January first, 2016
9:00 AM Eastern Standard Time
One time, back in last third of the '80s, I was on Beech Mountain in North Carolina. I was wandering around on a gravel road, dense woods on one side, steep drop on the other. I heard a big, scary noise in the woods, so I decided it might be a good idea to walk back down. I can't remember if it was another noise, or just my normal paranoia, so I stepped my walk up in to a jog. There were pretty big rattlesnakes up there, some more than six feet long. Was it one of them? Or a wolf? Or a bobcat? Or a bear? It was probably a bear, wasn't it?
Actually, it was probably just a housecat or maybe a dead branch falling off a tree, but while I pondered it I realized my jog had turned in to a pretty fast trot, and I figured in a minute or two I'd be far enough away to be safe, then I could stop and just walk back to my friend's house. In that time, my trot had inadvertantly turned in to a run, and I realized I couldn't stop.
You see, it was a loose gravel road on a pretty steep incline, and the stones slid a lot. I was picking up speed just by going downhill, and every time I tried to slow down, the rocks would slip beneath my feet and I'd almost fall over. My speed was now “Fast run,” and it was obvious this was only going to end one of three ways: 1) I slip and turn in to hamburger, 2) I slide off a clifface, 3) I run headlong in to a car coming the other way around one of the many corners.
By this time I was running so fast that I could barely keep upright, and was definitely losing control. Mercifully, thank God, I turned a corner and saw a big pile of dirt that someone had dumped as part of a construction project somewhere, presumably. Realizing this was my one shot at not dying, I lept towards the pile as I tore past it.
I hit it, and it stopped me, and since it was just loosely-packed sand, it didn't hurt too bad. It did hurt, and there was a me-shaped crater in one side when I extricated myself, but, hey, not dead!
I carefully heel-toed it back to the house, got a shower, and spent the rest of the trip sitting on the couch watching “Night Court” reruns and reading “Pioneer Go Home,” by Richard Powell. (It's not bad. They turned it in to an Elvis movie. I can't remember which one, though.)
Working on Republibot is a lot like that half hour on the mountain.
When R1, R2 and myself first started this site in 2008, I think it was, the goal was pretty simple: “Lots of Conservatives are scared of Science Fiction because SF actually is a little bit liberal by it's nature, and because a lot of the more radical SF fans tend to make fun of conservatives. This is a shame, 'cuz SF is great and it really should be enjoyed by everyone.
The theory was that if we explained it in nonthreatening, conservative terms, we could help conservatives overcome that fear, and make life a little more fun for them. We could also warn them off of stuff they flat out WOULDN'T like. A kind of “Consumer reports” thing, you know?So we figured we'd have a little fun, do a public service, meet some nice people, make friends, maybe make a little money. All of that happened except for the “Money” part.
Now, the initial plan was that R1, R2, and I would all contribute roughly equal amounts of content. R1 would do mondays, say, R2 would get tuesdays, I'd get Wednesdays, R1 would get thursdays, and so on. Maybe not exactly that organized, but you get the idea. Now, the division of labor wasn't ever intended to be entirely equal in regards to “Content.” R1 was going to promote the site, and write too. R2 was going to do the technical aspect of things, and write, too. Given that I have no other skills beyond typing, I was going to do the bulk of the writing at least for the first few months, with the others picking up more of the slack in that regard as we went along.
So there I am walking down the mountain.
I'm not going to criticize anyone, so please don't take this as that, but our initial business plan regarding content was unrealistic. IT and Promotions took a lot more time than me reviewing episodes of “Man From Atlantis.” Rather than doing about half the writing, and gradually phasing that back to a third, it quickly ramped up to my doing two thirds of the writing, and then doing virtually all of it.
So there I am, trotting down the mountain.
Now, I'm not blaming anyone. Life gets in the way. That's just the way things worked out, it wasn't the result of anyone shirking or whatever, it's just that I only had one job, and I was – in all modesty – really good at it. Still, 5-7 full-length articles a week was a big workload. Sometimes it paid off: I got to interview some of my heroes, I got to edit a ton of original fiction. Harlan Ellison and I became pals because he liked an article I wrote. We got pretty popular for a bit. It wasn't bad. It was one hell of a taskmaster, though.
I brought in other people to contribute content. Some stayed for a while, some didn't. Some were good, some were bad. It didn't make much of a dent. I continued to be writing 90-99% of the content. R1 had real life concerns and ended up effectively leaving the band (Though I still did stuff in his name on occasion, since a mysterious unseen guy with authority is a good way to settle disputes), and R2 basically had to concentrate on tech stuff as well as real life stuff. So he never left the band, but he became basically a studio musician. Republibot came to look more and more like a solo album. It wasn't, but it looked like it.
So there I am, running down the mountain.
I was burned out. I needed a little break. I went away for a week, and in less than three days we had our first-ever flame war. Seriously: In three or four years I'd diffused every conflict, though conflicts were rare to begin with. I left for a weekend, and everyone hated everyone. What it was and who it was isn't important. I honestly don't even remember the subject. The important part is that it gutted me. I'd invested a huge part of my life in the site, and realized I could not slow down without it tearing itself apart. That broke my heart. Just totally broke it.
R4 came along and was/is/evermore shall be a Godsend. R4 took a ton off my plate, allowed me to concentrate a bit more on what I do well, and took much of the admin stuff off my shoulders. Even so, I was heartbroken, and something I enjoyed doing began to seem more and more tedious. More like a burden. More like a prison. More like me running fast down a mountain, out of control.
I tried distancing myself from it, having less to do, showing up less, contributing less, trying to stop, but basically sliding out of control every time I tried, risking cracking up. Predictably, the site has become less and less active and less and less visited. This is no criticism of R4 or Flabbergasted, who do great work, but watching the failure-to-thrive breaks my heart. No, it's killing me. I put a ton of my life in to this site. I love it. I want it to do well. I do NOT want it to die.
So I'm really hauling ass down that gravel road now, right? And my choices are: Jump back in full time, or keep half-assing it, or just quit. I don't want to do any of those things. I want the site to be great and big and popular. I want it to be like it was, only moreso. But I have to admit defeat: It's not gonna' be.
Or at least it's not gonna be with me at the helm.
I'm burned out. My life has changed a lot, too. Ways I won't bore anyone with, as they're not very interesting, but I no longer have the limitless free time I once did. And I'm more focused on my writing now. (8 books in 5 years! One of them sucks, though...) I just can't do it anymore.
So I decided a few months ago that the first of the year would be my dirtpile, and no matter how much it hurt, I was going to hurl myself in to it.
So here I am, slamming in to the dirt at like fifteen miles an hour. Hurts like hell. Definitely going to leave a crater. But that crater won't last long before it caves in and hopefully someone, or some set of people will take my place. That's my hope, anyway.
I don't know what will happen to the site now. R4 has a ton of other projects, R1 has talked about simply locking it down to new content and comments, dipping it in amber, essentially. I got no idea. I don't want that to happen, but at some point you have to step back and say “I leave it to the next generation.”
So I am, and I do, and I'm sorry.
Again I want to make clear that this is not anyone's fault. No one made me quit, no one treated me badly, no one did anything wrong. I am grateful to everyone who's ever taken part in running or contributing to this thing. God bless you all. I just hit the point where I need to either stop, or else I'll go sailing off a cliff or headlong in to a car, or I'll simply lose control, have some kind of breakdown, and road-rash myself in to hamburger.
So: Here we are.
Thank you, everyone.
Should anyone want to keep tabs on what I'm up to, it's pretty simple. My books are on smashwords here and on Amazon here My personal website is here, and my youtube page is here You can also follow me on Facebook under the name “Randall Schanze.” And of course my personal email address is still email@example.com
Again, thank you to everyone, I love you all. It's been a hell of an adventure, but I need to stop running now.
Goodbye, Farewell, Amen.
Randall Anthony Schanze