Life is weird and short, if anything’s weighed at the gates I hope it’s every weird obsession you ever tried to share
Seb Patrick died yesterday. It’s still something I can’t believe I’m typing. It’s not real yet. He was a writer and journalist and podcaster and a thousand things in the spaces between that — he wrote really good tweets, for instance, which I’m not sure he even realised was a skill or at least that he had it.
As a sports (and now esports) journalist — and longtime dependent on things to be a fan of to supply the serotonin my broken brain won’t generate itself — Seb was a huge benchmark to me. How to create dedicated, expert content that I wanted to read even when I didn’t give a fuck about the thing it was about simply because I knew he’d find something interesting to say. The sort of person you’d listen to talk for forty minutes straight in the pub about their latest hyper fixation (not that Seb ever would’ve been that inconsiderate) because they’d take the time to explain to you why it’s actually funny, with a warmth that said you were in on the joke.
We all create content, now. Your social media, your workplace Slack, your emails, your 10 minutes composing a text to your dog walker — everyone’s in the game 24/7. Even moreso in lockdown. Every Zoom call is an exhaustive performance of standup normalcy, even if it’s with friends you would have slouched into the pub with and called arseholes before staring at your phone for three hours six months ago.
Making content is hard. Exhausting. Sometimes because it’s heavy stuff and god knows, there is more than enough of that about and it deserves every bit of attention its getting and more. To shy away from seriousness is the antithesis of getting into something — but it’d be worse if people didn’t share things you can get your teeth or claws or daydreams into, about the stuff we want or need to shape us or just need to inhabit a little to process or play through, as adults.
Interactive fiction is an interesting concept in the internet age because everything is; I watched the Grand Prix yesterday howling about it with some of my friends on Discord and it was as immersive as any augmented reality would’ve been. We’ve already invented extra commentary and its in the bants with chums, the shared experiences, the extra analysis of what you already know but want more about.
Which is to say: the things you are really, really into. Whether it’s an insatiable thirst for music criticism that truly speaks an album into your brain or the deep thought lifestyle articles of medium actualising those life hacks you need on whatever space you curate as yours or an in-depth look at every obscure joke in a sitcom you just remembered, that ran for six episodes in 1999.
When you love something, the urge to share it is sometimes tricky — you go and find other people who feel the same love for it but not the same way, you might get your hands burnt by people who think they own the branding. As, horribly, happened at the Hugo Awards only about 48 hours ago where space that was meant to be for everyone was narrowed down to a few.
Loving things, getting really insanely into them, should be the most democratic thing in the world. If you want to just go hog wild having a crush on something for a bit — or a lifetime — you should be able to harmlessly go about your way doing it. But we live in a society and after kindergarten we don’t really get taught forced sharing so much as just being told who’s got the turns and expected to get on with it.
One of the things that Seb did, which I endlessly admired his reasonable balance on — something I can’t pretend to have learned yet — was love things in a way that not only shared but made extra space for other people. Seb created, seemingly tirelessly, content to get other people interested. To get other people really, really into what he wanted to explore and explain and be fascinatedly funny about the minutiae of — and he followed other people’s obsessions the same.
I say I don’t collect things but that’s because my gallery of switching and shifting things I’m really, really into have been quite enough of a curation process while I’ve been assembling the museum of my life. Mentally, that is — I don’t think you’d get anything like a picture of me from what’s left if I dropped dead tomorrow but with Seb the only possible comfort is that you might.
Someone who was so prolific and so generous with sharing his knowledge, so warm and generous in doing it rather than hoarding it like weapons to be used to score points, is unfortunately a rarity both in fandom and in the writers that cover it.
I doubt this little tribute piece will convert any fandom gatekeepers but maybe it’ll encourage a few sleepers to come forward and talk about what makes them tick. If something saved your life (and fuck knows, everything from Girls Aloud to Formula E to CS:GO have dragged me out of the ditch) or just improved it, it doesn’t have to be wellness-dressed to be wholesome to share.
One of the things that 2020 is alleged to have killed is smalltalk, without casual interactions. Which fits with talking more about the things that mean more to you — whether that’s the big politics or the obscure anime and being unafraid to mix the two. Getting really into the granular about things you’re exploring down a 3am mindhole — and inviting people in, if the weird chasm looks cool and witty enough.
I will miss Seb more than I can reasonably express. I can’t believe I’ll never read his tweets about a Grand Prix again, I can’t believe I’ll never go for the long-held-off pint we’d been talking about for years (idiot me) and I can’t believe we have to not just live in 2020 but without his warmth and enthusiasm for things.
Not that enthusiasm is accepting things the way they are — it’s asking for more, making that space for other people at the table, using your room to create more for others.
He leaves a huge content vacuum in his stead. It would be rude of us not to step up and fill it with things we’re really, truly into. To take that generous energy and turn it into sharing expertise. I don’t think I’ll ever be as nice as him about it, too feral in my own approach but I am sincerely going to try. I miss him already.