Larry over at OF Blog of the Fallen has posted a long list of questions for book bloggers. I thought they were interesting enough to post about here, so that’s what I’m doing. Larry seems interested in getting a lot of responses, so if you are a blogger, whether about books or otherwise, you should participate. Answer the questions on your blog and post your link in the comments.
(Note: Apparently Larry posted these questions as a spoof of sorts. I took it seriously when I wrote these answers, though, and so should you.)
The World in the Satin Bag is a science fiction and fantasy oriented blog, ranging from discussions and rants about various issues in the genre fiction world, book and movie reviews (sometimes in-depth, sometimes not), and anything else that strikes my fancy. I’ve recently been talking about the New Weird and Scifi Strange “phenomenon.”
Some have called my blog “serious.” I like to think that WISB is a mixture.
(On a ridiculous side note: isn’t the point of telling people about your blog to give something away? Or is there a specific thing I’m not supposed to give away about The World in the Satin Bag? If I’m not allowed to give anything away, then I can’t even say that my blog is a blog, because that is already giving the reader something by which to develop an expectation.)
2. What can you tell readers about your future themed review months? Are there any sequels in the works?
I don’t have any themed review months, so I can’t tell my readers or anyone’s readers about such things. I review what comes to me, what interests me, and so on. All I can really say is that you shouldn’t expect my reviews to be non-genre oriented.
3. What do you feel is your strength as a blogger/reviewer?
I’m going to approach this from two different positions: one that is egotistical and one that is objective.
Objective strength: I’d probably have to say my dedication to blogging and reviewing. I’ve been blogging for four years as of Sept. 3rd, with over 1,500 published posts. That evens out to about a post a day. I don’t know how many people can say the same, since there aren’t a lot of statistics on these kinds of things. Regardless, the fact that I have been doing this for so long seems to be paying off for me personally; I’ve improved drastically over the years (look back to the oldest posts on this blog and you’ll see how true that really is).
Egotistical strength: I consider myself to be a pretty strong thinker and critic, particularly in the last year. I’m not right all the time, but I am quite pleased with many of my critical posts on this blog (such as my writing on Inception or even my more recent discussions on New Weird and Scifi Strange). To be fair, though, this isn’t a strength that I think is unique. There are quite a few bloggers out there who take a critical approach to their posts.
4. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give the younger you concerning your blogging/reviewing career?
Do what you love. It’s not advice that I wasn’t already attempting to fulfill, but I would likely tell my younger self to remember to keep the blog about what I love. I wouldn’t try to change what I’ve already done, for the most part, because I think failing and succeeding is a better way to learn how to be a good blogger/writer/etc. than reading about it on the Internet (though you can get a few good ideas from there).
5. What was the spark that generated the idea that drove you to start your blog/reviewing career?
I actually began The World in the Satin Bag as a fiction experiment. In Sept. of 2006 I had the idea to use a blog to try to finish my first novel (which this blog is named after). The first chapter went up on Sept. 17, 2006 and ran for thirty-one chapters, ending on Sept. 2, 2007. I used the blog to talk about books, reading, writing, and things related to genre while writing the book, and then converted the blog to a heavily genre-oriented discussion/criticism/review/rant blog. The rest is history. That’s pretty much what started everything. I had no idea that, four years later, I would be where I am now. Then again, most people don’t know what the future holds for them, right?
The entire novel is still available to read on this blog, in case anyone cares, but it is old and something I’ve preserved here for fun.
6. Were there any perceived conventions of blogging/reviewing that you wanted to twist or break when you set out to start blogging/reviewing?
Honestly, no, but not because I was interested in parroting everyone else. When I started blogging, I had no idea what blogging was. I started this, as I’ve indicated previously, as an experiment. As such, I do things on this blog that I like. That, to me, is the only convention any blogger should stick to: write what you enjoy writing about. Most of us do this for free, after all.
7. In retrospect, is it safe to say that the online blogging/reviewing world wasn’t quite ready for your blog/review column? Blogging/reviewing was dominated by powerhouses such as Wil Wheaton, Dave Itzkoff, and Harriet Klausner at the time. Looking back, was your blog/review column too avante-garde in style and tone?
I don’t even know how to respond to this question. If I say yes, it paints me as an arrogant jerk; if I say no, it implies that I’m a hack like Harriet Klausner (though not like Wil Wheaton, who I think has done a damned fine job of making something of himself based on his geek identity; he’s no longer “that Star Trek guy” to me). Nothing I ever did on this blog was really all that “out there.” It wasn’t “avante-garde.” In fact, I’d wager that anyone who says “my blog is avante-garde in style” is either arrogant, delusional, or a little ignorant of the goings-on in the blogging world. Yes, there are some original acts out there, but most of us aren’t truly “original.” The only original thing about any blogger is the personality that blogger presents; but I don’t consider that “avante-garde.”
8. Many bloggers/reviewers don’t read within the blogging/reviewing field. Is it the case with you? If not, what bloggers/reviewers make you shake your head in admiration?
I’m not one of those people, actually. I’ve recently trimmed the RSS feeds in my Google Reader account due to a reduction in available time for reading blogs, but I still read quite a few blogs, some of which are review-oriented. There are too many to list here, so I’ll just name a few that I rarely skip over when flipping through my feeds list:
OF Blog of the Fallen — I read his “columns” more than his reviews, and they have never disappointed me. Larry is interesting, controversial, and fascinating all at once. I don’t agree with him on everything, but nobody agrees with everything I say either.
Mark Charan Newton — He’s a new addition to my feeds list. His posts are usually informative, even if they aren’t about SF/F or writing. I think that’s one of his strengths, actually; he’s found a balance between personal, SF/F-nal, and political. It is an author blog, so you’ll get news about his fiction, but he at least takes the whole blogging thing seriously.
SF Signal — They’re a staple in the SF/F world. I get a lot of my news from them, and their Mind Melds are fascinating, if not occasionally controversial (and often unintentionally so).
Futurismic — A tech- and science-based blog. If you’re interested in keeping up on things going on in the tech/science world, then this is pretty much the perfect blog. I particularly like the opinions offered by the staff.
Jason Sanford — Another author blog, but a good one. Sanford’s blog usually offers an eclectic mix of genre- and non-genre-based rants and discussions. He’s also the guy who invented Scifi Strange, and who I intend to steal it from.
Mike Brotherton — I’m not sure if you can consider Brotherton’s blog an “author blog,” since he doesn’t really talk about his writing so much as things relevant to his day job (he’s a professor of astronomy). That said, I have enjoyed almost everything he’s written since following him a long while ago. He’s sort of like PZ Myers lite, but with a thick slab of Scifi on the side (which clearly cancels out the “lite”).
There are obviously more blogs than that, and even more blogs that I read regularly, but these seem to be the top six for me. I wouldn’t say I shake my head in admiration at them, but I’m certainly jealous of their substantial followings.
9. Honestly, do you believe that bloggers/reviewers will ever come to be recognized as veritable critics? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good blogs/online review columns as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with them.
I think that some of them will gain acceptance in the near future, if they haven’t already, but I think most blogs will be relegated to the same space as most Amazon reviewers and YouTube commenters. I think that’s unfair, but there isn’t much I can do about that except draw attention to it when it happens. I think most bloggers are of higher quality that most people who post on YouTube, but that’s me.
It’s entirely possible that I am wrong about this, though. I think there are enough signs that show a serious decline in critical inquiry, which might suggest the YouTube-ization of our civilization. If that doesn’t scare you beyond reason, then something is wrong with you.
10. How would you like to be remembered as a blogger/reviewer? What is the legacy you’ll leave behind?
I’d like to be remembered for the interesting things I’ve had to say, but I’ll probably be remembered for the controversial thoughts instead. Still, I think it would be far more interesting to be known as “that guy who wrote those interesting posts about X, Y, and Z.”
11. Do you ever worry that your blog articles/reviews are being misinterpreted? Ever ball up your fists, shoot steam from your ears and yell, “But you just don’t get it!” while reading a comment to a review? Even if they don’t get it, is that opinion still wrong?
I worry about this all the time, because I’ve been misinterpreted at least a dozen times in the last year. I’d like to blame that on the Internet, but plenty of otherwise intelligent people have misinterpreted things I’ve written about here, and then gone off proclaiming X, Y, and Z about my words. Most of the time, these things can be avoided if someone actually takes a second to calm down before reading, and then reads carefully.
That said, I don’t ball up my fists. I usually come to laugh about it, because it’s completely ridiculous.
12. If you take a reviewer like Adam Roberts, as his ramble-y, engaging reviews of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series and put them up against some of the reviews found on Amazon.com, you’re going to find people who appreciate one or the other. Many of those reviews on Amazon.com are written by what we’re calling ‘bad readers’, but there’s certainly an audience (a very large audience), who appreciate those ‘you’ll love this book if you loved ‘Book X’ or ‘Movie Y’. Are Roberts’ reviews objectively better? Would Joe Blow at the grocery store, who only chooses his novels solely on cover art think so?
This is a bloated question. There are a lot of different kinds of Amazon.com reviewers. There are the people who review, but say nothing whatsoever. There are those who review in a more simplistic, “did I like it?” fashion. And I’m sure there are reviewers who are more in line with Adam Roberts, though I can’t think of an example at this time (maybe this one). The only ones I would call “bad readers” are those who review books, but say nothing, either because they’re so furious or in love with a book that they can’t actually say anything useful about it, or because they’re using the Amazon.com reviews system to send a message to Amazon, the publisher, or someone else–which is idiotic, if you ask me.
Having said that, I don’t think that Adam Roberts’ reviews are necessarily better, primarily because I don’t think you can look at review styles objectively in most cases. It’s all subjective precisely because we all look for something different in the reviews we read. Roberts is of particular interest for a certain audience. Joe Blow will likely not find Roberts’ reviews useful, while someone else (perhaps Larry) might think the exact opposite. All but the “say nothing” style have their uses in the book community, in my opinion.
13. Given the choice, would you take a paid review or column for an online or print publication, or a Book Blogger Appreciation Week award? Why, exactly?
I’d take the paid review or column because it’s the one that will most likely help me in my career (as a writer, reader, academic, and so on). I also don’t know much about the Book Blogger Appreciation Week, which makes it difficult for me to preference that over something that I know will have more immediate value for me.