Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Who I Am, What I Do, Why I Do It

This is not a mission statement.

I’ve been doing this for a while and just figured it was time to introduce myself.

Who I Am
My name is humpty, it rhymes with an umpty.

Oh, wait. That’s someone else. My name is Joe. I live and work in Minnesota. I’ve been married since October 2001 and we have a (so far) three year old cocker spaniel named Balou. My mother tells me I learned to read at age 3 and I really haven’t stopped since. For years I mostly read The Hardy Boys and The Three Investigators, but I discovered Fantasy after I moved (or was moved) from New York to Minnesota before 8th Grade. Just before I moved I heard kids talking about Xanth and how exciting and “adult” it was. After I discovered the joy of the local library I read A Spell for Chameleon and I was hooked. I rolled through Piers Anthony, moved on to David Eddings (formative fantasy reading in my youth), and found Terry Brooks, Anne McCaffrey, and Raymond Feist.

Now I’m 29 and my tastes have changed somewhat. I find some of the beloved authors of my youth to be nearly unreadable now and those that I do still try to read haven’t entirely held up. I’ve found new SFF friends: Elizabeth Bear’s Promethean Age novels, Glen Cook’s Black Company, John Scalzi, Tobias Buckell, Octavia Butler, Cherie Priest, George R. R. Martin, Kage Baker, Justina Robson, Stephen King, Mary Robinette Kowal, Lucius Shepard, Joe Lansdale, Emma Bull, Matthew Stover, Carrie Vaughn, David Anthony Durham, Scott Lynch, Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, Karen Traviss. Many others.

I still have a deep fondness for the writers of my youth. They formed part of how I understand the genre and were perfect gateway drugs to the rest of the field. I don’t get to George Martin without David Eddings. I don’t get to David Anthony Durham without Raymond Feist. I don’t get to Cherie Priest without Piers Anthony. And so on. I don’t understand the genre as I do (right or wrong) without starting where I did. So, I’m grateful to those writers. I loved their work once. I remember it fondly.

If you’d like to contact me, to ask a question or to complain about something or just to say something nice and pleasant, I can be reached at j sherry AT gmail DOT com (remove the spaces and do what you need to do to make it look like an e-mail address). I’d like to hear from you, be it readers or writers.

What I Do

As a fan of the genre I want to write about, in some capacity, what I’m reading. So, in one sense, that’s what Adventures in Reading is about: What I’m reading and what I think about it. Call it a review, call it a blurb, call it babbling. Call it whatever. I’m not so link heavy as other blogs, though I try to link what I find to be especially interesting to me. If I think about it. Otherwise, this is mostly a review blog. I read, I review. I don’t review everything I read because sometimes I just don’t have much to say. For example, I’m reading Troy Denning’s Dark Nest trilogy in the Star Wars Universe. I’m midway through Book Two and it just sucks horribly. I’m not writing about it. I just don’t have a thing to say about it that is worth saying.

I will go negative review, though, (Sung in Blood, A Cruel Wind) if the book merits it and I have something to say. I try to be fair though still express why, exactly, I think the book is not very good. I’ll post if I give up on a book midway through.

And then I’ll praise to high heaven (however high that is) a book or author that I love (Whiskey and Water).

From time to time I do receive books from publishers to review. If it is a book I requested, what this guarantees is that I will review the book fairly and in a reasonable amount of time. It doesn’t guarantee I will like it (again, see Sung in Blood and A Cruel Wind). If my review is to mean anything, assuming it does, it is only because I am honest in what I think is good and not good. However, if the book simply shows up in my mailbox, I am more likely to review the book, but I do not feel there is necessarily an agreement to review.

Some publishers who have been goodly enough to send me review copies include: Night Shade Books, Subterranean Press, Pyr, Golden Gryphon, Prime Books, Tachyon Publications, and Paper Golem. These publishers (and others, in a lesser capacity) have given me the opportunity to read and discover books and authors I may not otherwise have discovered. In turn, the review itself is a form of publicity for the publisher. This is why I try to include a disclaimer at the bottom of a review when I have received a review copy so that this can be taken into consideration. Given that I have reviewed several review copies unfavorably, I would like to feel that I do not simply give a positive review just to keep getting more books in the mail (as delightful as that is).

Why I Do It

The short answer is because I enjoy writing about books. I may not think as deeply as some other online writers do, but I enjoy what I do and I’d like to do more of it. I’d like my reviews to get better, to get deeper into the works. I have started to submit reviews to venues like Strange Horizons and am looking at other avenues to sell my reviews / online writing. It’s not really about the money. It can’t be. Strange Horizons pays $20 per review and obviously money hasn’t been a concern over the last three years. Not that I would turn down a wheelbarrow full of money, but the bottom line is I’m doing something that I like in a genre that I like. Period. I prefer reading SFF and the majority of the time, that’s what I’m going to write about.

I’m not at all naïve about the fleeting nature of internet fame (of which I have none) or what the visibility I have means (very little). In the long run, and likely the short run, it means nothing. But, this site is for me, and for any reader who finds what I have to say interesting or valuable in some sense. That’s why I do it.

I would love to continue this site while having opportunities to work on other things within the SFF field, whether it is selling the occasional review to Strange Horizons or being a staff reviewer for some other publication or writing articles of some sort for another. If nothing comes of the attempts to sell some work, that’s okay. I do this because I want to. That’s enough.

Now, if someone has a spare wheelbarrow full of money they don’t need...


ThRiNiDiR said...

Hey Joe, welcome to AA... *group applause*

No, I've started this wrong . Great intro...about the wheelbarrow and all that, if anyone has two of them they don't need dotdotdot :)

RobB said...

Nice Joe. I was beginning to think I was the only one who read The Three Investigators. Loved 'em back then!

Joe said...

Rob: Not at all. I preferred the Hardys, but I owned a good 20 or so Three Investigator books as a kid.

Unknown said...

Nice to meet you Joe. I enjoy your blog.

Joe said...

Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

I loved those books as a kid, especially the Xanth series, and am now introducing my litle step brother to Xanth and all the wonders it posseses. Good to see that others where as prepossessed with this genre as I was as a kid. I actually saw an older lady ( 55 + ) reading a Xanth novel on the train the other day. that tickledme a bit. Nice to meet you Joe, and good luck with your reviews.