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Monday, June 29, 2015

Shaun's Rambles 003: On Negative Reviews and Their Value

...in which I talk about things some people don't want to write.

In this edition:

  • A discussion of the value of negative book reviews and why I think many people, including me, are hesitant to write them.
Enjoy the rambles!

You can download the mp3 directly from this link or stream the episode below.

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1 comment:

  1. I don't really pay a huge amount of attention to reviews either, I think the form has become completely devalued.

    It's not just that people don't feel able to express their negative feelings about the books they've read, it's also that they don't feel capable of expressing their feelings in any form more involved that a straight evaluation. In other words, book reviews are only allowed to be evaluative but they don't serve their purpose as evaluative writing as it's well understood that producing negative reviews is no longer a done thing.

    While I agree that fear of authorial reprisals (either directly from the author or indirectly from their fans/supporters) has made the negative review impossible, I also think that it's worth bearing in mind that regardless of any unpleasant feedback a negative review might produce, there's also a complete lack of positive feedback too...

    Book reviews have been in trouble since it became possible to buy Amazon and Goodreads reviews on Fiver and sites like that. Having allowed the review process to become corrupted and devalued, the field no longer provides any incentives to people who might be able to produce honest, negative reviews. Back in the day, there used to be some social capital to be extracted from being the 'honest' or 'harsh' reviewer but now what you get is complete indifference punctuated by extreme unpleasantness when an author or their fans decide to lash out at you.

    Why would anyone continue producing negative reviews when they know that the field is at best indifferent and occasionally hostile to them?

    These days, reviews are part of the PR cycle of the publishing industry. The field offers no incentives for non-fiction writers to move beyond that narrow cultural niche and routinely turns a blind eye to authors and fans who go after writers that do. Is it really that much of a surprise that a literary culture intolerant of anything other than shallow boosterism struggles to produce stuff that is legitimately worth reading?

    Writing about the community generates more heat, insight, and traffic because people feel free to express themselves about SFF culture in a way they can't about individual books.

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