by James Lincoln Warren
‘Farewell and adieu’ was the burden prevailing
Long since in the chant of a home-faring crew;
And the heart in us echoes, with laughing or wailing,
Farewell and adieu.
Each year that we live shall we sing it anew,
With a water untravelled before us for sailing
And a water behind us that wrecks may bestrew.
The stars of the past and the beacons are paling,
The heavens and the waters are hoarier of hue:
But the heart in us chants not an all unavailing
Farewell and adieu.
—Algernon Charles Swinburne, A Century of Roundels (1883)
I have an announcement for our faithful readers which may cause some distress, but it is an announcement that all of us here at CB wanted to provide you well in advance to help soften the blow. The last day that Criminal Brief will be a “live” site is three weeks from today, on September 19, 2011. This isn’t a decision that was made lightly or quickly, and I will provide the reasons for it below, but before addressing them, let me make two very important points:
1. A successor site, tentatively titled “Sleuth Sayers,” comprising Rob Lopresti, Deborah Elliott-Upton, John M. Floyd, Janice Law, and Leigh Lundin is in the works and will go live in September, so the Gentle Reader is not being abandoned. I encourage all our faithful readers to migrate to the new site once it is up and running.
2. Although Criminal Brief will cease to be a live, interactive website, it will remain on line so that readers may explore our more than four years worth of archives at their leisure. There will simply be no new posts after September 19, and all the interactive features (like commenting) will be discontinued.
The Gentle Reader now asks, “Why? Why? Why?”
I conceived Criminal Brief as an advocacy site for crime short stories, and I think we fulfilled that function well and faithfully for a considerable time.
But the fact is that most of the articles are no longer related to trying to get people to read more short stories at all, but on other subjects entirely: travels, movies, true crime, novels, conferences, and so on. There is nothing wrong with that at all, and varying the subjects we touch upon has been a good way of drawing people into the primary focus of the blog, but it has gotten way beyond that. It has become the norm rather than the exception, and simply isn’t what CB was created for: after all, our subtitle is “The Mystery Short Story Web Log Project”. In other words, CB has evolved into a site where we the columnists now address our individual friends and fans instead of being a voice for getting people to read short crime fiction. After spending months mulling it over, I came to the conclusion that this is because we’ve done everything that we could, and that the transition to broadening the subject matter is the result of us having exhausted our efforts on keeping to the original premise. To tighten the focus now would be counterproductive: we’d simply be repeating ourselves ad infinitum instead of spreading our wings and seeking new horizons. If you think about it, this is entirely natural, that the contributors should move on. Why shouldn’t we? Life isn’t static. But it also means that CB has outlived the reason for which it was invented.
It’s a truism that after the opening sentence, the most important part of a good short story is a good closing. I promise you that the last three weeks of Criminal Brief will uphold the standards we began with. It had always been my policy as editor not to interfere with the subjects our regular contributors choose to offer, and I will not withdraw that policy now so near to its end, and so I suspect that our final week (Sept 12-19) will feature heartfelt farewells from each of the fine writers who have made CB such a joy to work on. But I would also remind you all that Rob, Deborah, Leigh, Janice, and John will continue to share their insights and thoughts after Criminal Brief lets go the anchor at last to cease from her long and eventful journey, so there is no cause for tearful good-byes.
The next two weeks will see a couple of Janice’s columns here on Monday’s slot, and I will return for the final column on Monday, September 19, with my parting shot.
Let me close for now by simply stating that Criminal Brief has been central to my life for almost every day of the last four and half years, and that I take great pride in what we’ve accomplished. But by far the most important part of it has been the privilege of reaching out to you, the Gentle Reader, and the formation of so many friendships that will never cease.