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I'm Heading Out to the Black. Farewell, io9 and Gizmodo!

Illustration for article titled Im Heading Out to the Black. Farewell, io9 and Gizmodo!

Today is my last day at io9 and Gizmodo. It’s been a long, astounding road, to say the least. I founded io9 back in 2008, and I watched it journey from the farthest reaches of space to its current home under this atmosphere bubble on Ceres.

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You’ve probably heard the stories about how io9 got its name. And maybe you know that io9 co-founder Charlie Jane Anders and I were inspired by Kathy Keeton, whose groundbreaking magazine Omni combined coverage of real science with science fiction. But what you probably don’t know is how unlikely it was that io9 ever succeeded at all.

io9 was the last standalone site that Gawker Media ever launched. It was born at a time when many of the company’s other famous sites, from Consumerist and Wonkette to Fleshbot and Idolator, were being sold off or shuttered. Charlie Jane and I never thought io9 would last more than a year. But when io9 went live in January 2008, it seemed to fill a void in people’s hearts. Even our hero William Gibson took notice. io9’s audience grew at an exponential pace, thanks to the early efforts of a growing team of writers that included Meredith Woerner, Graeme McMillan, Esther Inglis-Arkell and Cyriaque Lamar. Thanks also to the smashing writers who joined us later: Robbie Gonzalez, Lauren Davis, George Dvorsky, Rob Bricken, Mika McKinnon, James Whitbrook, and Ria Misra.

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If you’re one of those geeks who follows media news, you might also be surprised to learn how much io9’s smart, speculative, Utopian voice owes to Gawker Media founder Nick Denton. Mostly, Nick is known for turning wrathful snark into a new kind of journalism with sites like Gawker and Jezebel. But he is also deeply interested in science fiction, especially its capacity to change the world for the better. In one of my first conversations with Nick, before he hired me to create io9, he told me he wanted to see a site that wasn’t just about pop culture. It would be a beacon of optimistic futurism, full of beautiful art and ideas. So you can thank the notorious Nick Denton for making io9 into a safe space for hope in a cynical pop culture landscape.

That conversation with Nick is why I took the job running io9. And that job changed my life. It wasn’t just about getting the chance to write about science and science fiction, though it was that; and it wasn’t just about getting to build a team of fantastic, smart writers who constantly blow me away, though it was that too. It was about watching the io9 community grow. I often reflect that io9’s 8-year run has fostered two generations of college students. I’ve met people who told me they “grew up with io9.” And that is the best part. I always wanted to visit a place like io9 when I was young and weird and spent all my time sticking my face into books and computers. Now I can. And so can you.

In January of this year, I took on the role of editor at Gizmodo, and since then, Charlie Jane and I have been integrating the world of io9 into Gizmodo. It’s kind of like we joined the United Federation of Planets. I know change is scary, but these things happen — as Octavia Butler writes, “God is change.” That’s not a religious sentiment. It’s a fact. You are ruled by change whether you like it or not, and io9’s future path lies with joining a larger site that covers technology as well as science and science fiction. It’s been my pleasure and honor to work with the incredible team at Gizmodo, and to create a new home for io9 there.

And this is where my path diverges from io9 and Gizmodo. This past year managing both sites taught me that I’m not actually interested in being a manager. I want to write. That’s why I got into the writing business, and that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. So I’ve accepted a position as tech culture editor at Ars Technica, where I’m excited to be devoting all my time to writing about the cultural impact of technology and science.

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Did I mention that change is scary? Actually, it’s terrifying. And amazing. And a fundamental, banal part of being trapped in linear time. Anyone who loves the future, or who looks forward to a tomorrow that’s different from today, has to accept the uncertainties of change. Your Utopian vision might lead you straight to the shithole. But sometimes, your one-year speculative experiment grows into a giant robot that saves humanity from giant monsters. You won’t know until you actually veer off the road you were on, and steal a little plutonium to fuel your dreams.

Yep, I’m sad to go. I’m going to miss you. But I’ll still be writing my face off on the internets. And I’ll be back to visit. io9 and Gizmodo are going to continue blazing a trail into the future. I’ll see you here. I’ll see you out there. No matter what happens, we’ll always have tomorrow.

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DISCUSSION

James Whitbrook

A year and two months ago, Annalee Newitz was the woman brave enough to look at some drivel I had written about Marvel superheroes and go “Hey, maybe there’s something not objectively awful about this.”*

A few emails back and forth later—most of which I spent babbling incoherently about what I could ever possibly do in the alternative universe where Annalee had lost the majority of her vast senses and asked me to evolve from io9 commenter to io9 writer—she was willing to go forth into the black tower of Gawker Media and argue that someone should offer me a chance as one of those newfangled Kinja Recruits. No, I don’t know how she managed to do it either.

I’m still here, watching the first person to give me a chance to do something I’ve dreamed of doing for over a decade leave for incredible new pastures, and somehow it doesn’t seem entirely fair. As an io9 commenter I was already well acquainted with Annalee’s writing talent, her constant joy and effervescent humor that poured out of every word in one of her posts. But to be in the same working environment as her, to see the gears tick behind this outstanding person as she pushed everyone to do their very best—both for us at io9 and as part of Gizmodo over the last 11 months—is one of the most fascinating pleasures I’ve had in my still fledgling career, and something I will never likely forget.

Annalee, you have made me roughly 5% less of a terrible writer in the short time I’ve known you. I can only thank you deeply for that, and wish you the very best at Ars. I’m sure they already realise how lucky they are to have you.

*Comment may come entirely from the relentless self-deprecation of being English rather than stated fact