Today I’ll be chatting with Graham Sim, who writes for and co-manages Stranger Views with John Ridley. Stranger Views was born from Graham and John’s love of great science fiction shows beginning with the letter ‘F’: Firefly, Farscape and the little known Swedish classic Farnswargglee. The site was primarily created as a place to look at and celebrate short stories, TV shows, books, movies and whatever else they think fits.
SCy-Fy: Stranger Views is a new site, Graham – what are your plans for it?
GS: To post more reviews of self-published books, more short stories and gain a wider audience for both my writing and, more importantly, the other contributors to Stranger Views.
SCy-Fy: As regards self-published novels, which ones did you most enjoy reading in 2014?
GS: Rust Season 1 by Christopher Ruz and The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree by S. A. Hunt. These two self-published novels were the inspiration for devoting part of Stranger Views to self-published works.
SCy-Fy: Which forthcoming ones are you most looking forward to reading?
GS: Erm, tough one. If you’d asked me a week ago I would have said Ten Thousand Devils by S. A. Hunt (which is part three of the Law of the Wolf series that began with Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree) but I’ve finished that now. Ten Thousand Devils has just been chosen as best self-published novel of 2014 by the Reddit Fantasy community. Now I’m just looking forward to reading through the list of self-published books I have to read.
SCy-Fy: Looking forward 3-5 years, what do you think will be the major challenges for SFF blogging?
GS: As Stranger Views is only a few months old, I’m not sure I can give any great insights into the future of blogging. That said, I think blogging is going to become (even) more of a commercial tool and as such it will be harder for any small blog to be found. I will not be surprised if in three years every type of publishing/ production company really starts pushing blogging with a view to attracting an audience prior to the release of their content.
SCy-Fy: How would you see that working, precisely?
GS: For example, if I were a publisher planning to release a space opera novel in a years’ time, I would have my staff set up a blog and post content about other space opera novels on a regular basis, thus improving the Google ranking for the relevant terms. You could then introduce forums and really start to build a community around this topic. This then creates an engaged audience to which selling your space opera book (or more likely books) should be straightforward.
SCy-Fy: Where will that leave the rest of us, do you think?
GS: If this comes to pass I hope they will use guest bloggers but worry they will just fill the site with asinine but Google-pleasing posts, which could lead to smaller blogs being drowned out.
SCy-Fy: Any advice for writers and reviewers?
GS: Personally I spend far too much time thinking about writing and not enough time writing. So if you are like me my tip is simply to write.
For reviewing I try to keep in mind that any idiot can find fault with anything and that it is better to strive to find positives than it is to tear something down for fun. It’s also a lot more fun to write about something you enjoy and then tell others about why you enjoy it than it is just being snarky about something.
I admit that I did not follow this advice when giving my somewhat aggressive reviews of a few episodes in last season’s Doctor Who.
SCy-Fy: Tell me about a typical blogging day.
GS: My blogging day is fairly straightforward. I try to get at least an hour in before I go off to work and then will try and get a few hours in when I get home. A lot of my reading ends up being done on my 50 minute each-way commute.
SCy-Fy: Just between us – your secret list of useful resources?
GS: I wish I had one. I bookmark lists of blogs (like the one on your site) and read through them when I have the chance. I also favourite tweets when I think it is something I may want to go back to later. This actually makes me seem a lot more organised than I actually am.
SCy-Fy: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about blogging so far?
GS: Just because you have an opinion about something doesn’t mean it is worth writing about, there has to be a hook or a genuine reason for why what you are writing is necessary for you to write. If you can’t find a unique angle there probably isn’t a lot of point writing a post or even a review. This doesn’t mean you need some ground-breaking insight, but simply that there should be a reason for your post.
SCy-Fy: Such as?
GS: For example, posting on a lesser known film in Netflix makes sense as people are always on the lookout for new films they may not have heard about (especially if they have a Netflix subscription), whereas being the 1 millionth person to review The Hobbit may be pointless unless you bring a new voice to the party. For example, my post on Interstellar (Four Reasons You Must Watch Interstellar) did far better than my reviews of Guardians of the Galaxy and Dawn of Planet of the Apes, which is why I won’t be doing similar reviews in the future.
SCy-Fy: Things that have kept you going in hard times?
GS: Caffeine. Lots and lots of caffeine. Oh, and whiskey. Just noticed my wife is looking over so should probably say her too.
SCy-Fy: Posts of yours that have attracted the most controversy?
GS: I don’t know if any of my posts are particularly controversial but there have been a couple of discussions on Google+ sparked by my posts. Four Reasons Why You Must Watch Interstellar (http://www.strangerviews.com/movies/four-reasons-must-watch-interstellar/) got a very mixed response. There was a prevalent opinion in one community that as Nolan hadn’t abided strictly by scientific rules then the film didn’t work. This is an increasingly common complaint about many works of science fiction, with seemingly every film having to get a physicist’s seal of approval before it can be considered science fiction or even worthwhile. This is a relatively modern idea and one I disagree with. The ‘fiction’ in science fiction is just as important as the ‘science’.
SCy-Fy: And the other discussion?
GS: Similarly, a post on the use of the poet Keats in Dan Simmons’ Hyperion attracted criticism on the grounds that Hyperion was a work for immature minds as it wasn’t science-based and was therefore ‘just’ escapism. When I suggested that would also relegate the complete works of Shakespeare to being just escapism for immature minds the reply was that Shakespeare was a hyper-realist who was poking fun at people who couldn’t handle reality. I can’t see what validity this viewpoint has, and would be surprised if Shakespeare would recognize this argument.
SCy-Fy: Oh, for a time machine…
GS: Though these were just two small discussions about a couple of my posts, they highlight what appears to be a growing argument about just how important accurate science is in science fiction.
SCy-Fy: Any last words?
GS: First, thanks for having me!
Second, whatever happens in 2015 let’s hope we all take the time to read some of the excellent stuff that is out there on other people’s blogs. There are a lot of talented writers in the world; it’s our job to find the ones that connect with us.
SCy-Fy: Thanks, Graham, and good luck with everything!