Tag Archives: reading

Y not YA fiction?

Jeff Vandermeer lists ten reasons why he doesn’t read ‘YA’ fiction. Not sure how serious these are supposed to be, but this one rings very true to me at least:

2 – Never read YA even when I was YA.

Personally, by the time I’d hit my teens, if you’d tried to pitch me a book by telling me it had specifically been written for my age-group, I’d have turned my nose up and said “er, whatever“. When you’re that age, the last thing you want is people treating you as something other than a grown-up (even though you are, in fact, anything other than a grown-up).

I’d go so far as to suggest that ‘YA’ fiction may in some ways be contributing to the decline in teen reading. How many teenagers do you know who like being patronised and bracketed by their age?

Plus, when I was still working at the public library, I know I issued the Harry Potter books to far more grown-ups than kids …

Meet Joe Haldeman in Second Life

Just logged in to SL and found a notecard in my inbox that I thought I should share with the science fiction community. Joe Haldeman is doing a book reading in Second Life this Sunday coming:

I’d like to invite you … to a meetup with science-ficiton writer Joe Haldeman [on] Sunday [August] 12th at 9 am SLT [that’s 1pm GMT BST, UK people]. Joe will give a reading from his upcoming novel, “The Accidental Time Machine,” if the voice client is feeling like working Sunday.

If the voice client is not working, we’ll just do the meetup as a text chat.

Either way, Joe will be talking about his novel, science fiction, writing, science, art and more, and answering questions from me and from the audience.

I hope to see you, and your group, there.

— Ziggy Figaro

Landmark to the event location – the Amphitheater at Dr. Dobb’s Island:

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Dr%20Dobbs%20Island/204/118/25

I think I’m going to be at a family gathering on Sunday, but if not I shall certainly be logging in. If anyone wants to tag along but is new to SL, drop me an email and we’ll arrange to meet up, or I’ll put you on to someone else who can chaperone you.

The decline of reading in the UK and the US

I used to hear it all the time as a public library employee: “People just don’t read as many books these days.”

It’s almost a common-knowledge truism – certainly something that anyone with a love of literature is certain to have heard if not repeated. But a recent study by the University of Manchester suggests that British people actually read more than they did in 1975. [Hat-tip to Ariel]

The research seems to be pretty wide reaching (10-15,000 people surveyed in each country), but as with all statistics we can’t be sure exactly how this all pans out, and what factors are at work.

For example, the statement “in 2000, Brits read on average for five more minutes each day than they did in 1975” comes with a freight of ambiguity; it’s an average. It may be the case that demographics who were heavy readers in 1975 now have more time on their hands (and cheaper access to books), and have increased their reading as a result. But what of the demographics that traditionally read less in 1975? Are they reading more, or less, or the same amount? Has the flux in their reading time been absorbed by the increase of the time- and money-affluent?

And what about age spreads? The Print is Dead blog reports on a survey which suggests that, in the US, kids are actually reading far less than they used to – despite the alleged success of [multi-part YA book franchise I’m already sick of hearing about] as a ‘honey trap’ for the previously book-shy.

The same may well be the case here in the UK; I’m not even sure how one could go about getting figures that will actuially tell the whole story. The explosion of the ‘YA’ fiction bracket (a marketing term that I personally find cynical and degrading to authors and readers alike) suggests that there is plenty of reading going on at the younger end of the age scale. But sales figures aren’t the whole story – they don’t tell us who is buying these books, or who is reading them.

The fact that, overall, more books seem to be sold each year would suggest that reading as a pastime is far from dead. But who are those readers? Can we even find out? And what could we do with that knowledge – as a genre, as authors, as reviewers and critics and bloggers, as an industry – if we found it?

Friday Photo Blogging: ‘El D.F.’, aka Mexico City

Digging in the vaults for Mexico photos again, because I’ve not been out with the camera. This is the view eastwards over Mexico City*, as taken from the observation deck of El Torre Latinoamericana, right in the heart of the city. When it was first built it was the tallest building in the Latin Americas, but it lost that title some time ago. It’s still pretty damned tall though.

Mexico City

And Mexico City (more correctly referred to as ‘El Distrito Federale’, or ‘El D.F.’) is vast**. You get up in that tower, and whichever direction you look in, it’s just city … all the way to the horizon. Mindbending stuff – especially to someone who’s still reeling from altitude adjustment and culture shock, as I was on the first day of my travels when this was taken. Possibly the most intense place I’ve ever been in my entire life.

[* If you recognised it as being the image from which VCTB’s header is cropped, well done. Have a tequila on me.]

[** Population according to official census in 2005 was near nine million, but it is claimed by various charities and other organisations that the black economy of unregistered economic migrants may add anything up to half that number again.]

***

Well. Today I am damp, and in less than the best of moods – had you caught me at 12:30 when I got to work, however, you’d have seen me at high-peak rage. Suffice to say that Portsmouth received a week’s worth of rainfall within the space of about twenty minutes today … with the twenty minutes in question falling within the timeframe of me leaving my home and me arriving at work. I’m still trying to figure out a way to make my shoes dry effectively without making them stink.

But hey, things could be worse. It’s not been a bad week, all told, although very little has occurred that’s worth reporting. In other words: no one has decided to offer me money for writing for them yet. Hmph. Gotta keep hustlin’.

However, I have received a cheque for my Strange Horizons review of Extended Play, and while it may not be for very much money, it’s symbolically heartening nonetheless. Only thing is I don’t think I can pay it into my account directly, because it’s in US dollars … which is ironic, because it arrived about a week after I got a PayPal account set up for business purposes. It’s all fun and games, this freelance lark!

Oh yeah – I went to see Electric Six at short notice on Wednesday night for reviewing purposes. Put it this way: if you’ve heard the well-known singles, you’ve already heard the best they have to offer. Selah.

***

Incoming materials for the week are as follows:

  • Postsingular by Rudy Rucker (Tor US ARC) – the privileges of being part of the reviews editorial team at Interzone include being able to cherrypick anything I especially want to cover myself, and I love Rucker’s writing to bits. This new novel has been described as ‘especially weird’; when you consider how odd Rucker’s material is usually, this should be quite something.
  • Electric Velocipede #12 – the extra-nice thing about the small press quarterlies is that you tend to forget about them until the new one arrives in the letterbox. I have fond memories of the last EV, so I’m looking forward to reading this one … when I can find the time.

***

Of course, next week sees me up in Liverpool for the SF Foundation Criticism Masterclass … and seeing that (as far as I can tell) I’m not going to have internet access on tap, I should get a lot of reading done. The twelve hours of train travel alone should see to that! I’ll need to spend most of it going through the reading list for the course, though – most of which has been very kindly emailed to me in PDF form by one of the course administrators, who also took the however-many hours necessary to scan them. Thanks, Fatima, if you’re reading!

A week off work – wow. Doesn’t happen often. Doesn’t happen often enough, for that matter! I’m looking forward to it – it’ll be nice to get out of town for a while, meet some new people and learn some new things. I’m just trying not to think of the state of my bank balance, which has already suffered unexpected damage through having had to replace my broken cooker … oh well. You can’t take it with you, as the saying goes. And worrying about it won’t do any good either, so I’m determined to ignore it as much as possible and have a good time.

As mentioned above, I have no idea how easy it will be for me to get online while I’m away, so blogging here may be thin to non-existant. I may try to set up the reposting of some gems from the archives just to tide you over, and there’s probably a few reviews that I could shove up as well … we’ll see what happens.

***

Well, that’s your lot for FPB this week. Time for me to engage in The Culinary Ritual Of Friday Curry Justice before hacking out the daily bloggage for Futurismic, and then I can settle down to the weekend. I hope you all have a good weekend, too, whatever it is you end up doing. Adios, amigos!

Dead publishing houses and digital reading

Some booky gubbins from over the weekend … a sad bit of news that caught my eye on the SFBC blog is that Perseus Book Group is axing a few subsidiary houses in their acquisition of Avalon, one of which is Thunder’s Mouth Press.

In my fortunate position of getting sent more books than I have time to realistically read, it’s a rare occasion that I lash out my own cash on one, but two of the books I bought in the last year were Thunder’s Mouth titles: Sterling’s Visionary in Residence collection and Rucker’s Mad Professor. There’s a lot of these amalgamations happening in publishing at the moment, and I wonder how this will pan out over time – the Long Tail hasn’t yet kicked into the book market the way it has music.

***

Some bibliophile at The Guardian got given a demo unit of iRex’s forthcoming Iliad ebook reader to try out for a month, and seems to be fairly impressed by it – although he reckons it’ll be a long time before they kill of the print book business, which is something I’ve always conceded and which has been stated by minds far greater (and more versed in the technology and economic ramifications) than mine. But as reflects the item above, the following statement is interesting:

“It won’t destroy bookshops, any more than the much more advanced music-download business has destroyed albums.”

I can only assume the gentleman hasn’t seen the sales figures for the music industry recently – the album is indeed dying as a format, as is the bricks-and-mortar music outlet. The effects will take longer in an industry like literature, where pace of change is by necessity that much slower (books take time to write and edit after all), but if there is a truism in media these days, it is that “technology disrupts markets – inevitably and irreperably”.

***

Finally, we have the one and only Bill Gates proclaiming that reading will eventually go entirely online. There’s no timeframe mentioned, of course, and it’s probably a tautology to all but the most agressively technophobic. But Gates has scored well as a futurist prediction machine in the past – his book The Road Ahead, published in 1995, was stunningly accurate as far as such documents go – though not without some prophecies that look remarkably silly in hindsight.

We’ve got a long future of paper books to come – with POD technology making short runs more practical and affordable, there’s little reason that science fiction should suffer the effects of change any more than the greater market as a whole. But as the Guardian fellow says, we will start to see ebook readers in the hands of the ubergeeks – Stross’s “Slashdot Generation” – very soon, and the first increments of change will begin to unfold.

If I had £500 spare, I’d happily be one of those technology pioneers – indeed, should anyone from Sony or iRex be reading, I’d be more than willing to evaluate and critique their product for them over a lengthy time period …