My guest today is Megan, who blogs about SF old and new at From Couch to Moon.
SCy-Fy: What’s been happening on the blog recently, Megan?
FC2M: I just completed two big initiatives: an introductory read of Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun, in which I get a little silly, and a big American-flavored review series of the awesome 2014 British Science Fiction Association shortlist.
SCy-Fy: What’s next?
FC2M: I will continue my vintage Hugo Award coverage this summer, as we count down to the farce that is the Hugo Awards. I’ll attempt a second, transsubstantial read of The Book of the New Sun later down the road… it isn’t easy.
SCy-Fy: What is your usual blogging pattern?
FC2M: I’m a slow blogger. I mainly aim to read one or two books per week, and then I spend a couple of weeks digesting and reviewing them. I usually tinker with my reviews during early mornings and weekends. My actual career consumes a lot of my attention, so nothing blog-related happens during the work day.
SCy-Fy: What do you think will be the major future challenges for SFF blogging?
FC2M: I’ve seen other bloggers respond that blogging is going the way of curated and compiled commercial blogs, but I think that’s apples and oranges. For the traditional blogger, as long as the Internet remains free and open, we’re good. Not all of us desire to monetize our reading experiences.
What most threatens us are general threats to the Internet: calls against blogger anonymity, online harassment, international firewalls, commodification of digital resources, and literal Internet warfare. The Internet as we know it might not be around for long. Where will my jokes about Larry Niven’s sweet potatoes go after that?
SCy-Fy: Tips for bloggers? For reviewers? Writers?
FC2M: For bloggers, be genuine and adaptable. Be wary of attention. Foster community building over career building. Value personal growth over self-promotion.
For reviewers, be critical. You are readers — experienced readers — so don’t apologize for, or waffle on, your opinions. Constant positivity is about as helpful as a toothpaste commercial.
For writers, be tolerant of irreverence and criticism. Other modes of pop culture welcome and flourish under criticism and mockery, but the book world is abnormally sensitive in this regard. Besides, not everyone who reads my blog agrees with me. My opinion might result in some contrarian book purchases.
SCy-Fy: Which resources do you make most use of?
FC2M: Because From Couch to Moon is a discovery blog, I prefer to read books cold, without much background knowledge about them. I’m already intruding on established opinions by reading books countless others have already read, so if my review happens to echo or contradict previously established opinions, at least it will be organic.
For that reason, I usually save my research for the post-experience. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database and The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction are the best places to start for objective data and SF taxonomy. The Coode Street Podcast is also a delightful resource that I rarely have time to enjoy. Worlds Without End is my favorite book tracker system. Of course, reading a variety of professional review columns, even in non-SF venues, doesn’t hurt either.
There are many, many other wonderful bloggers whom I have had the fortune to befriend. Too many to name, but they often appear in the comments section of my blog. All are talented readers and reviewers with a variety of tastes. I recommend them all.
SCy-Fy: Traps in SFF blogging?
FC2M: Well, first there’s the reading. Then the reviewing. Then the responding to comments. Then the researching. Then the reading and commenting on other blogs. Then the Twitter! When do I get to read again?
SCy-Fy: Things that have kept you going in hard times?
FC2M: I can’t imagine hard times for FC2M. This is mainly just an outlet for me to explore the SF genre, in order to achieve a more satisfying reading experience. And it’s worked! Over two years ago, I was ready to dump SF because every book I read felt like the same stupid book. That’s no longer the case, so times are very good.
SCy-Fy: Glad to hear it! Posts of yours that have had the most impact or controversy?
FC2M: Regarding controversy, it’s hard to say, although I’m sure it happens. We operate in a subtweet culture (which is also sometimes a subBlog or subTube culture), and I haven’t yet attracted the ire of the more direct, vitriolic fans. Online pile-on activity has squashed any chance of strong, intelligent public discussion, so I cherish the few people who are willing to engage with me.
Regarding impact, that’s also difficult to measure. My blog is growing, so every post seems to attract its own level of attention. And I never know what that means because most of my readers don’t talk to me. Outside of my usual blogger buddies, I’m generally pretty shy. I imagine other people are, too.
SCy-Fy: What have been the best books you have read recently?
FC2M: The best vintage SF I’ve read recently is Leigh Brackett’s pastoral post-apocalyptic tale, The Long Tomorrow (1955), and John Brunner’s fiery and textured Stand on Zanzibar (1968). David Gerrold will be a Guest of Honor at this year’s WorldCon, and I highly recommend his psychologically-daring, LGBTQ-themed The Man Who Folded Himself (1973).
I’m sure people are sick of hearing this from me, but, for recent fiction, people who have not yet read Wolves by Simon Ings, The Race by Nina Allan, and Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson are missing out. The ongoing politics of SF fandom overshadows truly excellent, progressive fiction. I’m lucky I took the plunge with those three novels last year.
SCy-Fy: Which upcoming releases are you most looking forward to?
FC2M: I’m a cheater reader when it comes to new SF, so I’ll spend most of my year reading vintage SF, and then I’ll cherry-pick from the “Best of” lists that come out in December. Maybe one day I’ll be cutting edge, but I’m working to deepen my SF education for now. It’s endless!
Kim Stanley Robinson is one of the few authors for whom I’ll ditch my reading schedule any time. I may not blog about it since half the world will beat me to it, but Aurora will get my attention in July.
SCy-Fy: Anything else to add?
FC2M: Thanks for inviting me to your blog! You’re filling a valuable niche by connecting our wide and oft-contentious field!
SCy-Fy: Thank you, Megan.