Strange Horizons has just published my first book review

Ever since I started reading Delany’s works of criticism (The Jewel-Hinged Jaw; Shorter Views; Longer Views; etc), I’ve had a dream of becoming a man of letters. You know, someone who’s just sort of generally qualified to opine on everything and everything. Of course, this is not an uncommon dream. As my friend David once put it, “I think every little boy, at some point, dreams of growing up and becoming a public intellectual.”

One of my long-standing goals for this year was to somehow dip my toe into the nonfiction racket. And I’ve long had my eye on Strange Horizons‘ review page, which is one of the most expansive and diverse reviewing spaces in the SF world. Sometimes they review a book and I’m actually a bit surprised that it even exists. My main stumbling block, though, was kind of a silly one: I’m not very familiar with contemporary SF releases–the way that I found out about books is by reading about them on blogs or review pages…by which time Strange Horizons has probably already reviewed them. Every time I thought of a book that I could review, they had already reviewed it.

However, with my slush-reading gig coming to a close, I felt like any cachet that I had as a member of the current SH staff would be lost and that I should really send out an email to the reviews editor before the end of the year. And that’s when I remembered that Locus–the SF/F publishing industry’s trade journal–has listings of just-released books. So I browsed the listings and selected three likely contenders: the latest book in a pretty popular series (Bujold’s Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance), a niche literary collection that’s getting tons of buzz (Karin Tidbeck’s Jagannath), and the latest short story collection by a frequent Strange Horizon’s contributor (Elizabeth Bear’s Shoggoths In Bloom). Then I sent out an email asking if the editor would be interested in any of these three books. She responded that the Tidbeck was already assigned, but she’d be down to see a review of the Bear collection.

So I got ahold of the later and read it over a weekend. It’s been years since I’ve been so nervous about writing something. My feeling was that a reviews don’t get rejected very often, just because it’s hard to sell them elsewhere and I doubt that there are toooo many people writing them. But still, it was very first book review (I think of the writing on this blog as being more in the nature of a reaction or a response–it’s not meant to describe a book and it’s definitely not meant to inform consumer purchases), and I definitely didn’t want to suck at it.

Anyway, after many hours of exhausting labor (and one revision), the review was accepted for publication and went live today! I am happy. The first step in getting a license to bloviate!

6 thoughts on “Strange Horizons has just published my first book review

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Thanks! I really hope so. I liked writing this review, and it gives me a good excuse to read contemporary SF/F (which is an area where I’ve fallen a bit behind in recent years). Somehow it just feels more fun to read something when you know you’re gonna be able to write about it afterwards =)

      1. Morlock Publishing (@MorlockP)

        I think it’s always true that doing X with result Y in mind is more productive than just doing X. I know that this is true for me when I’m learning a new programming language, or reading about a woodturning lathe technique. I recall Neal Stephenson said something similar about taking research vacations: he doesn’t know how to relax aimlessly, but he does know how to relax in order to learn something.

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