3 July 2013

All Good Things…

Posted by Ryan

… must come to an end. And unfortunately this blog is one of them. As you no doubt have noticed, the frequency of my posts has dwindled down to almost nothing and I think the time has come to stop pretending that this blog is still active and face the fact that it has run its course.

And what a course it has been! This blog started back in 2008 as an assignment for a science communications class in grad school. I had started a different blog prior to Martian Chronicles, but this is where I really began blogging in earnest. Originally my office mates were co-authors but I persisted as they lost interest. Gradually, and to my surprise, the blog accumulated readers until one day I was contacted by AGU asking if I would like to blog on their site!

Of course I said yes, and I’ve been a happy member of the AGU blogosphere ever since. Like most blogs, the vast majority of my posts here didn’t get much traction beyond my most loyal readers, but every once in a while I managed to write something with a broader reach. My two favorites are “Frickin’ Laser Beams: Facts vs Fiction” and “9800 Feet“. The laser beams post was popular enough that it made its way into OpenLab 2010, a collection of “the best of science writing on the internet”, and it represents the first time that my writing has ever been published in a book. Needless to say, I was shocked and flattered to have my words included alongside so many more talented writers.

“9800 Feet”, the post that I wrote about the amazing experience of descending deep below the Earth’s surface in Kidd Creek mine was by far the most viral of my posts here. I knew the experience was a unique and exciting one and so I strayed from my normal writing style: instead of just aiming for informal but informative, I tried to use descriptive details to set the scene and convey the emotions of going so far underground. The post got picked up on Reddit and for a few days gathered a ridiculous amount of traffic. It got to the point where guys who actually work at the mine were chiming in in the comments section to answer questions!

When I finished grad school, two important aspects of my life changed: first, I got a post-doc working for the USGS, and second, I became a member of the MSL science team. Both of these are wonderful things but they had an impact on my blogging. A lot of the content on my blog while I was in grad school was either my opinion of developments in space politics, or writing about the MSL mission and the landing site selection process. The moment I became a government employee, it became a lot more complicated for me to dash off a post giving my opinion about political shenanigans related to the space program. And the moment MSL landed at Gale crater, it became a lot more complicated for me to write about the mission.

Without those two staples of my blogging, I lost the spark of inspiration that made posting something that I did for fun, and it became a bit of a chore instead. That’s never a good thing for a blog. At the same time, my free time to write dwindled as MSL primary operations consumed every waking hour. Eventually we switched off of Mars time and back to Earth time, but by then I was out of the habit, and free time remained a precious commodity. I found myself preferring to spend that time doing things completely unrelated to my “day job”. The same thing has happened with my blog-reading habits: as a student I used to follow tons of science blogs, but as I have progressed toward becoming a “real scientist”, my desire to fill my free time with science has decreased. These days, I only read a few science blogs.

Don’t get me wrong, I love writing about science and explaining awesome things to people. But as I progress in my career, it’s hard to come home after a long day of Doing a Science and then, on-demand, work up the energy and enthusiasm to write a good blog post. My respect for those who manage to do so has really grown even as my own blogging output has dwindled.

AGU has been extremely patient with my dwindling output, and I want to make clear that the decision to shut down this blog is 100% mine. It has been wonderful blogging here at AGU and getting to meet my fellow geobloggers each fall at the AGU fall meeting. But it’s not fair to AGU for me to claim to be their planetary science blog and then never post. So I think it’s better if I make room for a new planetary blogger to take my place.

I won’t be disappearing from the internet, course. I recently got myself a shiny new domain name and started a personal blog there. If you’re interested, you can head over and check it out. Unlike Martian Chronicles and the assorted other blogs that I have written, this new blog will have no pre-defined subject matter. It will be about whatever I want to write about. My primary interest outside of science is speculative fiction (a.k.a. science fiction and fantasy), so expect to see book and movie and video game reviews and maybe even my own forays into fiction writing, alongside anything else I find interesting. I’ve already posted my first book review over there. I’ll still post about science too (such as this crazy video of lava being poured over ice), but the important thing is that on the new blog, anything is fair game. My hope is that with more freedom, I’ll be more inclined to post about whatever does happen to inspire me at the time, and therefore updates will be more frequent. You can also still follow me on twitter.

So, this is farewell for the Martian Chronicles blog. It’s been a great experience and I have been consistently amazed and flattered that people actually read what I write here. 5+ years is a good long run for a blog. I started writing here when I was still learning to be a Mars scientist and now, just like the last line of Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, when I look at my reflection there is a martian looking back. It has been a privilege to share this journey with you. Thanks for everything.