Friday, June 24, 2022

Quick Sips 06/24/2022

Hi all! I’m trying to dig my way clear to daylight, but please bear with me as my schedule slowly unfucks itself. The good news is that I did manage to turn my Locus column in on time (covering work mainly from May, June, and July though with a quick look back at some April stuff I was made aware of). And I’m actually catching up on some reading outside of my Locus responsibilities (moving through the last two months of Nightmare, The Dark, The Deadlands, Uncanny, and Apex). So there’s lots of good reading I’m getting in.

As I move through the midpoint of the year, something I want to touch on is the weird feelings of guilt and relief that comes with no longer reviewing as much as I had been, and in some instances not even reading some venues that I’ve followed and enjoyed for a long time. For instance, I haven’t read an issue of Clarkesworld since last year. And I do tend to like what Clarkesworld puts out. But with everything else, and largely because it’s so large a publication, I just haven’t gotten back to it, and I’m not sure that I will be. And hmm. I think there’s a decent conversation to be had about what the “core” of the genre is and what is outside of that. And how much people should care about it. For my part, I don’t. I read in part what I’m expected to read in my position. Were I responsible for covering Clarkesworld for Locus, I would be. As I’m not, it opens a weird space for me.

I do always encourage people to just find venues that you like and then otherwise read what you feel like. The field of short SFF is too big to take on comprehensively, and even trying can quickly lead to burnout and frustration (just ask…most short SFF reviewers who try). As a reviewer and now as an editor, though, does there arise some sort of obligation to try? It’s a decent question, and one that I’m not sure anyone can answer because…what would trying look like, if not doing exactly what I’m doing now? Could I fit Clarkesworld into my reading? I’m actually unsure. Probably if I could I would have. It’s not like I have suddenly opened up a bunch of free time in my life. And yet I feel that some would think this omission a failing, as some have found my lack of coverage of Asimov’s and Analog a failing. And…I don’t have much to offer to that. All of those are very large publications and take a big commitment to get through every month. Were they smaller I’d probably be more tempted. As is…

There are some arguments one could make about how to determine where the “core” should be. By what pays best, maybe? Or by what has a long tradition of award nominations. By the prestige of the editor. However the lines of the “core” are drawn, though, many will feel excluded for being on the outside of it. It’s a problem that really can only be overcome by engagement. If more people were engaged in drawing their personal cores, then what gets engaged with critically might greatly expand. If reviewers all are moved not by proximity to some sort of “required reading” but rather are pulled in the direction of their personal taste, then as long as the field of reviewers were diverse and acting in good faith, then the largest possible coverage would be achieved.

It’s a bit of a dream, perhaps, because engaging with the field as a reviewer takes time and effort and is rarely compensated. So those who cannot afford to devote the time and resources to doing it are locked out. As far as dreams go, though, it’s one that I personally am drawn to. Certainly much more than the idea that the field not only can but should be narrowed to the point where one can feel like they have a comprehensive knowledge of it. What’s “must read” in the field will change from person to person. Trying to apply a narrow filter for discussion so that we all have common reference points is kinda useless in my opinion if it means that for many those common points aren’t linked to the full enjoyment those readers could have found elsewhere.

But but but there I go again. Apologies. Basically, I’m coping with my feelings about not reading as much as I “should” by shrugging and keeping on regardless. As always, it’s the act of reading and reviewing that brings my joy, and so rather than debate what should and should not be allowed in the scope of my coverage, I’m just going to try my best to find as many stories that I’ll love as possible. I suggest people do likewise.

Outside of reading and reviewing, things progress. I’m still waist-deep in a number of projects for my local queer non-profit, and trying generally to get some resources out there during these…times. I’m excited but apprehensive about the Locus Awards this weekend, in part because I’m terrible when I’m a finalist (I’m still in the top 10 for We’re Here with C.L. Clark in the anthology category). I’m also on a panel about writing rules with some titans in the field, so further nerves abound. But! I’m hoping it will go well. We shall see!!!

Media-wise, nothing has really changed from last week. So things continue. Anyway, that’s it for now. Cheers!


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