Enjoying a Review

cover of Conscientious Inconsistencies

Here’s the most important thing about reviews: They’re a sign your work is being noticed.

Of course, bad reviews can be depressing, which is probably why many famous people say they never read them. But it’s even worse when no one pays any attention at all. After all, while I may write because I’d go nuts if I didn’t, I also write to be read.

Lyndon Perry made my day in his review of my collection, Conscientious Inconsistencies, on The Fix, with this observation: “I have to say I was impressed.”

That’s probably enough praise to satisfy any author — especially when the reviewer had no previous experience with my work — but he made me even happier by showing that he understood what I was doing in several of the stories. For example, he wrote about the story “Homesteading”:

The new dynamic is not the byproduct of the typical male way of warriorship. But, then, as the clan discovers, Isabel is not your typical warrior.

That’s what I was trying to do.

Of course, a review ought to generate a little controversy, too. Perry wrote didn’t think labeling these stories as feminist was the right approach, observing that the stories are “examples of great writing featuring fully characterized protagonists who just happen to be women” and adding:

To classify this collection as feminist literature, in my opinion, might unnecessarily marginalize these stories away from the very genre fiction scene it seeks to represent.

These statements greatly annoyed L.Timmel (Timmi) Duchamp, who wrote the introduction to Conscientious Inconsistencies and who is also, in her role as editor-in-chief of Aqueduct Press, publisher of my other book, the novella Changeling. On Ambling Along the Aqueduct Duchamp wrote:

But as happens over and over and over again in reviews and discussions of feminist sf (and so of course in reviews of Aqueduct’s books), the reviewer here confronts us with the classic provocation for eyeball-rolling that anyone who regularly reads feminist sf will be familiar with: the assumption that because he likes the stories and perceives their quality, that therefore what he’s reviewing can’t be feminist sf.

I agree with Timmi; after all, I am a feminist. But it still pleases me that someone who is wary of the idea of feminist SF liked my work.

I don’t know if my story featured today on Book View Cafe — “St. George and the Dragon” — qualifies as feminist or not. In defense of certain images that might be considered sexist — naked princesses captured by dragons, for example — I plead that I was playing with tropes. But you’ll have to draw your own conclusions.

By the way, the artist who did the cover for Conscientious Inconsistencies, Edward Miller (also known as Les Edwards), won the World Fantasy Award for best artist for 2008. And the publisher, PS Publishing, won the WFC special award, professional. Here’s a link to Miller’s painting, “A Mere Scutcheon” (named for one of my stories) that was used for the cover.

Conscientious Inconsistencies is available directly from PS Publishing. Since the value of the pound dropped recently, the price of the book in dollars has become quite reasonable: The ordinary hardcover version is 10 pounds or $15, while the fancier jacketed hardcover — suitable for serious collectors — is 25 pounds or $37.50.

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Enjoying a Review — 1 Comment

  1. “That’s what I was trying to do.” Oh yay.

    I’ve been writing reviews since the very last part of 1999. I had hesitated for years – no joke – because I’m in the fortunate position of knowing a lot of writers (I’ve attended numerous conventions, have run them, live in places where writers and fans mingle) but after asking advice from several friends,i went for it. And there are many things I’ve learned, but here’s a big one. The best, the most important thing that a writer can say to a reviewer is any version of “you got what I was trying to do.” That’s the shiny reward I cherish as a reviewer. I don’t always know if I’ve gotten it, I can hope. When someone says that to me, WOW, that feels great.

    And believe me, it helps us to hear that. It helps us, the reviewers, to hone our craft too.