Speculative Fiction 2012 picked up the British Fantasy Award for 'Best Non-Fiction' yesterday, which is... pretty awesome. The credit goes to the contributors - all 50-odd of 'em (including artist Sarah Anne Langton, introducer Mur Lafferty and afterworders Thea James and Ana Grilo) - who were willing to donate their work to the grand experiment.
I can't find the first email in the chain, but I'm pretty sure SpecFic was entirely co-editor Justin Landon's idea (and, frankly, it was a great one), and I'm glad glad he roped me into it. We set out to create a deliberate anachronism: we're taking articles that exist online, with vast reach, and slapping them into a bound document. Individually, the 50-odd articles inside were read by, conservatively, tens of thousands of people - if not hundreds of thousands. As a collection, if it reaches 10% of that number, it would be considered an impressive success. Yet, arguably, it wasn't until we 'curated' these blog posts into a book that they became culturally significant, as defined by a sizable portion of the population.
I think public and critical impressions of blogging have changed even since 2013. Within the 'industry', think of how many blogger blurbs we're starting to see on books - they're now the default, not the exception. For bloggers, it seems that we're fumbling our way towards a new style of non-fiction: a combination of the personal and the critical. The balance between the two is still uncertain, but there's something there that's both new and meaningful - even if it is (so far) only the death of the 'death of the reviewer'.
And things will continue to change. The lines between amateur and professional have blurred, the number (and accessibility) of speaking platforms has proliferated and all the old traditions of criticism are out the window. Not to mention those time-honoured precepts of marketing, creator/consumer interaction, concepts of authority, and, and, and... all of which are being entirely rewritten.
If SpecFic was intended to be - if you want a really wanky rationalisation, here you go -"performance art", a way of sneaking online content into offline spaces and seeing what happens: we've done that. But, I suspect the value in these books won't be (or won't only be) in the articles that they contain, but in using them as a cultural zoetrope - a succession of shots showing who is speaking, where they speaking, the tone they take, the platform they use, the language they use, who they are talking to and more... all viewed through a lens of 'significance' based on each year's editorial team.
That's all a very grandiose way of saying that the SpecFic series was and still is an experiment. One that was made possible by the generosity, tolerance and enthusiasm of many, many wonderful people. I look forward to seeing where it takes all of us - editors, contributors, readers - next.
Two other non-fictional notes
Further conceptual credit is due to Adam Roberts. If you sketched out a Venn diagram of reviewers that were entertaining, incisive and personable (in that, full of individual personality, as well as belonging to a nice person), Adam would be at the dead center. Sibilant Fricative, a collection of his once-online reviews, is now available, and it is absolutely terrific.
And, finally, in the spirit of translating content from one medium to another - the almost-complete list of recommendations from the ALL OF THE BOOKS track at Nine Worlds 2014 has now been made available online. These are the books (and other media) that were mentioned (usually 'suggested', but sometimes in a more 'this is significant' way than a 'this is a personal favourite' way) by the various panelists and moderators of the convention. It has been further supplemented by the volunteers and track heads of the team, because, well, we could. The power of the curator.
As the recommendations on the list came out of panels and discussions, they're often fragments of a conversation - and may not include all the obvious choices. Or even the unobvious ones. But if you're looking for some suggestions along various themes, here are a few hundred for you...