Posts Tagged ‘reviewing’
Once you’ve completed step two, go down the pub. The above photo is from the Rosemary Branch but the majority of this review was produced in conjunction with the Pembury Tavern and London Fields Wheat Beer. Once you have your pint, it is time to start putting flesh on the bones so that your nice neat outline…
By this point the structure will have changed again with sections having split and merged and there will still be lots of holes. So lather, rinse, repeat:
The opening is hard but the ending is harder:
750 words becomes 1,500 words becomes 2,000 but remember to keep cutting as you add. Not all lines of thought are necessarily worth pursuing, even if they do include a gratuitous pop at Dr Who:
Follow this advice and, after your third visit to the pub, you should have something that is pretty much a finished review.
If you’ve followed step one that you should have the most important thing a reviewer can ask for: an unblank page. Of course, these typed notes will be unintelligible so you’ll need to tidy them up a bit. Before and after:
At this point, I have 750 words of thoughts that have been bunched together but in no way resemble a review. Time to get the pen out and impose a bit of order:
A few arrows later and I’ve managed to block out the structure of the review. This consists of eight rough sections: an introduction to the characters; a discussion of the type of work; depiction of the real London; depiction of fantastical London; plot and capitalism; imagery and strengths; tone and audience; virtually non-existent conclusion.
Now the hard work begins.
Start taking notes. You’ve probably forgotten your pen so use your phone:
Take more notes. You’ve probably forgotten your notebooks so use the back of a receipt from your butcher:
Take lots and lots of notes. You’ve forgotten your nice notebooks and your nice pens but there is always something in the stationary cupboard:
These are all notes for a review I am currently writing for Strange Horizons of The City’s Son by Tom Pollock. Once the review is actually published I might well revisit the process of writing it.
Lots of people who take an interest in science fiction self-identify as fans and consider themselves members of a communal fandom. This is a bit problematic if you are the sort of person who thinks you should have outgrown fan clubs in your pre-teens.
Dan Hartland has a post about this and the fact that being a fan means setting aside some critical faculties. It does so with some rather shaky analogies:
A Manchester United fan may gripe about team selection, but he will probably never abandon his team. If you’re going to talk seriously about books, you need to be able to abandon the ones that are bad.
I’m guessing that about half way through his analogy Hartland knew it was broken but decided to press on anyway. The objects of the fandom in the two cases are science fiction and Manchester United so critising bad books is exactly like barracking bad players, both activites that I have never seen fans shirk from. Not to mention that if your club does fuck you about badly enough you do abandon it in favour of something closer your original love.
It is interesting that I am one of the people who has inspired this post because I am not a fan and I am not a fan for the same reasons Hartland isn’t a fan. I do agree that fandom produces an unhealthy Us versus Them division and an instictive rush to special pleading. The reason Hartland hangs it on me is that really what he is upset about is the response to his review of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. He gives us a rule of thumb:
reaction to a review will always hone in on the point most applicable to the community that reads science fiction, rather than anything which might relate to science fiction itself.
Here is a slightly different rule of thumb:
reaction to a review will always hone in on slightly dubious generalisations rather than engage substantively with a text that most people won’t have read.
I understand his frustration – it is always instructive to compare the nuber of comments on the film and television reviews on Strange Horizons to the number on the book reviews – but it has only lead him to produce further slightly dubious generalisations.