I've been thinking about science fiction and fantasy reviews and criticism since someone complained that my #JasonReadsShortStories recommendations didn't include negatives reviews. As I said in that thread, I focus on promoting short fiction which catches my eye. But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate negative reviews or in-depth literary criticism.
As Rose said, there is an underlying problem with the SF/F genre in that "people expect and even DEMAND a certain kind of authority (and criticizing gaze is definitely an expression of authority) from white men. Everybody else is at best an afterthought." They added, "I want to break the underlying assumption that only one demographic should offer an unbiased critical view."
Amen to that.
And as Bogi rightly pointed out, there are authors and other people who target any marginalized reviewers who dare write negative reviews or critical analyses. This harassment can cause people to stop reviewing altogether.
I also want to respond to Damien Walter's comment that "the culture of positive reviewing, and conflating reviewing and criticism, are a real problem for genre fiction." I understand where Damien is coming from with this comment, and should note he added that all he wants to see is a "culture of healthy criticism in the SF community."
However, I would argue the culture of SF/F criticism Damien desires already exists to a large degree. Is it perfect and always healthy? Far from it. Does it include and reach everyone in the genre? Again, no.
But there is more quality SF/F criticism and reviews being published today than at any time over the last few decades.
By way of example:
Where to find SF/F criticism and reviews
- Social media platforms such as Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter. Yes, you can find quality reviewing and criticism on social media. To find these reviewers and critics search hashtags like #DiverseBookBloggers or look for people such as Vanessa Fogg and A. Merc Rustad who also use their accounts to review fiction.
- A few of the quality online SF/F short fiction reviewers include Maria Haskins, Charles Payseur (both on Quick Sip Reviews and his column at Book Smugglers), and Forest of Glory.
- Bogi Takács is writing a new column for Tor.com exploring classics of QUILTBAG+ speculative fiction. Bogi also reviews at Bogi Reads the World, which is a must-read site, and has written excellent threads on supporting diverse SF/F reviewing.
- Tor.com publishes criticism such as Liz Bourke 's Sleeps With Monsters (focusing on the successes and failures of media in terms of portraying women) along with other critiques and reviews.
- Little Red Reviewer covers books and short fiction.
- Abigail Nussbaum writes a regular column on the academic site Lawyers, Guns, and Money.
- Aidan Moher reviews on both Tor.com and Barnes and Noble's site.
- Nerds of a Feather reviews genre books and related works.
- SF Bluestocking focuses on reviews and related commentary around SF/F and feminism.
- The NY Times' Otherworldly column, originally written by N.K. Jemisin and now covered by Amal El-Mohtar, is published multiple times a year.
- Swapna Krishna writes SF/F reviews for the LA Times and for SFFY Wire.
- Ada Hoffmann reviews autistic SF/F.
- Locus publishes probably the most comprehensive reviewing in the SF/F genre. As a bonus Locus recently added a new group of reviewers to their magazine, including Rachel Swirsky and Karen Burnham.
- Interzone and Black Static continue to publish excellent in-depth literary criticism, interviews, and reviews along with regular columns by Nina Allan, Jonathan McCalmont, Lynda Rucker, and others.
- Strange Horizons publishes regular reviews and criticism.
- SF Magazines offers SF/F and horror short fiction reviews.
- Tangent Online reviews most magazines in the SF/F genre. They also release an annual recommended reading list.
- Rocket Stack Rank continues to rank genre short fiction.
- Book Smugglers remains one of the premier SF/F review sites around. In particular I like their monthly Women to Read column by A.C. Wise, a continuation of her former SF Signal column (which is archived on her website).
- A.C. Wise also reviews stories at Apex Magazine.
- Cat Rambo reviews short fiction in magazines and anthologies at The Green Man Review.
- Kirkus reviews SF/F books, with some reviewers like John DeNardo even doing featured columns for the publication.
- The New York Review of Science Fiction continues its long run of criticism and now includes a good deal of content on their website.
- Speculative Fiction in Translation reviews works from around the world which have been translated into English.
- Steve Fahnestalk reviews long and short form SF/F works on Amazing Stories.
- And don't forget the many podcasts which do critical reviews and commentary, such as Breaking the Glass Slipper, the Skiffy & Fanty Show, Alan & Jeremy Vs Science Fiction, and Storyological.
And this list only focuses on English language reviews and criticism, and doesn't include book-length criticism released by publishers such as the University of Illinois Press (with their Modern Masters of Science Fiction series) and NESFA Press.
Overall, I stand by my statement that there is more quality SF/F reviewing and criticism being published today than at any time in the past few decades.
If my list missed anyone please let me know.
Writers of the Future
Lots of recent discussions across the SF/F genre about the connections between Writers of the Future and Scientology. While this connection has been explored before, new concerns are being raised that the contest gives "legitimacy" with regards to Scientology and its abusive practices.
For more, see this post from The Underground Bunker.
- The Internet Review of Science Fiction, which ceased publishing new content back in 2010, will shut down its website on May 1, 2018.
- Astrid and Greg Bear have created the Poul and Karen Anderson Memorial International Travel Fund to provide $1,000 each year so one international student can travel to the Clarion West Workshop. The 2018 fund was awarded to Ted Mahsun from Ipoh, Malaysia. Details>>
- Skyhorse Publishing will reduce the number of titles it publishes in 2018 by 25% and cut staff severely. Details>>
- The Romance Writers of America (RWA) released a statement on the RITA Awards and inclusivity. The RWA has been criticized for the lack of diversity among romance stories, including the fact that no African-American authors have ever won the award and make up less than 1% of RITA Award finalists.
- Soft Skull Press is accepting book-length manuscripts of literary fiction under 50,000 words of length during April 2018. Details>>
- HarperCollins editor Tessa Woodward is seeking submissions of historical and contemporary women's fiction authors. Woodward says "Normally, I only accept agented submissions on the Women's Fiction side but I'd like to open up my inbox - especially to authors of color and LGBTQ authors whose stories might be having trouble getting agents." Details>>
- Dana Snitzky, an editor for Longreads, wants to be pitched by more writers of color. Looking for long essay-type book reviews, interviews and essays. 2.5k+ words, pays $500. Send pitches to [email protected]. Details>>