The OF Blog: I am not a fan

Monday, April 16, 2012

I am not a fan

Let me state it one more time.  I am not a fan.

I do not squee! when I receive a review copy in the mail.  I glance at the books and will read through just enough to determine whether or not I will be able to review it within two months of receiving it, but I make no promises, nor do I feel guilt when I receive a book that does not interest me.

I do not wait with bated breath for awards to be announced.  I believe that due to the proliferation of awards, over a variety of genres, that several mediocre works get nominated.  Unless I have had a bad prior experience with an author, I will consider them, but when I repeatedly don't enjoy their output, I have no qualms about saying that I will not read nor will I review particular books.

I am a critic at heart, trained to be one, albeit in history and not precisely in Languages and Literature (although I have a significant amount of university coursework in both).  I distrust personal appeals and when I think I am too close to an author as to not be able to rip into his/her work if warranted, I will not review them in a public space.

I find it odd when some take umbrage when I note perceived deficiencies in various genres/award categories.  I am no insider; whether these awards succeed or fail is no concern of mine.  I am happy for those that win, but that does not mean that if Author X wrote a deficient work that I will not blast (as needed) his/her work if it were to win a particular award/s.

I am quite aware of the marketing aspects that go along with reviewing.  Doesn't mean I have to receive copies (if any are sent, it is with the hope that I will consider them rather than the expectation that I will review them positively) nor do I have to worry overmuch about if promo copies and advance blurbs will sway me.  I try to dislike as many fictions as I can, but will permit the text to win me over, even if I may think the author smells of elderberries.

I value some opinions more than others.  If you cannot express your opinion well, whether you be an author trying to convey a book's message or someone commenting on another's work, then I will not value your opinion as much as another who does do this.

I do not aim for "objectivity," for I believe that to be as much of a chimera as "relativity" in assessing value.  Value is closely tied to perceptions, but perceptions don't usually shift 180° between works and/or authors.  If a lot of sentences are not technically adequate, if the characterizations feel stilted, if there are no discernible thematic elements, if the parts are greater than the whole, then I will be unforgiving even if the work at hand is by someone whose previous works I enjoyed.

Again, I am not a fan.  I am an evaluator whose opinions can be swayed with evidence, yet as empathetic as I may be toward people, I find that there are many good, some very good works that I self-select, but very, very few works that will be re-read twenty years from now when I will be mostly a different person.  Those rare works are the ones worth focusing on, not on whether or not it is "fair" that a competent fiction is questioned for being on an awards shortlist.


Justin said...

What brought this on?

RobB said...

Another terrific post that will stand the test of time as one in your long line of connected blog posts.

My final verdict on this post: 7.75/11

Larry Nolen said...


A long series of things. I've been thinking about reiterating this for a while now, but seeing several posts on divers sites over the past two weeks just led me to voice the obvious once again :P


Are you saying that I, like Spinal Tap, can turn it to 11 now? :O

RobB said...

Something like that, yeah. Be the rebel, go outside the boundaries of "10."

Embrace the change.

Larry Nolen said...

I'd rather do it with irrational numbers, but that's just me.

Neth said...

I find Rob's response to be a rather poor one and not up to his usual standards. 7.5/10.5

Larry, an interesting post - though not really 'news' to any who have followed your blog in detail. I'm struck by how different and similar our approaches are. You are not a fan. I am a fan. You are a critic. I do not consider myself a critic, though I may be critical at times. You do not claim objectivity, neither do I. Your opinion can be swayed, so can mine. You seem to have a complicated opinion on awards, so do (though I generally keep it to myself). You try to dislike as many fictions as you can, I try to like as many as I can. You are an elevator. I am a mere mortal.

Larry Nolen said...

That and I'm ambidextrous and have no beard? :P

Yeah, different approaches work best for different people and when I'm about to lambast several books, a post like this can serve as a warning to those whose feelings may get hurt in the process. Nothing personal is involved, but I sometimes take no prisoners.

Jon said...

Well said.

The prevalence fandom holds in criticism and discussion, especially of speculative fiction, is unfortunate. It is reflective of a poor state of affairs that you even need to clarify that you judge each book on it's own merits, not it's associations. But it is uncommon, and you do it well, so I enjoy reading your blog.

Colbie said...

I think you protest too much (and too often). Just get on with the good job you otherwise do here.

James said...

I don't think you protest enough. Amuse me more.

Johan said...

I'm no fan of the word "fan" either, so to speak, but pretty much everything you said can be applied to a good number of people I know who name themselves so.


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