Interview with John DeNardo (SF Signal)

S. C. Flynn:

I started my series of interviews with the people behind the science fiction and fantasy sites on December 20 last year. The response has been good, but perhaps the very first posts in the series were under-viewed at a time when many readers were rightly thinking of holidays and food.

That is a shame, as my first guest was John DeNardo of 3-time Hugo-winning site SF Signal. Therefore, I am re-blogging John’s interview to give readers another chance to appreciate the insights of a very experienced and highly regarded person in the genre community.

Originally posted on SCy-Fy: the blog of S. C. Flynn:

Welcome to a new regular feature of interviews with the people behind the science fiction and fantasy blogs and zines that we all read and enjoy so much.

My first guest is John DeNardo, Managing Editor of SF Signal, a speculative fiction blog that has been sharing news, reviews, interviews and lots of other fun stuff for genre fans since 2003. SF Signal is a three-time Hugo Award winner: twice for Best Fanzine and once for Best Fancast. John is also a weekly contributor to Kirkus Reviews Blog, where he writes articles aimed at the mainstream reading masses who don’t realize how much they’d love reading science fiction and fantasy. In between writing articles and editing posts from SF Signal’s spectacular army of contributors, John has been known to fawn over bagels.

SCy-Fy: John, thanks for agreeing to be my first guest. Tell me about a typical blogging day.

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Interview with Mihai Adascalitei (Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews)

Welcome to another in this ongoing series of interviews with the people behind the science fiction and fantasy sites. I am really appreciating the opportunity to get their views and I hope you are enjoying reading them.

This evening I’ll be howling along under the full moon with the Dark Wolf himself, Mihai Adascalitei of Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews, a Romanian English-language site for reviews, interviews and news about fantasy, horror and fantasy art.

SCy-Fy: Welcome to the pack, Mihai. You’ve been blogging since 2008. How has your approach changed in that time?

MA: I used to worry a lot about review copies and hit counts, but I left that behind as much as possible, although it does still happen to me from time to time.

At first I received lots of review copies and although that flow has decreased over time I still feel sometimes that I need to read and review all of them. It triggered, and occasionally still does trigger, a fear of disappointing people and letting someone down. But it is not physically possible. As much as I would like to read and review all of them there are other things to be considered and other books waiting to be read besides all the new ones. With the birth of my son my time for reading shrank, but this wonderful event also brought the realization that I am not in a contest. It does me no good to race through the books and that was not the reason for starting a blog in the first place. So I’ve settled into my own rhythm, giving the books I read the proper attention and taking them just one at the time.

SCy-Fy: And the hit count?

MA: I used to have a hit counter on the blog, but I reached the point one day when the hit counter became an obsession. The first thing I did was to check the hit counter to see how many hits I had.

SCy-Fy: Sounds familiar…

MA: It was nothing like I wished for and, yet again, that was not the reason for starting the blog. So, I took it out. I still glimpse those stats from time to time – the blogger platform has one on its front page – but I stopped worrying about them a long time ago.

SCy-Fy: What is a typical blogging day for you?

MA: I am not sure I actually have a typical blogging day. Usually I write my posts a day before putting them on the blog, but sometimes I write them in the morning and post them in the afternoon. That is the case when I discover a latest piece of news I am interested in and wish to highlight it on my blog. Otherwise, like I said, I write my posts, I read the websites I like the most and try to come up with a little more free time in order to write my reviews and interview questions. Although, for the past couple of years, work has raised an extensive barrier to that goal. I am certain that I am more disorganized than appears from my answer, with my family and work demands having priority by far, and also the time necessary for actual reading.

SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives for the blog?

MA: One of my initiatives is in fact an older one. I would like to bring back the series of interviews I used to conduct with genre artists. I enjoyed those quite a lot and I am definitely dreaming of doing them again consistently.

SCy-Fy: I hope so. Your list of past interviews contains an impressive number of artists.

MA: I also have in mind a feature dedicated to short fiction. I read a lot of excellent short stories and a healthy chunk of them come from online media. I review short story collections, anthologies and magazines, but I realized that I would like to talk a bit more about some of my favourite short stories published online. I have a couple of ideas, but for the moment they’re in an incipient form and I need to consider how to tackle and develop them before putting these thoughts into practice.

SCy-Fy: Looking forward, what do you think will be the major challenge for SFF blogging in general?

MA: I am not exactly sure, I guess it depends on what one wishes to achieve through blogging. It was easier to be noticed 3 years ago than it is now, there are a lot more blogs out there today. Which is not a bad thing – on the contrary. However, as was the case in the past, also today and in the future, the main challenge from my point of view is to be yourself, to be original. Just copying what others do doesn’t offer any satisfaction. It is a struggle, but I, personally, feel more fulfilled doing that.

SCy-Fy: Tips for bloggers? For reviewers? Writers?

MA: Well, for the bloggers, talk about the things you are passionate about and even though someone doesn’t agree with you, don’t let that be an impediment.

For reviewers, be honest; if you don’t like a book just say so, with your reasons, of course. And it is all right if everybody else loves a book and you don’t, after all reading is an entirely subjective process.

For writers, just write. The world is certainly a better place because of this.

SCy-Fy: Do you have a secret list of useful resources?

MA: Nonesoever. Seriously, I do visit plenty of websites of publishers, writers, editors and bloggers, but none is what can be called a secret. It is more a work of research if you like, for my reading habit as well as the blogging one.

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

MA: A couple of good friends encouraged me to keep going in time of need and they gave me strength. And my great passion for books helped me too. I enjoy reviewing books and I like to believe that it has also made me a better and more considerate reader. I also like to talk about the books I love and this is a very good way to do it.

SCy-Fy: Which posts of yours have had the most impact?

MA: This is a tricky one. I am not sure. Perhaps it is the fault of taking the hit counter out. Then again, the hit count might have led me to come upon a subject or type of post with great popularity and tempt me to overdo it, to the point where I wouldn’t have had anything substantial to add and yet continue on the same line nonetheless.

SCy-Fy: Have any of your posts been particularly controversial?

MA: I try to stay away from controversy. That is one of the reasons I started a blog in English, because looking at the small community here in Romania way too often one hot subject follows the path of furious, angry debates. I don’t like that too much. I mean, everyone is entitled to a personal opinion and I am not one to deny that. But when that opinion is voiced too vehemently and the one voicing it disregards others just because they don’t share it, the entire debate becomes bothersome. And since such controversies are more often than not followed closely by heated conversations I believe that I stand better without being caught in the middle of them.

SCy-Fy: The best books of 2014?

MA: Mike, Linda & Louise Carey’s The House of War and Witness, Andrew J. McKiernan’s Last Year, When We Were Young, Helen Marshall’s Gifts For the One Who Comes After, Jeff Salyards’ Veil of the Deserters, Marc Pastor’s Barcelona Shadows.

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

MA: Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings, Carine M. & Élian Black’Mor’s In Search of Lost Dragons & The Demons: Welcome to the Park of Illusions, K.J. Parker’s The Invincible Sun, Sarah Pinborough’s The Death House, C.L. Werner’s Malus Darkblade: Deathblade, Marian & James Womack’s anthology The Best of Spanish Steampunk.

SCy-Fy: Any last words?

MA: Thank you very much for inviting me to this interview. And best of luck for your blog and writing.

SCy-Fy: Thank you, Mihai. The moon has gone behind a cloud, so it’s time for us to say good night.

Interview with Steven Diamond (Elitist Book Reviews)

Today I’ll be talking with Steven Diamond, founder and editor of the 2013 & 2014 Hugo Nominated blog, Elitist Book Reviews ( Steve also writes for Baen, Privateer Press, and numerous small publications. His debut YA Horror/Urban Fantasy novel, Residue, is set for release in 2015 through Ragnarok Publications, and he is the editor of the anthology Shared Nightmares:

SCy-Fy: What’s a typical blogging day for you, Steven?

SD: Well, that’s the challenge, isn’t it? I’m the Finance Manager for a DoD Contractor. The other reviewers at EBR all have jobs. So really, a typical day of blogging starts once everyone else in the family is in bed and asleep. After that, it’s sneaking in 50-100 pages of reading, then frantically getting a review or editorial up. Depending on the day, I’ll review future posts to make sure they are up to par, email back-and-forth with my web-admin and other reviewers, contact authors and publicists, email readers…

…huh. When you say it like that, it makes you realize how much MORE time is spent in the background of the blog rather than actually blogging.

SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives for the blog?

SD: I think the main goal of every blogger is finding more readers. Getting more exposure. We already have a few things that are about to go live that will help EBR with this initiative. And of course, we are always on the lookout for more reviewers.

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

SD: I think we are finally starting to see a shift in the perception amongst fandom that blogs are legit. There has been so much drama the last couple of years where traditional fanzines have bashed any and all blogs, saying how we didn’t belong, or didn’t deserve any recognition for what we bring to fandom and to readers everywhere around the world. That’s garbage. And that’s the perception that needs to continue to change.

And then, of course, there is the issue of differentiating yourself from the other 8 million people who decided last night that they are bloggers.

SCy-Fy: And that quantity of people has many different effects…

SD: Yes. Look at the state of publishing. It’s becoming harder and harder to filter and identify quality amongst the traditional publishers and the self-published folks. There is so much noise out there. Every day I’m bombarded with review requests from people who literally finished their book yesterday and published it this morning. Seriously? And then we see smaller publishers putting out questionable material, and running into financial issues. It’s rough out there. And bloggers get hit by it all like a fire-hose to the face. This is only going to get harder.

SCy-Fy: Tips for bloggers?

SD: You have to be regular. Posting once a month doesn’t do you any good. Don’t post click-bait or make stupid statements just because it will cause controversy.

SCy-Fy: For reviewers?

SD: 99% of the time, don’t attack the author. Keep your criticism professional whenever possible, and express WHY you feel something is an issue or WHY something is awesome. Be courteous, even when people are horrible to you.

SCy-Fy: For Writers?

SD: From personal experience – practice. Write as much as possible. Fan-fiction, short fiction, tie-in fiction, novels, session summaries from your group’s RPG. Get people to give you unbiased feedback, then listen to the feedback. Most importantly, take it seriously. If you treat it like a job (one that you enjoy), you are less likely to get in trouble with deadlines, and you will produce more quickly and have more success.

SCy-Fy: What do you think is a blogger’s best resource?

SD: A blogger’s biggest resource is the blogger. How you comport yourself professionally will have the biggest impact on your ability to make connections. If you are a jerk to people, they will respond in kind. If you attack without knowing the facts, you not only look stupid, but you burn bridges.

I go to conventions and introduce myself to every editor and author I can. I’m not shy. I’m a nice guy. I’m a genuinely friendly person, and I like to talk. And I have a passion for books. It’s not what they can do for me, but what I can do for them, their authors, and their readers.

SCy-Fy: Pitfalls in SFF blogging?

SD: Blogging fatigue. You think you can go forever, but you can’t. You read books, but then don’t want to sit down and write the review. Thinking you can do it all on your own, when having a support network is super-important.

SCy-Fy: In reviewing?

SD: On the reviewing side, or the commentary side, I’d say there is a huge problem when people can’t manage to separate an author from their work. Just because you don’t agree with someone doesn’t mean you should bash their work. I care about the work. Is the book good? Alright then. I can think an author is a terrible person and still enjoy their novels. I can love an author like a brother or sister and still hate their books. IT’S OK.

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

SD: When Elitist Book Reviews was nominated for the Hugo Award in 2013 and 2014, I was on the receiving end of a shocking amount of hate. Because EBR wasn’t a traditional fanzine. Because people voted for me what OTHER people didn’t like. Because one guy voted for me that was a horrible person. I was literally sneered at when I attended WorldCon in San Antonio. So yeah, I got the hate-filled emails. Insults to me, my wife and children. Insults to my reviewers. Insults from people that I’d even reviewed extremely well. Threats to me and my family from people who had no idea who I actually was. I’ll be blunt, I almost packed it in.

SCy-Fy: I’m glad you didn’t…

SD: And then I remembered all those authors, editors, readers, and publicists that emailed me over the years, thanking EBR for the reviews and the kindness. EBR blogs for them.

SCy-Fy: Posts of yours that have created controversy?

SD: I avoid controversy. I don’t talk about politics or religion. I don’t believe it’s healthy. So the most controversy I stir up is when me or one of my reviewers don’t like a book. Then the fans of that book go on full attack-mode. It’s fine. I’m just glad they are reading.

SCy-Fy: Let’s finish with the bottom line. The best books of 2014?

SD: Yikes. Off the top of my head? The Thicket by Joe Lansdale. The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks. Grunt Life by Weston Ochse. Skin Game by Jim Butcher. Dust and Light by Carol Berg. Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear. Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson. Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence. Monster Hunter Nemesis by Larry Correia.

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

SD: The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence. The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis. Murder by Sarah Pinborough. The Border by Robert McCammon. Paradise Sky by Joe Lansdale. The Spider’s War by Daniel Abraham. Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey. Fall Of Light by Steven Erikson. Trial Of Intentions by Peter Orullian. The Last Rite by Jasper Kent. Grunt Traitor by Weston Ochse. Residue by Steven Diamond (What?! Why, that’s ME!)

SCy-Fy: So it is. Any last words?

SD: Keep reading. Read anything and everything. Doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about the book. The only thing that matters is what YOU think.

Also, to toot my own horn, check out the Horror anthology I edited, Shared Nightmares – available on Amazon.

Lastly, keep your eyes peeled for my debut YA Horror/Urban Fantasy novel, Residue, coming in 2015 from Ragnarok Publications.

SCy-Fy: Good luck with those, Steven. And thank you for your time.

Interview with Civilian Reader

My guest today is Stefan, aka Civilian Reader. He has been blogging and reviewing for over seven years. He sometimes works in publishing, journalism and research. He has also lived all over the world, and apparently can’t stop relocating. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook. One day, he hopes to own All The Books.

SCy-Fy: Stefan, you’ve been on the blogging scene a long time. What has been the biggest change in that period?

CR: When I started, there weren’t that many SFF bloggers, so I remember when it was relatively easy to get noticed. There has been an explosion in the number of SFF bloggers. So many voices, clamouring to be heard. I don’t think it’s reached saturation levels, yet, and I’m not sure that there necessarily is a specific point when there are too many blogs. It’s all good, in my opinion: one big, noisy conversation about books that people feel passionately about, one way or another.

SCy-Fy: What changes do you think there will be in the community going forward?

CR: I sometimes wonder if there might be greater consolidation: more group-blogs like the superb Fantasy Faction and SF Signal, rather than single-writer blogs like CR or the sadly-missed Staffer’s Musings/Book Review. There seem to be new podcasts popping up quite frequently – not something I’ve ever tried, but it does look and sound like fun.

SCy-Fy: Any tips for bloggers?

CR: Truth be told, I don’t really think that much about blogging itself. I don’t read many other blogs, either – in fact, I rarely read other blogs. Not because I don’t respect other bloggers’ work, or have no interest in doing so: I just only have so much time, and would rather spend it reading the books.

SCy-Fy: So, no advice for them?

CR: Just write what you want, how you want. Don’t try to be anyone else; don’t try to Write Criticism unless you have a facility for it. After all, it’s your blog. I’ve read a lot of reviews that are trying to write what the blogger thinks is “literary criticism”. Mostly, these reviews come across like they have been mugged by a thesaurus.

SCy-Fy: I’ve just binned mine…

CR: Simply put: if you don’t know what the word means, don’t use it! There are some bloggers who do have the skills and vocabulary to write “proper” criticism, but they are fewer and further between than we are led to believe. Yes, there is an infinite number of ways one could write a review or construct a blog. But readers can spot a fake or clumsy attempt to be something you’re not. Be yourself. I’m over-egging this point, I know, but it drives me up the wall the way people don’t seem to understand the difference between “intelligent” and “intellectual”, and assume you can only be the former if you sound the latter.

The more you do, the more you write, the better you’ll become, the more likely you are to develop your own style and voice. That’s what will attract readers – just think of your favourite authors: they will come at their material from completely different perspectives, and can have the same impact.

To be fair, I have no doubt committed all of the possible blogger/reviewer sins along the way…

SCy-Fy: Do tell.

CR: I was very impressionable and performance-anxious when I first started out: I wanted publishers to take me seriously. I remember being so apologetic about not liking a book, and trying so very desperately to review everything I received, regardless of if I actually liked it or not. Thankfully, I’ve got over that, and now just read and review what I feel like writing about. There was an odd feeling of obligation, even for unsolicited review copies.

Ultimately if you produce good/interesting content, people will find and like your website. It’s much easier to spot issues and mistakes in other people’s work than it is in our own. In fact, I recently read a journal article that claimed it was entirely natural for detail-oriented, intelligent people to miss errors in their own writing – it had something to do with the mind auto-correcting in a subject it is over-familiar with. Or something like that. And, as this interview probably proves, I can waffle on at great length about things… I am a man of Opinions.

SCy-Fy: Anything else to say to other bloggers?

CR: Don’t plagiarise. Don’t post other people’s content without asking – there seem to be a number of new sites who think this is OK… So, also, keep an eye out for scrapers.

Don’t take it too seriously. Certainly don’t take yourself too seriously. Stay calm, and don’t bug people. Don’t be afraid to try new approaches, either. Don’t be too eager to contribute to every discussion and comment on every scandal.

Oh, and please don’t use the construction “I could say X, but I won’t…” It’s annoying and extremely bad writing.

SCy-Fy: I could ask – ah, you nearly caught me there! What about reviewers?

CR: If all you’re doing is reviewing the titles most others are, and not making an effort to seek out lesser-known or less-publicised authors and novels, then you’re probably not contributing as much as you think you are. That’s not to say you shouldn’t read and review or feature what you think looks interesting. But… vary it a bit. If you are doing this to make a mark, or have other ambitions related to publishing, you’ll need to show imagination and initiative. Reviewing only the books that receive the greatest publicity investment won’t suffice.

Also, if you don’t like a book that seemingly everyone else loves, don’t lie about it. You didn’t like it – say why, and leave it at that. The SFF community draws from all tastes, types, countries, etc. There’s space for any and all (respectful) opinions.

SCy-Fy: I think I accidentally binned my list of questions along with the thesaurus… So – umm – tell me about a typical blogging day.

CR: A typical blogging day for me takes one of two forms. If I have something to review, then I’ll focus on that. It usually takes me between 10-30mins to write a review. Once I’ve finished with a review, if I have one that needs doing – or, as is more often the case, if I feel like writing one of the ones that have started to stack up – I might browse some publisher catalogues or take a look back through my Twitter feed for any new and/or upcoming titles that might have caught my eye. Other than that, I don’t think there’s anything particular or special I do when I’m working on the blog.

SCy-Fy: In general, what have been the most popular types of posts?

CR: I’ve found that my “Upcoming” and cover art posts are more popular than reviews, interviews, etc.

SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives for the blog?

CR: Uhm… I don’t really have any. I don’t like to plan things too far ahead with the blog – I never intended to switch over to WordPress, for example, until I got a new computer and discovered that my old blogging programme (Live Writer, which is excellent and simple to use) doesn’t work on Macs.

I’ve sometimes tried to initiate a series of guest posts around a shared theme, but that rarely works out. So, I’ll just keep doing things the way I’ve been doing them for the past seven years: day-by-day, posting whatever I happen to feel like writing at the time.

Or, I might one day just shut the whole thing down if I no longer feel like writing.

SCy-Fy: I hope not. Your secret list of useful resources?

CR: I… don’t really have any. I search publishers’ catalogues as and when they come out. Although, I do work part-time for a literary agent, and have a couple of friends who are agents and editors, so I sometimes get early tips and looks at things. But, they’re almost always embargoed until they’re officially announced or in the catalogues, so not that much of a head-start. Being friendly with publicists also helps – there are so many great publicists working at the moment, in the US and UK, and they’re very forthcoming and helpful. If you keep your ears and eyes open, it’s not difficult to spot upcoming releases, etc. Amazon’s very handy for cover artwork, too, because they request it ages before release.

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

CR: Good books. I’ve had quite a few over the last 3-4 years, and when something goes wrong, or circumstances trips me up, I can usually make myself feel better if I have a book by a favourite author, or a great debut find. Or I’ll watch West Wing and Friends. Or listen to lots of rock and metal.

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

CR: I try to avoid controversy. I don’t think one needs to court it in order to be noticed. Maybe I’m too reserved online? There are certainly times when I see things that aggravate me, or examples of rank hypocrisy that can get me a little annoyed. But, ultimately, life’s too short. I am a man of many opinions, but I have thus far managed to exercise self-control.

SCy-Fy: There must have been one or two, though.

CR: Well, not many people liked my disappointed review of Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice – it attracted the usual “you’re wrong!” and poorly-executed, sophomoric snark. I thought the novel started off very well (wonderful opening chapter, actually), then I just got bored. Maybe I’ll try it again in the near future.

SCy-Fy: Any others?

CR: My review of Peter Cline’s Ex-Heroes didn’t go down well with someone who was obviously connected with either the original publisher or the author.

Otherwise, I have no idea if anything I’ve written has had a particular impact – you’d have to ask others. I don’t really think about that side of things.

SCy-Fy: Let’s finish with the best books of 2014.

CR: Hmm. That’s tricky – 2014 was a very good year for SFF. In no particular order (and sticking with fiction), probably the following: Sarah Lotz’s The Three, Claire North’s The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Sebastien de Castell’s Traitor’s Blade, M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All the Gifts, Marcus Sedgwick’s A Love Like Blood, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, and Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon. And that’s just off the top of my head. I’m bound to have missed someone. And, of course, I wasn’t able to read all of the 2014 releases I had wanted to…

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

CR: That’s a huge list. But, again off the top of my head: Daniel Polansky’s Those Above, Alex Marshall’s A Crown For Cold Silver, Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings, Sarah Lotz’s Day Four, Ian Tregillis’s The Mechanical, Benjamin Percy’s The Dead Lands, Peter V. Brett’s The Skull Throne, Stina Leicht’s Cold Iron, Col Buchanan’s The Black Dream, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Guns of the Dawn, Brian McClellan’s The Autumn Republic, Austin Grossman’s Crooked, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora, Ian McDonald’s Luna, Matthew Glass’s Fishbowl… .

SCy-Fy: You’ll be well on the way to achieving your ambition of owning All the Books.

CR: Thankfully, I already have a few of these… I’m also looking forward to anything new from Claire North, Robert Galbraith, John Sandford, Teresa Frohock, Edward Cox, and the new Kyle Mills novel (he’s taking over the Mitch Rapp series started by Vince Flynn, who passed away). I’m bound to have missed someone off. Please don’t be offended if I have.

SCy-Fy: Thank you, Stefan.

Interview with Pat Doherty (A Bitter Draft)

Welcome to another in this series of interviews with the people behind the blogs and sites. This time I’m shooting the breeze with Pat Doherty, webmaster of the speculative fiction blog A Bitter Draft, and inveterate Boston sports fan.

SCy-Fy: A Bitter Draft started in 2013. What have been the major challenges so far?

PD: It’s important for a new blogger to have a unique voice, and with the wide swathe of bloggers old and new, I think the challenge lies in making your voice heard as a new blogger when trying to break onto the scene.

Also, trying not to over-exert (for lack of a better term) yourself in blogging, as I did.

SCy-Fy: Blog burnout?

PD: I really overdid myself in my first year of blogging and have suffered several recent blog hangovers in which I lost a chunk of the niche I’d dug myself.

SCy-Fy: I’m sure you’ll win back that niche and much more. What are your future plans, Pat?

PD: That first year saw a wide variety of posts, from giveaways to genre discussions to guest posts and reviews. I’m just now getting back into regular posts, so I hope to get back to spicing things up.

SCy-Fy: What’s your blogging pattern?

PD: Unfortunately for myself at the current moment, I don’t have established blogging days. When I finish a book, I usually mull it over for a few days before I decide to review it. When I sit down to review, I can’t get up until the post is done. Once the creativity gets flowing, it’s always a bad idea to interrupt it even for the smallest amount of time, in my experience.

SCy-Fy: Thoughts on review style and format?

PD: I always found the old-fashioned buzzword review where each part of the book is analysed followed by a score at the end (something that isn’t quite as common anymore) to be sort of stale to my eyes. It’s something my very first review had and I have since tried to avoid doing it.

SCy-Fy: What kind of approach interests you more?

PD: I find that the more I read reviews, the more I like blogs that have a nice balance. Reviews that are massive walls of text are useful and informative in a lot of situations, but I’d rather read a few different reviews than one really long one. Hell, I’ve avoided using star scores, or any kind of scores outside of Goodreads, because it can be very difficult to give a book (or anything, really), a numbered rating.

Of course, this is just my opinion.

SCy-Fy: Have any posts of yours been controversial?

PD: I haven’t had the spark to create something truly controversial, but I’d say Teresa Frohock’s guest post on religion in Fantasy and David Hair’s follow-up both gathered a lot of attention and are definitely worth reading.

SCy-Fy: Let’s finish up – we both have teams that we want to watch. The best books of 2014?

PD: David Hair’s The Scarlet Tides was released in the US in 2014, and aside from that I’d have to say Brian McClellan’s The Crimson Campaign, Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Fools, Will McIntosh’s Defenders, and M. R. Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts.

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

PD: I’m really hoping Victor Milán’s Dinosaur Lords is good –

SCy-Fy: – we both love the cover, don’t we? It’s Lancelot on a T-Rex, by the look of it.

PD: Whoever coined the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” must have never seen covers like those.

SCy-Fy: Absolutely. If we can tear ourselves away from that one, what else are you looking forward to?

PD: Elizabeth Bear’s Karen Memory, Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings, Jo Walton’s The Just City, Dan Polansky’s Those Above, and the sequels of some of my favourite 2014 releases.

SCy-Fy: Any last words?

PD: Thanks for having me!

SCy-Fy: Thank you, Pat. Just in time – our games are starting!

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An Interview with Geekritique!

S. C. Flynn:

Hanging out with Dakota Lopez of Geekritique

Originally posted on Geekritique:

Hey, fellow geeks. Odd tidings. The tables have turned, and now I’m the one being interviewed. Fellow blogger and Science Fiction aficionado S.C. Flynn, has seen fit to interview me about my personal blogging experience. He’s on a mission to collect interviews from several science fiction/fantasy bloggers as a useful genre resource. Check out his site, S.C. Flynn, as he has a ton of really impressive blogs and podcasts already interviewed, or go directly to my interview. Either way, I’m reblogging it below.

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Today I’m hanging with Geekritique, or more formally Dakota Lopez. The blog’s title says it all. He’s a big geek and has a lot to say about popular culture, be that books, movies, shows, etc. As such, most of the content on Geekritique is reviews, but he’s not afraid to highlight movie trailers, editorials, or try and drum up conversation…

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Interview with Dakota Lopez (Geekritique)

Today I’m hanging with Geekritique, or more formally Dakota Lopez. The blog’s title says it all. He’s a big geek and has a lot to say about popular culture, be that books, movies, shows, etc. As such, most of the content on Geekritique is reviews, but he’s not afraid to highlight movie trailers, editorials, or try and drum up conversation with his followers.

SCy-Fy: Tell me one surprising thing about your blog, Dakota.

DL: Well, one thing most people don’t realize about my blog is that 100% of the content is produced on my personal iPad. I don’t have a computer at my disposal, currently. The reason being that I’ve found my way around the iPad well enough that I never find I need one. So all images I edit are done on my iPad. All typing is done on the iPad. And so on. After work I like to spill what’s on my mind, whether that be reviewing the book I just finished listening to at work, or ranting about how base the latest episode of a television series was.

SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives for the blog?

DL: I can’t say about future initiatives for Geekritique. I’m doing exactly what I want to do. And that’s the best thing about the blog. It’s a hobby and it’s one I hope to make better and better. One thing I hope to do more of in the future is reading and reviewing ARCs (Advanced Review Copies). I also hope to really help fledgling authors get their novels in some spotlight, holding a featured interview every now and then.

SCy-Fy: What about writing and blogging in general?

DL: I’ve begun writing short stories that take place in a fantasy world I’ve been bottling up for years. And you can find those at

SCy-Fy: Good luck with the stories. What do you think is the biggest current problem in SFF blogging?

DL: There are too many blogs rehashing the same thing. And this isn’t so much an issue with review blogs, as for the most part reviews are your own. However, whenever there’s a news article about which actor is going to be playing which superhero in an upcoming comic to movie adaption, thousands of blogs will rehash the same thing. I’m not exempt from that criticism, and it’s something I could truly see getting out of control in the future.

SCy-Fy: Any advice for bloggers and reviewers?

DL: You’ve got to work at your craft. It takes time. Do not expect money or advertising to sustain or keep your blog afloat. Do this because it’s what you want to do. Blog because you want to share something wonderful with others. Review because not everyone’s experience is similar. I may hate a book that you love. Tell me why. Express your thoughts. And this expression of self in blogs or reviews will help you if you ever wish to write fiction of your own.

SCy-Fy: On that point, any advice for writers?

DL: Your work is never finished. There’s always room for improvement. But getting honest opinions, having others help edit sentence structure, grammar choice, or story direction, and humbly accepting said opinions will insure your writing will succeed.

SCy-Fy: Do you have a list of useful resources to share?

DL: Oh, let’s see. I follow a plethora of larger blogs for news on happenings in the geek world, and ideas on what books I’d like to read next. To name a handful, I follow ComicBookMovie, IGN, io9, Crunchyroll,, and DoctorWhoTV.

SCy-Fy: Pitfalls in blogging that are difficult to avoid?

DL: I have an issue of using specific words multiple times during reviews. This isn’t so much a pitfall with the genre, as it is with the way I think. I’ll say “plethora” early on in a review, and then I’ll repeat it unconsciously throughout the rest of my piece.

SCy-Fy: A plethora of plethoras! Just as well I’m not too drunk at the moment. Meanwhile, back at the interview…

DL: This usually happens when I choose to stray from using words I would normally use in everyday speech. If I say a book is eloquent three times, in less than 500 words, I’m doing something wrong. To avoid this, I generally have to reread what I’ve written before I go ahead and post it, changing sentences or words around.

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

DL: In many ways Geekritique keeps my mind off of the hard times. Writing reviews or editorials helps me come to grips with whatever it is I’m dealing with. Therapeutic in a way. I think because it’s something I love to do, something I can be proud of doing, it urges me onward.

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

DL: Two come to mind. About six months ago I posted a blog on the 20 most anticipated anime of Summer 2014. Little did I know it’d get so much traffic. It’s actually really annoying that a post I created six months ago pulls so much weight on my blog. On slow days, I can count on that post to be my most viewed.

SCy-Fy: And the other one?

DL: My chronological viewing order of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yes, it is a post I love, but I wish some of my more recent articles or reviews would amass more page views. I don’t think I’ve ever had any controversy on a review. Maybe for my scathing review of Noah.

SCy-Fy: Daring. The best books of 2014?

DL: I’m a fantasy guy, through and through, with science fiction coming in a close second. But without a doubt my second favorite book of the year was Cibola Burn, a space opera by James S. A. Corey, and the fourth novel in his Expanse series (which will make its TV debut this year).

SCy-Fy: And I think the fifth book in the series will be out later this year?

DL: Yes. But I can’t stress how good Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance was, the second fantasy novel in the Stormlight Archive that has such extremely epic proportions it’s almost not worth trying to explain. If you’ve not read either of these series, your time will not be wasted.

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

DL: The first thing that comes to mind is Victor Milán’s Dinosaur Lords. Because dinosaurs. And lords.

SCy-Fy: What more do you need? It’s been a plethora talking to you, Dakota.