Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Greenhon & Armageddon

A couple of the folks over FantasyBookSpot started up a cool, snarky Web comic called Greenhorn. It reminds me a bit of Dork Tower, which isn’t such a bad thing. Paul has had a couple of short stories published and Damon does a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff at FBS. Best of luck to them with Greenhorn.

Despite the kerfuffle last week, I’m still writing book reviews. The most recent of which is the review I published ast night, Armageddon’s Children by Terry Brooks. What was most frustrating about the book was how much I wanted to like it. As my review points out, there were too many negatives about the book for me to really enjoy it. I didn't mention it in the review, but I often wonder how he comes up with some of the names for his characters.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Interview, Review, and Criticism

I recently posted my interview with David Louis Edelman, author of the fantastic Infoquake. After I posted my review a couple of weeks ago, Mr. Edelman asked if I would like to conduct an e-mail interview, who was I to say no? I also posted my review of Delia Sherman's Changeling, an entertaining YA Fantasy.

It seems a review I wrote a few months back has instigated something of a stir. This is the type of shitstorm that hits the Intraweb every couple of months; and Gabe is as good as, or maybe better than most at instigating good debate and discussion. However, this time I find it particularly odd, since I've watched some of these things from the 'sidelines' of the Intraweb and not been involved. Gabe brings up some fair points, I suppose, and some things I've been considering over the past few months as my review output has been increasing. With Emerald City closing down and the validity of on-line reviews continually in question, Gabe's essay / critique / rant comes at an interesting time, especially since he singles me out early in his rant. The point I probably agree with the most is that I could have expounded further on one of my initial points in the review. However, I think the remainder of my review is fairly strong (if not explicitly a criticism piece) - it gives a feel for the book and a good indication, via comparisons of other writers/books, if somebody might enjoy the book. After all when I read reviews; that is, the gist of what I am looking for in a review is the answer to this question - is the book worth my time? In essence, I felt I delivered on what I look for when perusing book reviews of a book I'm interested in reading.

From my vantage point, criticisms can tend to be long winded and stray too far from the question I want answered. This isn't intended as a slight on lengthier criticism, despite what I just said. Gabe, more often than not, has a lot of interesting things to say, that's why I often read his rants/criticisms. Very often, though, if the review/critique is too long, I zone out and lose interest. Thus I try to keep my reviews between 500 and 1200 words. This is not to say that reviews can't or shouldn't include some form of criticism. After all, I want to know why the book is worthy or unworthy of my time and critical examination is healthy.

I always want the quality of my reviews to be top notch, of course. I also know some of my reviews are stronger than others, such things are only natural. What Gabe says about reviewers and critics is fodder for debate, which is always good. I don't consider myself a critic under Gabe's definition in his various pieces over the past couple of days. While I received my BA in English (what can you do with that?) and wrote my fair share of essays and rudimentary criticisms, I never read much on critical theory - literary and/or sf. So if I were to start spouting some theories and what not in my review, I would sound hollow to myself, if nobody else. Does that make me any less qualified to be reviewing books for a fairly large genre community/Web site? Am I just a fan with an opinion and an outlet to voice my opinion? I suppose that's a bit part of what I am, as a reviewer for SFFWorld.

I'm not going to lie and say I don't enjoy getting the free books, because I do. But that's just part of the package. What I find gratifying is when my review encourages somebody to pick up the book I reviewed and that person get as much enjoyment out of the book as I did. Or conversely, if I helped somebody avoid a book that I thought was sub-par. However, I feel I should try to read and review every book I receive from publishers, though it doesn’t always happen. Maybe I’m being naïve, but I feel it is something of an unwritten contract between the publisher/publicist and me.

So part of this, I think boils down to the difference between critcisim and reviews. Where does one drift into another? Is a review in Publishers Weekly or the New York Times Book Review any more valid than a review I publish at SFFWorld or a review that appears at SciFiWeekly? Ultimately, I don't know, I can only say from my perspective - no. The current genre reviewer for NYT BR caused something of a stir when his first couple of pieces were published. Response ranged from outrage to "hey, at least genre stuff is still being looked at in the NYT."

Will I try to improve my reviews? Of course, I want to improve over time. Do I think the review in question over at Gabe’s journal is one of my lesser reviews? No, I really don’t, nor do I feel it is my strongest. As a piece of criticism, it perhaps falls short.

All that said, I bear no ill-will towards Gabe, he’s been an online pal for a while now. I don't think I've said all I can say on the subject, since it is something of an ongoing dialogue. Comments?

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Blog is Still Alive

I've been very busy with work lately and as such, I haven't had much posting time here at the 'o Stuff. In better news, two weekends ago I went to the see Opie and Anthony's Traveling Virus Comedy Tour at the PNC Arts Center and laughed the entire night. My jaw was actually sore the following day from laughing so much. Great comedians like Otto and George, Jim Norton, Dirty Bob Saget, Bob Kelly, Patrice O'Neal and Carlos Mencia will do that to a person.

I was at the Arts Center again this past Friday for the Godsmack/Rob Zombie/Shinedown concert, which was great. Despite the funky acoustics at the arena, Godsmack still sounded great.

Since my last post, I've published a couple of reviews and interviews at SFFWorld. My interview with Scott Westerfeld, and review of The Last Days went up last week and last night I published my review of the terrific new collection from Mike Resnick, New Dreams for Old.