Tag Archives: print

Paul Kincaid’s book reviewing credo gets my vote

Well, the Readercon panel on book reviews seems to have generated a lot of dicussion around the issue … kind of the inverse of the Eastercon panel, which took place after the worst of the smoke had cleared from that particular salvo.

But here’s the inestimable Paul Kincaid, hitting the nail on the head and describing my own standpoint on how and why I review books almost exactly:

“My own credo is simple. A review should be honest (any reviewer who allows her opinion to be swayed by friendship, bribery, peer pressure or whatever, is not worth reading), defensible (I don’t mind if people disagree with my judgement, I am quite used to being the only critic to hold a certain position, pro or con, on any particular book, but I want to be sure the readers can see why I reached that particular judgement), and, so far as I am able, well written (a review is also an entertainment, the reader should be rewarded for taking the time to read the piece). This credo, it should be noted, is an aspiration; I have no idea how close I ever get to achieving it.

Notice I say nothing about reviews being good or bad, positive or negative. It is part of the honesty of a review that if you don’t think a book is any good you have to say so. It is also part of the honesty of a review to recognise that very very few books are entirely wonderful or entirely terrible, and the job of a reviewer is to identify and note that balance. Because of that I do not believe I write positive reviews, or negative reviews – but I hope I write honest reviews.”

Result. Paul Kincaid is one of my newly-inherited reviews team at Interzone, which – given his pedigree and experience – is quite bizarre, because by rights he should be the person editing me. Though I doubt he wants the administrative headaches that come with the post – another indicator of his native common sense!

He and I (and others) are keen to see what comes from Jonathan’s plans for Son of Scalpel, too. This debate – for better or for worse – probably has a good few years mileage in it yet.

Burst culture – publishing in the internet age

Proof (as if proof were required) of the old adage that “if you don’t blog about it today, BoingBoing will have pipped you to the post tomorrow” … but better late than never; here’s a sterling post from Warren Ellis on internet publishing and ‘burst culture’.

In keeping with the spirit of what he’s saying, I’m just going to snatch out the bits I want, but you should really go and read the whole thing – it’ll take a few minutes at most, and it’s time well spent.

“365Tomorrows was an ideal reaction to sf publishing in new media, the concept of flash fiction and the way the medium works. 100-word bursts of speculative fiction, daily. JR Blackwell’s gotten herself a career out of it. And note how 365T kept producing and fulfilled its mandate even as sf sites and sf print magazines died on either side of it.”

365T is a good little site; Jeremy Tolbert and a bunch of co-conspirators have something quite similar going on at The Daily Cabal (which, for my money, carries higher quality fiction, but as far as I can tell doesn’t yet have the reach of 365T).

“How far behind the curve is the sf publishing community? When International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day came around, hundreds of writers of gift and ambition ran short work for free on the web. This came about following a recently-resigned official of the Science Fiction Writers of America calling those who produce material for the web SCABS.”

I can add nothing to that.

“The web isn’t a replacement medium — it’s *another* medium. That said, if your concept of a magazine is something designed in one-page bursts, or three pages that only carry 500 words due to the mass of images, then, really, you’re not doing anything the web can’t do better, are you?”


“Bursts aren’t contentless, nor do they denote the end of Attention Span. If attention span was dead, JK Rowling wouldn’t be selling paperbacks thick enough to choke a pig, and Neal Stephenson wouldn’t be making a living off books the size of the first bedsit I lived in.”

The death of print does not mean the death of reading. At least, it doesn’t *have* to.

“And just a thought: if you’re an sf writer grappling for space in one of the fiction magazines for seven cents a word or whatever the rate is now — what exactly are you losing by teaming with writers of like mind, going to the web and convincing a friend to work out the monetising bells and whistles for you?”

I refer you again to The Daily Cabal. And also to the No Fear of the Future group-blog, which has been running some brilliant material since it started up, and has done a great job of shoving the names of a bunch of previously unfamiliar authors in front of my eyes on a regular basis. Sure, it’s early days yet – but there’s a lot to be said for boarding the train early while it’s easy to find a comfy seat.

Nothing particularly new there, at least not to anyone who’s been reading rants (by me and others) about this sort of thing for a little while. But because Ellis has come out and said it, the meme will get a lot further (31 links to the piece as counted by Technorati at time of posting this response). For some reason, people pay a lot more attention to him than they do to me … 😉

Simon & Schuster tightens up on publishing rights

It would appear that Simon & Schuster have decided to take a leaf out of the recording industry’s playbook, and tried to tighten their grip on the works of authors who sign up with them:

“The new contract would allow Simon & Schuster to consider a book in print, and under its exclusive control, so long as it’s available in any form, including through its own in-house database — even if no copies are available to be ordered by traditional bookstores. With the new contract language, the publisher would be able stop printing a book and prevent the author from publishing it with any other house.”

Added president Roy Blount Jr., “A publisher is meant to publish, to get out there and sell our books. A publishing house is not supposed to be a place where our books are permanently squirreled away.” It’s a sentiment that Jane Litte at Dearauthor.com wholeheartedly agrees with. “The publisher is signaling that it will no longer include minimum sales requirements for a work to be considered in print. Simon & Schuster is apparently seeking nothing less than an exclusive grant of rights in perpetuity. Effectively, the publisher would co-own your copyright.”

I’m guessing that they’re not going to be agreeing to any Creative Commons releases any time soon, then.

Scalpel Magazine launches, plus more print vs. online debate

Having been out of town on the relevant evening, I’m late to the field in trumpeting the launch of Scalpel Magazine (although I actually mentioned it ages ago, and let the cat somewhat out of the bag in the process). Most of the genre blogosphere appears to have taken the news of a new reviews and criticism outlet fairly positively, notwithstanding Nick Mamatas and friends. There’s some fine content on there, too. I for one hope it will last the course – and not merely because I want another venue to send my own work to, either.

Pat Cadigan’s guest editorial for Scalpel mentions the decline of book reviews in mainstream print media, which is a hot topic at the moment, especially in the US. I’ve found that the Print Is Dead blog has had some wise things to say on the matter. Meanwhile, the UK’s very own Grumpy Old Bookman has added his dime to the jukebox:

“Finally, however, let us remember one simple fact. However erudite the print reviewer may be, and however exquisite his taste and critical judgement, he is handicapped by comparison with the most humble blogger. Our print man cannot link directly to other sources.

This is, I would suggest, a major problem. Twenty years ago, of course, no one could even imagine it. But now it has to be faced.”

That’s about right, I think. I’m not gloating about the declining relevance of print media (in reference to book reviews or anything else), but nor am I willing to shut my eyes on what, to me, is an obvious and irresistable trend. Selah.