Well, well. You think us genre reviewers and critics are a stroppy lot, you should see at the literary reviewers from US newsprint media getting all hissy about their platform being eroded away from underneath them. The Print is Dead blog has this to say:
“And when Winslow himself writes that the loss of book review sections will “[choke] off such discussion of books,” he couldn’t be more wrong. There is now, because of the Web, probably more discussion of books than ever before. But what really infuriates Winslow, and many of the other critics, is that all of this discussion is happening without them. So it’s not that books are being burned; instead, what’s happening is the self-importance of book reviewers is going up in smoke.”
That really underscores why I’m glad to see the genre scene thriving online – I think we may get over that particular hump before the ‘straights’ do. I can’t think of any reviewers in sf/f who I think of as being self-important – but then (with the obvious exception) I can’t think of anyone who has made it their sole career and source of income, either. There’s a corellation there, I think.
Meanwhile, Gabe Chouinard has come back in response to Jonathan McCalmont’s post that I mentioned yesterday. Señor Chouinard argues that a new critical venue should strive to build a new audience from scratch with innovatory approaches, rather than trying to entice away established readers from other venues:
“… street-level criticism is going to open up the genre dialogue to once and for all include people from outside of genre, rather than excluding them from the discussion. Our approach is meant for a NEW kind of audience, an audience that we have to manufacture from the ground up. There’s plenty of room for all kinds of readers in street-level criticism, and it’s my assertion that, by treating reviewing as a subset of the greater literary critical dialogue, we’re in effect opening the ghetto walls to allow outsiders to come in and have a good look around, without fear of stigma and without fear of rejection.”
Someone else responding to Jonathan (or rather, apologising for a response he neither finished or posted) is Andrew ‘SFBC’ Wheeler. After having had a while to ruminate on the matter, Mr. Wheeler has decided that his reaction to Jonathan’s post on the aesthetics of fantasy had roots in other things:
“Eventually the Clue Stick descended heavily on my head and I realized McCalmont was exactly the same sort of blogger as I was, and that was what annoyed me. (A similar realization hit me about William Lexner, previously — though I think Lexner really is trying to be incredibly obnoxious, while people like me and McCalmont just come off that way sometimes.)
So I’ve moved McCalmont into the mental category of “curmudgeons who occasionally annoy me but who I want to take seriously,” joining such excellent company as Barry Malzberg and Norman Spinrad (mostly for his book reviews, which I don’t read as often as I should these days). That doesn’t mean that I won’t post a “look at this stupid thing someone said” essay about any of them — that seems, for better or worse, to be a lot of what I do here — but I hope it means that I’ll take the idea seriously first…and only then reject it out of hand.”
As back-handed compliments go, they don’t come much bigger than that. I think.
A few other things of note, while I’m at it:
Matrix Magazine (another fine product of the BSFA stable) has an article featuring soundbite interviews with the shortlist nominee authors for the 200 Arthur C. Clarke Award. Ironic understatement award goes to Brian Stableford, talking of the importance of genre awards:
“It’s obviously better to have such reference-points than not to have them … [e]specially if they can occasionally whip up a little controversy.”
Controversy, Mr. Stableford? Surely not …
(Which reminds me, I wrote an essay ages back about the value of genre fiction awards, and it’s probably high time I looked at it again in the light of the huge amount I’ve learned since I first published it.)
As far as good reviews of the Clarke shortlist are concerned, you could do an awful lot worse than let the ladies from Eve’s Alexandra take you through them. Their take on M. John Harrison’s Nova Swing went up yesterday.
Last but not least, I propose the creation of a new award, to be given for ‘most laugh-out-loud metaphor deployed in a serious review of a serious genre novel’. The first winner for this award (which can be given out whenever I or anyone else decide it’s time for one to be announced) is Adam Roberts, for this genius line from his review of Ian McDonald’s Brasyl:
“Brasyl’s 2006, 2032, and 1732 are not, it turns out, part of the same timeline, but salami slices from different places on the sausage of the multiverse.”
As this is the inaugural award, the recipient sentence will provide the name for it; feel free to confer a Salami Award on any piece of critical writing you encounter and feel worthy.