Interview with The Android’s Conundrum

I am sitting across from a book cover, behind which is hiding mysterious booktuber and reviewer Katherine from The Android’s Conundrum.

SCy-Fy: Katherine, getting into booktubing is a recent move for you, isn’t it?

TAC:  I’ve only been making YouTube videos for about six months now, but I’ve been writing book reviews for years. When I started making YouTube videos it was because I wanted to interact with people in a way that just wasn’t happening on my blog. But I realised that in terms of content I wanted to stick with reviewing books, so I just write out my book review and I use that as a sort of script for what I say in my video.

SCy-Fy: Where to from here?

TAC: I can’t say that I have anything exciting planned. For the most part I just want to keep on reviewing science fiction and fantasy books and interacting with people who read those books and want to have interesting discussions. That was my goal when I started making YouTube videos and I am quite happy to continue working towards that. Every now and then I do try to make different types of video.

SCy-Fy: Such as?

TAC: Within the community on YouTube there are a lot of standard videos that people make, such as tag videos, book haul videos, TBR videos and discussion videos. I think my niche is definitely book reviews but I do like to try my hand at other things from time to time.

SCy-Fy: What do you think will be the biggest future challenge for SFF booktubing?

TAC: I think in terms of the book community on YouTube, I would like to see a lot more SFF readers. The community is definitely growing, but at times it does seem to be dominated by people who read mostly YA fiction. I try to find people who make videos about science fiction and fantasy and follow those people, and personally I am only really interested in that SFF corner of the community. Even amongst the SFF readers, fantasy definitely dominates though, and I would love to see more people reading science fiction, too. So I think one challenge is encouraging more SFF readers to engage with YouTube and carve out a space in the community so that there is more diversity and variation.

SCy-Fy: What advice would you give anyone presenting?

TAC: I think if anyone is interested in starting to make YouTube videos, the main advice I would give people is to go ahead and try it and to find the style and format that works best for you. My own YouTube videos are rather unusual in this regard. Most people take the traditional approach of appearing in front of the camera, but I don’t do that.

SCy-Fy: Why is that?

TAC: I actually started watching YouTube videos a long time before I got around to making my own videos. I wanted to be part of the community but I felt that I couldn’t make videos because I didn’t want to appear on camera. I’m just not comfortable with being on screen. But eventually I decided to take my own approach, and now my videos are simply pictures of the book covers, with my audio commentary.

SCy-Fy: I waited a long time for you to appear on screen before I realised it just wasn’t going to happen!

TAC: I know that some people don’t like this format and I am undoubtedly limiting my audience by doing this, but I’ve also had positive feedback and some people have said that they are happy to watch my videos like this and it’s sort of like listening to a podcast. I’ve found a way to make videos that works for me and that I’m happy with, and while it may not be the traditional approach, it still allows me to participate in this community which I really enjoy.

So my advice would be that anyone can make videos, even if you don’t want to appear on camera, even if you don’t have a lot of fancy technology, you can find a way that works for you. My advice is ultimately don’t be afraid to try it and don’t be afraid to do things a bit differently from other people.

SCy-Fy: What is your best resource?

TAC: My biggest resource for making videos is the rest of the community on YouTube. I watch a lot of other videos and I interact with those people through leaving comments on videos and connecting with them on Goodreads and Twitter. Through those other people in the community I learn about lots of books that I want to read. I couldn’t make videos if I wasn’t in the first place reading great books that I can then review and talk about, and I find a lot of those books through other people on YouTube.

SCy-Fy: Is there a downside to that?

TAC: While the community is a great resource for finding books, there is a risk of certain books and authors getting over-hyped, and when everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and reading the same books, it can become a bit of an echo chamber. So while I do love finding out about books through YouTube, I think it’s also important for me to have other sources too, so that I’m not just reading the same books as everyone else, and I can talk about new books that perhaps other people haven’t heard of yet.

SCy-Fy: You mentioned that you started booktubing because you wanted to interact more with people.

TAC: With my reviews on my blog I was never really sure that anyone was reading. On YouTube there seems to be much more opportunity for feedback and interaction. I try not to care too much about how many views a video gets or how many likes or dislikes it receives. But comments are what I absolutely want to see on my videos, so that I can talk to people about books and make connections with people who like to read the same books as I do.

I know that in general on the internet, YouTube comments have a bad reputation, but the book community on YouTube is actually a very friendly place to interact with people. I do find that most of the people who leave comments are also people who make videos themselves, and I really wish more viewers would reach out and leave comments and get involved in the community.

SCy-Fy: Any controversy so far?

TAC: I’ve not really encountered any controversy on a personal level. Occasionally I have had people disagree with my reviews, usually if it’s a book that I’ve disliked and someone wants to defend it, but this is never done in a negative way. As I said before, people in this community are generally very friendly and polite even when they disagree. I also know that some people dislike the format of my videos as I discussed in a previous answer, but again I am happy to do my own thing.

SCy-Fy: The most popular show you’ve presented?

TAC: I think my most popular video is actually the first video I ever posted, which was a review of the Expanse series by James S.A. Corey. I think there is a lot of interest in that series because of the upcoming television adaptation. It’s a bit embarrassing because it was the first video I ever made and so it’s not of great quality compared to some of my more recent videos, I was definitely still finding my feet, but I am glad people still seem to find it worth watching.

SCy-Fy: Do you have a personal favourite?

TAC: My personal favourite video that I’ve made is probably my video about Iain M. Banks and the Culture series. He is one of my favourite science fiction authors and I love his books. I made a video which was sort of an overview of Banks and his work, particularly the Culture series, because I wanted to share my enthusiasm for him and his books. It’s one of my more popular videos and I do hope I’ve encouraged some people to pick up his books.

SCy-Fy: I’m sure you have. What have been the best books you have read recently?

TAC: Limiting myself to books that I’ve read over the past couple of months, I have been working my way through the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold and I love that series. The most recent books in the series that I have read are Brothers in Arms and Mirror Dance, which were both fantastic. I have also read a couple of great fantasy series recently. I really enjoyed the Powder Mage trilogy by Brian McClellan, which I thought was an incredibly inventive flintlock fantasy story. The other standout fantasy series I’ve read recently was the Riyria Revelations series by Michael J. Sullivan, which was just such a fun series to read.

SCy-Fy: Which forthcoming books are you most looking forward to reading?

TAC: I am desperately looking forward to Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie, because I utterly loved Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword. I think it’s such an excellent science fiction series and I can’t wait to read the next book. I am highly anticipating The Price of Valour by Django Wexler and Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan. Those are both the third books in their respective trilogies, and both are fantasy series that I’ve really been enjoying. I am also looking forward to the new Neal Stephenson novel Seveneves, although I’m not sure quite what to expect from that one.

SCy-Fy: Thank you, Katherine. I’ll leave now so that you can come out from behind that book.

TAC: Thank you very much for asking me to participate!

Interview with Stephenie Sheung (The Bibliosanctum)

My guest today is Stephenie Sheung, also known as “Mogsy”. She began her blogging career writing video game reviews and chronicling her adventures through online worlds before becoming part of the team at The BiblioSanctum, a book blog for speculative fiction. 

SCy-Fy: Tell me about a typical blogging day, Stephenie.

SS: These days it’s pretty much touch and go. We just welcomed a new baby to the family, so between juggling a rambunctious three-year-old and a newborn, I don’t get much time to blog. I’m only maintaining the illusion of “keeping up” because I write and schedule my reviews at least two weeks in advance! I also feel I need that buffer, because the truth is, writing doesn’t really come easily to me; between struggling to find the right words to put down and having to constantly run around putting out fires, sometimes it can take me several days to write a single review.

SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives?

SS: I can’t speak for The BiblioSanctum, since the site is a labor of love not only for myself but also for my two wonderful friends and co-bloggers Wendy and Tiara. From the day the three of us set out to do this, we decided that reading and reviewing books would be a hobby, something we want to do for fun and keep it fun. I suppose that has always been and always will be the main goal.

SCy-Fy: What do you think will be the major future challenges for SFF blogging?

SS: As a community, we engage in a lot of critical dialogue looking at SFF. Having these discussions is important, but it’s equally important not to forget why we’re reading and reviewing these books in the first place – for the love of the genre! I have to remind myself of that on the personal level as well when I find myself becoming overwhelmed with review books. Like I said, blogging should be fun. Whenever I find myself starting to feel stressed, I always take a couple steps back until I find my comfort zone again.

SCy-Fy: Tips for bloggers?

SS: Read what you love, but also don’t be afraid to try new things. Write reviews with honesty, but also with respect and civility. I could go on, but in general those two have worked well for me over the years.

SCy-Fy: Just between us – your secret list of useful resources?

SS: I rely heavily on Goodreads, but that’s no secret! I use it to track my reviews and ratings, as well as what I’ve read and what I still have to read. Publisher catalogs on Edelweiss are also good for seeing what’s coming out.

SCy-Fy: Traps in SFF blogging?

SS: I take it you’re not talking about traps in the Mon Calamari sense. Well, I’ll say this: beware of blurbs and descriptions comparing a book to ______, or claiming it’s “perfect for fans of ________”, or that the story is “like _______ meets _______” (especially if any of those blanks are filled with Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games or Harry Potter). It’s marketing jargon and I rarely find them to be all that accurate. I also try my best to avoid making any direct comparisons to other works in my own reviews, not only because each reader perceives something differently, but I also believe every novel deserves a chance to stand on its own merits.

SCy-Fy: Things that have kept you going in hard times?

SS: My co-bloggers! Wendy and Tiara are amazing and I can always rely on them to hold the fort and keep the blog active when I get too busy. The BiblioSanctum is a team effort so we pretty much do that for each other.

During stressful times I also love spending time with my husband and my kids.

And when I can fit it in, I like playing MMORPGs. I have so little time for gaming these days, so I relish it whenever I do get the chance. I love my online gaming community, and there’s just something so cathartic about playing a healer.

SCy-Fy: Posts of yours that have had the most impact or controversy?

SS: I don’t think I’ve written many controversial posts, but impact-wise, we’ve gotten tons of great feedback and compliments on our “Most Anticipated Science Fiction & Fantasy Books Written by Women” feature that we do every year now. The goal was to expand our scopes and explore the genre to see what amazing books are out there. Clearly we’re not the only ones who want to see more diversity in SFF.

SCy-Fy: What have been the best books you have read recently?

SS: Let’s see, within the last several months: Touch by Claire North, The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis, Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Bach, Evensong by John Love, Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, Firefight by Brandon Sanderson. I also recently discovered the awesomeness of Juliet Marillier with her book Dreamer’s Pool. I can’t believe I waited so long to read her stuff! So now I’m playing catch up with her lovely Sevenwaters series. I’m sure there are a ton of other great books that I’ve read recently that I’m neglecting to mention, but those are the memorable ones or those that have stood out.

SCy-Fy: Which upcoming releases are you most looking forward to?

SS: So many. In the short term I’m really looking forward to Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Day Four by Sarah Lotz, Sword of the North by Luke Scull, and The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu. Also When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner. That one was a complete surprise when the ARC landed in my mailbox a while back, and I knew absolutely nothing about the book at the time. But the more I learn about it, the more excited I am. Hope it’ll be good!

SCy-Fy: Thanks, Stephenie. And good luck to you and your colleagues on The Bibliosanctum.

Interview with Books and Pieces

My guest today is booktuber Elizabeth from Books and Pieces, a Youtube channel with more than 5,000 subscribers.

SCy-Fy: How do you prepare for a show, Elizabeth?

B&P: The amount of preparation needed for a video really depends on the content. Something simple like what I’ve been reading in a month is pretty minimal, but anything factual or requiring interesting visuals needs a lot more planning and prep. This could be anything from research and scripting to shopping for costume props!

SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives?

B&P: I’ve got a lot of plans for the future because I’m at this weird point at the moment where I really want to take my content to a more professional level and spend a lot of time on it but I just can’t do that yet because my job is pretty full-on and I’m doing a Masters degree as well. Time is a precious commodity!

I will be making another multi-part series in the summer – complete with many ridiculous costumes and educational fun like my Science Fiction History last year. And there’s a plan for a different sort of series with readalongs and interesting history stuff that I’m still plotting out.

Plus I’ll be starting some interviews with people from the SF community – I guess much like you’re doing here, so this is your warning to expect an interview going in the other direction!

SCy-Fy: I can’t promise much in the way of costumes, though…

B&P: And I’m hoping to start making a lot more use of my website and blog that I started in January but haven’t had the time to do much with. I’ve got a list of plans for that as well.

One area I’d really like to work on is to do more collaborative projects. Whether that’s interviews, guests on the videos, readalongs, joint blog posts, or research projects, I want to make fun things with nice people!

I should stop talking about plans now, I’m starting to sound like Dr Evil.

SCy-Fy: What do you think will be the major challenges for online presentation in future?

B&P: There’s the general challenge that we all face of making sure that we’ve got something relevant to say in an environment that’s always filling up with new voices. But I think that’s really a good thing – more to enjoy, more niches, more inspiration. Also, I think video is still finding its foothold in the wider media landscape of SFF. Online video as a whole is becoming a big industry but in the science fiction world we’re still a tiny and fairly unknown little world. It’s just a few individuals having a go and enjoying themselves, so there’s plenty of room to grow.

Probably the main challenge that most of the SFF video people face is how to grow and improve their content. Balancing the work, time, and funding needed to improve content is going to challenge a lot of people, but I think there are lots of possibilities out there.

SCy-Fy: What advice would you give to anyone presenting?

B&P: Firstly, be aware that video can take a lot of time to create. A relatively simple five minute video might take me four or five hours to create and something more complicated can be a process of a day or two.

Secondly, give yourself time to figure it out. There are a few people who have arrived on YouTube with incredible professional quality videos that just blow me away (I’m thinking of the Marvellous Reading Room) but for most people they’re learning how to present and edit as they go along. You’re allowed to not know what you’re doing for a while – you will figure it out! I think video is way behind podcasting in terms of professionalism and whilst that can occasionally be frustrating it’s also great for just jumping in, having a go, and learning as you create.

SCy-Fy: What are your most useful resources?

B&P: The SF Encyclopedia is always handy when I need a fact-check, but most of the time I’d say that Twitter and YouTube are my best resources. It sounds daft, but twitter is my lifeline – if I need to find a useful app, know what’s being talked about in the SF world, or just catch up with people it’s my place to go.

And other YouTube channels are always going to be the best place to get ideas for improving your own content. Every video I watch gives me ideas for the future.

SCy-Fy: Points to watch out for?

B&P: If you start a new channel, then be prepared for a million offers to join a partnership network – ignore them. Unless you’re in the big leagues, they don’t offer anything you need.

Don’t get too sucked into what other people are doing. ‘Booktube’ has its own conventions and familiar ideas that suit its pre-existing audience. But it’s good to take a step back and think about what you really want to make. Make things you love and you’ll want to keep making it and you’ll find an audience who love those things too.

SCy-Fy: Things that keep you going?

B&P: Every time someone leaves a comment or tweets me about my videos – it’s crazy but so heart-warming when anyone tells you they like your content. Plus the fact that so many comments and tweets have developed into real friendships and these great networks of interesting people. I can’t believe the amazing people that I’ve gotten to know over the last couple of years.

SCy-Fy: Any controversy so far?

B&P: Very little. I’ve had a few negative comments on videos about things like challenging your reading habits, but otherwise nothing. Clearly I need to make a bit more noise!

SCy-Fy: The most popular show you’ve presented?

B&P: My most popular video is an old one – my very first recommendations for SFF books. I think it was just one of the first times that topic had been covered on YouTube (which is kind of hard to imagine) so it got a lot of hits.

SCy-Fy: Your personal favourite?

B&P: My personal favourite is still the Science Fiction History series. I loved making it and researching it and it still makes me laugh when I look back at all those costumes.

SCy-Fy: What have been the best books you have read recently?

B&P: I’m nearly done with Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon at the moment and it is really wonderful. Oh, and Kameron Hurley – I started with Mirror Empire and I’m now working my way through the Bel Dame Apocrypha and I just love the worlds she comes up with. They’re so unusual.

SCy-Fy: Which upcoming releases are you most looking forward to reading or watching?

B&P: I am excited about Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie in October because more time in that world will make me so happy. But I’m also kind of dreading it because it’s the last of the trilogy and that means an end! Dark Forest by Liu Cixin (Three Body Problem #2) because all the Chinese fans have been telling me that it’s even better than Three Body Problem. Oh, and also The Philosopher Kings which is the next book in Jo Walton’s Thessaly series (beginning with The Just City). It’s not often that I have so many sequels queued up!

SCy-Fy: Anything to add?

B&P:  A thank you to you for inviting me here, an invitation for people to check out my Youtube channel or website and a general encouragement for more SFF people to try making video – join us!

SCy-Fy: Thank you, Elizabeth, and good luck with everything!

Interview with Bitten by a radioactive book

My guest today is Michael from the Youtube channel Bitten by a radioactive book.

SCy-Fy: Thanks for dropping by, Michael. How do you prepare for a show?

Bbarb: It depends a bit on the theme. For more informative videos like author features or guides I research the theme beforehand. For tags I also prepare the books I use for the answers. On the other hand I don’t script, so the actual “narrative” of the video is more spontaneous.

SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives?

Bbarb: I already have a pretty full schedule with 3-5 videos per week and at the moment I’m quite happy with the different segments. I might do another guide series, maybe for SF sub-genres after my Female Fantasy Author Feature runs out around the half-way point of the year. I’m also thinking about a second channel for gaming, but my current set-up won’t allow for that, so that might be more of a long-term idea.

SCy-Fy: What do you think will be the major challenges for Booktubing in future?

Bbarb: Balancing original content with familiar content. When you look at Booktube, I find it advantageous to have a decent amount of content that only a minority of the other booktubers cover. I think it would be pretty hard to start out and to get attention with reviews about Harry Potter or Twilight nowadays, because that “market” is already settled. On the other hand, you still want to have something familiar, maybe even popular, that a lot of people are still interested in hearing about. Getting them in with something they know and giving them ideas of what to try next is my approach.

On a second level, I think that privacy and identity will be challenges. You have to be aware of how much information about yourself and how much opinion about your content you are comfortable with sharing.

SCy-Fy: What advice would you give anyone presenting on Booktube?

Bbarb: Be yourself and be authentic. Stop thinking about starting and start. And finally, if you commit, commit. Figure out a doable and reliable schedule for you and your audience. 1 video every two weeks is better than 3 videos in one week and then nothing for a month.

Be respectful of other people’s work and opinion. My rule of thumb is: If I have to think about whether a certain comment would be appropriate or not, it’s better to leave it out, just in case.

SCy-Fy: Which resources do you use the most?

Bbarb: I use about a dozen SFF blogs to be “in the know”. Starting with the bigger ones like Tor, SF Signal, Fantasy Faction or A Dribble of Ink, but also smaller ones like The BiblioSanctum, A Fantasy Reader or Grimdark Reader.

Goodreads is another huge resource, as are the catalogues of publishers.

SCy-Fy: Things that have kept you going in hard times?

Bbarb: Overall, Booktube is such an overwhelmingly positive experience for me that I haven’t encountered any hard times so far.

SCy-Fy: Good to hear! Any controversy?

Bbarb: Not really. I have had to clarify an opinion or statement once or twice, but nothing really negative has occurred so far.

SCy-Fy: The most popular show you’ve presented?

Bbarb: In terms of “Likes”, the most popular show is my January Weekly Wrap-Up 3.

In terms of minutes watched, it’s my 400 sub video with some shout-outs about some newer Booktubers and a review of The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu.

SCy-Fy: You are getting close to 1,000 subscribers now, Michael! Do you have a personal favourite?

Bbarb: I’m personally very proud of the whole Guide to Fantasy series and I enjoy some of the more recent Tag videos, ‘cause they allow me to show a more goofy side of me.

SCy-Fy: What have been the best books, films and TV shows you have read or seen recently?

Bbarb: Recently I very much enjoyed Inda by Sherwood Smith, The Fell Sword by Miles Cameron and the two Golgotha books by R.S. Belcher (The Six-Gun Tarot and The Shotgun Arcana). As a Marvel fan, I enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy and Agents of Shield. Apart from that, Sons of Anarchy, The Walking Dead and The Vampire Diaries are favourites as well, as are Parks & Rec, Community or Veep on the comedy side.

SCy-Fy: Which forthcoming books, films and TV shows are you most looking forward to reading or watching?

Bbarb: Of course I’m interested to see how the Marvel Netflix shows, which showcase some lesser known characters, will turn out. Avengers 2 correspondingly would be my most anticipated movie. Another TV show I’ll be very interested in will be the adaptation of James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series on SyFy.

For books, I already mentioned Miles Cameron before and I’m really looking forward to the next instalment in his Traitor Son Cycle called The Dread Wyrm, which will be out October on 15th. And of course my favourite author Steven Erikson will have his new book Fall of Light released on November 19th.

SCy-Fy: Anything to add?

Bbarb: Just to thank you for having me and wishing you and your readers all the best!

Interview with Common Touch of Fantasy

Today I’m talking to website and Youtube book reviewer Paul from Common Touch of Fantasy 

SCy-Fy: What is your major goal as a reviewer at the moment, Paul?

CToF: I want to gain a better foundation of books that I have read. As someone that has rediscovered his love for reading after taking a prolonged break, I have missed out on years of reading great books. Being more widely read will make my reviews better, make my ratings of books more reliable, make me more intelligent, and be a better person. I spent too long comparing myself to others and now I only compare myself to who I was yesterday, and try to be better. As far as my actual videos, I want to be able to talk more intelligently.

SCy-Fy: What do you think will be the major future challenges for online presentation generally?

CToF: I believe the major challenge for online presentation is content creators staying honest. It is very easy to talk yourself into believing something that might gain more views and drive up traffic. It is easy to take an opposing opinion to gain viewers.

Take book reviewing, for example. If you decide before you even read Patrick Rothfuss that you think he is overhyped and that it will gain you more page views if you just trash the novel, you will approach reading it very differently than if you were open to the possibility that you would like it.

SCy-Fy: How do you prepare for a show?

CToF: Before I record anything for a video review, I write out a review for my website. I will do some research on the author and the book before I write the review so that I get more of an idea of how the book was received by other reviewers. I try to take into consideration what they are saying but also try to think of something new to mention. One thing I try to always do when reviewing, is to make the review something that I would read or watch.

Once I have finished writing the review, I’ll make a small outline of talking points from the review for the video. I then just try to be as natural and genuine as I can be while on camera.

SCy-Fy: What advice would you give anyone presenting?

CToF: Make the content that you want to make. Do not compare yourself to other content creators and don’t change your personality because you think you need to. There are many viewers and there are some that will appreciate the way you talk about things.

SCy-Fy: Just between us – your secret list of useful resources?

CToF: I don’t really have a secret resource. I go on /r/fantasy a lot, watch other booktubers, read Goodreads reviews and visit fantasy blogs, but none of those are really secret.

SCy-Fy: Things that have kept you going in hard times?

CToF: If I’m not in the mood to do anything related to my Youtube channel, I usually don’t. I want to make sure I am never doing something out of obligation or dreading to do it. If I do, that means I’m not having fun, and if I’m not having fun, I will stop.

SCy-Fy: Any controversy so far?

CToF: The booktube community and the fantasy community are really nice people. I haven’t had any trolls or insults.

SCy-Fy: The most popular show you’ve presented? Your personal favourite?

CToF: My most popular video was a review of Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson. That is because of Erikson’s awesomeness and not mine. My favorite video was probably “How To Take Care of Your Books” because I thought it was important.

SCy-Fy: What have been the best books you have read recently?

CToF: The best books I have read lately are The Last Colony by John Scalzi, Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson, and A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway.

SCy-Fy: Which forthcoming books are you most looking forward to reading?

CToF: I am really looking forward to Peter V Brett’s The Skull Throne, The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán, The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu, and The End of All Things by John Scalzi.

SCy-Fy: Anything to add?

CToF:  Thanks to you for this interview, check out my website at, and check out the awesome booktubers on Youtube, that do what they love, reading books and talking about them.

Interview with Kalanadi

I posted two weeks ago about science fiction and fantasy Youtubers and Booktubers and also suggested some channels to investigate. I will be including some Youtubers in my ongoing series of interviews with SFF genre people. Today I’m talking to Rachel, a Youtuber who runs a mostly-SFF Booktube channel called Kalanadi

SCy-Fy: How do you prepare for a show, Rachel?

K: Number one, read good books! Get those books read!

I prepare in different ways based on the type of video I’m planning to make. I love watching book review videos and weekly or monthly wrap-ups on Booktube, so those are the two types of videos I do the most on my own channel. I also do the occasional “tag” video, if they tease out books or other interests I’ve never had a chance to talk about before on my channel.

SCy-Fy: Let’s talk about book review videos first.

K: When I’m preparing for a book review video, I script everything. When I realize I’m reading a book that I want to do a full review on, I’ll take notes while reading – key plot points that aren’t spoilers, themes I notice, reactions to characters, thoughts on the writing, mostly.

Once I’m finished reading, I spend upwards of two hours total writing, editing, and practicing a fully-written script. I come from a written communication background, so editing is very important to me in the scripting process. I like to do a first draft and come back 24 hours later to viciously edit it. Having that finished script makes the filming and editing process faster; it also means I won’t forget important points or fail to find the right words on camera!

Tag videos are the only other videos I really prepare for, but I don’t do a full script: they’re often meant to be fun and on the fly! But since they are almost always in question/answer format, I jot down notes for some answers so I’m not scrambling to remember an old book title or an author’s name! But there are definitely some tag videos I’m getting ready to do for which I’ll have to do research into my list of read books and ratings on Goodreads in order to come up with good, interesting answers.

SCy-Fy: What about wrap ups?

K: I never script my weekly wrap-ups; I do almost no preparation for them other than mentally reviewing the list of what I read in the past week. For my channel, weekly wrap-ups are the “decompression” days when I don’t have to be as focused. I’m just chatting at the camera and with my viewers and friends. But it’s usually early hours on a Sunday morning, so brewing a cup of tea always comes first!

SCy-Fy: I’m glad to hear it! What about technical preparation?

K: On the technical side, getting ready to actually film a video is pretty easy. My camera setup is mostly permanent, so when I have decent natural lighting, I drag my chair into view and snap my camera onto my tripod. I check I’m on my mark to be in focus (and then pray, because I move around a lot sometimes), and hit record. Like many Booktubers, I film using my smartphone camera. I’m not cutting-edge either, I still have a Galaxy S3!

SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives?

K: My channel is very young, so I have a lot of options for expanding! I’ve recently discovered the lack of science fiction Booktubers in the SFF niche in the community. #booktubesff is predominantly fantasy, with a pinch of science fiction. There also aren’t many Booktubers that I know of reviewing or discussing non-fiction science books. I plan to spend more time making in-depth reviews of books for both those categories, as that’s a gap I would love to help fill in. I would also like to do more discussion videos about SFF, the Booktube community, and the reading experience, and that will come in time as I gain my own experience and knowledge.

Booktube also has a significant presence on Goodreads and Twitter, and I would love to become more involved on both those platforms. The Booktube Reading Buddies group on Goodreads is highly active and a wonderful counterpart to the Youtube side.

SCy-Fy: What do you think will be the major challenges for the SFF Youtube community in the future?

K: There’s a lot of pressure to make content aimed at getting subscribers and likes. That kind of content is sometimes repetitive or not the most mentally engaging—therefore, losing people’s attention can be a major challenge. And the bigger Booktube grows, the more channels the average viewer is watching, the more engaging you have to be with your videos to keep them coming back to you. That’s just logical, I think.

In terms of repetitive content, I’ve heard comments that people view tag videos as a content creation “crutch” or simply lazy. They’re easy videos to do, but unless it’s a fresh or unique tag, the answers to questions become routine, people mention the same books and authors over and over again, and viewers start tuning out. If you’re a commenter, which you probably are if you’re also a Booktuber, it becomes more difficult to say anything meaningful beyond, “Oh, yes, I want to read that book too!”

Videos can become very one-directional, a one-way presentation that doesn’t invite participation, conversation, and interaction. As with any communication medium, I think Booktubers will need to remember that videos are the tool for communication, not the communication itself: what you have to say and how you say it is most important. Thinking critically and inviting others to think critically reaps rewards for Booktubers who go into the experience wanting to have immersive conversations with people about the books they read.

SCy-Fy: What advice would you give anyone presenting?

K: Prepare what you think you need to prepare in advance, be honest (but respectful) with what you say and how you say it, and be yourself! When it comes to editing your videos, you get to choose what stays in and what gets cut out. You get to shape your persona through acting and editing, but if that personality isn’t really you, how long will you want to keep it up?

And I don’t think this can be stressed enough, even if it sounds hard: don’t simply say you disliked/liked/loved a book, explain why. Star ratings and constant superlative adjectives do get tiresome. Yes, oftentimes you’re at a loss for words, but put in what you want to get out.

Also, a little filming and editing knowledge goes a long away with making first impressions on potential subscribers. I struggle with this myself, especially with lighting – you’re at the mercy of the weather and natural lighting if your camera doesn’t play nice with indoor lamps. So really, be aware of simple, easy rules like not placing windows or lamps behind yourself. Be conscious of how you behave on camera when you’re getting started, like looking at the camera for a beat before you start talking and after you stop talking.

And don’t be afraid of scripting! Scripting is your friend if you think you ramble too much or if you want to cut down the length of your videos.

SCy-Fy: Just between us – your secret list of useful resources?

K: The best Booktube investment I’ve made so far is a 1 TB USB external hard drive! That’s not a very secret resource, but it’s portable and I can flip between using multiple computers to work on my video projects. It makes life so much easier!

I film with my smartphone camera on a borrowed tripod and I have a backup webcam that was gifted to me. I’m teaching myself how to use VideoPad for editing, but have no shame in admitting I often still use Windows Movie Maker!

Probably my most invaluable resource is my list of read books. Having a written record of most of my reading life has become an immensely useful resource since I started Booktubing. I know for certain what I’ve read (and when) and what I haven’t. I refer to that list a lot!

SCy-Fy: Points to watch out for with Booktubing?

K:  You can very quickly get sucked into obsessing about your channel’s growth, even if you think you are mentally shielded against it. When I started, it was about the same time people began talking about the pressures of Booktubing and the (un)importance of the numbers and statistics. Comparing your stats to a huge channel’s stats is fruitless. Obsessing about your like and dislike numbers is also fruitless. Worrying about not reading as many books as other people is an easy trap to fall into.

Also, in Booktube, you don’t need to read what everyone else is reading. The book hype machine is real and it’s a monster. You don’t need to get on all the popular book bandwagons unless you want to. Read the books you want to read, talk about the issues you want to talk about, and like-minded people will discover you. I get a thrill every time I say “I’m pretty sure no one else has ever read this…” and someone pops up to say “I have!” Then you get to bond!

SCy-Fy: Things that have kept you going in hard times?

K: The friendships I’ve formed are the most rewarding part of Booktubing and that’s what’s going to keep me going. People are incredibly kind and understanding on Booktube. Getting nice comments from people always, always helps.

SCy-Fy: Any controversy so far?

K: Nope, not for me at least! Negative comments happen, of course, because this is the Internet, but on the whole I’ve not personally experienced controversy.

SCy-Fy: The most popular show you’ve presented?

K: Oh, the most popular video I’ve made is a strange one! I did a review of The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse and it has the most views of all my videos so far—I’m not sure why! I think comments are more indicative of a successful video, and for me that would be my first discussion video, Making & Unmaking Lists, about keeping lists of read books.

SCy-Fy: Your personal favourite?

K: My personal favorite is my review of Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold. Not only was the book fantastic and thought-provoking, but I didn’t script the video beforehand (I didn’t have time). I was very happy with how I managed to express myself! It was a personal achievement. I’m not sure if it’s the best video I’ve made—but I’m proud of it!

SCy-Fy: What have been the best books, films and TV shows you have read or seen recently?

K: So far this year, my favorite books that stand out are Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold (that book just took the Vorkosigan Saga to a new level! I can’t wait to finish the series) and The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Maia was a beautiful character choice).

SCy-Fy: Which forthcoming books are you most looking forward to reading?

K: There are so many book releases I’m eagerly anticipating! Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie is at the top of my list. I also want to read Ken Liu’s novel debut The Grace of Kings, N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, Madeline Ashby’s Company Town, and the English translation of Angélica Gorodischer’s Prodigies.

SCy-Fy: Thank you, Rachel, and keep up the good work!

K: Thank you for inviting me!

Interview with Kristin Centorcelli (My Bookish Ways, SF Signal)

This morning I’m going to be chatting with Kristin Centorcelli, Editor in Chief at My Bookish Ways, Associate Editor at SF Signal, and reviewer at Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly.

SCy-Fy: You write for two very busy genre blogs, Kristin. How do you organise your time?

KC: Coffee first, then in the a.m. I usually go through my mail for SF Signal and get any new posts into the system. In the early evening I usually schedule the next day’s posts for My Bookish Ways.

SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives for My Bookish Ways?

KC: I think I’m at a really good place. I’m happy with the blog, and I enjoy myself, and as long as I keep enjoying it, then I’m good to go.

SCy-Fy: What do you think will be the major future challenges for SFF blogging?

KC: Oh goodness, I have no idea! The SFF community, on the whole, is very supportive, and I hope it stays that way. There are a lot of interesting voices that have a lot of interesting things to say. Otherwise, only time will tell…

SCy-Fy: What advice would you give people about appearing on the internet?

KC: Be professional. Be respectful. I shouldn’t have to say be nice, but there it is. Those things apply to authors, bloggers, everyone.

Don’t engage with the trolls. Do. Not. Engage.

SCy-Fy: What are the most useful resources you use?

KC: Oh gosh, I’ve become my own best resource over the years (my love of Excel spreadsheets is pretty well known). However, when I first started out, one of the best go-to places for blogger tips was Parajunkee, and still is.

SCy-Fy: Things that have kept you going in hard times?

KC: I think bloggers, writers, everyone has what I call “who cares” days. Days when you just don’t feel like blogging or writing, or you feel overwhelmed. I usually have a few go-to folks that I email that ALWAYS make me feel better (you know who you are), and of course, there’s always stepping away from it and doing something else. Stepping away can make a big difference sometimes. But, I guess, things that keep me going…I LOVE this community and its bloggers, authors, and fans, and I have a blast being among them.

SCy-Fy: Any controversy?

KC: Huh. Well, I can definitely say that you won’t find much controversy on my site. I very deliberately focus on the positive and tend to avoid polarizing topics. That said, kudos to those that aren’t afraid to tackle the controversial stuff. It’s just not me, though.

SCy-Fy: The best books of 2014?

KC: Yikes. So many. The Martian by Andy Weir, The Troop by Nick Cutter, Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun, Coldbrook by Tim Lebbon, Afterparty by Daryl Gregory, The Oversight by Charlie Fletcher, Bird Box by Josh Malerman, Koko Takes a Holiday by Kieran Shea, City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer…

I’m sure I’m missing a few.

SCy-Fy: Which upcoming releases are you most looking forward to reading?

KC: About to dive into The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy, then there’s No One Gets Out Alive by Adam Nevill, and Predator One by Jonathan Maberry, Bell Weather by Dennis Mahoney, The Silence by Tim Lebbon, Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn, The Awesome by Eva Darrows, The Dangerous Type by Loren Rhoads…again, the list can go on, and on, and on…

SCy-Fy: Thanks for your time, Kristin.