My Book Is Now Officially Out of Date

By | Wednesday, November 24, 2021 Leave a Comment
Bloomsbury Comics Studies: Webcomics by Sean Kleefeld
When I was writing Webcomics, I was very conscious of the fact that there would inevitably be elements that grew out of date quickly. I was talking about something rooted -- very strongly rooted -- in technology and, given the lead times that book publishing often takes, I was certain that some things would change between when I submitted my final manuscript and when the book was actually published. I openly acknowledged that in my Introduction, and I tried to be careful in my writing to not focus on specific technologies too much, instead focusing on the ideas instead the functional implementations.

The first instance of the book starting to go out of date was sometime while the book was actually at the printer; Andrew Hussie announced and began working on a sequel to his Homestuck comic. While I didn't expressly say in my book that Hussie was done and never going to return to the idea, the bit where I talk about him does lean pretty heavily in the past tense. It's written from the position of Homestuck being a completed work. Fortunately, the way it's written, I think that might slip by most people. Maybe if you're a big fan of Hussie and are more intimately familiar with his work already, you might wonder why I don't talk about anything he did after 2016, but what I did say about him and his work technically isn't outdated, just perhaps not as complete as it could be.

But this week, I learned that another bit just went massively out of date. And interestingly, it also isn't about the technology itself. Oddly, it's almost a passing reference. Here's the paragraph in question...
Although it should be noted that it still was not easy to achieve that [making a living from webcomics]; it was simply seen as viable. Some creators found the logistics of delivering on their campaigns in a timely fashion difficult. It became something of a given that any given Kickstarter project would likely ship at least two or three months later than was originally promised, and more than a few creators made note of unexpected costs that quickly ate up all of their funds. In perhaps the most alarming instance, John Campbell (2014) succumbed to the stress of dealing with cost overruns associated with fulfilling the rewards from their Pictures for Sad Children campaign and they just began burning the books they already had printed (going so far as to post video of their doing so to prove it) after posting a 4,500 word screed against capitalism, and then deleting all traces of the webcomic from their site.
For those unfamiliar, this was a whole thing back when it occurred. Backers of the campaign were very vocal, with some people demanding their books and others just concerned for Campbell's well-being. Max Temkin, co-founder of Cards Against Humanity, was very active in using his financial resources to contact and help Campbell.

Except yesterday, I discovered this new interview with the creator of Pictures for Sad Children: Simone Veil.

"Wait," you're saying. "So John Campbell was just a pen name?"

I don't think so, no. It's a bit unclear from this interview, but I believe they were indeed born John Campbell and transitioned sometime in the past few years. You'll notice in the snippet of my book above, I use they and them as the pronouns -- those were their expressly mentioned preferred pronouns as of 2014, the last formal record anyone had of their writing. It would seem that sometime after that Campbell transitioned and began going by Simone Veil. The author of the interview uses she/her pronouns, but I don't know if that's actually Veil's preference or not; this is literally the only public 'speaking' they've done in over five years. The interview reads a bit like some kind of giant Andy Kaufman stunt. They faked depression, then faked faking depression, then faked faking fake depression... I was reminded of when Man in the Moon came out, and there was a segment of people who were convinced that the movie itself was a stunt; that Jim Carey would win an Oscar for his performance, but it would be Kaufman himself who stepped up to accept it, having only faked his death fifteen years earlier. I don't think I'm the only who had thoughts along those lines.

When I checked on the Pictures for Sad Children Wikipedia entry shortly after reading the interview, Veil's name had already been added with a reference to the interview. When I checked again some hours later to write this, the reference was gone. Doing a little digging, there was evidently a behind-the-scenes discussion among the editors on the pieces veracity and the author's credibility. No one expressly disputed the contents of the interview, but with nothing to corroborate anything in the interview they felt there was enough of a question that they didn't want to make the change formal in Wikipedia yet.

I want to believe that the Veil interview is 100% legit. I want to believe that Campbell didn't have a complete breakdown, that it was something they managed to work through and came out better as Veil. That they're still able to create, even if it's something that isn't as wildly popular as Sad Children was. Because I've tried asking after Campbell a couple times the past few years, seeing if anyone had any news. For someone who seemed to have such a horrible time dealing with everything in 2014, I can't imagine what things must be like for them now. If this interview is any indication, it sounds like they've made progress since then, which I'm grateful for. Even if that does make my book out of date.
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