it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken

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the vast indifference of heaven

A diamond necklace, though I'm not sure what I'd do with it. I have no room for a plasma TV in a two-room apartment with a galley kitchen. *g*.

When coupled with the flamethrower scene from The Blues Brothers projected on the wall of a dank Goffclub, it is.

From when I started writing, over twenty years. From my first publications, twenty years. From when I started seriously trying to publish, eight years. From my first paid publication, seven years. In real-world terms, 2002.


(NB: When I say "me/I," below, I mostly mean "the author or editor in the case example," not "ebear," except in the paragraphs where I am obviously talking about, you know, me.)

There's a school of thought that says that acknowledging or talking about reviews at all is tacky. I am, obviously, not in it.

Essentially, when linking to or talking about reviews in public, I try not to say anything I wouldn't say to the reviewer's face if he was sitting across from me, I try to acknowledge things I feel in particular are helpful to me, ignore the stuff I think is incredibly crackheaded and wrong, and move along without too much fuss. But the thing is, there's a complex of reactions at work when people read a book.

In an online community like this, there's always personal bias. People who like me are more likely to give my work at least an apologetic review, if not an actually good one, than people who don't. People who are of the opinion that I exist to piss in cheerios? Much less likely to think my work doesn't suck. It's always worth taking note when somebody who likes me says they don't like something, or vice versa.

Also, a reader who doesn't know me, who is pissed off by hype or subject matter or my politics or the fact that her ex-boyfriend who left her for the dog loved my work? Already fighting an uphill battle there.

If I am the reviewer, in this case, it's my failing; not the book's. I hope I'm grown up enough and secure enough in my craft to recognize when this is happening, these days.

There's also personal taste. I don't really like ghost stories, and it takes a Sixth Sense or a Beloved to get past that. A genre ghost story that explores the conventions of ghost stories? Mostly wasted on me. Likewise, most romance. I don't care. Reviewers who want to be reading a different book and who will tell you about that better imaginary book at length, or ones who pride themselves on hating everything, are more or less useless except as entertainment. Also, there's a trend in online reviews lately of engaging a percieved online discussion, which I despise.

(The Strange Horizons nonfiction editorial style lends itself to this particular trick, which I think tends to make the review look like a ground axe. I'm thinking in particular of the Lies of Locke Lamora review flap, and also the one over Touched By Venom. Strange Horizons publishes my short fiction; many of their reviewers and writers and editorial staff are my friends. But man, their book reviews are sometimes embarrassing. It's the opposite problem of the Helix response to criticism that's being wanked about the club scene currently.

Which, in my opinion, moves beyond merely embarrassing and into cringeworthy.)

As an opposite case and counterpoint, I offer the response of Ms. Janine Cross, the author of Touched By Venom, who I think handled herself with absolute class and style and grace by staying the hell out of it during not one but two internet-wide explosions of wank over her book. I don't care for her work--I have artistic and personal issues with it. But the lady herself exhibited tremendous grace under pressure.

Also, there's the hammer thing. ("When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.") When one is learning one's craft as a writer, one often finds one's self extraordinarily picky about whatever skill one is working on the hardest currently--structure, character, prose style, whatever. I went through a phase of about two years when I couldn't read fiction, even books I loved. I hated everything I picked up. It was me, not them.

So, being cognizant of these facts, and because I know perfectly well how often I dislike a book others like--and often I dislike award-winning books--and how often my friends dislike books I love, for what seem to them perfectly good and sensible reasons, although they are of course incredibly wrong-headed and foolish!--I try to remember that reviews are just one person's opinion, and that they are, in fact, entitled to decide what they do and don't like, and it's not my job to tell them otherwise. 

The one thing I do find really hysterical is when I link a bad review with some text along the lines of "so and so panned it," or "so and so hated it" and the reviewer, who can google as well as I can, shows up to say "No, I really didn't dislike it!" (This happens with surprising frequency.)

If 75% of the review is negative and there's one paragraph on the end allowing how the fight scenes aren't too bad, it's a pan. Dude, stand up for your opinions!

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