Frequently Asked Questions
Read these questions before sending me an email, folks. Read letters of comment here.
How do you find the time to read so many books and review them all?
Easy. I have no life. Next.
Why did you review "Title X" but not "Title Y"? (Corrolary: Why aren't there any books reviewed by [insert author's name]?)
Much as I would love to be able to read as fast as Data on Next Generation, I can't. I have been clocked at 1125 WPM with 95% retention, but my normal recreational reading speed is about 625 WPM. Basically, when you're reading for pleasure, it sucks to speed-read. My current reviewing priority favors the newest titles I receive every month from major publishers, and I get more of those than I can handle. Retro titles that are reviewed are chosen, most commonly, when I'll use a review of an author's newest work as justification for reviewing some of their older books as well. At bottom priority, sorry to say, are small press or self-published works. The unfairness of the fact that these are the very books that need review attention most of all, certainly more than a major release that's going to sell like crack regardless of what reviewers say, is not lost on me. But the general reading public do want to know about the bigger titles as a rule, so one must draw a balance between keeping butts in seats, so to speak, where your site traffic is concerned, and making sure the smaller titles get a fair shake. As for noteworthy authors still not included — and there are many — rest assured, I'll get to them as soon as I can.
One way to persuade me to get to a certain book faster is either just to e-mail me a request or recommendation, or post it to the Forum.
I wrote a book! Go me! How do I send you a review copy?
First, go you! Now, if your book has come out from a mainstream publisher, well, get their publicists to send me a review copy. That's their job. If you're a self-publisher or small presser, send me a query email for the snail address, after you have read my long, ranty page full of friendly advice for small press writers. I want the best for you, I do. But realistically, only a minute fraction of the small press stuff I see ends up getting reviewed here. Also, if a book does not exist in dead-tree form, but only as an e-book, I don't review those. Call me an old-school champion of physical media.
I hate spoilers! Do your reviews have them?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I do my level best to give detailed plot synopses that don't contain spoilers that would ruin your reading experience. But I admit sometimes this can be difficult due to the prevalence of series fiction in fantasy and SF publishing. Reviewing second, third, and later novels in a series often requires plot synopses that reveal spoilers for previous volumes. On the rare occasions that I do reveal a spoiler, sometimes I will print it in white "spoiler text," that you won't be able to read unless you deliberately highlight it. Also, I announce at the beginning of a review if it contains spoilers.
I would like to submit a book review for publication.
Sorry, but I don't do that. In the same way that rogerebert.com is where one goes for reviews by Roger Ebert, SFReviews.net is my site, though I'm delighted to have people send me recommended-reading lists. If you wish to put your own book reviews on the web, by all means feel free to start your own site. Indeed, there has been a veritable explosion of book blogging since I started this site in 2001. Many other sites like FantasyLiterature.com or Book Spot Central have massive teams of a dozen or more reviewers and are generally open to seeing submissions from new people.
By having all the reviews on this site coming from a single source, it is easier for readers to judge what my tastes and attitudes are towards fiction, and thus know how to use my reviews helpfully. You can count on honesty and integrity unswayed by fears that a certain advertiser or buddy-in-the-publishing-biz might be offended (another problem that hampers the reliability of certain trade mag reviews IMHO). Some people might have opinions that are polar opposites of mine and thus use the reviews to seek out books I thought sucked.
Can I order the books you review directly from the site?
Why, of course you can! Just pass your cursor over the image of the book cover in any given review. If the image turns out to be a link, then you're just a click away from ordering that book from Amazon. Ordering from Amazon is good juju for me, too, because I get nifty gift certificates when you do it. So order lots, and often! (There are links, where available, to Amazon UK listings too, for my readers there.) In 2008 I also began adding links to the indie booksellers site Powell's. I had hoped to add BN.com and Borders.com as well, but their associates programs seemed absurdly complicated and needlessly difficult to navigate.
What's a "VLFN"?
An abbreviation I made up to refer to the "Very Long Fantasy Novel," in reaction to the current and often misguided thinking in the fantasy genre that extreme length — 600 to 1000 pages or more — equals greatness. Of course, some VLFN's are quite worthwhile (such as George R.R. Martin's A Clash of Kings), but many aren't, and a boring book that's also really really long can be the literary equivalent of waterboarding. Since I've had to explain the term so much, I use it less now than when I launched the site.
What does the year after each book title signify?
This is the year the work was first copyrighted and presumably published, although the latter may not necessarily match the former. The book cover art shown in each review does not necessarily reflect the first edition, nor is it necessarily the cover of the edition currently in print.
Do you ever do appearances at any conventions?
Yes, I love to go to a good con. For obvious reasons, the ones I attend tend to be in my area (Texas). If you're on a con committee from outside Texas and would like to have me, well, I'd love to come, but I would probably need assistance with my travel/lodging expenses and, frankly, for most cons that's not something you do except for the GoH. And web critics aren't GoH material.
Revised January 3, 2011.