What you have to do for me to write about your book here

A couple of people have asked me what you have to do for me to review your book here. 

The easiest way is to be an author I already love. Then you can write anything, and I’ll read it, and sooner or later I’ll re-read it and probably write about it. I’ll read it more quickly if it’s in a series I care about, but essentially, if I already love you, I’ll buy anything you write forever unless it’s about vampires, or unless you start to publicly espouse some evil lunacy that makes me not want to love you any more, or even give you any of my money.

When I discover a new-to-me author, I tend to rip through their entire back catalogue as fast as I possibly can. I have no moderation in this. I read the complete works of Vikram Seth in a couple of weeks last year in exactly the same way I read the entire SF section in Aberdare Public Library (from Anderson to Zelazny, and then all the anthologies) when I was 12.

If I don’t already love your work, it’s harder I’m afraid. But what you can do is to write some SF about aliens, spaceships and planets. I’ll like it best if it’s good as well, but if it’s that, my standards are relatively low. It may be a couple of years before I get to re-reading it and writing about it even so. But this is still your best plan.

Failing that, you can write some  other kind of SF that’s not about the Singularity and isn’t boring. Brilliant would be good, the kind of SF that blows the top of your head off. SF, as Sasha put it, like Permutation City and Spin. Failing brilliant, I’ll take pretty good, and indeed, anything down to competent, as long as it’s emotionally true and has an interesting and original world. After that, military SF, again on the spectrum of good to OK.

[More after the cut…]

If you really can’t manage any SF at all, I’ll take totally topnotch fantasy with a really cool world. It’s not true that I hate fantasy. I love fantasy…as long as it’s original and brilliant. There’s loads of original and wonderful stuff being done under the label fantasy. Pamela Dean. Sarah Monette. Ellen Kushner. What I hate is standard fantasy, what we called “extruded fantasy product” on rec.arts.sf.written–and even as fat fantasies go, I loved The Name of the Wind and I’m still reading A Song of Ice and Fire.

If you can’t manage SF or fantasy, write me a well written biography of someone whose life slices through a period. I adore the work of Claire Tomalin and Anne de Courcy, and I recently lapped up Ophelia Field’s The Favourite, the life of Sarah Churchill, the first duchess of Marlborough. If you want me to read your biographies, it’s a good idea to write one about someone who interests me, and then I’ll rush off and read all your others, even if you’ve done biographies of people I hate. (I read Tomalin’s biography of Hardy. Hardy, ugh!)

After that I’ll take very good historical novels. After that would be really terrific and highly recommended mysteries and romantic suspense. After that comes Gothics, military SF, men’s adventure books, (and military adventure, like W.E.B. Griffin) and classics I’ve not read because they sounded boring that someone has made sound interesting. (It would be challenging for you to write one of those for me. Consider it a long term project.) Last of all would come astonishingly set-the-world-afire brilliant literary fiction. Because if you want me to read something fictional but set in this world and this time, it better be outright amazing.

In fact, if you write literary fiction and you want me to read it there’s a simpler way than writing something mind-blowingly brilliant and somehow bringing it to my attention. (Parades might work. Skywriting.) You can write some SF. If you write some SF, people I know will talk about it, I’ll read it, and if it’s any good at all, I’ll read all your literary novels. This trick has worked for Doris Lessing, Margaret Atwood, Marge Piercy, George Orwell, Michael Chabon, Jill Paton Walsh and Kazuo Ishiguro. Or you can write a book that looks as if it’s SF — this worked for A.S. Byatt, whose novel The Game looked as if it was fantasy.

But what I’m writing about here is what I’m re-reading, and I’m re-reading whatever it strikes my fancy to re-read and talk about. It’s as simple as that.


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