Questions from MarzAat

MarzAat recently nominated me for a Liebster award. If you’re not familiar with Liebster: basically you answer ten questions, then forward ten questions to ten bloggers who impress you. I’m not going to forward the questions on, as some bloggers have grown tired of awards. Reference this graphic from Entertaining Stories:

award free 50However, if you would like to answer these ten questions along with me, then consider yourself nominated, and drop a link to your post in the comments so everyone can see your answers. I thought MarzAat’s ten questions were interesting:

How low would your view stats have to get to stop your blog?

I’ve never put any thought into this, and hope I won’t have to in the future. I have thought about a couple of alternative strategies I’d try before I’d quit:

I’ve considered writing shorter reviews. They take less time to write, and (with no objective evidence) I’ve always been concerned that the length of my blog posts turns off many potential readers. My last review was fairly short, and I may try a mix of short and long reviews.

I’ve considered a blog which combines my content with that of several other bloggers. One idea would be a multi-genre book site, where I’d cover sci-fi, and others would cover mysteries, biographies, romances, etc.. Another idea would be a site with various topics that appeal to fans of sci-fi, so I’d cover books, while others could cover comics, movies, boardgames, videogames, RPGs, astronomy, etc..

I haven’t actively pursued the idea, as there are a number of difficulties. I think that to succeed, the bloggers would need some uniformity in quality, posting frequency, and tone/style. If one author were posting once or twice a day, while the others were posting every two weeks, it would be more like one person’s blog with guest posts. What if one blogger writes 2,000 word essays, while another writes single paragraphs? What if one blogger is very serious, another inserts political rants, and another throws in animated GIFs of celebrities rolling their eyes?

Are you tempted to start another blog to cover a different subject?

I’ve already done so twice, although both blogs have been neglected for a long time. I really do intend to resume posting to them, but I just haven’t had time. My Seven Cities of Paper blog is for reviews of non-fiction (mostly history) books, while my Alien Rover blog is for travel photos.

I’ve considered other subjects, twice doing some groundwork for science-related blogs, but I’ve given up on those ideas. If I ever got more serious about hobbies, and kept a greenhouse for year-round gardening, or aquariums to raise tropical fish, I’d probably start blogs on those topics.

Do you find blogging any of the following: self-improvement tool, memory aide, obsession, or chore?

Concerning self-improvement, blogging has led me to analyze my fiction reading more carefully, but I’m not sure whether that has increased or decreased my reading enjoyment. I’ve started posting some microfiction, as well as silly lead-in stories to my interviews and magazine reviews. This has hopefully improved my fiction writing, and I am working on a few short stories which I hope to publish (estimated completion date: 2525 AD).

I don’t think I use my blog as a memory aide; I’m more likely to check my Goodreads account if I can’t remember what I thought of a book.

I suppose my blogging could be called an obsession, as I do it regularly and receive no apparent benefit, and there have been times when it felt like a chore. I think those times were actually when I was overloaded in other areas of life. I occasionally take a week or two off from blogging when too much work has piled up. Right now, I look forward to my blogging time. I have notebooks filled with article ideas and review summaries, but don’t have time to write them all.

Do you think your blog is contributing to the useful knowledge of the world?

That sounds a bit grand for what I’m doing. I might help readers find a book they’ll enjoy, and I might influence authors by telling them what I like and don’t like in others’ stories.

What best describes your approach to politics in your blog: don’t care about politics; politics are forbidden; occasional intrusion; no self-censorship?

I try to keep the blog apolitical. For me, fiction reading (and blogging about it) is an escape from the problems and stresses of the world. That being said, it’s tough to write an apolitical review when a pro-communist author writes a story where Joseph Stalin is the champion of individual liberty. Unfortunately, I didn’t make that example up.

I know some people think the purpose of sci-fi is to make commentary about our society, but I don’t agree. If I want insight into history, politics, economics, or religion, then I’m sorry, sci-fi authors, but you’re not the people I’m turning to.

I’m trying to think of an example where a sci-fi novel was important outside of its entertainment value, and I’m mostly coming up with Orwell’s 1984. However, the novel was published in 1949, when we already had real-life Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao to show us how oppressive and destructive a government could be.

What is the one entertainment medium you must have: text, tv/movies, music, art?

None of the above. For me it’s audiobooks. I was never much of a music guy, and gave it up completely once I discovered audiobooks. Most of my text reading used to be on transpacific flights, or while relaxing by a pool or on a beach, but those activities won’t be in my immediate future. I still read short stories at bedtime, though.

I used to watch hours of television every day, but I’ve now almost completely given it up. I used to watch a lot of non-fiction programming, but my go-to channels have moved to new formats. I just turned on my channel guide to look at what was airing and what was coming on the next hour. History channel — no history content. Discovery channel — no science content. Animal Planet — one show with no animal content, one with very marginal content.

On the fiction side, television shows in the last couple years have given me a one-two punch of low quality and contrived social/political messages. Either one of those might be enough for me to turn off the TV, both of them guarantees it.

I turned to crime dramas for a while, but since I developed a simple heuristic that allows me to spot the killer the instant they appear on screen, watching hasn’t been much fun.

How many blogs do you follow that have nothing to do with your blogging specialties?

Quite a few, but I visit them much less frequently.

Do any of your friends or family read your blog?

Some friends and family who have an interest in science fiction (or reading in general) read the blog. Those who aren’t interested in the topic don’t, with the exception of my wife.

Do you read blogs with no pictures?

I do. For instance, I’ve been enjoying the flash fiction at Inconsistent Pacing lately. I think pictures improve the blog experience somehow, and most book review bloggers include book covers, as I do.

[Update: since I wrote the above, Inconsistent Pacing added some movie reviews which included images of movie posters.]

What one question should I have asked you?

“Why do you write so many negative reviews?”

I’d like to answer with maniacal laughter issued from my underwater volcano lair, and dare the authors to fight their way past my army of ninja mermaids, but since the merninjas are on vacation this week, I guess I’ll try another approach:

Sometimes I’m in a bad mood after reading 400-500 pages from a big publishing house, and finding that there’s no conclusion to the story, or even worse, there was no plot to conclude. Sometimes I read a short story and feel that after I’ve read it and written a review, I’ve put more work into it than the author did.

Once I learned how many authors were reading my blog, I changed my approach. I now rant a bit less about how bad the stories were, and try to point out more specific problems that other authors can avoid.

Feel free to leave comments about my answers, ask follow-up questions, or post a link to your own answers to MarzAat’s questions.


  1. Interesting look into your thoughts. Nice use of my Neanderthal and cowboy hat too. I shot that in my real office one day and decided to use it for the blog graphic.

    1. I thought that was a desperado you’d gunned down near the Pecos River.

      1. I like that better. Let’s go with that.

  2. That blogger who came up with these questions must have been in interrogator mode that day.

    1. I thought they were great questions. I hope more bloggers will give them a shot.

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