When my younger brother was very young, he would go through the JCPenney’s 2-inch thick Winter Catalogue and circle every toy in the toy section in response to Mom asking us to create a wish list. Every toy. Not a very discerning child. I would mark the few things I really wanted.
I think of this when I see that someone rates every book they read as 4 or 5 stars. Pure grade inflation. What if the newspaper did that for movie reviews? Likely, I’d stop reading the reviews if they thought every movie was amazing. For the Chicago Trib and its 0-4 star scale, 2 is a good movie. 3 is better than good. 4 will likely earn an Oscar though most of the nominees probably fell in the 2.5-3.5 range. 4 means something for them. And me.
I use the Goodreads 1-5 star scale. “3 stars” has the hypertext “I liked it.” That should be the solid like. 4 is “I really liked it.” Self-explanatory. 5 is “I found it amazing.” This should be rare. But some people use it like my brother used the JCPenney Catalogue.
At the convention this past weekend, I was talking to an independent author who boasted of her “first troll.” She clarified that she meant her first 1-star rating. [Not usually something to boast of.] But she felt it was a rite of passage. Goodreads’ 1-star says “I didn’t like it.” I replied tactfully, “Not all 1-star raters are trolls. Perhaps they didn’t like it.” The author countered, “If I don’t like something, I give it 3 stars.” How does that help anyone??
I think raters should give at least a partial review to explain anything other than a 3, but really always. Otherwise, the rating can’t be contextualized.
I also think people who stop reading something without finishing it should be blocked from rating it. They should not be able to give a 1-star for an unfinished book. Maybe there needs to be separate stat for not finishing a book with a multiple choice explanation section. This, too, could be telling.
As much as I want to make an informed decision about what I am buying, acquiring etc. I also want an informed view of the reviewer-rater. Differences in our perspectives could be more telling than the review itself.
Next week, GenCon will be all the rage in Indianapolis. While it has the LARPing of other Cons, this is the largest American game convention: board games and video games. The fine people of Catan will be trying to set a new world record for simultaneous Catan players [to beat their last record from 2 years ago at 800+] I do love and collect board games and will be stalking the demo tables most of Friday. [Maybe joining the Catan-a-thon.]
GenCon also has a huge fantasy and sci-fi writers symposium. I will be sitting in on many discussions: anatomy of a fight scene, eliciting emotional responses, atmospheric writing, common people in epic conflicts, action scenes, killing off characters, researching stories, dialogue and dialogue tags, description through dialogue, character voice, heroic pairs, magic and the modern world, worthy opponents, and supporting cast [real people vs. plot devices]. Yes, that’s a lot of lectures, but I have 3 days and plenty of time to watch games.
I’ll also be hearing a few authors speak that I reviewed this past year. Firstly, Patrick Rothfuss [The Lightning Tree and The Slow Regard of Silent Things] will talk for 2 hours my first night. There will also be a panel of writers from the anthology Writers of the Future Volume 31 on my final night. Nothing beats listening to an author speak that you’ve just read and enjoyed.
I imagine I’ll pick up a book or two while I’m there also. Drop a line if you’re heading Indiana-way. This year I’ll try to remember the change in time zone and not show up late . . .
6 of my poems have been picked for publication at The Eunoia Review as I mentioned 3-4 months back and that time has arrived, right as National Poetry Month wraps up. You can follow the link to see the first and follow them. Or, submit your works there. 2 more will post Friday, 2 Saturday and the 6th on Sunday morning. I don’t know what order they will be in, but they are:
“Lincoln Park Zoo in Late August”
“A Gathering of Four”
The link above leads to “The Cellist” which is about my maternal grandmother who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease for over 20 years. She appears again in the poem “Gathering of Four” which ends showing my grandfather, her husband of 50 years, who had Parkinson’s at the end. Two more of the poems tie to key moments in my brother’s battle with cancer: “Lincoln Park . . . ” and “Thanksgiving . . .” [He is alive and well minus hips and kidneys.] Clearly, family is important to me. And yet I air our tougher moments . . .
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Meanwhile, as I also delve into the worlds of sci-fi and fantasy when not immersed in poetry, C2E2 is this weekend and I’m going. This is the big Chicago Comic Convention and it has a huge publishing house presence there. And free books! Good ones. Last year, I snagged early copies of Red Rising, Pierce Brown’s debut novel, which went on to be my pick for best novel of 2014. I also picked up Half a King (Shattered Sea, #1) by Joe Abercrombie. Both now have sequels which I have read or am reading and enjoying better than their series opener.
If you are heading to C2E2, feel free to let me know. I will be there with Rick of Rickapedia and a couple others. Very excited to see Patrick Rothfuss again this year on a couple panels. On Friday, he is speaking with Jim Butcher about Butcher’s latest series, a steampunk one.
I’m thinking warm thoughts about Spring and Summer conventions [to counter the cold reality of Chicago’s blowing snow]. Last year I attended C2E2 in Chicago which is mostly for the graphic artists, though there was a refreshingly heavy presence by the major publishing houses. [Also got to hear Patrick Rothfuss speak, which was nice.] I also attended GenCon in Indianapolis which is mostly for the gamers, but has a very large docket of writing seminars and workshops [and larping if you’re into that, which I’m not]. Unfortunately, the publishing houses were largely not in attendance. [I also did not give myself very much time to explore what was new in board games, which I enjoy. Full disclosure, I host dinner and game nights . . .but I digress.]
2015. I am definitely planning on attending C2E2 again [Chicago, April 24-26] and GenCon [Indy, July 30-August 2]. I am also thinking about adding Chicago Comic Con [August 20-23]. But my question is: where should I be going? A road trip or flight might be worth it to the right gathering. I’d want the convention to have a focus on writing and publishing in the areas of sci-fi, fantasy and urban fantasy. Thoughts?
Meanwhile, after months and rounds of re-writes, I’ve re-sent my urban fantasy novel [#1 of 4] to beta-readers. Now I can get back to first draft writing on the sequel. I spent the past week re-reading and editing it to get back up to speed. My new goal is to start shopping the first book by end of summer, get the second into beta-reading by then and start in on the third in the quadrilogy. We’ll call that my New Year’s Resolution. Eesh, the pressure.