Engagement

19 Jul 2017 | Makyo

*tap tap* This thing on?

Oh, yes, hi! It's been a while, hasn't it?

A long while.

The last post of substance was by Howl back in January. My last post was...oh gosh. September 7th, last year. Ten months was an awful long time ago.

In that time, I've received several emails about the state of [a][s]. One of them dubbed this period "The Quiet", which I feel is pretty accurate, even if it makes me feel a little sad.

Those emails have sat in my inbox. I've read them all. Each has three or four drafts prepared for it, none of which I've had the wherewithal to send. They're just there, staring me right in the eye every day - I have four active email accounts, which are tiled neatly in a pinned browser tab, and [a][s] was bottom-left. It was there. Just a big, accusatory Draft.

There are even a few emails stuck in there with more in-depth questions: queries, of sorts, for the publication of articles. Each of those has been ticked with a star, GMail's nifty way of saying, "this is important, you should probably get to it, soon."

Sigh.

Oh, and then there's the furry poll.

Ah jeez.

So, I owe everyone a serious, serious apology. I've let a lot of folks down, not least of which myself. [adjective][species] is a labor of love for me, as it is and was for so many others, and letting it fall apart like this does everyone a disservice.

Let's sit down and see what happened, and figure out ways to fix it. Makyo's good at a lot of things, and talking something to death is definitely one of them.


A not-so-short digression on depression and furry

Depression is a strange thing.

I've tried at several points to capture some sense of it in words, but nothing's ever quite fit. Whenever I do, I find myself using a lot of ellipses, just to fill in, textually, my fumbling for words with enough meaning. I'll come up with, "I dunno. My brain just isn't all me. Like... It's something else. It's there and exerts influence on me life, but it spends an inordinate about of time trying to destroy me."

Or poetry. I've tried to throw that at depression, too, but it just comes out sounding stilted and weird. I wind up talking about fire a lot. Fire and, for some reason, geese.

Which is nonsense, really, but each in such a way that seems to cover at least one small corner of depression.

Depression is big. It's vast and terrible and empty. Completely empty, and there you are, in the middle of it, feeling bad.

There's just no sense to it. No sense in trying to describe nothing. A "nothing" which is also nonsensical.

And yet I keep trying. We keep trying.

Much of early [a][s] was borne out of depression. The site was just a blog, the name just a play on a trend in character naming, but the writing was a piece of myself. Each post was a tiny rock to throw at this vasty nothingness. Justifying the things I like, delineating the craziness of our subculture, gushing about gender (I know, I'm sorry, I did that a lot), these were all ways for me to pound my fists against nothing at all.

A scant five months after I started the site, I crashed hard, and after that, I just buried myself in it - in the site and in furry. I found ways to get even furrier, if that was possible, just to try and fill that big ol' nothingness.

I splashed around in great heaps of data, scrabbling at every pebble of knowledge I could find beneath the surface.

I prowled through the tangled thicket of FA and Weasyl, hunting for artists to highlight.

And I took way too many metaphors way, way too far.

And you know what? It worked.

At least, after a fashion. I started to feel fulfillment. I started filling my weekends with writing. I got in trouble with JM for writing an article on a tablet in a plane just so that I could get it up on a Wednesday. I started to gain energy just from the act of spending energy on something I loved wholeheartedly.

I was also tackling depression in more tangible ways, of course. I started on meds and dug into the task of finding something to help make that nothingness more livable. Meds, after all, don't just sweep it away, and they certainly don't make me any less myself, but they do help me perceive where I am. They're a fine set of glasses for helping me see which things I'm burning myself up over are real, and which are just phantoms in that empty space - Makyo, after all, means 'ghost cave'.

I started transition, too, which helped improve my life in so many ways that I could did write a several posts about it. I won't gush about it too much more, here.

Not all of this flailing was healthy, natch. I started drinking heavily, because that'd soften the edges of nothing. I started withdrawing from friends because they weren't there in the nothing with me.

And it all got to be too much. A few weeks after my last substantial post here, I collapsed in the kitchen, and there was a whole lot more nothing than I was used to. At Mountain Crest, the mental health clinic in Fort Collins, I was taken into an office for a few hours to talk about meds, alcohol, interactions, and so on.

With my new-found sobriety (or at least moderation) under my belt, I started getting back into the furry thing, the healthier way of filling a tiny corner that infinitely empty space with meaning.

And [a][s] sat here.

I ran or helped run six panels at FC, was art track lead, and got to spend time with five other members of the polycule being huge furry nerds.

I started editing a furry fiction anthology, Arcana, based around the major arcana of the RWS tarot deck.

I ran for - and was elected - president of the Furry Writers' Guild.

And [a][s] still sat here.

Those few months when I was burning too bright in an attempt to light up vast, crenellated spaces of nothing caught up with me. I borrowed a little too much time from the future and that nothing started winning out. Again.

Anyway.

All of the stuff that I loved felt poisoned to me, tainted by the fact that I burned so hard in an attempt to light up all this nothing a little better. I started feeling forced to like these things because I was trammeled by this indescribably empty space with them.

But I had I forgot that I do love them. Earnestly and with all my heart.

I love [a][s]. I love the FWG. I love Arcana and that I can work on it. I love writing a thousand unapologetic words about my relationship with furry and depression. I love furry.

I just need to engage in a healthy  manner.


I have my own lessons to take from this, but those are mine. Let's talk about us, and our lessons. Well, lesson: [adjective][species] must change.

This is pretty obvious, if only from a personal point of view. I need to be able to engage with it in a more healthy manner. No more article-a-week, and definitely no more no-articles-for-ten-months.

This could also mean that my role as editor needs to shift. I would more than happily share that role. I could even step down, if a convincing argument was made.

But above even that, [a][s] itself needs to change. We need to have a conversation about what needs this resource fills.

  • What roles does the project play within the fandom, now that it's been around for for five and a half years?
  • Are articles and data still the best way to engage with an audience, or should we branch out?
  • Is the voice of the project too broad, or not broad enough?
  • Should the project try to expand, or reduce its scope? Should it spin off new projects, or should it - and we need to admit this as a possibility - decide that 5 years was a good run and draw a line at the end of the page?

[a][s] is a good thing. I'll always stand by that. It became a resource for talking about the fandom from several different angles. Writers picked up their own voices and added them into this weird and weirdly wonderful stream of posts that ran on for years.

So. With the idea that [a][s] should remain a good thing, what are our next steps?

The comments are open, of course, but please do feel free to email me directly, hit me up on twitter, or on mastodon if you would like!