Science fiction and fantasy                                            



Reading Is Not A Race





   

Musings and rants

Nine Political Books That Change The Conversation
Following news that Simon and Schuster plan to publish an inflammatory commentator, here are nine political books that deserve more attention.

Penguin Random House Withdraws Union Recognition
Penguin Random House have decided not to recognise Unite and the NUJ as a result of staff negotiations, leaving the publisher with a stain on its reputation as an employer.

Authors Support Stop Funding Hate
Some authors have had enough of divisive and xenophobic elements in the British press, and are willing to make an ethical stand.

Women In SFF: Indie Edition
A list of indie and self-published women writing in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other speculative fiction genres.

Amazon Finally Makes KU Appealing For Novelists
The new per-page payout for the Kindle Unlimited subscription service makes it a much better deal for authors of longer novels.

Thoughts On The Sieghart Report On Libraries
The Sieghart report on libraries missed its mark by miles. Yet the real cause of the decline of the UK library network is depressingly obvious.

A Shout-Out For The Good Guys
When nastiness dominates online conversations about books it is time to appreciate the well-behaved authors.

Critique Circle: Shaping Fabulous Stories
The appeal of a certain writing critique website. Or, why I have neglected this blog.

Where Shall I Point This Pitchfork?
Some thoughts on Jonathan Ross, Loncon, and the twitchfork mob.

What Book Discovery Is Missing
The current state of book discovery is narrowing our reading choices and squeezing out midlist writers. How can it be fixed?

An Explosion Of Discovery Tools
New book discovery engines are popping up all over the web. But which ones will come out on top?

Blog Tours From Both Sides
Blog tours are the lastest marketing fad. But what are the pros and cons of this kind of publicity?

It's Not Your Story Any More
When a book is published, authors lose control over how the story should be read. They should let go the reins and enjoy the ride.

Same Old, Same Old
Are current methods of book discovery pushing us further away from original literature?

Female Protagonists In Genre Fiction
A list of recommended SFF books for adults which feature a female as the main character.

Is This The End Of Sweeping Vistas?
Do recent trends in fantasy art styles and the constraints of online book discovery mark the decline of landscape cover art?

A Rising Tide Floats All Boats
Authors: stop thinking of other writers as your rivals. They're not the enemy.

Reviews Are Useless Without Context
With so many review blogs, quick ways of understanding their authors are more important than ever.

Great Scriptwriters: Sometimes Overlooked, Always Vital
Sometimes it seems like the only way to get known as a scriptwriter is to do something else entirely.

The Going Rate For Fake Reviews
Now you can buy your way to critical success, at least until you get caught.


1st January 2014

The Book Of Ultimate Truths  

The Crystal Cave  

So, early January. It's that time of year when tradition, left-over drunkenness, and too much cake compels most of us to form New Year's resolutions. There's precisely no worse time than the dark days of winter to be making plans to be better, fitter, more productive, and somehow find 26 hours in a day, every day from now on.

In 2013 I took part in one of those reading challenges on Goodreads, aiming to finish 80 books over the year. For me that's not a huge goal, since it was more or less the amount I read in 2012. But I still managed to abandon it in November, just over half complete, and there were a couple of reasons for this. The first, I realised that there's no time to read extensively and write extensively. One or the other is possible, but trying to do both leaves no room for anything else, unfortunately. It's a shame, but something has to give.

The other reason is, it's not as much fun to read to any kind of deadline. Fiction is supposed to be fun, not some chore we feel bad about, or some status game we use to establish dominance in the literary hierarchy. So this year there will be no specific goals.

Fifty pages of freedom

If a resolution is worth doing, why wait until the beginning of January? One I started in early December was reading the first fifty pages of a lot of books, and not necessarily going any further. Instead of starting a book with the expectation that I would finish it, I was starting with the expectation that I wouldn't, and if I hadn't been persuaded to change my mind fifty pages in then I'd move on to the next book. This was something of a housekeeping exercise, both mentally and literally. Fifty pages is long enough to appreciate the style of a novel, and to get a good idea of where it's going and what it's about, and if I get to that point without knowing what it's about, that's also a reason for me to abandon it.

This is why I didn't post any reviews in December (I don't review books I don't finish). I did, however, discover a liking for the work of Robert Rankin and Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave, which I wouldn't have got round to without this otherwise ruthless attitude. So it's turned out to be a way to discover a lot more about what I like and don't like in literature, and it's an exercise I'll be repeating in future.

Vague plans

I do have some vague plans for my reading in 2014. I want to get round to more mid-list authors, and writers I've not read before. However, I'm not taking on any concrete reading challenges. I want to focus on the joy of reading slowly, and give myself the chance to make new discoveries.

When it comes to writing challenges, that's another matter: in the coming year I'll be editing a couple of novels, including a sequel to The Secret Eater.