The Gardens at Taskerland v2.5 – Re-Calibration Exercise

The Gardens at Taskerland is the series in which I talk about this blog, the direction it is headed in, and any tweaks and alterations I feel like making. The rest of the series can be found here.

Still moving forward… just not necessarily in the same direction.

It has been three months since I last took stock of what it is that I am trying to achieve with this blog. Back in September, I was pleased with my output but I was also unclear as to who this blog might actually be for. Three months later and the answer is still very much “me”.

My output level has taken me somewhat by surprise. When I used to blog, I found that I could crank out film reviews until the cows came home but anything more required more effort meaning that any attempt to keep a steady rhythm would result in weird peaks and troughs as I found grooves, drifted out them, tried to keep writing, and wound up burning out. This project has been radically different in so far as I appear to be able to sit down and blog whenever I have a couple of hours to kill. In truth, I suspect that a lot of this ease is rooted in the fact that I am working without an obvious audience. With nobody to please and nobody to complain, I am able to just write without any associated emotional labour, which brings me to the reasons for this post.

While I have been pleasantly surprised by my productivity, I am noticing that not all posts are equally easy to write. When I started this blog, I imagined myself charging through my collection of Call of Cthulhu supplements but I find those quite hard to write about by virtue of their being mostly rubbish. Now… a lot of people in this position might be put off by the blowback they might get from publishing negative reviews but with no real social connection to the RPG scene and no great desire to start producing my own line of products, I don’t really care that I appear to be producing a load of reviews rolling my eyes at Chaosium. My issue is not that I’m afraid to write negative reviews, it’s more that it’s quite tedious reading poorly written and under-imagined RPG supplements. I have a few more location-based supplements sitting on my shelf but I’m not sure I have the stomach to actually read them let alone write about them in any kind of depth but I’ll see how I go. As a result, I think I’m going to give myself permission to ease off on the Call of Cthulhu stuff and maybe cast my RPG net a little wider. I have really enjoyed writing about old games, the history of the hobby, and my evolving thoughts on RPGs so I might lean in that direction rather than trying to be the kind of module review blog I originally had half in mind.

I am somewhat saddened to be reaching the end of the road for the Shrink-Wrapped Recall series as I have nearly run out of gaming shops to write about. I did recently discover one near me and have been a couple of times but that series was always more about social and personal history than it was consumer advice so I will probably be mothballing that series in the near future.

The Origins thread has produced some interesting pieces but, having moved beyond my formative years, I am now digging a little deeper and thinking a little more about subject matter.  I do want to write about the guy who taught me how to run Simulationist-style games properly as well as the weird homo-eroticism of a teenaged-attempt to run a porn game but we’ll see what comes of those ideas.

Another thing I have noticed is that the Watching the Detectives series lends itself more readily to overviews of whole series rather than pieces about individual books, films, or comics. The problem is that those kinds of pieces take a bit longer to research and write so I need to either find a way of striking a balance between ‘here’s what the John Silence novels are like’ and ‘here’s this really cool film about a Soviet-era ghost hunter’ or just start writing about all of the weird single-serving books and films that I’ve been thinking about recently but then the blog would be drifting dangerously close to producing conventional film and book reviews.

This raises a bit of an issue for me as while the world of RPG publishing appears to be free of ego-searching publishers, the same cannot be said of genre literature. I would love to write about all the new horror books I have been reading butI am somewhat daunted by the fabled toxicity of SFF. I know I’m not exactly Isabel Fall but I have published reviews in that area before and run into problems and that corner of the internet appears to have become immeasurably worse in the intervening years. So while I am going to start putting up book reviews, I am daunted by the prospect of accidentally getting sucked into the horrendous discourse mills that dominate the world of SFF social media. I reserve the right to change my mind on this at any moment but, as of the New Year, I am going in.

Another thing that has occurred to me recently is that while I have read a lot of horror and watched a lot of horrific films, I am really not that well-versed in American horror cinema. I started watching genre films really young and while I did watch the odd slasher, I actually tended to avoid traditional horror in favour of transgressive art house films that use horror-themed imagery without engaging with the traditional tropes. So I think I may start a new strand examining the great American horror franchises from the point of view of a complete newb. Call it an exercise in cinematic self-education.

So that’s the current state of play at Taskerland manor. I am still enjoying writing, I am still enjoying having this blog, and I am still enjoying discovering new books, new games, new films, and drawing inspiration from all of them. This being said, I am also starting to put work out into the world under my real name and it’ll be interesting to see which of these projects proves most sustainable. I am more passionate about the stuff I do under my real name but putting stuff out there is quite hard for me while writing blog posts that nobody reads is considerably easier.  So we’ll just have to see how that turns out!

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