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Friday, November 26, 2010

Speculative Horizons to Close For Questionable Reasons

I've nothing against James Long, author of Speculative Horizons--one of the good SF/F blogs out there.  His blog has been in my Google Reader for almost a year now and I've enjoyed many of his thoughtful posts.  But it appears he's decided to close things down.  Why?  Partly because he's going to be an editorial assistant at Orbit Books (congrats!), and partly because of this:
Of course, this means I can't continue with my blogging here. I've always tried to blog with honesty and integrity, and there's just no way I could continue blogging while working for a major genre publisher - it would bring my personal and professional credibility into question.
Wait, what?  Stopping because of new responsibilities makes perfect sense.  Working in publishing
is a rough business, particularly if you're in a lower position at a relatively major press (Orbit is pretty big in the SF/F world, after all).  But instead of a perfectly reasonable reason, he offers one that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.  How exactly is working in publishing and blogging at the same time a threat to one's personal and professional credibility?  Did someone bother telling Lou Anders about this, who is the editorial director of Pyr and blogs at the same time?  What about the dozens of agents, assistants, marketing people, and so forth (and that link doesn't include the dozens of others that are out there) who routinely blog about the things they love, whether it be about what they do or their personal lives (which might very well be about what they do too)?  Is their credibility (personal or professional) shot to shit because they do both?  Of course not.

So what's the real reason, James?  Are you contractually obligated to no longer blog at SH?  Does the new time commitment make it difficult for you to do both at the same time?  Do you just not want to continue because you've moved on to bigger and better things (to which I would say "well, we love you too" in a very sarcastic voice, followed by "we appreciate your honesty")?  Because from where I'm standing, the rational sounds suspiciously like a slaughterhouse worker saying he doesn't want to eat meat anymore because it might make people question his character, instead of saying he can't stand the sight of meat because he sees it all day.

The big question, of course is this:  since when does being a blogger with "honesty and integrity" damage one's credibility?  Seems to me that the only time blogging kills your credibility as a critic (or anything) is when you intentionally lie or manipulate the truth--sort like what this douchebag did.

Then again, maybe I'm just being a downer about this whole thing.  Maybe I'm missing something.  If so, someone can correct me...

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  1. Anonymous1:17 PM

    You seem to be missing the point entirely.

    Of course employees of the publishing industry can blog -- and as you suggest, their topics are often "about what they do or their personal lives." They may blather on about where they ate, what they read, or who they snogged, and readers may tune in for a variety of reasons. These sorts of personal blogs can be fun and enjoyable or tremendously dull, depending upon both the sharpness of their wit and their relation to the reader.

    Speculative Horizons was not that sort of blog.

    James sought to create an independent source of SF/F commentary, which helped guide interested readers through the vast ocean of speculative literature. He provided objective opinions, steered attention towards worthy authors and publishers, and managed to have some fun along the way. Having a vested interest in a subset of that literature does not make his opinions any less valuable or valid; it does make his larger position as an independent critic less tenable. His decision to step down as a result is perfectly logical.

    And at any rate, there's no need to imply that James is lying simply because you don't agree with his reasoning. There are better ways to boost page views than picking fights with your peers.

  2. That doesn't explain how his personal and professional integrity would be compromised by continuing to blog at SH. You're simply saying why he was a great source for information, which I agree with, but which has nothing to do with his reason for stepping down.

    I'm not implying that he's a liar. I'm implying that the reasoning is logical unsound and that maybe his readers deserve a more clear explanation. If there's something deeper to his reasoning that would make his statement about compromise sensible, then I'd accept that. But that's not what is being offered. What's being offered is a rationale that has no basis in reality in its simplistic form.

    I also find it laughable that you think I posted this to get hits or to pick fights. Neither of those was my intention. I don't much care for how many hits I get from posting relatively contentious things on my blog. If I did, I'd be like FOX News and post anything that would work, even if it wasn't true.

  3. Anonymous2:56 PM

    I meant to highlight the ways in which the blog's strengths were intertwined with its independent status. As an industry employee, James would no longer be able to rely upon that, either in actuality or in the minds of his readers. Positive reviews of Orbit books would no doubt be viewed askance; the same goes for negative reviews of Orbit's competitors. Rather than risk having his integrity questioned, or perhaps to question it himself, he chose to put his independent project aside and avoid potential conflicts of interest.

    This position is logically consistent, and perfectly clear. There is no reason to believe that a deeper reason exists, or needs to.

    That said, you should certainly feel free to disagree with him. You might even launch a counter-argument disputing his premise, and claim that critical objectivity is not hindered by employment loyalties. But while you did that, in part, you also accused James of hiding the "real reason" for his decision, while deriding his logic as insensible and "having no basis in reality."

    Take what he says at face-value, dispute those premises that you disagree with, and state your own position on its own terms. There is no need to question the reasoning or integrity of others.

  4. His blog has never been just about the reviews, though. He does so much more there, which have nothing directly to do with Orbit's competitors or Orbit itself. He might have said "I'm not going to do book reviews anymore because I don't want to appear to favor my employer, but I will continue talking about genre and the community." That makes sense to me, because it's clear.

    The problem is that he wasn't clear. You're here telling me what you assume his logic is (I didn't read the comments, so if he's said more about it, then I missed it). But you don't speak for him anymore than I do. I can't assume that what you've presented here is his rationale, because he hasn't stated that. On its own, his argument doesn't stick, because it lacks appropriate context.

    And I wasn't accusing James of lying. That wasn't my intention. I was pointing out that the real reason hasn't been said. He's only offered a vague one at best. If there are other reasons than what he has stated, or his statement is as you said, then that's different, and I would have something else to say entirely about that. But that's not what he's written.

    Regardless, even if what you're offered as the rationale is true, that doesn't remain logically consistent when considering the kinds of content that appear on his blog. It only remains consistent in one particular instance.