Jul 31 2008 1:51am

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.

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 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.

Samantha Brandt
1. Talia
Aw, I thought Sunshine was a pretty good book ;) (admittedly its been a while).
Bruce Arthurs
2. bruce-arthurs
A.S. Byatt's POSSESSION also has a fake-out title. But it's a wonderful book, imho, and it feels like very good fantasy, the kind wherein you feel sucked into another -- and very strange -- world. (And I also felt Byatt did a wonderful job creating the Victorian poetry written by his fictional characters.)

Have not seen the movie made from the book. I figured it would probably disappoint.
Jo Walton
3. bluejo
Talia: I hate vampires. I appreciate that everyone else in the world thinks they're wonderful, but I hate them, and I'm not going to read about them even if my favourite authors write about them. I haven't read Hambly's vampire books either.

I have read Brust's _Agyar_.
eric orchard
4. orchard
"aliens, space ships and planets" sounds like the perfect summing up of all the coolest things in the world.
Chris Meadows
5. Robotech_Master
Have you read P.C. Hodgell's Kencyr books? They're about to be reissued in print form by Baen, and I think they're awesome.
Jo Walton
6. bluejo
I have read them, and I'm really glad they're going to be available, but I don't often feel like re-reading them. I think Hodgell's a terrific writer, but I don't often want to spend time with her characters.
[da ve]
7. slickhop someone with a passing fondness for vampires, Sunshine was written just in time for me to enjoy it. The glut of paranormal romantic thrillers that followed has pretty much ruined the genre for me.

I liked your recommendations for good fantasy to read. I was pleased that they matched up so well to my own judgements (Kushner is a genius, I have to say, and In the Name of the Wind was actually really gripping high fantasy), along with hearing about Pamela Dean.

Looking forward to whatever you re-read next (although would love to hear your re-read opinions on he Child Garden by Geoff Ryman).
Dave Rutt
8. rutty
I'm glad that you loved Vikram Seth. A Suitable Boy is my favourite novel - all 1400 or so wondrous pages. It took me months to get through all that (I'm a slow reader - so many other things going on) so I'm impressed with the sheer number of books you seem to get through. I take it you don't have a TV? ;)
Megan Messinger
9. thumbelinablues
Bruce-Arthurs -- The movie does disappoint. I think Possession could possibly work as a 6-hour BBC miniseries, but to give you an idea of how the movie deals with the book's pacing and subtlety, Maud declares within thirty seconds of meeting Roland, "Oh yes, LaMotte was a lesbian." And there's no Val, no Beatrice Nest, practically no Sabine, and none of the fairy-tale aspects that made it one of my favorite books. Hollywood. Pah.

But how is it a fake-out title?
Jo Walton
10. bluejo
Rutty: You're right. Not only do I not have a TV, I've never voluntarily lived in a house with a TV. I haven't lived in a house with a TV since 1983. Every so often I'm forced to see some, and I'm reminded how much I just don't like it. I also don't have a car, so I read on the metro and on the bus.

Thumbelinablues: "Possession" makes it sound as if it's going to be an Austen novel, whereas it's actually a beautifully layered title.
Clifton Royston
11. CliftonR give you an idea of how the movie deals with the book's pacing and subtlety, Maud declares within thirty seconds of meeting Roland, "Oh yes, LaMotte was a lesbian."

It's probably not good for my keyboard when I beat my head against it.
Samantha Brandt
12. Talia
Not everything about TV is terrible.

*points at admittedly shortlived Firefly*
Megan Messinger
13. thumbelinablues
bluejo -- True! The number of times I found myself saying "Per...swa...session" last fall was a little embarrassing. (Wrote my thesis on Byatt, so consequently I was talking about it all the time on very little sleep.) I do love the subtitle, though.

CliftonR -- Probably not. Try a hardcover copy of Possession?
Sam C
14. Sam C
Bruce-Arthurs at 2: 'And I also felt Byatt did a wonderful job creating the Victorian poetry written by his fictional characters.'

A S Byatt is a woman. Sorry if the 'his' was just a typo, but it seems worth mentioning...
Sam C
15. platypus rising
Well,I do actually have something I'd like you to read and review.
It is a series of interlinked novels and shorter pieces I've found on the internet a few months ago,which I really think deserves more recognition,and in particular recognition by the science-fiction public.
Since you're such a voracious reader I don't feel too bad proposing you to have a look.
All the series,with a brief introduction,is available online here:

I'll just say a few thing about aspects touched in the introduction which may scare away prospective readers.
-It is a work of original homoerotic fiction:the writer was previously active in various slash fandoms.Lots of sex,yes,but it never feels out of place,rather it flows naturally from the plot.

-Bdsm:it is a very hard sell for me.
I generally either can't take it seriously or find it disturbing.Here,in the context of the relationship between the main characters,however,it works perfectly.

-dystopia,virtual reality,corporations...
the gut reaction is "how novel",isnt'it?
Yet characterization and worldbuilding are the true strong points of the series.The world is perfectly believable,only one or two steps removed from our own (even the take on the VR is very hard sf/ mundane).The viewpoint is never with those who resist the Administration,but either with those who work for it or people who try to go on with their normal lives and,even when they have no sympathy for the system,ultimately look the other way.The effect is very powerful,and reminded me a bit of your "small change" novels,Jo.

Sorry if I've been overlong.Hope everyone who reads this and is not put off by the "gay sex" aspect will give it a try.
Estara Swanberg
16. Estara
Re: P.C. Hodgell - well there ought to be a new novel out next year or the year after, then you don't have to re-read but can read ^^.
I re-read her every couple of years in preparation for another volume of Jame. I find it interesting that you don't want to revisit her characters, as I find them even more compelling than her worldbuilding, which I like as well.

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