I find email quite mysterious. Rather than existing publicly available for all to see, eventually archived on The Wayback Machine and preserved until civilization collapses, email exists inside an inbox, hidden behind passwords and two-factor authentication.

One might say this isn’t different from any of the other forms of everyday communication we humans use in the 21st century. We talk on phones, and everything we say is lost the moment you say it (unless the police are wiretapping you). We send messages, and those exist on our phones until we get new ones and our chat history is erased. Language, from the very beginning, was a transient affair. We as humans had spoken languages for tens of thousands of years before we ever started writing anything down. The majority of communication over the course of human history has been transient and private.

But email is writing. It is often long-form writing. It is correspondence. If you’ve ever read the collected letters of an author you like after their death, you understand how two people’s written conversation can have literary value. Sometimes an author’s best work is what they wrote for one specific person, words they never imagined others would be reading decades later.

I came to age at a transitory period of the internet. As I’ve written about before, before I ever used the internet, I looked over a lot of shoulders at computer monitors with internet browsers opened and I found myself at many fastfood restaurants and playgrounds, far removed from computers, overhearing conversations about the internet. Email, IM, IRC and forums were the primary tools of communication. These still existed when I started using the internet, but they were dying faster than I'd realized, and by the time the internet became a thing I was thinking about philosophically, the world had already changed.

Email of course has died slower than other aspects of The Old Internet, and as such I have a lot of experience with it. I’ve sent long emails to strangers. When I was in high school and early college I sent crazed emails about all my messed up feeling and angst to anyone willing to talk to me. Usually this scared people away. Sometimes there were people who replied with even weirder emails.

Most of those people seem lost now. I guess I could email them again if I wanted to. I’m not sure if I actually do want to email them again. I’d surely feel something like embarrassment, though maybe there’s something deeper going on.

I’ve often wondered what it would be like for email to be a writer’s medium of choice, the way some writers are poets and others are essayists. Someone I met in Beijing in 2018 said of her job, which she hated passionately, “at least it involves writing. I can tell my mom I’m a writer now, like I always said I would be.” She never actually told me what her job was. She made it sound like the writing she did could only be considered “writing” by a technicality. I wondered if all she did was write emails. Lots of people essentially write emails for a living. Are they writers?

The internet feels like it’s going through another transition period, though this one is probably a lot more artificial than the one I experienced growing up. That one didn’t seem conscious. It was a result of economic and technological forces. This one has been building up for years. A lot of people are re-evaluating social media, leaving Twitter, trying to resurrect older forms of existing on the internet. Maybe enough people my brother’s age and older are simply nostalgic for the old internet and have talked about that nostalgia loud enough that they’ve accidentally enlisted an army of young people with too much time on their hands to their cause. Some cartoon version of the old internet is reconstructing itself in real time, at the edge of everyone’s peripheral vision. At the same time the new internet has become old as well, and a different set of people are busy rethinking it.

I’m standing somewhere at the border of this, imagining that world of email which I sometimes dreamed of back when I was 17 — the fantasy that all the email I was sending was of vital importance instead of just being a teenager's way of letting off steam.

A few years ago Substack became the primary platform for freelance writers to make a brand of themselves. I never really understood why this happened. I thought Medium already existed for that — but Medium is a blog replacement, and Substack is a newsletter replacement. Somehow a newsletter and a blog end up being the same thing.

Substack works by being much more militant about making you subscribe. The writers you like will show up in your email. Though in the end, the emails you’re getting are just the text that would have showed up in a blog. It’s just a more complicated and less flexible replacement for having an RSS feed.

My website, the one you’re reading right now (presumably — maybe somehow this text ended up copy and pasted somewhere else, far away from my website), doesn’t have an RSS feed. That’s because it’s just a bunch of HTML files without any kind of framework like Wordpress to automatically make the RSS feed for me. I'd have to manually maintain one. Many of my updates are just a few sentences. It wouldn’t really make sense to put them in an RSS feed. But they’re part of a greater structure, so I wouldn’t want them to be isolated in the never-ending feed that is Twitter or its various replacements. So if you don’t check my website, you might forget it exists. I suppose that’s a feature. Maybe you can come back a year from now and enjoy a pleasant surprise upon seeing how much sloppy thinking one can accumulate over the course of a year. I still wish I could send more people emails though, even just as a way to pretend we're friends.

What am I trying to say here? Well, I decided to add an email spinoff to Saddleblasters, appropriately titled “The Saddleblasters Network”, or “SADDLENET” for short. I want to try doing a newsletter my way. Or maybe "newsletter" is not quite the best designation for it. For instance, you will actually be able to reply to any email I send you. It won’t be from some no-reply address. I’m not sure how exciting that actually is as a feature, though it’s certainly not nothing. Nothing I write inside of SADDLENET will show up on this webpage. You can forward it to your friends if you think it’s worth reading. Otherwise you can let it fade to the farthest edges of your memory.

Other than that, you’ll have to wait for the first edition (or rather your first edition, if you happen to be reading this years after the fact) to see what lies within. This will be an experiment. Who knows how it will turn out.

My email address, as listed on the main page of this website, is “saddleblasters [at] gmail [etc].” Send me an email if you want to subscribe. Or send me an email if you just want to say hello. You can put whatever you want in the email, but if you want to subscribe you have to somehow make it clear that that's what you're doing.

Beyond that, I’ll have more to say to you once you’ve joined the Saddleblasters Network.

Thank you for entrusting me with your email address. I hope I will not disappoint.