Friday, January 3, 2014

Beginning of the Year - Looking Back, Peering Forward

Since everybody else out there's writing some sort of year-end wrap, I figure I might as well do one too. It's been a pretty exciting year as far as blogging goes and I'd like to take some time and evaluate what's gone on with my writing and promotion of all things heroic fantasy.
   Obviously, the biggest thing to happen was John O'Neil's invitation to join the ranks of Black Gate's bloggers. Last June, after I mentioned my this blog in a comment on BG, he asked if I'd like to do guest blog post. After a few e-mails it to try and narrow down what I'd write about, I debuted with "The Best New Sword & Sorcery of the Last Twelve Months." Despite the slightly misleading title, I was happy with the results and a lot of people read the article.
   This led directly to my present Tuesday slot at Black Gate. If you've been following along (and if you haven't, why not?), you know I've been mostly sticking to reviews. With these it's been a mix of books I've read, loved and need to get other people to read and books I've always meant to read but haven't. With the latter it's been an expectedly mixed bag: The Magic Goes Away was meh, Deepest, Darkest Eden was alright, and Three Against the Witch World and Jhereg were both blasts.
   Most of my other posts have been of the short S&S fiction being published in the 'zines. If I get one new person to read Swords and Sorcery Magazine, HFQ or BCS my time has been well spent. The only way S&S will survive is if fresh blood is pumped into its too-often sclerotic limbs by new writers. Encouraging them with reviews and criticism is a task I'm starting to relish.

   Finally, I've started working on the whole bit about why I'm doing what I'm doing. I started over at BG with "Why I'm Here - Part One" (and got into a debate about Star Trek with Howard Andrew Jones). With future installments I plan to look at the state of modern S&S, particularly compared to the old school stuff, the defensiveness I sometimes feel in the face of attacks on the old school stuff, and why I feel defensive. It's all a little vague and I'm pulling on articles and comments by a lot of different people on these very same things right now but I hope to turn out several posts on those subjects this coming year.

   The best thing to come out of the BG gig is the editing relationship between me and the luminous Mrs. V. I'm sort of lazy and very sloppy when it comes to editing myself. Heck, I advertise that in my profile. She, on the other hand, is meticulous, a mistress of grammar and pretty unfamiliar with the genre. I'm only writing 1,500 word articles but we go through them line by line. Her hyper attention to detail and grammar powers ensure my writing is correct. That third element of hers is the most valuable. Since she doesn't know the universe of references I'm using she confronts the assumptions I make of my audience's knowledge and forces me to make myself clearer. It's gotten a little testy at times, by which I mean I get defensive, but overall it's been dynamite. My BG posts are way better written, more coherent and more fun to read than what I do unaided on this site. I'm very happy with the way my writing's progressing and hope to see it continue on an upward curve. The posts I've delivered to BG, particularly on Night Winds, God Stalk and The Great Captains, are some of the best things I've written. 

   This year I'm looking to keep doing the same types of posts but make them better. I want to widen my purview to include some new books that I've bought in the last year to my usual roster of "vintage treasures." I also want to step up my short story reviews, by which I mean I want to start reading outside the same three (excellent) magazines I've been reading for the past two years. In his latest post, Keith West writes short stories are where "the lifeblood of genre is" and I'm down with that assessment. 

   The other thing I want to do this year is read more. I used to read sixty to seventy books a year but I've slacked off the last few years. Since I've been getting back up to speed I'm hoping to hit those numbers again. I want to catch up with Howard Andrew Jones' and James Enge's books and finish Ted Rypel's Gonji trilogy.  I want to read hardboiled books, especially some of Max Allan CollinsQuarry and Nolan books, some horror, particularly Laird Barron, and more of the neo-pulp being cranked out by folks like Ron Fortier. And I'm getting the Norton Critical Edition of The Pilgrim's Progress. Add to that list all the "literary" books I'd love to get to this year like Barnaby Rudge and it's overwhelming. Still, my hopes are high.


  1. Thanks for the link. And keep up the good work, both here and at Black Gate. Our tastes are similar enough that if you recommend something I haven't read, I give it serious consideration.

    I've read some of the Nolan and Quarry books and really liked. I also think Laird Barron is one of the top writers in the horror field these days.

  2. Always welcome for a link. Thanks for the compliment. I don't get how you run several sites and have a real life. I feel strangled by the BG deadline some weeks.

    I need to clean up my links for some other genre sites including Gumshoes, Gats, and Gams. I'm looking forward to your reviews over there. There's such thematic similarities between hardoiled, westerns and S&S that it deserves mention.

    It was the discussion on H A Jones' site the other day that made me want to check out Quarry. Looking that up reminded me of the Nolan books, Barron I learned about from BG and he makes me despair of ever trying to write fiction. There're parts in the story Hallucigenia that are perfect.