Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Black Abyss is sealed…

Colin Leslie, who reviews books over at The Black Abyss, has announced he’s calling it a day, at least for now. He’s got through a heck of lot of books in the last three years, but he’s basically just got sick of reading books for the purpose of writing reviews. He writes:

“I want to be able to choose what I read and when. I don’t want the pressure of having to read in a certain sequence to ensure reviews are posted in anything like the timescale publishers might want. I don’t want to persist with an average book in order to review it when a thousand great books lie in wait. In short I want to go back to reading for pleasure.”

I enjoyed his blog, so I wish he felt differently. But I know that feeling! And as with Terry Martin and Murky Depths yesterday, when someone doing something quite similar to what you do decides to pack it in, you can't help having a think about why you're still doing it.

When I first started to get the occasional print copy from the bigger publishers, I made a big effort to have reviews ready for more or less the on-sale date, and for a while that was kind of fun. The problem with that approach was that I always had one or more deadlines hanging over me, and that’s kind of a grim way to spend your leisure time.

One thing that's made it easier for me to move away from that focus on deadlines is the increasing number of eARCs that are becoming available to reviewers, and the emergence of as a source of reviewing material. When you can pick out the stuff to review that you're actually enthusiastic about, and leave the rest without any guilt, the whole process becomes much more enjoyable.

As I commented on Colin’s blog, I’ve just taken a break from reviewing for the BFS – their reviews are going online-only, and while that’s a valid life choice type of thing, if I'm going to write anything for them, it might as well be the kind of thing they think is worth sending out to members. This week I've had the almost forgotten experience of watching stuff like Fringe without making notes on the laptop, and it's been very nice. It also means I just have one hobby-time deadline to think about: December 25, when the next issue of TQF is due out.

So I understand where Colin’s coming from. But would I make the same decision? I dunno! Part of his original purpose was “to show people that the horror books [he] read were among the best writing anywhere regardless of genre”, which got me thinking about my own.

My purpose, I guess, is firstly to write enough reviews to create a review section for the magazine; my goal, as ever, is to keep the magazine going!

Secondly, to encourage publishers to keep supplying me with free stuff; I read a lot and, to be frank, it saves me a lot of money!

Thirdly, and I think crucially, it’s to tell people what I think about stuff. If I read a book, I want to develop a theory and share my opinion with someone, and Mrs Theaker has heard enough of my opinions to last her a lifetime. Writing reviews lets me get that out of my system!

If those things change, I suppose I might well stop writing reviews. I can see myself writing fewer reviews in certain areas; I find films quite hard to write about, for some reason; and reviewing small press books feels sometimes like walking through a minefield – you never know which one is going to go off. But that desire to pontificate is a powerful one. It's a key, if often unfortunate part of my personality, and writing reviews provides a reasonably healthy outlet for it. I imagine that’ll keep me writing reviews of some kind even when the other reasons have gone…

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