I’m talking with Joe Sherry, who has been writing for far too long at Adventures in Reading. His reviews and articles have appeared in Fantasy Magazine, The Sacramento Book Review, and Speculative Fiction 2014.
SCy-Fy: Joe, you are one of the veterans of genre blogging.
JS: Let’s just say that I’ve been doing this for a long time. I started Adventures in Reading eleven years ago, which only seems long when I stop and think about everything that has changed.
There have been lots of changes in my personal life, almost all for the better, and the nature of the blogging landscape is just different. Bigger. Different. Many of the other blogs I read, followed and interacted with are long gone. Some are much quieter. A few are still around and kicking, though they’ve changed. In blog years, I think I’m past retirement age. At the very least, my joints creak if I blog too fast.
SCy-Fy: How has your approach changed in that time?
JS: I wrote about everything when I started. I don’t think I covered video games, but I wrote a lot about movies and books. Over time I shifted the priority to being about books, and primarily about science fiction and fantasy. I read a touch more widely than that, but I’d rather write about the genre than about general literature. Mostly.
I would review everything I read, but eventually that became a chore. Several years ago I asked to be removed from publishers’ mailing lists. As much as I enjoyed receiving free books in the mail, I wasn’t reading most of them and when I started reviewing less and less it didn’t feel right to accept these books that I would never review, let alone read. It wasn’t fair to the publisher and it was a waste of their money. Now I just write when or if I have the motivation to do so.
SCy-Fy: Was there a particular moment when things changed for you?
JS: When I realized I didn’t have enough interest in reviewing or even writing about A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, I knew I was done. I just was not willing to close the blog down yet, so every now and then I would hit a spurt where I would write a couple of reviews, write an essay or two on a topic that was burning in my mind, or maybe just post a list of what I was reading.
I’m never going to get back to where I was years ago, when I reviewed or wrote about everything I read, and then wrote essays about the topic of the day. I’m just not there.
While I still read as much as I did before, I just don’t want to write about it as much anymore. But somewhere in the back of my head, I enjoy keeping it going; but more at a keep-vein-open rate.
SCy-Fy: So what’s next?
JS: I hope to finish my Hugo Award reading so I can turn in a solid voting ballot. Then I’ll complete my write-ups for each category and follow it with an essay of some length about my overall thoughts on the awards and the whole Sad/Rabid Puppies mess – but in relation to the actual nominees, and after having taken the time to work through them all. Once the Hugos are done, I look forward to the World Fantasy Awards and I hope to have enough blogging energy to write about those.
SCy-Fy: Discussion on awards has been one of your favorite topics for a long time…
JS: It has. Even before I began to actively participate in the Hugo awards, I followed the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards. I think I have just enough space in my head to follow those three. Initially they provided a great reading list of books and stories that could potentially be considered some of the best the genre had to offer each year.
No award is perfect, and they are reflective of the organization giving them out and also of the process by which the nominations and final votes are tallied. I find myself looking into the World Science Fiction Society’s constitution far more often than I would have imagined and likely more often than most people who aren’t an active part of running the WSFS would ever consider doing. The WSFS is the organization that runs the Hugo Awards and selects the sites of Worldcon.
But besides basic awards nerdery, I like what the awards can do – which is to begin and continue a conversation among readers about what stories and books are the best and also to provide an opportunity for discovery. They can serve as introductions to all sorts of authors and books I never would have discovered otherwise, and that’s pretty cool.
SCy-Fy: You talked before about your own changing approach. What do you think will be the major future challenges for SFF blogging generally?
JS: Platform and visibility. There are countless review and commentary blogs and I only know of the ones that feature writers I’ve been aware of for years. Everything I say here is specific to the corner of the SFF online community that I am aware of.
Things may be different on other islands, but from where I sit, the popular and active single-author blog is disappearing or becoming less relevant overall. The best of those writers are getting picked up at larger sites and, presumably, getting paid (even if it is a small amount). That’s where the articles and essays that are being talked about occur, but then the conversations are happening on Twitter and elsewhere, not in the comments sections. Not usually, anyway.
So the challenge is how diffuse the online conversation is becoming and, if this is important to you, how to raise your profile enough that you become visible and can engage your writing with the larger conversations.
SCy-Fy: Tips for bloggers?
JS: Simply understand what your goals are and stick to what will help you get there. If you enjoy it, write. If you don’t…don’t. Blogging isn’t a competition. Also, be honest. Don’t be a jerk.
Don’t try to be something that you are not. Write what is authentic to you. Write for yourself, because if you don’t, you’re not going to keep at it.
SCy-Fy: What are you currently reading?
JS: I’m working through a series re-read of the Deryni novels from Katherine Kurtz; that’s the first time I’ve read some of those books in twenty years or so. The first two (Deryni Rising and Deryni Checkmate) very much hold up.
I’m also working through my Melanie Rawn re-read and am in the middle of her Dragon Star trilogy (Dragon Token is the next one up).
SCy-Fy: What have you enjoyed reading recently?
JS: Jim Butcher’s Skin Game was a very pleasant surprise. I had never read Butcher before and jumping in with Book 15 is a questionable decision, but even though I can imagine just how much I missed, it worked very well on its own.
I’ve enjoyed Diana Rowland’s White Trash Zombies series, Eric Flint’s 1632, Rachel Bach’s trilogy beginning with Fortune’s Pawn. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Signal to Noise is not to be missed. I read Brian McClellan’s Promise of Blood several months ago – I highly recommend that one, too.
SCy-Fy: Which books are you most looking forward to reading?
JS: I’m looking forward to some of the more obvious choices: Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie, the next Kameron Hurley, the new Scalzi, anything Elizabeth Bear publishes (I’m behind and need to read One-Eyed Jack and Karen Memory).
But many of the things I’m really looking forward to are just the books taking up space on Mount To-Be-Read: Larry Correia’s first Monster Hunter book, more Deryni, more Elizabeth Moon, Kate Elliott, Katherine Kerr, a Jennifer Roberson re-read, catching up with Myke Cole, Brian McClellan, and James S.A. Corey. Or, everything.
SCy-Fy: Is there a consistent approach to reading in there?
JS: There is: read widely. You never know who your new favorite writer will be, and sometimes finding out will surprise you.
SCy-Fy: Thank you, Joe.
JS: Thank you!