What's this? A cup of buttermilk before me? This can only mean.... RANTING!
One of the comics that I used to read -- as in, I don't anymore -- is Elf Only Inn. I'm not going to tell you what it's about, or even bother linking to it, because as you will see in a moment, there really isn't any point. Elf Only Inn (hereafter "EOI") is written and drawn by a person named Sortelli... or at least it was, until Memorial Day.
You see, Sortelli had entered a webcomic challenge known as the Lazy Grind, which is a kind of Ironman marathon for cartoonists who habitually miss deadlines. They all enter and agree to stick to a publishing schedule; those who fail to meet the schedule are mocked. (Follow the linky for details on the rules and history.)
This iteration of the Lazy Grind started on the inauspicious date of 9/11/06. The first contestant (out of 23) washed out after 14 days. After three months, only five artists were left... and it carried on that way for a very long time. 257 days and 144 updates later, Sortelli finally dropped out of the grind, because he chose to enjoy his Memorial Day.
Let me say this right now: I have no problem with that. The man deserves a holiday with friends and family. What bothers me so severely is that, on Monday, he said he'd have a comic up on Wednesday... and he didn't. Not on Friday, either. In fact, it's been an entire week plus another weekend, and not only is there no comic, but there hasn't even been an announcement or an apology from the cartoonist regarding his absence since Monday.
I hear you saying, Way to freak out, Pal. Sometimes these things happen, you know? Cut the guy some slack. And to that I say, Shut the hell up, voices in my head. You're wrong, and here's why:
This is the last comic Sortelli drew before he went on his first hiatus -- in August 2004. Guess when he started drawing again? That's right: September 11, 2006.
Two years. Two goddamned years before he got his act together again. And since he's gone missing again I have a sneaking suspicion, like a stiletto slipping between my ribs, that it'll be at least 2008 before he comes back to EOI.
But it's not like you're paying for this comic, I hear the voices say. Again, I say: Shut up! You're wrong! I may not be paying money for this comic, true, but that doesn't mean I have nothing invested in it.
You see, as a writer -- whether of Pulitzer Prize-winning novels or of freebie webcomics of dubious comedy -- your sole, overriding goal is to make the audience care. A reader that does not have emotional investment in your story is a reader you're very likely to lose.
Sortelli succeeded in that: I have an emotional investment in the characters of Elf Only Inn. And dammit all to hades, if I'm going to give Sortelli what he wants, then he is fucking obligated to give me what I want, which is a return on my emotional investment.
And now he's done the literary equivalent of skipping town with my life's savings.
I don't read Elf Only Inn any more. He could start updating it tomorrow and I wouldn't know, because he's lost me as a reader. Now perhaps I'm being unfair in that judgment, Voices in my Head, but he's already done this to me once before, two years ago. And I refuse to click on that link "just once more" to see if maybe, perchance, oh-it-is-to-be-hoped that he's finally deigned to update.
This, you see, is the flip side of emotional investment. If you get me to care about something, and then take it away, I react -- who would've guessed? -- emotionally.
So yeah. Screw you, Sortelli, and screw Elf Only Inn. You had me, and you lost me, and it's your own goddamn fault because you took away something that I cared about. Maybe you don't care that you've lost a reader -- but you should.
I think I'll go invest my emotions in a webcomic that actually delivers. IE, not yours.