It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

… it just has to sound plausible


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The Marching Morons

To all the people who read Liz Bourke’s review on Strange Horizons of Michael J Sullivan’s Theft Of Swords, and didn’t like the review because:

a) historians should not review epic fantasy
b) “intellectuals” should not review epic fantasy
c) women should not review epic fantasy
d) a negative review will upset the author
e) a negative review will negatively impact the author’s sales
f) popularity and quality are the same thing, as any fule kno
g) bad prose is better than good prose, as is demonstrated by any best-seller list
h) taking quotes from the novel “out of context” would make any author’s prose look bad
i) you read the book and enjoyed it so it can’t be bad
j) the book is meant to be “fun” and “light reading” so it can’t be bad
k) a negative review is obviously not objective since you disagree with it

Congratulations. You are officially stupid. If you want to know why genre fiction is not taken seriously, go and look in the mirror.


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How to write a good review

First, see this review of Michael J Sullivan’s Theft Of Swords on Strange Horizons. See its long comment thread. This post is not aimed at Liz Bourke, who has written an excellent review of what is plainly a bad book. This post is for some of the commenters on that thread, who clearly don’t understand what a review is for, or how a book is reviewed.

1 A dishonest review is a bad review.
2 Not all books are good.
3 It’s not just good books that deserve reviews.
4 If a book is a bad book, it’s dishonest not to say so.
5 If a book is not a good book, it’s dishonest to refuse to review it.
6 Books can be bad for a number of reasons; most of those reason are a result of failure of craft.
7 Reviews are not written for the author of the book being reviewed; their audience is potential readers of the book being reviewed.
8 A good review is not opinion because it will contain evidence supporting its assertions.
9 Whether or not a reviewer enjoyed a book is completely meaningless, since enjoyment is unrelated to quality and is entirely subjective.
10 A review does not have to meet the expectations of people who have read the book being reviewed.
11 A review is based on a critical read of a book; this means the reviewer has probably put a lot more thought into their reading of it than you have.
12 If you come across a negative review of a book you thought was good but you did not read the book in question critically, then you are not qualified to comment on the review’s findings.


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Another Catastrophia review

Library Journal have posted a review here of Catastrophia, edited by Allen Ashley. My story, ‘In the Face of Disaster’, is one of four from the anthology mentioned in the review. Although the review only gives a short précis of each of the four stories, it says the anthology is “inventive though somewhat uneven in literary quality”.

There’s also a review of LE Modesitt Jr’s new novel, Empress of Eternity, on that page. Library Journal apparently liked it a great deal more than I did – see my review in this month’s Interzone.


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Mentioned in despatches

It must be some sort of milestone in a writer’s career when something of theirs is reviewed in the national press for the first time. Today is that day for me. In the Guardian Reviews section, Eric Brown has reviewed the Catastrophia anthology edited by Allen Ashley, and in which I have a story. Eric mentions four stories from the anthology, one of which is mine, and writes: “…the more sober, literary examination of the breakdown of society when humanity suffers apperceptive prosopagnosia – face-blindness – in Ian Sales’s affecting ‘In the Face of Disaster’”. You can see the full review here.


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Somebody out there likes me…

…or rather, likes one of my stories. Tangent Online has reviewed Postscripts #20/21 ‘Edison’s Frankenstein’ here, and it’s a mostly positive review of the anthology/magazine. Steve Fahnestalk says of my story ‘Killing the Dead’ (you have to scroll about halfway down the page):

“I particularly liked this story as it was pure SF that couldn’t happen in a different context; that is, the reasons for the terrorism could only exist at that time in that place, and the arguments for and against made perfect sense in context; as well, the Inspector’s conclusions were in keeping with his personality and his role aboard ship. Highly recommended.”

Which I’m particularly happy about… because if you can change the setting of an science fiction story and it still works, then it’s not science fiction. And I write science fiction.

The “Highly recommended” is very nice, too.

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