Loss of Print Media Book Reviews

May 2nd, 2007

As so many of us have noticed, over the least few years there has been a contraction and elimination of book reviews in the traditional print media.  Recently the pace of this has speeded up, as this article speaks to.

Is this going to be an opportunity for those who have been traditionally shut out of the reviewing / critiquing media, or is this going to ultimately further hurt published writers?

Certainly within the genre communities, online reviewers have proliferated like kudzu in Georgia.  There are so many really good ones, and interesting ones, that I personally have bookmarked, that I cannot keep up with them.   And these don’t include the other review and critique sites for books that are not necessarily genre or even fiction.

Since the publishing industry-book review in newspapers and magazines industry have been so thoroughly entwined  and inter-dependent for so long, and with both industries changing so much, what do you think the future of this will be?

Love, C.

52 Responses to “Loss of Print Media Book Reviews”

  1. TDon 02 May 2007 at 2:15 pm

    Interesting read, though the direct link in this article is broken!!

    I had to copy & paste it from the source-code 😉

  2. TeichDragonon 02 May 2007 at 3:02 pm

    Great read, but the link in the article is broken.
    I had to copy the description (?) from the source-code.

    Can someone fix this please?

    About the loss of print reviews, shouldn’t we be thankfull not rely on these? Since SF/Fantasy is still the step-child of literature, I think it’s better to have those online reviews, instead of negative print reviews, where it seems no one even cared to actually read the book the reviewed…

    My 0.02 € 😉

  3. Lois Tiltonon 02 May 2007 at 7:53 pm

    This is only one aspect of the general demise of print journalism since the rise of the internet. We now have a multitude of reviewers working for free instead of a smaller number being paid for their work.

    Undoubtedly a mass movement will now arise to denounce and mock me for saying this, but I’ll say it anyway.

  4. Stephanie M.on 02 May 2007 at 9:30 pm

    I have never read book reviews in print. I’m a member of the internet generation; I’ve always depended on recommendations from friends, Amazon reviews, and the buzz I catch while poking around blogs and forums. I like being able to find half a hundred different opinions on any book I’m interested in instantly, and all for free.

    I do feel bad for the people who might not be able to make a living writing book reviews now, but I don’t think there’s any way to stop this trend. Everybody has an opinion, and most are willing to give theirs away for free.

    (On a related note, anybody here use Revish?)

  5. Constance Ashon 03 May 2007 at 10:10 am

    No need for flaming, that’s for sure, Lois.

    However, you might appreciate this follow-up:

    [ Book Critics Circle to Protest in Atlanta

    In an effort to protest the elimination of the position of book review editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the National Book Critics Circle, which represents around 700 book reviewers, and some local booksellers are organizing a demonstration in front of the newspaper’s offices in Atlanta this morning at 10. Readers, booksellers and critics are invited to join a “Read-In,” bringing their favorite books to read in front of the paper’s offices on Marietta Street. As part of a newsroomwide reorganization, the newspaper recently consolidated the job of the book review editor, held for the last nine years by Teresa Weaver, under a new post coordinating movies, music and books coverage. “Without an official champion for books within the paper, the quality of books coverage is endangered!” reads an announcement on the National Book Critics Circle’s Web site.


    Myself, it seems this is a most interesting time, at least for SF/F. I mean, the web reflects so much interest in SF/F, from so many approaches.

    Every aggregator community host, from LJ to Blogspot, etc., has large numbers of people thinking and writing about SF/F. In every non-SF/F, non-writing community with which I have some participation, there are always some members who read and watch SF/F, and generally at least one person who is trying to write it.

    For such a long time the communities that made up SF/F felt united in the sense of feeling they were ghettoized. It just doesn’t seem that way now. There are too many different ways of ‘practicing the faith’ for a centralized ghetto, unless, of course, one wants to be there! At least so it seems to me.

    So all the reviewing and critiquing and publishing online is a part of that.

    I love what you said, Stephanie:

    Everybody has an opinion, and most are willing to give theirs away for free.

    Truer words could hardly be written!

    Love, C.

  6. Constance Ashon 03 May 2007 at 10:12 am

    Stephanie — I didn’t know about that site. There are so many of them, and so many for television and movies too.

    If it isn’t already underway, soon, doubtless, some ambitious literary person is going to create a free, online database that will attempt to aggregate all these sites, and rank them, too, no doubt.

    Love, C.

  7. Stephanie M.on 03 May 2007 at 11:06 am

    Thanks, Constance! And thanks for bringing up the topic, it’s something I’ve never thought about before, but it’s a trend that affects readers and writers alike.

    I’d love to see all these various review sites aggregated for easy searching.

  8. Constance Ashon 03 May 2007 at 11:29 am

    One tends to stumble into unknown discussions and reviews of books at this point by searching a specific title and author. Sometimes also by including terms such as ‘reviews,’ ‘discussion,’ ‘bio,’ ‘bibliography’ in the search string on the title and / or author.

    There are other strings too.

    And I’ve never been to usenet, which has enormous amount of discussion and critiquing, I’ve been told.

    Love, C

  9. Stacyon 03 May 2007 at 12:13 pm

    I’ve been reading Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi’s Creativity over and over again recently, and I’m finding a lack of professional critics now actually disturbs me. The book details how capital-C Creativity requires not just one individual, but also the domain (writing) and the field (editors, agents, critics). If our domain is losing good gatekeepers from the field, then overall creativity is going to suffer. Free online opinion now has to take over this gatekeeping regulatory function, and there is no guarantee it will be as rigorous. I really like the comments posted on Amazon.com, but commonly those comments aren’t as good quality as the published review listed above them. Everyone has an opinion and the right to air it, but that’s not necessarily the same as a review by a trained reviewer. I hope this isn’t coming across as too negative, but I think we need to pay attention to how important knowledgable people are, and that there is a difference between knowledgable and opinionated. (I’m trying not to sink too deep into the latter catagory here myself.)

  10. Constance Ashon 03 May 2007 at 12:26 pm

    Stacy — This is certainly true!

    I think we need to pay attention to how important knowledgable people are, and that there is a difference between knowledgable and opinionated. (I’m trying not to sink too deep into the latter catagory here myself.)

    And it applies to me as much as anyone. Opinionated, I mean. But I hope I’ve also made myself knowledgable. Like you, reviews on amazon that aren’t professional reviews, I tend to either not read or, generally, dismiss, especially when these are reviews about books, writers and subject about which I know a great deal. There are exceptions, of course.

    But amazon is generally the last place I go looking for info on a book, other than author or title. For one thing, it takes forever to load, despite my broad band, and for another, I have always had very bad experience when I’ve tried to order anything from them. (Vaquero, however, never has a problem, and orders all the time.)

    So, anyway, what do you see in the future 8-ball that we’re all behind?

    Love, C.

  11. Lois Tiltonon 03 May 2007 at 12:57 pm

    What the field will lose is the erudite professional like John Clute.

  12. Constance Ashon 03 May 2007 at 1:41 pm

    Whyever would the field lose John Clute as critic, encyclopedist, etc.? For one thing, he’s got loads of info for people and times prior to the internet. Would make him even more valuable, going by other scholarship.

    Also, I see the internet as the saving of book interest. The cutting out of book reviews and articles about books was going on in the print media long before we all went digital.

    Certainly in terms of genre — they had cut it right out, if ever paying attention to it anyway. The print magazine were losing readership and support long before we went digital. No distribution. Ask Gardner about that, or Gordon, or any of many others, if you don’t believe me.

    Love, C,

  13. Lois Tiltonon 03 May 2007 at 4:53 pm

    It’s all part of the same phenomenon.

    It’s all very well to say that a someone makes a valuable contribution, but what value does it have if no one will pay for it?

  14. Constance Ashon 03 May 2007 at 5:12 pm

    How many people do you know who make a living writing book reviews? Even those who do it for The New Yorker don’t.

    Though, you are right in a lot of ways: this is part of the mosaic that makes up a free lancer’s income. But The New Yorker is still reviewing and paying for them. It’s the newspapers that seem to have lost interest in this.

    How much of Clute’s living did he make from reviewing? Though I think his gig at the Sci Fi channel got chopped, just as Ellen’s job got chopped when they decided to stop running fiction.

    It would be interesting to learn how many people in the SF/F world get paid for reviews. Do you have any idea, Lois?

    Love, C.

  15. Kevin Andrew Murphyon 03 May 2007 at 7:00 pm

    I notice everyone going on about the professional reviews, but has anyone ever paid attention to what sort of professionalism these reviewers exhibit, or should I say, lack of same? I’m not going to cite specific book reviews because I long ago decided I don’t know who this Kirkus Reviews person is, but they’re obviously on crack so I don’t have any examples even halfway current, but the problem is rife with movie reviews as well. For example, Salon’s review of Pirates II last summer when the reviewer thought she was clever for ranting about how we never got to see the fate of the dog, whereas all she proved was that she was too stupid/lazy/unprofessional to stick around to the end of the credits and see the crackerjack/easter egg which rather explicitly showed us the fate of the beloved pirate dog (and any reviewer who doesn’t know about crackerjacks shouldn’t be in the business). I don’t care if she was running late to pick her daughter up from pilates or whatever other lame excuse she had for not watching the movie to its end, she had the attitude of a spoiled child forced to write an essay on a book she wouldn’t have picked up on her own and thinking she could get away without reading the whole thing.

    That trick only works if you have a harried semi-alcoholic English teacher grading your book report, not a legion of fanboys more than willing to spot any factual errors in your review and flame you across the blogosphere. And speaking as one of those fanboys, I think that’s a good thing.

    I have no trouble with a learned critic making learned and astute points about some book or movie or whatever he knows something about–those are great liner notes for the uninitiated–but when the learned critic becomes the media personage and is trotted out to give his opinion about some new media sensation and he isn’t up-front enough to say that this piece of art is from some tradition he knows bugger-all about? It’s like watching William F. Buckley critique hip-hop videos.

    No one person can be fully versed in the whole width and breadth of English literature, let alone all of world literature. It’s insane to pretend otherwise, but newspapers and magazines routinely subscribe to this insanity, hiring one staff reviewer to cover all of fiction, all of film, all of whatever. Or worse, they become some faceless entity like Kirkus Reviews, putting their imprimatur on whatever lazy book report was dashed off by some recent college grad whose daddy got them the job.

    Long before the advent of the internet, I fantasized that the best way to do book and movie reviews would be to have a large staff of specialists in all the genres and call the show/journal “People Who Like That Sort of Thing.” Of course I now think that “DeepGenre” is a much better name.

    This isn’t to say that the death of print reviews isn’t lamentable, but it’s like attending the funeral for the naked emperor: I know you’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but aren’t we conveniently forgetting that the dude sometimes waltzed around in the buff?

  16. Lois Tiltonon 03 May 2007 at 7:23 pm

    Clute also has a column in Interzone, but IZ lost its grant and cut way back on paying authors. They are no longer a qualifying market for SFWA membership.

    A few years ago, at the Nebs, I was with a professional reviewer when he met with the book editor of a newspaper where he had been regularly publishing reviews. The editor explained that the paper was cutting way back on its book coverage and cutting way back on the freelance reviews it was commissioning.

    There may be a lot more reviews on the internet, but not a lot of money to be had from them. I recall that about a year ago, Cheryl Morgan decided to fold her excellent online reviewzine Emerald City, because there was just no way to make it pay.

  17. Constance Ashon 03 May 2007 at 8:31 pm


    Hmmmm. Don’t know why the link didn’t work, coz it worked for me. I uploaded it yet again.

    This is the NY Times, and you do need to register to access the stories, if that makes any difference. Registration is free.

    Love, C.

  18. Niallon 04 May 2007 at 6:32 am

    “How much of Clute’s living did he make from reviewing?”

    Present tense, please! He’s not dead yet. But the answer is, reviewing is a minor part of his income — Excessive Candour is still going at SF Weekly, and that pays pretty well, but Interzone/SF Studies/other gigis pay peanuts. There’s a bit more when he brings out a book of reviews, obviously, but in the first instance his reviews are done for the love of the field.

    Saying we’ll “lose” Clute is a bit misleading, because (a) he’s self-made, and there’s no reason that can’t happen online instead of in print, and (b) he’s basically sui generis. We certainly won’t lose, say, Gary Wolfe — in fact I would imagine that we’ll be getting more Gary Wolfes (which is to say, academics spending time reviewing) over the next decade or so.

    “I recall that about a year ago, Cheryl Morgan decided to fold her excellent online reviewzine Emerald City, because there was just no way to make it pay”.

    Well, I’m not sure I agree with your characterisation of EmCit’s quality (I found it very variable), but while I’m sure finance was a factor in her decision to fold, it wasn’t one she emphasised. (I take the part about subscriptions to be more “what I will do with the excess” than “there weren’t enough subscriptions”.)

  19. Lois Tiltonon 04 May 2007 at 9:25 am

    I don’t like to speculate about other people’s financial situations and motives, but the point isn’t whether reviews are appearing in print or online, it’s about whether they are being paid-for or not.

    There is a term for people who work “for the love of the field:” amateur. Amateurs can produce excellent work. But if you are a person considering SF criticism and reviewing as a profession, and are told – “Oh, btw, you’ll be expected to work “for the love of the field, for free,” this is not a very powerful incentive.

  20. Constance Ashon 04 May 2007 at 10:00 am

    Thanks, Niall, for specific information, not speculation!

    Lois — You know, this model of being paid to write fiction, etc., is one that existed during a very short time during our history of literacy. It came about through a confluence of cultural, economic, techological forces — none of which remain in play, or are in play at far less force than they used to be.

    In the days before the later part of the 18th century hardly anybody got paid. But Spenser and Shakespeare (who made his money more out of co-owning the theater company, not from his writing!) and other terrific works got written.

    Literacy is a democratic ability. Perhaps literature is not — Kevin, and even you, Lois, so often, express that opinion, which is why it is so interesting to see you two have different perspectives on this issue.

    What Stacy brings up above is a fundamental though:

    The book details how capital-C Creativity requires not just one individual, but also the domain (writing) and the field (editors, agents, critics).

    Really good work doesn’t emerge out of nothing. It’s writers, most of all, exchanging ideas and viewpoints, ideals and dislikes, and lots and lots and lots of them, in fertile, provocative collision, that creates the richest eras of creation. And outlets for their work. Writers and access to the public.

    This applies equally to all the arts and entertainment areas.

    Best of all is when musicians, writers, artists, film makers, are all in collision with each other.

    Love, C.

  21. Stacyon 04 May 2007 at 12:04 pm

    Whew, finally got to read the article. Looks like newspapers are following public schools example by cutting art to save money. Newspapers are dying, and are unlikely to be around come century 22, so print media critics are stuck either going down with the ship or bailing out. There are revenue streams on the internet – many bloggers live off of their advertising, but advertising comes from people paying attention to you, not by your being professional or even competent. It will increase fadness (great or terrible, no in-between) and plain nonsense and noise and make it harder to determine who is worth listening to – while right now professional critics have a stamp of approval. Yes, some paid reviewers do suck – but you have a publication responsible that can fire that person and get someone better. The internet doesn’t fire lousy people, or reward good people. An unpoliced field adds a lot of chaos to a system. Simple and clear rules make a game easier to play. Luckily, critics are only one part of the field. When all the last surviving editors get fired and replaced by folks doing that on the internet for free, we are in really big trouble.

  22. Kevin Andrew Murphyon 04 May 2007 at 12:42 pm

    Literature is democratic in that the popular awards are voted on by the populace, though it’s the democracy of members of the populace who have membership in some guild or convention or whatever. Even the more democratic demographics of the bestseller list is still dependent on the size of the print run and the availability.

    As for rest, well, I’m reminded of a conversation from my children’s literature class back at college, where it was mentioned how, to not put too fine a point on it, most professional writers were middle-to-upper-class white folk, and there were relatively few poor female hispanic writers writing in English. Someone then had the brilliant (not!) idea of how the publishers should be forced to buy a certain percentage of their books from poor female hispanic writers, completely missing the point that publishers are just trying to buy saleable books, and if you read Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, she points out the rather undemocratic fact that in order to work on her craft, a writer needs a room of one’s own and X number of pounds per year, and that’s something you find mostly among middle to upper class white folk.

    As for literary criticism, I agree with Lois that there should be professionals in the field as opposed to amateurs, but I think she’s skipping over the fact that everyone starts somewhere, and giving it away for free is one way to build publication credits. And I know authors of literary criticism who had their free web-work picked up for paid print anthologies.

  23. Constance Ashon 04 May 2007 at 1:09 pm

    Well, Imagonna respectfully disagree with the assumption that

    Literature = popular = awards = democratic process.

    It can, indeed, but not necessarily.

    That assumption leaves out many great writers like, for instance, Spenser, whom I referred to previously. He had a patron, and was born upper crust enough to have had an education at Oxford (I seem to recall he was Oxford, not Cambridge) and could learn Greek and Latin and poetry.

    That’s a very large reason why the new thing, the ‘novel’ – long, narrative fictions, caught on so mightily with women writers, and why there are so many great women writers. The education needed for writing that base-born novel form did not need latin, greek, the study of poetic and rhetorical forms, and all the branches of the Trivium — which women had no more access to, generally, than any man who was not of the privileged classes.

    The world we used to be in, and still seem to believe exists, re fiction, academia, the market place, of the later 19th and first 2/3 of the 20th C, has been around such a short time. New models are in the making.

    But yes, I think literature will definitely be practices, as is art history, art curatorship, and all those very expensive, highly and extended educated professions in the arts, almost exclusively by those who need not work for a living.

    Popular entertainment, pretty much too.

    Love, C.

  24. Lois Tiltonon 04 May 2007 at 2:13 pm

    Well, Kevin, “giving it away for free” was exactly what I did when I decided to take up reviewing, and for that reason. You need to establish what you can do, in some way.

    But then I am doing so to occupy my declining years, not with any hopes of making it a profession in the future. Yet I have to wonder if anyone would ever have any reason to so hope, in this brave new democratic world to which we plummet.

  25. Kevin Standleeon 05 May 2007 at 2:24 am

    Niall wrote:

    I take the part about subscriptions to be more “what I will do with the excess” than “there weren’t enough subscriptions”.

    In that case, you misinterpret what Cheryl wrote. What she said was that there were subscribers who still had issues left, and she had to work out with them refunds if they wanted them. That doesn’t mean that Emerald City was ever a profit-making venture.

    Cheryl contacted all of the subscribers and asked if they wanted a refund of their remaining credit. None of them did, but had they done so, she would have paid them. But it wouldn’t have been from “excess funds.” It would have been from out of her personal pocket. Emerald City never showed a profit.

  26. Constance Ashon 05 May 2007 at 11:52 am

    As this is my post and I have moderation standing here, I took it upon myself to delete the last paragraph of Mr. Standlee’s comment.

    I did so because the tone was inappropriate for Deep Genre, and because the matter of the last paragraph was not part of the subject of this post, — whether or not the contraction and elimination of paid print media book reviews will further impact the traditional, trade publishing industry, and thus, ultimately writers? And if so, how? Further exploration of this topic has included free internet reviewing, and its impact, if any, and influence, if any?

    However, the specific clarifications provided in the comment are welcome, and within the scope of the subject of this post.

    Thank you for your patience!

    BTW, I have a Moderator’s Certificate, created by Ms. Teresa Nielsen Hayden herself, that permits such moderation! I can even post a scan of it, if you like!

    Love, C.

  27. Lois Tiltonon 05 May 2007 at 1:19 pm

    Well, Kevin’s account of the Emerald City matter accords with my own recollection of it.

    What we are seeing is the phenomenon, typical of capitalism though not limited to it, called “creative destruction.” It is a wasteful process, quite Darwinian, as is capitalism – much like the breeding strategy that produces huge spawning of young, with the expectation that most will not survive to breed another generation.

  28. Constance Ashon 05 May 2007 at 1:43 pm

    Lois — This may or may not be true. I’m not sure what you mean by this in terms of its effect, if any, on writers and the print trade publishing industry, or reviewers:

    It is a wasteful process, quite Darwinian, as is capitalism – much like the breeding strategy that produces huge spawning of young, with the expectation that most will not survive to breed another generation.

    Are you saying that unpaid reviewing on the many, many internet sites for that created by private individuals is like bad money driving out the good? Because, if it is unpaid, and private and on the net, no one will pay attention to it? Meaning there is no market for it, so the free market is in effect? Like I said, I don’t understand what you mean by your comment, so amplification would be most welcome!

    It’s interesting, what we can do with “darwin,” as this article discusses, which includes the declaration that darwinism can be used to justify everything from nazism to communism.

    Love, C.

  29. Constance Ashon 05 May 2007 at 3:41 pm

    And just for FUN — he even got paid to write this — here’s a pull from the essay in tomorrow’s NY Times Sunday Book Review:

    Most of us are familiar with people who make a fetish out of quality: They read only good books, they see only good movies, they listen only to good music, they discuss politics only with good people, and they’re not shy about letting you know it. They think this makes them smarter and better than everybody else, but it doesn’t. It makes them mean and overly judgmental and miserly, as if taking 15 minutes to flip through “The Da Vinci Code” is a crime so monstrous, an offense in such flagrant violation of the sacred laws of intellectual time-management, that they will be cast out into the darkness by the Keepers of the Cultural Flame. In these people’s view, any time spent reading a bad book can never be recovered. They also act as if the rest of humanity is watching their time sheets.

    Such prissy attitudes are neurotic and self-defeating. Bad books are an essential part of life, as entertaining and indispensable as bad clothing (ironic polyester shirts), bad music (John Tesh at Red Rocks, Phil Collins anywhere), bad trends (metrosexuality, not using toilet paper for a year in order to “help” the environment) and bad politicians (take your pick). I started reading extremely bad books as a boy, when my beloved but slightly unhinged Uncle Jerry lent me the classic Reds-under-the-beds screed “None Dare Call It Treason,” and have been reading them ever since.

    Indeed, one of the reasons I became a book reviewer is because it gives me the opportunity to read a steady stream of hopelessly awful books under the pretense of work. One of my first assignments was Wess Roberts’s peerlessly idiotic “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun.” I can well remember my breathless reaction when I was handed this assignment by my editor: “Let me get this straight; I’m going to get to read sentences like ‘Being a leader of the Huns is often a lonely job’ and you’re going to pay me for it?” To be perfectly honest, “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun” was so bad I would have read it for free.

    Love, C.

  30. Kevin Andrew Murphyon 05 May 2007 at 4:32 pm

    Okay, I have to admit, that’s a damn good book review. Fun stuff.

    I remember the best line from a book review I ever read, I believe it was by Constance Casey in the San Jose Mercury, where she said, “But I feel like the dance critic sent to review The Nutcracker,” this as part of a review where she was pointing out that the top ten books on the NYT bestseller list this week had the same plot description as last weeks top ten and they were all different books.

  31. Lois Tiltonon 05 May 2007 at 4:33 pm

    The process of creative destruction feeds off excess, as in the spawning of fish. For every one that survives to breed another generation, perhaps thousands die. Each individual is driven by the process to produce more and more offspring, to beat the odds, yet the sheer numbers of the offspring, as each individual does the same, tends to lower the odds of any given offspring surviving. The very strategies we employ to try to survive end up working against us.

    Computers are successful. Hundreds of companies enter the computer business. Even as the customer base grows, the competition for them becomes more cutthroat, driving most of the companies out of business until only a few remain.

    Up in my attic are almost a dozen old computers, all of which once cost $$$$, most of which are quite capable of functioning as well as they ever did, yet incapable of coping with new software or internet requirements. The companies that made most of them [and the stores where they were purchased] are mostly out of business now. Only the landfills profit.

    The internet is successful. Millions of people flock online, and thousands of companies start up to offer internet service. Genie and Compuserve spring up, flourish, then the customers abandon them to migrate elsewhere, then elsewhere, then elsewhere again, leaving the corpses of dead online communities behind, like the landscape where locusts have passed.

    One person posts work online – it gets notice. The success of the one drives more to do the same, and the very numbers of the imitators diminishes the odds for any given one to succeed. Soon the herd will be migrating en mass to the next shining opportunity, and the internet venues of today will lie vacant and deserted.

    We build on the corpses of our predecessors.

  32. Constance Ashon 05 May 2007 at 5:00 pm

    We build on the corpses of our predecessors.

    You perceive this as different then, than standing on the shoulders of giants!

    What would you like to see instead? And how might it happen? And what do you think is going to happen in the next 5 – 10 years, If This Keeps Going On?

    I’d love to see your ideas, Lois.

    Love, C.

  33. Lois Tiltonon 05 May 2007 at 6:14 pm

    Change is not always progress. Sometimes the loss of the giants isn’t worth it, considering the midgets who succeed them.

    But change is inevitable. Someone will always make out well from it; even global warming will be a net advantage to someone.

  34. Constance Ashon 05 May 2007 at 6:18 pm

    “Everybody’s disaster is somebody’s good luck.” That the tag line from a song I wrote for Vaquero, back in his CBGB days. He performed it a lot.

    But sometimes too, what is perceived as disaster, isn’t.

    If it is a disaster, it should be reversed, or changed, or something.

    To what? How?

    To stop changes of this nature — to keep the giants and not the pygmies, perhaps, as you put it — might call for a more centralized, managed economy and press and entertainment biz. Rather the way they do it in Cuba, for instance. I see many positives in that, but also a great many drawbacks, particularly in terms of the press, and yes, though I highly approve of a less violent popular entertainment biz, I find lots wrong with such centralized authority over it anyway.

    Love, C.

  35. Lois Tiltonon 05 May 2007 at 7:09 pm

    Evolution and capitalism both are pretty inexorable.

    Changing their course may not be possible, or the cost may be too great. But one can always lament.

  36. Lois Tiltonon 05 May 2007 at 10:05 pm

    What’s the name of that Usenet rule about posts making corrections?

  37. Constance Ashon 06 May 2007 at 11:11 am

    . . . even global warming will be a net advantage to someone.

    We may well be made to pay for manufactured oxygen in the fairly near future, like we pay for water. In the fairly near future we’ll be paying for water, most of us, the way water needs to be paid for in the undeveloped world, and most of them can’t do that. Most water supplies here are already in the hands of ‘private’ European multi-nationals, including municipal water supply.

    I used to think that was one of the largest negatives to space stations, which would be pretty hierarchal anyway, in terms of labor and wealth. Babylon-5 did a fine job with these premises, it was satisfying to see.

    Love, C.

  38. Constance Ashon 06 May 2007 at 11:31 am

    Mr. Standlee — I have contacted you.

    Love, C.

  39. Constance Ashon 06 May 2007 at 12:25 pm

    In the meantime, we can look at music perhaps, as a model for what might happen.

    The big record labels, like the trade publishers, don’t have much use for anything that doesn’t sell as blockbuster, or that they hope will sell that way. However, for many artists the internet has been the saving of their careers — even as the internet AND computer technology that made ripping and burning and distribution so fast and easy has or had hurt a lot of artists, and the big labels.

    In New Orleans presently there isn’t a single chain record store, which makes it difficult, for instance, if, like Vaquero, among your freelance mosaic you have a monthly music column that is global in the scope of what it examines.

    However, the locally owned Louisiana Music Factory, is still there, and doing better than ever. It’s the only game in town. It focuses almost entirely on local music. The recording studios are doing pretty well, with local musicians.

    This is true also in Austin, for instance.

    The New Orleans and Lousiana bookstores carry local writers and support them. So do the newspapers. New Orleans had several local publishers prior to Katrina.

    Perhaps we will be going back to more local concentration — especially as the costs and difficulties of travel are only going to be increasing in the immediate future?

    Love, C.

  40. Lois Tiltonon 06 May 2007 at 7:21 pm

    It is unlikely that ample remuneration would draw in large numbers of reluctant reviewers, yet the lack of remuneration is likely to discourage some whose love for the field exists, but whose time is not sufficient to expend it on nonpaying work.

    And even if it does not discourage them, their access to readers is likely to be diminished when moving from a publication with national circulation to their own website, after the national publication cuts its reviewing staff or goes out of business.

    The real problem, however, is not so much likely to be a dearth of SF criticism, but an excess of it, as there is already an excess of fiction. Already I have seen proposals for a venue where the reviewers would be reviewed, in order that readers better might be able to sort out the grain from the chaff.

    Nor does migrating the tons of chaff from one obsolete platform to the next seem likely to solve this problem.

  41. Constance Ashon 06 May 2007 at 7:44 pm

    Mr. Niall — I have contacted you.

    Love, C.

  42. Constance Ashon 06 May 2007 at 7:54 pm

    Lois — I’m not so sure things bear out that reviewers lose readership, at least in the sf/fnal community, by migrating to the net. I read far more reviews now than I ever did before. I bet more people read the reviews at SF Site, than read the sf/f in the few print media outlets, and that includes Locus — though I have no access to any figures to bear out my declaration now!

    Already I have seen proposals for a venue where the reviewers would be reviewed, in order that readers better might be able to sort out the grain from the chaff.

    Wow! That sounds so — very sfnal! We love to quantify.

    . . . there is already an excess of fiction.

    I’ve read that same lament in the grand days of Elizabethan and Jacoban theater by unhappy playwrights, in the 19th C, by unhappy authors — particularly unhappy male authors about scribbling female authors — etc. You can’t have too much. The more there is, the more fertile the ground is out of which truly great work can grow. Just like in painting in Renaissance Italy.

    To have 4 small magazines with even smaller distribution, that run very few reviews — not to mention how seldom the reviews coincide with actual publication of the books being reviewed, plus theLocus reviews, isn’t enough out of which really good reviewing and critiquing can emerge, don’t you think?

    And now the enormous postal hike engineered by the corporate lackies and the post office for small magazines, will accelerate the migration to the web. There’s no other choice. (And then They will figure out how to make this so expensive no one can afford that either except the Large and Wealthy.)

    For another perspective, do you think the boom in YA sf/f is putting too many books out there for this demographic, and driving out good ones? The YA market is the biggest fiction market right now, it seems, when you include all the other works in it that aren’t sf/f.

    Love, C.

  43. kateelliotton 06 May 2007 at 8:29 pm

    Coming soon – a site to review the reviewers of reviewers!

    I expect I read more reviews now than I did pre-net.

    re: too much fiction. I think we can take as a given that stuff that isn’t very good is being published, some in traditional publishing venues, some in web venues, and etc. But I don’t know. On the one hand, it is a lot to slog through; otoh, who is gatekeeping, and how are they making their choices?

    so forex, I definitely now have access to a variety of often obscure or foreign music that was exceptionally difficult to obtain, if it was obtainable at all, 20 years ago.

  44. Lois Tiltonon 06 May 2007 at 9:15 pm

    Of course people read more reviews – there are more reviews for them to read.

    The changes that disadvanatage some, in some ways, benefit others, in other ways.

    There are more reviews to read, and they cost nothing to read, and the reviewers who write them are paid, for the most part, nothing.

  45. Stacyon 07 May 2007 at 11:39 am

    I like the use of reproductive strategy to explain what’s happening to culture. r-strategy (lots and lots of babies left on their own) usually occurs in unstable or unhospitable environments, and can lead to overpopulation quickly with loss of cultural capital, adding to furthur instability. This is happening to humans right now in Sub-Saharan Africa, where a woman may have a dozen children in the hopes one or two survive but then cannot educate any of them. What happens if we are throwing dozens of reviewers out on the pond to see who can sink or swim, instead of giving swimming lessons to a few? Internet reviewers will find ways to make a living, just like online radio shows and other bloggers, they just will have to do it differently than if employed by print media. However, will this r-strategy mean we are losing our cultural capital, by not nurturing/educating enough?

  46. Lois Tiltonon 07 May 2007 at 12:32 pm

    Some reviewers will find a way. Others will sink.

    As will authors of fiction and other works.

    The pond is finite and not greatly expandable. Not so with the young spawned into it.

  47. Constance Ashon 07 May 2007 at 1:02 pm

    How do you give lessons in reviewing?

    I missed that class!

    Universities now provide programs that supposedly ready the student for a career in publishing — though, generally, from what it looks like, this is more a boondoggle for the people who already are nabobs in the publishing industry to polish their tiaras and pick up a little extra money — and less useful for the students. Particularly as positions in publishing contract constantly, as does the business. But the publishing nabobs teaching these courses (I type-Oed this as ‘curses’ which perhaps should stet) generally don’t inform the students of this. It’s all the same deal: persevere and you shall win!

    Lois — Are the frogs spawning in your yard right now? :)

    Love, C.

  48. Lois Tiltonon 07 May 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Toads – orgies of song.

  49. Constance Ashon 07 May 2007 at 8:23 pm

    Orgies — It must be spring!

    Stacy — Nevertheless, the Big Corps are working their wealth-power mojo to make it as difficult as possible.

    Radio on the internet is now supposed to pay triple fees for playing music. Which means the local, highly regarded and deeply loved WWOZ in New Orleans, that plays only New Orleans and Louisiana music will be pushed out of existence.

    We gotta think, and be active, active, active — and run candidates and vote and get this $hyte reversed. This affects all of us — from postal rates for small magazines, to price of gas, to the stategies to take the internet away from us too.

    The healthiest ecology has the greatest variety of niches. So we don’t want to lose the print either. We cannot depend on any ONE outlet. We are too vulnerable to destruction that way.

    Love, C.

  50. Stacyon 08 May 2007 at 9:30 am

    As for educating reviewers, I was thinking less about specific classes than the general fact paid professionals need to prove some knowledge of the field before getting hired (don’t they?) and anybody can set themselves up on the internet, whether they’ve ever read Asimov and Tolkien or not.

    I totally agree a multiculture is better than monoculture, and the fact corporate dinosaurs are crushing little mammal businesses sucks. I’d love to see twenty pro SF/F slick mags out there – I might manage to get published! I’m still in shock that scifi.com is lost to us – I didn’t know about that!

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