After weeks of kneeling outside in supplication, I have finally been admitted to the presence of Ken, the Zen master blogger behind Neth Space, a SFF review and discussion blog that has been around since 2006.
SCy-Fy: Ken, you’ve been blogging for a very long time. Where to from here for you?
NS: I’m passed having such things as future initiatives. For me it’s just about keeping on doing what I’m doing. After almost 10 years I’ve run a few circles around on having plans, initiatives, goals and the like. But these days it’s just to continue on – post the occasional review. Participate in discussions elsewhere (mostly Twitter). In a few years as some of my professional commitments wrap up, I hope to find time to attend a few conventions.
SCy-Fy: Where to for SFF blogging in general, do you think?
NS: Blogs have been around roughly 15 years now and really hit their peak at least 5 years ago. So the challenge for SFF blogging will be to adapt to whatever comes next. We’ve already seen the death of comments and a shift to places like Tumblr and Twitter for actual discussion.
The other big challenge is all the hate on the internet. I think that there is a real risk that it will drive many away from the internet. Particularly anyone who ends up as a target of that hate – nobody wants to put up with that shit. I’ve been there a bit (though mildly), and I must say it just makes you want to quit it all. And anyone who’s taken a week or two off from the internet usually finds it a very pleasant time.
SCy-Fy: Have any of your posts had particular impact or controversy?
NS: Over 10 years? It’s hard to say. It’s hard to argue that over a long timeframe any of my posts have had a lasting impact or controversy. With these sort of things, it’s always a short fuse, high/fast burn, and then forgotten. That’s probably as it should be.
My most recent posts that have been anything close to controversial are two posts around my ‘dissenting’ opinion of Ancillary Justice (review, follow up). But then again, those are largely forgotten now. It could be argued that the reviews I’ve written that were published in Speculative Fiction 2012 (here) and Speculative Fiction 2014 (here) have some impact as they are now immortalized in a “best of” collection. But I think any real lasting impact I’ve had is very individual and involves me connecting a reader with a book they love. That’s a victory and the most I would strive for.
SCy-Fy: What have been the best books you have read recently?
NS: Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Wisp of a Thing by Alex Bledsoe, and The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. I’m usually a bit behind the more prolific blogger/reviewers out there since I don’t read that many books these days, so I know there are some great books out there I haven’t gotten to yet.
SCy-Fy: What about future books?
NS: There are always tons and I’m always discovering more. So, any book by authors that I really enjoy reading – those mentioned in answer to the preceding question are a decent start – and most of those that my peers love are all books I’m excited about. But as always, I am most looking forward to the unanticipated gem that I will read this year – hopefully more than one!
SCy-Fy: After so many years of blogging, how do you approach it now?
NS: The short answer to this is procrastination.
The typical blogging day for me comes very sporadically, making a blogging day far from a typical day. It usually involves me needing a distraction from the day job, so I take an hour or two to write up a review. Usually I let that review sit for at least a few hours before I edit and post. These days I often write a review several months after I actually finish the book – that’s far from ideal, but I’m too busy to do otherwise.
However, occasionally, when I really have something to say about a book, the review practically writes itself shortly after I’ve finished the book. It’s pretty rare for me to do anything other than a review anymore.
SCy-Fy: Do you have any advice for bloggers?
NS: Make a plan and stick to it. Then change the plan when needed. Don’t be aimless, and always make sure that you have an actual personality. Have realistic goals and stay true to them. Be honest with yourself about what your actual goals are. If you can, don’t worry about traffic.
SCy-Fy: Any for reviewers?
NS: Forget about the false concept of objectivity. A review is an opinion – embrace it. Make it subjective. Back up your opinion; after all, a well-thought out and informed opinion is generally better than a thoughtless and reactive one. Be aware of and supportive of the fact that others will have very different opinions than you. It’s OK. Don’t fear the negative review, but don’t be an asshole either.
SCy-Fy: What do you see as the biggest dangers in blogging?
NS: Pandering. Whether pandering for attention, page views, free stuff, whatever. Stay true to yourself and the online identity you build.
Also, remember why you do this – if it’s for fun/entertainment, don’t turn it into work. If you are on a professional mission, then treat it like it is professional work. And whatever your do, don’t ever take yourself too seriously.
SCy-Fy: What keeps you going?
NS: RSS Feeds and Twitter. I have no time these days, so knowing that it’s not critical to post every day, every week or even every month keeps me going.
SCy-Fy: Thank you, Ken.
NS: Thanks! This has been fun – I think this is the 4th interview I’ve done as a blogger, and it’s always an interesting journey through the looking glass. I’d like to think my perspective is of interest to others out there – especially since I tend to approach blogging a bit differently now that I’m a crotchety old bastard in internet years.
The pretentious bastard in me may even use a term like ‘zen blogger’, but of course that would be bullshit.
SCy-Fy: Oh. You might have told me that before… . Well, back down the mountain for me. Thanks again.