calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

IMG_2862

 

Two weeks ago, I came across a post from Renay at Lady Business about her struggles with the field of short SF fiction.

The short fiction field is huge and it’s flooded with so much work that no one reader could begin to keep up (did anyone ever keep up? Was it possible, long ago before the Internet, SF fan historians?) I know there are people out there that care about short fiction, its future, and want to ensure that new people come in and care about it just as much as they do. Unfortunately, right now it feels impenetrable. I hear a lot of commentary saying that the really daring work isn’t done in novels, but instead is happening in short fiction. I hear that investing in short fiction will give you a leg up on what’s going to be happening in novel length work later on. If that’s true, at this rate it’s simply easier and less stressful for me to sit down and wait for the big ideas to hit the novels, remixed and transformed from the short fiction writers or by short fiction writers turned novelists.

I want to care about short fiction, but I have no clue how or where to start because there’s just so much stuff and there’s little to no filtering unless I slog through it myself or wait until December – March for Hugo season.

Obviously, Renay is coming at this from a reader’s perspective. However, this is also a problem from a writer’s perspective, as the exchange below indicates.

 

 

 

In her post, Renay calls for more (and more robust) reviewing of short fiction and this strikes me as something short fiction writers also need to help them hit readers’ radars. Along with Renay, I can see a definite imbalance: I know many short story writers but very few reviewers of short fiction.

These conversations also have me reconceptualising myself as a reader. I almost didn’t read Renay’s post, saying to myself “I don’t really read short fiction.” Once I started thinking about it, I realised how ridiculously untrue this was. What am I doing reading No Need To Reply if I’m not a reader of short fiction? Or anything by FableCroft Publishing? I’ve even edited an anthology of short fiction and been involved with several more besides. So this view of myself as someone who doesn’t read short fiction is not at all accurate. While novels remain my preferred format, there are plenty of short stories mixed in amongst my reading.

Which means I’m well placed to help out when it comes to reviewing short fiction, especially because I’m already doing it. In practice, not a whole lot is going to change. I don’t necessarily intend to start reading more short fiction–not allowing myself to read at whim is a quick way to reader’s block. However, I do hope to be a bit more conscious of the amount of short fiction I’m reading.

One change I do intend to make is how I tag my posts. As I already mentioned, my reading–and thus my reviewing–tends to be a jumble of formats. What use is reading and reviewing more short fiction if no one can find those reviews? In fact, I suspect that short story reviewing is more common than Renay thinks but that these reviews likewise get lost amongst the jumble on other book blogs. So, to help with that here I’ve started a tag for short stories.

I’d be interested in hearing more on this topic. If you’re a reader, where do you find reviews of short fiction? If you review, what do you do to make reviews of short fiction noticeable amongst the longer fiction? Are there other solutions I could help contribute towards?

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Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

IMG_3083

This isn’t quite a Loose-leaf Links post, but I have found myself with a few bits and pieces relating to previous posts that I’d like to share.

 

Reviewing and Clute's Excessive Candour )

 

Sea Hearts wins Barbara Jefferis Award )

 

Robin Hobb on tour )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

IMG_2862

While I was at Conflux, I heard a lot of talk about the importance of reviews. This wasn’t limited to the panel on reviewing, but cropped up at book launches, at other panels and in conversation. With the rise of e-publishing, competition is fierce and it is important to stand out from the crowd. Reviews are one way of doing this. I heard many writers and publishers encouraging readers to leave reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. These sites are configured so that the more reviews a book has, the more likely it is to be seen. It is better to have dozens of two star reviews than a couple of five star reviews.

However, reviewing becomes tricky when one is involved in the publishing community. I read a reasonable amount of work written or published by people I know. I do this partly to keep up with what’s going on in the industry, partly out of curiosity over what my acquaintances have been working on and partly out of genuine interest for the work itself. One of the reasons I started this blog was to share what I read with people who are just as excited about books as I am. Can I do that when I know the people whose work I’m reviewing? I got a few looks of horror at Conflux when I suggested I might attempt it.

I can understand why. On the reviewing panel at Conflux, experienced reviewer Satima Flavell suggested that a review had to be sympathetic to three people: the publisher, the author and the reader. Being too kind to a publisher or author can give a reader the wrong impression about a book. This wastes the reader’s time and money at best and ultimately breaks the trust between reviewer and reader. On the other hand, criticising a work too strongly–whether warranted or not–can hurt the feelings of someone the reviewer knows and will have to encounter again in the future. It is a difficult balance.

The panelists approached the situation in different ways. Writer David McDonald simply avoids reviewing Australian material. Shaheen of Speculating on SpecFic chooses to maintain some distance from the writing community and is able to do so because she isn’t a writer herself.  Satima Flavell and Helen Venn negotiate the tricky path of reviewing while still being part of the community. All of the panelists agreed that the key to this path is to be as honest and upfront as possible. Let readers know who you know so that they can make an informed choice about how to treat your review.

This commonsense approach seems to work well for Tsana Dolichva of Tsana’s Reads and Reviews, who had the following to say during her interview for the 2014 Australian Speculative Fiction Snapshot:

I think a lot of the controversy comes from worries about authenticity and potential antagonism. If a writer is friends with the author of the book they’re reviewing, for example, will they write an honest review if they don’t like it? Is a fledgeling writer worried about criticising a Big Name writer in their review? But I think we’re all grown ups and should be capable of writing critical reviews without being rude, or, on the flip side, dealing with negative reviews of our work without having a breakdown on Twitter. I understand some of the hesitancy around the matter, but I don’t think that should be a reason for writers not to review, if that’s what they want to do.

After giving the matter some consideration, I’ve decided that this is also the approach I’ll be taking. Restricting my reviewing to only non-Australian authors or those I don’t know would leave me unable to share so many exciting, well-written books. If I can’t share what excites me, what is the point of reviewing at all?

However, I acknowledge that it is a contentious issue and one I’ll no doubt continue to wrestle with as I become a more experienced reviewer. Do you write/review? How do you approach the matter? I’d love you to share your thoughts here.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

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