01 Jul 2020

Pure Chewing Satisfaction

So I got nostalgic.

About a week ago I frittered away an afternoon sorting files into various folders in my archive. For me, this is the equivalent of a Saturday spent cranking BTO and working on a hobby car. I build time into my schedule to do this sort of clean-up every few months.

Originally, my archive was a thing of necessity. I've been schlepping around a folder called "Home" since the late 90s, and after losing everything in a drive crash I realized the importance of back-ups. So, I started saving the folder in situ – for lack of better term – every now and then, putting a date on it, and copying it to an external drive or (later) a server somewhere. This was in the days before easy, consumer-grade version backup systems like Time Machine.

After a couple of years, I ended up with a number of these backup folders, and started to kind of like them? I enjoyed going back to see where things stood at a specific moment in time – and although the archive wasn't exactly comprehensive or well-structured at that point, it certainly captured a lot of weird ephemera. JPGs of proto-memes, single-line text files whose original reason for being I'd forgotten, drafts of long-abandoned stories.

Eventually I started dumping files that I wanted to keep, but which didn't really belong in "Home" into the archive – for size reasons if nothing else. For example, I have been keeping an audio journal since 2005, and those files are (comparatively) humongous. Or all of my old school work, once the semester or degree was done. Or files from various employers, which I wanted to keep for a variety of reasons, but which I didn't need constant access to. I needed to offload that stuff somewhere so I could keep "Home" relatively portable.

As of today, there are 180,000 files in the archive, organized as a flat-ish directory structure. It was into these folders that I was sorting the contents of my inbox.

The nostalgia came from sorting a bunch of text journal entries into the right place in the archive. I have written and audio recorded journal entries going back to 2001 – April 9, 2001 specifically, as that was the date the original Orbit Nine site launched. Prior to 2001, I was keeping scattered handwritten diary entries – but blogging made journaling into a habit, and I've kept every entry, from every platform I've used. I realized that I missed blogging, and was nostalgic for that time in my life.

Though, that isn't to say that I'm particularly proud of who I was in those early posts.

Initially, Orbit Nine was supposed to be a "textual webcomic" – I couldn't draw, but I was DEEP into stuff like Penny Arcade, PvP, early MegaTokyo, and especially the ten thousand little comics on Keenspot. They made making art online seem like a fun scene to be a part of. Not being able to draw was a hurdle, but I could write. I thought it might be cool to write a little vignette a couple days a week and call it a comic, and see what happens.

But, at the time, a webcomic wasn't complete without a hyper-stylized artist character posting "updates" in lieu of actual comics most of the time. So, I adopted a persona that I thought was funny – a kind of Hunter S. Thompson by way of Stileproject but without any actual life experience. I talked a lot of shit, is what I'm saying, because I was eighteen and thought bullshit and edge were engaging. That persona persisted through the first couple years of the blog – and BOY am I lucky that I got to experiment with my identity online in a time before that sort of thing could ruin your life.

By 2003, though, the web comic idea was gone, things had settled down, and I became more recognizably myself – or, possibly, blogging consistently for two years helped me start to figure out a person to be. Blogging definitely helped me nail down my authorial voice. I probably never would've written any of my books if it hadn't been for the blog.

I've found my nostalgia is kind of scattershot – one thing reminds me of another thing, which reminds you of a third thing.

But reading through all those random journal entries, I thought "I wonder if the orbit nine URL is just a scam site now" – and was surprised to see that it was available. So, I bought it back.

And I started blogging again.