Welcome to the twentieth in this series of interviews with the people behind the science fiction and fantasy blogs, podcasts and zines. My guest today is Ria from bibliotropic.net, the self-declared best SFF review blog in Atlantic Canada. Ria claims she is an agendered asexual human being who can neither read enough books nor drink enough tea, and can often be found in the company of cats.
SCy-Fy: Ria, what do you think will be the biggest problems that SFF blogging will face in the near future, say 3-5 years from now?
B: I think many of the problems SFF will face in the near future will be many of the same ones it faces today. Primarily, representation. We’re making great strides in inclusion and diverse representation, but we still have a long way to go, and I think these problems are still going to be around 3-5 years from now too. Sadly.
SCy-Fy: Posts of yours that have had the most impact or controversy so far?
B: Probably the top 3 would be Why I Selfishly Want Gender Diversity in my Reading, On Bullying and Author Interaction and the very tongue-in-cheek What a Girl Wants: What Girls in Geekdom are Allowed to do. I wouldn’t say they’re particularly impacting in the sense that they made some great difference to the world, but they involve passions of mine and involved controversy, and I’m still rather proud of having written them.
SCy-Fy: What’s a typical blogging day for you?
B: A typically blogging day can vary, honestly. I’ll often write up posts in advance, especially reviews, so sometimes a typical blogging day involves me sitting down at my laptop and writing for a few hours, and at other times it involves the posts actually going live without me having to do anything. I find this works better than trying to rush to my computer as soon as I’ve finished reading or when I have an idea for a post; makes everything easier to handle and to schedule.
I’ll also set up some Tweets via FutureTweets, linking to past reviews that I’ve written. It keeps old stuff from just disappearing into the background and never being seen again.
So that’s my blogging day in a nutshell. Not too exciting, but it gets the job done!
SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives for the blog?
B: Mostly up until now Bibliotropic has focused on books, but I want to branch out and include reviews for video games and movies too. They’re both large parts of my life that I enjoy very much, and I’ve wrestled with the idea of whether or not to include commentary on them for a while. But I think it’s time to start expanding that focus a bit. It’ll still be primarily about books, but more often I’ll include things about SFF video games and movies, to add some variety.
Of course, I’d also like to expand my readership, but that’s kind of a universal thing among bloggers, especially ones who are trying to drum up excitement about awesome things!
SCy-Fy: Advice for bloggers and reviewers?
B: The biggest piece of advice I have applies for all three: stick to it. You won’t get success overnight. You will improve as time goes on. My first reviews were, um, embarrassing. Short, not saying much, and largely without context because I wasn’t half as well-read as I thought I was. I rated things highly then that would not pass muster with me now.
SCy-Fy: For writers?
B: And so it goes with writing, too. Writing and reading go hand-in-hand, and my fiction writing has improved a lot just from reading so much more, from more sources, and from writing reviews and having to examine books for what worked and what didn’t. As you go, as you experience more from both a writer’s and a reader’s side of things, your skills definitely do improve.
SCy-Fy: Just between us – your secret list of useful resources?
B: My secret list isn’t so secret, and “useful” is relative. For newer book reviewers who have an e-reader, I definitely suggest netgalley.com, though. Publishers upload e-books for reviewers, and to be perfectly honest, that site kept my blog going for a long time, before I could build up a better relationship with people in the industry. It’s an excellent site; not without its drawbacks, but still a valuable resource.
Secondly, Twitter. Again, not so secret, but holy crap, what would I have done without Twitter? It’s helped me connect not only with new readers, but also the authors and artists and publishers who I rely on to create the very things I review and love!
SCy-Fy: Pitfalls in reviewing that are difficult to avoid?
B: One of the biggest pitfalls in book reviewing is being able to tell the difference between something that’s good and something you enjoyed. The two don’t always go hand in hand. Sometimes a book is undeniably good but you know it just wasn’t for you. Sometimes you end up enjoying things that, objectively, you have to admit aren’t that high in quality. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of, either; we all like some truly terrible stuff now and again because it happens to trip the right triggers with us. The trick is telling the two things apart.
SCy-Fy: Things that have kept you going in hard times?
B: The support and patience of the friends and authors I’ve met over the course of my blogging. I suffered some rather large health dramas, and at one point had to take a long hiatus from blogging; I just couldn’t keep up with it and still try to manage my health. But through all of that, I had support, and friends, and people willing to help me out where they could. It’s amazing what the SFF community can do for a person. Even just knowing that there are people out there rooting for you to get better can do wonders.
SCy-Fy: The best books of 2014?
B: Crap on a cracker, you want me to choose?! Well, Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem blew my mind with how awesome it was. Jo Walton’s My Real Children was a beautiful heartbreaker. Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire was an amazing epic fantasy. Sebastien de Castell’s Traitor’s Blade was just so very much fun! I have a hard time narrowing these things down during my end-of-the-year Best Of lists, and it gets harder every time. There are just so many to pick from!
SCy-Fy: And lots of promising future releases as well…
B: Definitely! There’s Liu Cixin’s The Dark Forest, sequel to The Three-Body Problem. Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings. Nnedi Okorafor’s The Book of Phoenix. Jo Walton’s The Philosopher Kings, since I loved The Just City so much earlier in the year. There are so many books I’m looking forward to reading in 2015, and that doesn’t include anything from my backlog, either!
SCy-Fy: Any last words?
B: Happy reading!
SCy-Fy: Thank you, Ria, and good luck with everything.