Alright, everyone! As promised, here’s the second part in my interview with several of the prominent SF/F bloggers! I hope you all enjoy it as much as you seem to have enjoyed the first part!
Included in the review are Chris, the Book Swede, Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review, The Fantasy Review, Neth Space, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, Rob’s Blog o’ Stuff, SciFiChick, Fantasy Book Critic and La Gringa from The Swivet.
You can find the first part HERE.
Q. How do you choose the content to include in your blog?
Chris, the Book Swede: I tend to choose things that interest me. I recently did a quick, short feature about the new Beowulf film/book, because it’s something that interests me. It doesn’t interest everyone, of course, but I do try to pick things that might be of interest to the kind of people who would look at a review blog :)
Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review: I try and switch between genre and publisher with every book I pick up, it seems fairer to everyone that way. Having said that, if an author gets in touch and sends me a book off their own back then I think it’s only polite to return the favour and give their book a level of priority. I also try and give myself a break from reading (every now and then) by trying to do something a little different (film review, article etc). For me, it’s about trying to keep the content fresh and also try out different things.
The Fantasy Review: I just talk about what interests me at the time but I do try to vary up my reviews between various self made book categories.
Neth Space: Whatever I feel like at the time. I review pretty much everything I read.
Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist: Book reviews, interviews, giveaways, and whatever else strikes my fancy! Since more than half of my traffic doesn’t frequent message boards, I also attempt to link stuff of interest.
Rob’s Blog o’ Stuff: Whatever catches my fancy at the time. Most often, the books I’m reading and reviewing. If I see a particular quote or something interesting on another blog, I link to it. If the NY Yankees, NJ Devils and Rutgers have my attention, they get mentions. For a while, I was featuring my beer of the week, a “feature” I might be bringing back. Of course I can’t resist an interesting meme, either.
SciFiChick: If a news item hits my inbox that might be of interest to my readers, I’ll post about that. Otherwise, I’ll post about whatever I’ve read, watched, drawn, or thought about lately.
Fantasy Book Critic: I’m organized to the point that it’s almost an obsession. So while I mainly cover books/news that I’m personally interested in, I try to keep it relevant to what’s current. So reviews, interviews, giveaways and banners are normally tied in with a book’s release and I usually plan weeks & months in advance what I’m reviewing, who I’m interviewing, the giveaways I plan on hosting and so forth. For instance, I already pretty much have the month of December mapped out and part of January ;) Of course, I will read older releases and even though I’m a neatfreak, I understand that things don’t always go according to plan so I also try to stay flexible â˜º
La Gringa at The Swivet: My blogging style is almost schizophrenic. Seriously! I write about whatever strikes my fancy. For the most part I try to focus on genre fiction and books. I try to post regular round-ups of both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews because the general reading public doesn’t really get a chance to see these reviews, and these are the reviews that are most often driving both bookseller buys and books chosen for media reviews. I also post a regular weekly round-up of genre acquisitions and rights sales; again, this is an area that too frequently is hidden from readers. I think the trends in genre acquisitions are fascinating! I do occasional author interviews as well, but there is no rhyme or reason to it.
I do like to post funny links, just because I believe is sharing the mirth. I write stories about the Furry Machiavellian Persons (aka, the cats) because they control my life. And I write about New York City and the queer community at large because they are the things that are most important to me.
Q. There’s one thing that connects all of our blogs and that’s Speculative Fiction (Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror/etc…). What is it that initially drew you to this genre of writing and what keeps you sticking around? How do you respond to critics who dismiss it?
Chris, the Book Swede: Critics who tend to dismiss it tend to forget that there’s a fantastical element to some of the greatest “classics” of all time. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, for example, with a painting that slowly ages with all the corruption and vice of it’s owner, giving Dorian immortality, but at a costly price, is about the most fantastical thing ever! Lots of the themes are the same as ever, the dream or immortality, the price, etc.
There’s something about this genre that captures my imagination, and I think the clue is just there: fiction, and fantasy and sci-fi in general, imagine things which may not be, but which are original and thought-provoking, as well as just damn good fun!
Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review: It’s simple really, there’s no other genre (to my mind) that can offer me the scope that Speculative Fiction does. Even if it’s only by a slight degree, I’m reading something different every time I pick a book up. It’s also a form of escapism that has struck a spark in my imagination. I don’t want to read about the real world, I live in it!
If a critic dismisses the genre based on what they’ve read then fair enough, the world is plenty big enough for another opinion and they don’t all have to be the same. If someone blatantly hasn’t read any fantasy etc then I just think they’re making themselves look stupid when they attack it. I’d say, “At least give it a go first.”
The Fantasy Review: My brother used to collect D&D materials and I always found myself enamoured by all of the pictures of the monsters. After that I got hooked on role playing video games and finally I read the Hobbit. After that I found a new love that would continue to grow into what it is now.
Neth Space: Well, I started reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time when I was a freshman in college. I was instantly hooked – while I had read a few books that fell into the SFF genre, it really was a new experience for me. Eventually I was led to the internet, which led to message boards and recommendations on where to go next. I haven’t looked back since.
As for people who dismiss genre – I honestly don’t pay attention to that anymore. People often are too attached to limiting definitions and way too quick to belittle opinions when they differ their own. I don’t have the time or desire to engage in that discussion.
Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist: Again, I’ll refer you to that other interview I did. . .
What do I respond to those critics who dismiss it? I don’t. It’s as simple as that. Speculative fiction feeds my imagination, and has done so for more than two decades now. Good SFF can be more mind-blowing than any other type of literature. Actually, I pity those who can’t let their imagination take them to faraway places. As always, it’s escapism for me, you know! It’s their loss, really…
Rob’s Blog o’ Stuff: I’ve always been interested in the fantastic, from the Super Friends on Saturday mornings, to playing Dungeons and Dragons in middle school, to reading Stephen King, hints of things not of this world have always intrigued me. When I attended Rutgers, I was lucky enough to take a Science Fiction Literature course, where I met my wife so perhaps there is a deeper unconscious connect. Although I didn’t get to do too much non-course reading throughout college, soon after I graduated I picked up over the course of a few months among others: Ender’s Game, A Game of Thrones, Lord Foul’s Bane, The Dragonbone Chair, and The Eye of the World. I also joined the Science Fiction Book Club.
What keeps me sticking around? There are entirely too many books I need to read and a lot of the books I’ve been reading are still wowing me in their own way.
Critics? Sure it’s nice when the stuff we like gets recognized outside of our circle, it’s really cool to see a guy like Neil Gaiman have success in the wider audience and awesome to see a Pulitzer Prize winner like Michael Chabon embracing the genre.
Critics who dismiss it? Screw â€˜em, they don’t know what they are missing.
SciFiChick: Ever since I watched Star Wars at 2 years old, I’ve loved science fiction. I’ve always been a devout reader, and read everything I could get my hands on. Though, my favourite genre has usually leaned towards science fiction because of the escape from reality and opening up of my imagination.
And since I usually don’t agree with anything critics say, I don’t pay them any heed.
Fantasy Book Critic: Way back in elementary school we had this tiny library, and on the bottom shelf (which was about all I could reach then ;) was what I guess you would call a graphic novel, which collected various stories from the Spider-Man, Captain America and Incredible Hulk comics. I can’t tell you how many times I checked that thing out, but from then on I was hooked! From there, movies (Star Wars), cartoons (G.I. Joe, He-Man, Voltron, Transformers), videogames and comic books have just cemented my love for the genre, which eventually translated to literature beginning with the classics (Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde), then Koontz and finally Tolkien in high school â˜º
The reason why I keep coming back is simple. As much as I’ve read, there’s still so much yet to discover and as long as new writers continue to share their imagination with us along with everyone who is already doing so, I’ll be thereâ€¦
As far as the critics, they don’t really bother me. I think there are certain kinds of people in the world. Some are dreamers like me â˜º Others prefer to live in the â€˜real world’. To those, there’s no point in arguing the merits of speculative fiction because they could never understand. It’s just how the world goesâ€¦
La Gringa at The Swivet: I’ve been a genre fan since I was in second grade and stole a copy of Gertrude Friedberg’s amazing book The Revolving Boy from the shelves of the library at St. Phillip the Apostle School in Brigantine, NJ. (Yeah, I know, Sister Margaret â€“ I’m going to hell. But I’ll be well-read by the time I get there!) I don’t exclusively read science fiction and fantasy â€“ it makes up about 35% of what I read. I love crime novels, mysteries, literary fiction, geeky history books (especially ancient history â€“ yeah! Bring on the Punic Wars, baby!), queer fiction and non-fiction, paranormal romance, and graphic novels.
When I began working at Del Rey Books, I became much more involved in genre as a publishing professional. I had a great deal of success in promoting Del Rey titles because I refused to treat SF/F as a ghetto category. I pitched books to Time Magqazine, USA Today, NPR, and guess what? It worked. Good writing is good writing, regardless of what section it’s shelved in. This is largely how I got mainstream reviewers to pay attention to writers like China Mieville and Richard K. Morgan.
I also started taking online promotion very seriously. I searched out bloggers who were just starting to write about genre fiction: Matt Cheney at The Mumpsimus, Rodd Lott at Bookgasm, Rob Bedford at SFF World, etc, and I treated them as professional reviewers.
SF/F most-often gets short-shrift in the mainstream media, and as a genre it is under-served in terms of there being a lot of reliable and consistent news sources. We have Locus Online, which is a labour of love by Mark Kelly. We used to have Andy Wheeler’s remarkable blog for the Science Fiction Book Club. And there is SF Scope and SF Signal (both wonderful news sources that you all should be looking at on a daily basis, by the way).
But I wanted to start a blog that focused on just SF/F literature, as opposed to SF fandom, SF films, SW on TV, or SF convention gossip. There are other places that do that, and frankly â€“ that kind of thing doesn’t interest me. I’m interested in SF/F writing, and that’s where I focus my efforts.
Q. With so many great new bloggers entering the blogosphere, I find myself constantly thinking “Damn, I wish I had thought of that!” when I see another blogger launch a new series of articles. Most recently this happened with The Book Swede’s Quote of the Week. What are some of your favourite articles that made you wish you’d come up with it first?
Chris, the Book Swede: Wow, thank you so much, Aidan! There are a lot of good articles around that I wished I’d come up with – I really enjoyed your Changing of the Guard essays, regardless of the controversy (of which we won’t mention!). I love Fantasy Book Critic’s round up the whole months releases – I spot a lot of good books there – and the same for the genre acquisitions that The Swivet does. I actually don’t have strength enough in my fingers to mention all the great article series out there, but I also love Neth Space’s Questions Five articles, and the whole idea behind them. Graeme has some fun articles on fantasy and sci-fi, too.
Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review: As a relatively new blogger it seemed like everyone had already pinched the best ideas! I like Chris’ â€˜Quote of the Week’ series and Aidan’s articles in particular. I also like Neth Space’s â€˜Questions Five’ because the questions are completely irreverent and not like any others. I think the idea, that really struck me as inspired, was Tia’s blog as a whole. I don’t think there’s any other blog that concentrates purely on debuts. I’m really surprised that no-one else thought of it, it’s in a niche all by itself.
Neth Space: You know, I just don’t think in this way. I really like what a lot of bloggers are doing out there, and I just appreciate that for what it is. I often come across places where someone does a better job of communicating what I think on a subject than I do myself, but that’s a bit different.
Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist: Like Ken, I never approached it that way. I’m not “competing” with anyone or any site. While I’ll readily acknowledge that there is a lot of interesting stuff out there, never once did I find myself thinking that I should have come up with this or that. I like having my own little sandbox on the web, and I mainly worry about doing my own thing.
Rob’s Blog o’ Stuff: If I was still blogging as actively as I was in my first couple of years, I might be a bit more wound up about such things. This isn’t a slight in any way, I just don’t have the blogging time I did a couple of years ago. These kids are doing pretty good.
That said, I like what a lot of these folks are doing, Fantasy Book Critic in particular impresses me with the consistent amount of quality content. Aidan’s Erikson stuff was great and I like Pat’s “discussions” with Mystar.
SciFiChick: If I see an idea that I like, such as the Thursday 13, then I’ll try to put my own little spin on it. I also love SFSignal’s SF TidBits of the day, where they provide interesting links to other scifi happenings on the web.
Fantasy Book Critic: The only idea that really made me jealous was Tia’s blog, mainly because it reminded me of what I used to do with Dynamic Rock/Kings of A&R. Personally, I never entertained the idea when I started FBC because I just didn’t think there would be enough debuts to make it feasible, but I guess I was proven wrong ;)
As far as the other blogs out there, I love that each is doing their own thing and the greater diversity there is, the better. However, while we shouldn’t view the different features as a competition, I think having them helps fellow bloggers come up with new & exciting ideas that end up benefiting readers & authors alikeâ€¦
For myself, I’m mostly influenced by my past experience. While I started out with the tried-and-true reviews, interviews & giveaways, I hope to start implementing a lot of the features that we used on Dynamic Rock, etc, in the near future. Unfortunately, some of them have fallen flat so far like the “Reader Reviews”, but I have one coming up at the end of the year/early January that I’m hoping readers will like â˜º
La Gringa at The Swivet: I don’t feel competitive with my fellow bloggers. I see my role in this group as someone who can point the way toward the good stuff by putting together regular round-ups of new links: reviews, interviews and discussions.
Q. Any advice for future bloggers?
Chris, the Book Swede: Doing this is fun, but there is a lot of time that has to be spent doing it, and getting yourself established enough to get a regular number of visitors per day is hard work – they won’t just stumble upon you. You need to do regular stuff, be nice, and do good stuff. You don’t necessarily have to be great at English to do it – I still over-use commas! -, just be truthful, and do some of that Philosophy stuff that I spoke of in one of my earlier answers…
Oh, get in contact with your fellow bloggers. They don’t bite, and they’ll give you great advice :)
As one of the newer bloggers, though, I perhaps may not be the right one to be giving out advice, and I’m looking forward to what the others say and learning from them =]
Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review: Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and let people know about what you’re doing, it’s the only way people will know that you’re there. It’s the same deal with publishers, apart from one publisher the rest have been more than happy to help me where they can. A lot of us have email addresses in our blogs, drop us a line if you’ve got a question (I’m happy to help where I can). Finally, one forum’s posts are another forum’s spam; have a look round first and see what’s acceptable.
The Fantasy Review: Just try and have fun!
Neth Space: Don’t get caught up in all – blog for yourself and not others and don’t get a big head about it. Resist the delusions of grandeur that may occur and always remember to wash behind your ears.
And most importantly, constantly checking your stats is in no way healthy (though I must admit that I paused to check my blog stats 9 times during the writing of this sentence).
Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist: Be yourself and find your own voice.
How can you find you own voice? That’s simple, really. Just be yourself!
Too many reviewers have no voice, no personality… And that’s a shame.
Rob’s Blog o’ Stuff: Have fun with it.
SciFiChick: Make sure you’re blogging about something you love; otherwise you can easily get burned out or bored.
Fantasy Book Critic: Do it for the right reasons. It’s not about getting free books or winning a popularity contest ;) Just stay true to yourself, and like most people have been saying, have fun!!!
La Gringa at The Swivet: Have fun. Don’t badmouth your fellow bloggers, reviewers, editors, authors and agents. The SF/F community is too small, and it only works as a community if we remember to see it as a community.
Q. Any final plugs words, fellow bloggers?
Chris, the Book Swede: Some might say that this is a little off-topic, but… I’ve been wondering for ages what a world without herbs would be like. I’m sure there wouldn’t be any major differences – cities levelled, for example – but there’d be something missing…
Thanks for inviting me to do this, it’s been great fun, and as the one with the youngest blog life so far, I’m really honoured to be thought of in the same breath as the others doing this :)
Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review: Thanks for having me along for the ride Aidan, it’s been really good to get this stuff out of my head and onto the screen!
I get to plug the blog as well? Coolâ€¦ Errr, Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review! Come along and see what I think about what I’m reading (amongst other thingsâ€¦)
The Fantasy Review: I hope you take the time to check out my little blog. It has been a bit dormant because of a new child but expect me the blog updates to start regularly. I have lots of thoughts coming about Steven Erikson’s Malazan series.
Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist: If you’re a good-looking, smart, and fun-loving girl from the Greater Montreal area, gimme a call!;-)
SciFiChick: I try not to take anything too seriously, and that includes my site. So if you want a sometimes-sarcastic female’s perspective on a genre that’s fanbase is primarily male, feel free to stop by.
Fantasy Book Critic: First off, I just wanted to say thanks to Aidan for inviting me to this little soiree â˜º It was a lot of fun and I really appreciate being associated with all of these other blogs that I have a lot of respect for. Secondly, I want to thank all of the publishers and authors that took a chance on me â˜º It’s been a real pleasure working with everyone. And finally, I want to thank all of the readers :D After all, without you, ours blogs wouldn’t exist ;)
Also, I want to give a shoutout to OneRepublic! I’ve been a fan of theirs for a while now and their debut album “Dreaming Out Loud” finally comes out on November 20, 2007. It’s fantastic! So check out their myspace page (HERE, listen to “Apologize” which is one of my favourite songs ever, and buy a copy!!!
La Gringa at The Swivet: Well, I’d love it if agents and editors would remember to email me their acquisitions or rights sales (firstname.lastname@example.org) for my weekly round-up. And I’m always happy to try to answer publishing questions on my blog â€“ particularly questions revolving around publicity or marketing. I’d love for folks to swing by The Swivet to check it out, but I’m going to take the time here to actually plug a couple of wonderful agent blogs that I regularly read:
http://arcaedia.livejournal.com/ (Jennifer Jackson)
http://raleva31.livejournal.com/ (Rachel Vater)
http://pubrants.blogspot.com/ (Kristin Nelson)
A big thanks to everyone involved. This was a marathon and a half to put together and I couldn’t be happier with how well everyone pulled through! These nine other bloggers made the interview a pleasure to conduct and exceeded all (the admittedly hight) expectations I had set. Hopefully this has been as fun for my readers as it was for us bloggers!