Shall we begin?

Welcome to Cultural Conversation. I’m A. J. Black but now we’re friends, you can call me Tony.

You may have come here because you know me from somewhere on social media. Perhaps through my podcast network We Made This. Maybe you’ve followed my WordPress blog in the past (also previously named Cultural Conversation). This, however, is a new starting point. A chance to try something different.

In my travels online writing about popular culture - film, TV, music, literature, other media - I have explored different avenues. I have created and edited a website in the past. I have written for numerous different online publications. All were rewarding experiences in diverse ways. None have given me the sense of satisfaction, as a writer, as personal blogging. As reaching out and making a connection to people on an individual level.

This isn’t to say I still won’t write for other sites and publications should the chance arrive, I absolutely will. But what happens when you do is that your words enter the online ether. You may have plenty of eyeballs on the material but how often do you really know who is reading what you write, and get the satisfaction of their feedback and, importantly, the discussion that comes from it?

Anyone who writes, whether professionally or not, is ultimately A Writer. I’ve been paid for writing. I’ve written a two books (with three more on the way) for a publisher. I would say I am now semi-professional. I can’t make a living from it but I don’t just write for myself. I want people to see what I do and, if any writer is being honest, we all do. Yes, writers ultimately write first and foremost content they would want to read, but writing in a vacuum is a joyless experience. Any expression warrants a return. Every expression artistically is, in many ways, guided by that return.

My WordPress blog did bring me that return, on occasion. People followed it and occasionally commented on the work. That was fantastic and I’m indebted to them. But in many senses, that space felt limited in terms of that interaction. The functionality of WordPress is geared more to presentation and outcome than reciprocity. It doesn’t make that feedback as easy to provide as it could be. And what I’ve never wanted to be is a writer who dictates a world view without interaction. I want to discuss. I want to be challenged. I want to explore and open my mind to other points of view.

That’s what this new space is about.

Substack, in that sense, feels like a brave experiment. It feels more personal, more direct, from what I’ve seen, with much of the functionality provided by my previous space. It’s less showy or expansive, but that’s ok. I’m convinced you don’t read a blog for how it looks, you read for what it provides, and for how you connect with the writer behind it. I am very active on social media platforms Twitter & Facebook and will promote these pieces out there, but I’m hoping you will have subscribed and will consider lending your thoughts on a piece when it goes live, and contributing less to a fixed view of entertainment and culture, but more an ongoing discussion between us.

I have lots of ongoing, fun ideas for what to do with this blog that continue work started on the previous one. Essays on new TV/film, retrospectives on older work. Regular features such as Sci-Fi Saturdays (looking at movies/TV shows in more detail in that genre) or Back to the 80s and 90’s (which will zero in on films I grew up watching or are visiting for the first time). There will also be exclusive special pieces for anyone who wants to support my work for a small monthly fee. Most of my writing will be free but if you are willing to chip in and support me, you will get content no one else will see.

This may work. It may not. I may end up skulking back to WordPress with my tail between my legs, and that site will remain live & be a repository.

But let’s give this a shot, shall we? As Captain Jean-Luc Picard says at the end of The Next Generation pilot episode Encounter at Farpoint, “let’s see what’s out there…”

Enter your email, subscribe, and let’s find out…