One Man’s Candor

It appears it is open season on reviewers again. There was a little kerfuffle on Twitter this morning that Damien G. Walter has on life support over here. In addition Rose Fox put out a heartfelt plea for candor on Genreville.

I’m all in favor of candor, and apparently I’m not alone as John Clute called his SF Weekly column “Excessive Candour”. But sadly candor can only take you so far. You see, no matter how candid you might think you have been, once your review is published you will discover that for some people you were anything but. If you liked the book you’ll be accused of flattering your friends, sucking up to the author, taking bribes from publishers, and if you are lucky of being a secret agent of a Mormon conspiracy to take over science fiction. If you didn’t like the book, well you were just trying to be clever, or you are a horrible nihilist, or you are exacting revenge for some slight the author has given you.

Just like any other piece of writing, once your review has been published it ceases to be yours. It then mutates in the mind of each person who reads it. They may bring with them cultural filters that completely change the meaning of what you thought you wrote, or they they may simply take it as a personal insult that you did not have the same view of the book in question that they did.

Despite all this, I still try to be candid. That’s just me. Other people’s mileage may differ. But being candid won’t save you from being accused of hideous bias. The only thing that can save you from that is not saying anything at all.

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3 Responses to One Man’s Candor

  1. Anne Lyle says:

    I totally agree, partly because I’ve just been on the receiving end of someone’s reaction to a review of mine. First time ever, too – it’s a spooky feeling to have the topic splashed all over the blogosphere! They’re reading my mind, I tell you…

    Seriously, though, if we can’t take a good hard look at our own genre and analyse it effectively, who can? If it’s all back-patting, we’re no better than one of those writers’ groups that only seem to exist to puff up one another’s egos.

    • Cheryl says:

      Oh, absolutely. It is partly that sort of thing that encouraged me to start Emerald City. Even back in 1995 there were online mutual admiration societies.

      All I’m saying is that candor is no defense. Talk to the right people and you’ll discover that I have made a fortune from reviewing, much of it in bribes from US publishers to pimp their books and put them on award shortlists. I only wish I knew where the money had gone.

  2. Rose Fox says:

    I address precisely that point here.

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