The Changing of the Guard
by Jeffrey M. Mahr
©2001 Adirondack WYSIWYG -- all rights reserved
Andy and Paul have done this already, so I'll concentrate on other aspects of the upcoming transformation of TSAT. It's still not a sure thing, but at this time I'm guardedly optimistic that there will be a "changing of the guard," that TSAT will not fade away. There have been inquiries and at least one group has indicated that they are interested and are exploring whether it would be feasible to take over the operation of the e-zine. If anyone else out there is interested, please don't be shy. The job requirements are easy:
Oh, yeah. There's one more niggling little requirement, but it involves "real life," so I'm not sure if it should be mentioned here:
So -- who's in?
Actually, this is a test. The real question is how many of you out there are willing to "put your money where your mouth is?" How many of you read and enjoy TSAT enough to be willing to help keep it going? I know you're out there, we broke 40,000 hits just prior to his issue; not bad for a bimonthly genre e-zine that doesn't advertise or use banners.
It's three years since the inception of TSAT and, speaking from very personal experience, it has not always been easy. As Andy will attest, there have been numerous occasions when this e-zine was a hair's breadth from shutting down.
It took the longest time to realize why sites with nothing on them could get more hits than TSAT. Yes, that really happened and more than once. It seems that there were two situations that caused this. First, other sites update on an erratic schedule. Sometimes there are no changes for months and sometimes there are changes daily. The second was that someone would create a flashy opening page and tack on one of those $#@%&$ 'under construction' signs at the bottom. Then they'd go away and never add anything more. In both cases people would want more and would keep checking back over and over, hoping for more. As a behavioral psychologist, I had to strike my head with the palm of my hand (otherwise it might have been considered punishment) and think about reinforcement theory to explain it. In a nutshell, the demand is out there, but knowing that we only updated bimonthly, they didn't always check back after reading that month's issue, knowing that it would be a while before the next one.
For a while, we couldn't figure out why people would not submit, especially when it was obvious that the demand was out there. We thought they were afraid although we couldn't imagine how people who brave the ether to lay bare their souls with their writing could possibly be afraid. We advertised the fact that we would work with authors and had never turned down a single story -- and we still haven't, the story Andy refers to was withdrawn by the author and to this day I wish he had not as it had the potential for being an absolutely fabulous tale. Those of you who have worked with us know that we've been open and honest in our criticisms, but have worked hard to avoid hurting people's feelings and I think each of you agrees that your final story has been improved for the collaboration.
I think the most frustrating aspect of publishing TSAT has been the lack of feedback. Those of you who've followed my editorials over these three years have seen multiple pleas for author feedback, yet it has been sparing at best. What's always amazed me was that our authors would get more feedback when they submitted their stories to the list than when they were first published. Quite honestly, that fact still hurts a bit when I think about it (which I do as infrequently as I can), but I console myself with the knowledge that TSAT has met its single stated objective, to bring more stories to light and to improve the quality of the stories presented.
Don't misunderstand, I'm extremely proud of TSAT and despite my words above, publishing the e-zine has been an absolute joy that I wouldn't have missed for the world. However, I think that the new publishers (like I said, I'm highly optimistic there will be a next generation of TSAT) need your support. The next issue will be the last for this staff, although just about all have agreed to continue to submit stories and material as contributors rather than editors, artists, etc. As such I'm asking for all of you who have supported TSAT to continue to support it with stories and technical assistance. I'm also asking those of you who've enjoyed our efforts but not submitted or provided technical assistance to do what you can to help the new regime; to make an effort to help them make TSAT even better. Remember TSAT will NOT survive without your help. As Robert A. Heinlein wrote in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, "TANSTAAFL." Don't just sit back in your comfortable chairs reading the stories you love. Get your fingers in gear and do something -- anything -- to help keep TSAT going, to help the new folks coming in.