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Wednesday, 1 June 2016

WHEN WRITERS DIE: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

Better, perhaps, to label this post WHEN WRITERS DISAPPEAR.
   What happens to writers who disappear, in the Digital Age? Sometimes the disappearance is planned. A writer becomes noticeably ill, and an ailing bugle sounds the digital retreat from social media.
   It’s a different story when a writer vanishes in an instant.
   If that happens across all platforms, and bills go unpaid, a Moonlight Digital Flit just occurred. The nastiest form of this event goes down when an e-book writer is unmasked as a plagiarist. (Fancy term for a thief.) You’ll see accounts dive faster than submarines caught with their rear ends exposed to enemy fire on the choppy bullet-ridden surface.

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What happens if sudden death switches everything off? Can a family member step in and take over? Does your husband/wife/love-muffin/bleak overlord of pain/snuggle-bunny/significant coffee buddy take over the reins with nary a pause?
   In short, who has the nuclear codes granting access to that Twitter account, those e-mail addresses, the Amazon bookshelf, this/that/the other blog, and whatever the hell else a writer gets those typing fingers into?
   The people who handle your literary estate may not end up being the ones who deal with your dying digital presence.
   Certain accounts allow a legacy angle on use – an extra hand on the wheel, should you stop steering…

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But this blog post isn’t about taking steps to ensure your password legacy is in safe hands.
   No.
   This post asks what happened to someone who went quiet…too quiet...and what to do about that? I have a small yet dedicated group of writing contacts. If an important scribbly topic dominates proceedings, there’ll be daily e-mails, or even hourly ones.
   It’s also true to say that I’ll go months without e-mailing a particular contact. That writer is still out there, blogging away, or Tweeting. E-mail is usually reserved for business matters, and not chat about what to have with the latest coffee.
   There’s always coffee. And coffee chat is the province of Twitter, not e-mail.


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What proof of life exists, with regard to my own output? My blogging ceased its regular weekly flow. I announced that in a blog post. Twitter carries on, regardless. Even there, I stopped when technical difficulties killed the internet one day.
   For a few days, work was done on the house. I walked away from the keyboard then.
   And there was the small matter of staying well away from Twitter in the build-up to the release of a movie I didn’t want to read about, in its entirety, before I saw the bloody thing.
   (Harrison Ford wanted out of STAR WARS at an early point, back in the eighties. No shocks or surprises there.)
   Twelve days I went, before I could watch the movie. Managed to dodge it all, right up until the viewing. This achievement was only made possible through the temporary abandonment of Twitter.


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Warning. Twelve days off Twitter translates to a time span of around 50 Dog Years.


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Yes, I’ll seem to disappear from the internet…depending on the energy pulses viewed. I haven’t e-mailed in ages? Well, I’m on the Twitter. Didn’t blog this week? I’m on the Twitter. Haven’t used Skype in an old dog’s age? Skype I can skip. I’m on the Twitter. What about Facebook?
   Facebook is for stalkers, cat obsessives, and cat-obsessed stalkers.
   If I have the opporchancity to say I’m going away from the blog or, hell, the internet…then I’ll take that opporchancity. Even if I am cut off suddenly, that doesn’t automatically mean I died.
   Twitter is the measure of my continued existence, pulsing away on a daily basis, announcing breaks for coffee.
   Or as I like to think of it on Twitter, #coffee.

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When writers disappear.
   Yes, I am writing of a specific person. A writer contact. She might be dead. I’ve looked into this, and tried to find out more. A gradual social media effect of tailing-off, brief return, and sudden absence tells me something.
   Though I am not sure what.
   Illness. Recovery. And swift relapse. Maybe. You don’t stop living if you fall off the internet overnight. I went looking. It is amazing the amount of information my writer contacts throw out there on the internet...
   I can tell what some of them had for breakfast, and where they bought it. For how much. And how often.
   They can’t impersonate you on the internet unless they know your shoe-size. So limit the amount of info on display.


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Based on things she told me, and shared with the world, I knew where this writer lived. I easily accessed a database of newspaper reports on obituaries for the time-period I investigated. No sign of her. Does that mean she is alive? Or only that her passing didn’t make it into an obituary column?
   You might think this less a puzzle than it is. Add the idea of writing under another name, and you’ll realise how difficult it is when trying to trace the death of a writer.
   We’re not all mega-famous, of course.
   When FAMOUS AUTHOR of FAMOUS BOOK dies, the internet pulses with information. Sometimes, those death notices are even accurate.


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I’ve no wish to post an obituary of a writer, only to find she’s just answered me in the comment section of the blog with I’m still alive! Moved house and went to live on a tropical island with no internet. Now have internet! Still not dead!
   Though I’d be relieved to see a comment along those lines, naturally.
   We are all dead on the internet, eventually.
   Checking pulses of information is a way of checking pulses. I’ll keep checking, and refrain from posting an obituary just yet.
   If the worst comes to the worst, I’ll imagine a writer who went a bit quiet. One who is typing away, in a sun-dappled corner of Somewheresia, in the Grand Duchy of Elseland.


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Obviously, if she's reading this...
   Drop a line from that island. Tropical, or otherwise.

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