that Sacasas was able to recognize it in part because he had spent a decade learning deeply and reflecting carefully on technology and ethics. He learned, it seems, to sense the edge of a thing even when it is invisible. Fittingly, then, he has collected the best of his blog as an ebook. (You can get it for free if you choose, but certainly worth paying for; I recommend it strongly if you have any interest at all in technology and ethics.)

What is more: the end of one project does not mean the end of all projects. Sacasas continues to write, and on many of the same themes, but now in his newsletter, The Convivial Society”. This new project is distinct in style and structure and method from his blog. You wouldn’t be wrong to think of it like a sequel — and the best sequels inherit what is good from an earlier work, while charting territory of their own. It is good that The Frailest Thing has ended and The Convivial Society goes on.

So it is with all projects. Strange though it is to think it, this site will come to an end eventually, one way or another. And even the transitios between the versions of this site have formed edges, demarcations in the history of my public thought. That kind of demarcation makes for a freshness in the novel place — a freshness I feel keenly whenever I begin to write for this new space.

I’m grateful to Sacasas for his example in many ways. This ending is on that list. Here’s to ends of projects and to edges and to new beginnings.

  1. If you’re thinking that this blog itself, in its various permutations, is an example of such an endlessness… I’m not going to argue with you. ↩︎