Friday, May 06, 2016

The End of an Era: Farewell to SF Signal

Some sad news this week: one of the brightest stars in the nerdy universe, SF Signal, is saying goodbye.

In a note posted yesterday, the site's Bagel Overlord, John DeNardo, and his partner-in-crime, JP Frantz, announced that, as of today, the 'Signal would come to an end. Maintaining the site in all its size and complexity is taking too much time — time that should be spent with their families. No-one can fault them for this decision. This can't have been an easy choice after investing more than 12 years in this grand project, but John and JP have their priorities straight and I applaud them for making their decision and for bowing-out with dignity and grace while the site is doing well. Leave on a high note and leave 'em wanting more, as they say in show business.

Apparently, the plan is to keep SF Signal online until the first week of June. That said, they're also looking into hosting options which would allow the site to remain online as an archive, which would be great, given that it's a treasure-trove of interviews, reviews, and commentary.

But in any case, the party's over, and I'm gonna miss it.

SF Signal has been important to me in a lot of ways.

Ever since the site launched, it's been a primary source of information for me for what's going on in the world of speculative fiction. My day hasn't been complete without at least a glance at the 'Signal to check out the Tidbits of news aggregated from around the geekiverse, or read a review (and consequently have my book purchases and the to-be-read pile on my shelf grow faster than it probably should), or check out a Mind Meld to see what professionals and other fans had to say about a particular genre-related subject.

And in providing all of this, John and JP have built a community. A place populated and visited by lots of really cool, interesting, intelligent, funny, and caring people from around the world and all walks of life. This is important in a way that can't be stressed enough. We're living at a time where a lot of people don't know their neighbours anymore. Where people read a lot of posts and opinions online, but don't really take the time to talk with one-another. Where it's far too easy for individuals to become isolated. And yet, SF Signal was a place where, no matter what your particular niche interest in the genre was, you could come and hang out and share your opinions with others and have discussions and be treated with respect. We nerds like to say that we've won the pop culture war, but it's still far to common for people in the mainstream culture to look down on or laugh at speculative fiction and the people who love it, and it's important for places like SF Signal to exist where nerds can come and feel comfortable talking about what we enjoy. That's not to say that things were always perfect. No community is. Sometimes there were annoyances or arguments or flat-out trolling in comment threads, but that was the exception rather than the rule. For the most part, people were reasonable and got along with one-another — some even made new friends through the site — and through it all, John and JP ran things with tact, fairness, patience, and a sense of humour. We, as members of the SF Signal community, could not have asked for better founders and leaders of this community.

SF Signal has also served as an inspiration for me. A little over 10 years ago, when I was looking for something to do, this site was one of the influences that gave me the idea to start a blog of my own. Not to do the same thing as SF Signal — that wouldn't have been right, it wouldn't have been cool, and it wouldn't have been possible — rather, to put something out there in my own voice about what I love about speculative fiction, and try to connect with other folks. In doing so, over the years I connected to SF Signal a couple of times. By setting the example of what fans can do to share their passion, these guys helped open the door to blogging, which I've found immensely entertaining and fulfilling — a door which has led to other possibilities, like podcasting, which has let me tap into my broadcasting roots, a pursuit I hadn't thought I'd be involved with again when I left it behind years ago. And so I'm grateful to the 'Signal.

I'm also grateful for the opportunity to have contributed to SF Signal occasionally over the years. Initially there were comments in discussion threads that followed articles, but then I was invited to participate in the occasional Mind Meld, and a little while ago I was invited to become one of the SF Signal Irregulars. While I confess that my posts as an Irregular were, unfortunately, irregular, I did submit a couple of book reviews, and I really appreciate being a small part of the SF Signal team.

The only thing I can fault SF Signal for is DeNardo's all-consuming and public love of bagels. Bagels, John? Really? We all know that donuts are the superior circular food. SF Signal may be coming to an end, but this is a dispute that will endure for ages. To quote Melville: "...to the last I grapple with thee..."

In the next little while I'll be going through the 'Signal to try to find some of my old posts there to repost on this site. I don't think there will be very many that are worth while (there never are when it comes to my blathering), but there are at least two book reviews that I can think of.

Meantime, I encourage everyone to go over to SF Signal while it's still online, and be sure to leave a note in their comments section for John and JP telling them what a great job they've done over the years.

So. The end. Everybody pictures it in a different way, and over the past day or so I've seen a few people online make allusions to different movies or pieces of music or other pop culture. For me, when I first saw the news, I kind of pictured it like the end of "Sleeping in Light," the finale of Babylon 5, with all of the Irregulars giving a sigh and crowding into the elevator for the last shuttle out; John, doing a version of Garibaldi's snatching of the shot glass, grabs a stale, half-eaten bagel from a nearby countertop and surreptitiously wolfs it down and crumples the wrapper — all sandpapery with old poppy seeds — into his pocket; JP, Straczynski-like, takes a last look around and throws the switch to shut the place down; and all of the fans watch like the crews of the Alliance ships as the old girl goes dark and a chapter of nerd life comes to a sudden close. Without the fusion reactor explosion, of course. You can't have everything.

Thank you for all of your hard work, dedication, and humour over the years, gentleman. You've made the speculative fiction community a better place, and SF Signal will be missed.

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