…how ’bout that devastating pandemic that has laid bare the callousness and cruelty of the wealthiest and most powerful nations on the planet, huh?
Just so no-one’s worried about me, I’m fine. I went home to New Zealand in March, and over the course of the last three months, New Zealand has become more or less the safest place in the world as we eliminated our COVID-19 outbreak through swift and strict lockdown measures, and we are continuing to impose quarantine on all visitors to the country to prevent reintroduction of the disease.
Meanwhile, the US is…
So my situation is actually pretty peachy compared to what I assume the majority of my readers are looking at (my analytics page says the vast majority of my traffic comes from the US, which is not surprising since I write in English and the US makes up the majority of the English internet). However, I do have to… let’s say “reevaluate” a lot of my plans and priorities. I’m not going back to the United States in August to continue working on my PhD, because… well… on the one hand you have New Zealand, with its stable and fairly competent government, absence of deadly pandemics and relative lack of civil unrest, and on the other hand you have… Ohio. Er… no offence. In theory I could work on my PhD remotely and my department would almost certainly approve that plan under the circumstances, but I only have one more year of funding. Using that year to work from home, without access to my department’s resources or academic environment, would almost certainly be a waste; I would probably fail to complete my thesis within the time I have left and lose my chance. So, with my department’s support, I’m asking the university for a leave of absence. In theory, I’m going back in August 2021. In practice… well, I guess we’ll see what the state of the world is in August 2021. In the meantime, I’m applying for jobs in New Zealand. Maybe I’ll just have a job for the year and then go back; maybe I’ll find a job that I turn out to like and be good at, and just change over to that (hopefully getting a leave of absence from that job to finish my PhD later); maybe I’ll be part-time; maybe I’ll be full-time; maybe I won’t be able to find a job and I’ll just starve to death. Y’know, options.
But… another way of looking at it would be that we have a crisitunity on our hands.
I resisted setting up a Patreon page and asking for financial support from my readers for a long time because, frankly, I’ve never been in a position where making money off my writing would change my situation all that much. Even if I were receiving a few hundred dollars a month in donations, I would still have had classes to teach, research to do and a PhD to write, and you can’t exactly ask your PhD supervisor to give you fewer work shifts. Those obligations were irreducible, and a hard limit on the time and energy I could realistically devote to my dumb hobby project of ranting about Pokémon. But I did eventually set up a Patreon page anyway, and I make a little bit of money off it, through the kindness of people who seem to really believe that what I do here is worthwhile and interesting. For over a year, I’ve made enough monthly donation money to cover for the cost of hosting this blog on a WordPress Premium plan, which gives me more control over how the site looks and functions than a free plan does. It’s honestly kind of huge that my writing is worth even that much to my readers – and I’d like to take a moment here to thank long-time supporters Leo MR, James Crooks, Don’t Call Me Bradley, Hugh_donnetono, Esserise and Hamish Fyfe, some of whom I know have been reading since I started this nonsense on Blogspot in 2011. But I’d also like to particularly thank two new supporters who’ve signed on in roughly the last month: Miame Irohara and Intonyeon, who’ve both pledged $12/month to join my Dark Council and start commissioning extra articles from me, on topics of their choice (I’ve just published one on Staryu and Starmie for Miame, and at the end of July I’ll have one for Intonyeon, a character study of his favourite Pokémon villain, Ghetsis). A month ago, I was very much thinking “my life and the world are so crazy right now, I don’t know how consistent my writing can possibly be over the next year – can I, in good conscience, keep accepting money through Patreon at all if I don’t know how much I can deliver?” But… now I’m on $35/month, and that’s still not a lot, but it kind of is enough to make me start wondering “maybe this thing does have legs.”
So… hello, Internet. I’m Pokémaniac Chris. I’m a researcher, a historian, a scientist and a gamer. I write about Pokémon for fun, to help people see deeper into their favourite media, and to learn more about science and history while sharing what I find. Wanna give me a job?
There’s two big questions to think about here, and I want to hear from my readers on both of them:
1) What can I promise for everyone if my support grows?
2) What can I promise my patrons to make their support worth it for them personally?
On question 1); I never really run out of ideas for Pokémon-related projects I’d like to do. I’d like to write more about the Pokémon anime and movies; I’d like to write about the (for lack of a better word) philosophy of the Pokémon games from a real-world perspective; I’d like to write a heavy worldbuilding series on the lore of legendary Pokémon. But I also think I’d like to branch out of Pokémon a bit more. People seem to like it when I talk about my research as a classicist, and I get a lot of questions about Greek and Roman history and mythology. I’d love to write some pieces about representations of Greek and Roman civilisation in games, or about the way games portray history generally and can be used as educational tools. I’d love to write about some of what I call the “insane bull$#!t texts” of Greek and Roman literature – things like Pliny’s Natural History or the Hippocratic Airs, Waters, Places or the Presocratic philosophers, texts that explain theories of science and nature that are wildly off-base but still amazingly creative and incredibly revealing about how their authors saw the world. I suppose in theory I could even branch out into other media like podcast or video, if I were to pick up the skills. There’s possibilities here, is the point. I’ll keep writing no matter what, but it’s honestly a struggle just to get through all the Pokémon reviews when I’m doing this as a hobby.
On question 2); at the moment I have a Patreon reward structure that looks like this:
– $1/month makes you a Minion: There’s no formal “reward” as such, but I periodically ask my Minions for feedback and sometimes solicit opinions on what my priorities should be for different projects.
– $4/month makes you a Cultist: You get your name on my “Acknowledgements” page (I’ve recently started also giving this to people who’ve been Minions for over 1 year, but they still get lower billing). You can also submit questions to me through Patreon, and get priority over questions I receive through my question box. This latter reward is pretty significant for those who choose to use it, since at the moment I have about 20 questions in my queue at any given time, and I can imagine that will only increase if I manage to grow this blog’s following.
– $8/month makes you an Acolyte: This gets you higher billing on the “Acknowledgements” page and access to “behind-the-scenes” content on Patreon. In practice, although I post things in this category from time to time, I haven’t thought a lot about what regular “behind-the-scenes” content would look like, because no one has ever signed up for the Acolyte tier. I’m not really sure why that is. Maybe the difference between $8 and $12 is small enough that anyone willing to go this far would prefer to sign up for the highest tier and get its special voting power, and maybe that will change if larger membership starts to devalue the $12 tier (see below). Or maybe I need a more structured and better-advertised vision of what behind-the-scenes access should include. Or maybe this tier needs additional benefits. Or maybe behind-the-scenes access should come at the $4 level, with something completely different at $8. This is probably the tier that needs the most workshopping.
– $12/month makes you a member of the Dark Council: This gets you a unique personal title on the “Acknowledgements” page, and the ability to suggest and vote on any topic for me to write about once per month. This tier is kind of a problem, because its main reward will get less valuable the more supporters I have. With only two Councillors, I can give them each one article every two months. If I ever have a dozen Councillors, that’s great for me, but their individual voting power is diluted. If the Council grows, I’ll need more ideas for benefits I can offer to its members that won’t consume as much time as writing full articles. Otherwise, what’s good for me is bad for my supporters, and that’s a problem.
(As long as I’m talking about this, though: the world is ending. You are absolutely forbidden from feeling bad about it if you don’t have any money to spare to help me. The majority of what I write for this blog will always be free.)
So tell me, here and now: what projects would you like to see me tackle if this were my “job”? What rewards could I offer to Patreon supporters that you would find appealing? Is this a completely ludicrous thing to attempt at all? You can leave thoughts and suggestions in the comments, or submit them to my question box (I won’t publish these like I normally do with reader questions, unless you specifically ask for a response).
In the words of Professor Oak, “this is a great undertaking in Pokémon history!” and if there was ever a time for Pokémaniacal to get serious… it’s now.