Velvet: Sex, spies and stereotype
Middle Earth Has Fewer Women Than Space

SPFBO2017 - The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off

Hello there

Pornokitsch will be participating the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off again this year, the third year of the competition.

You can learn more about SPFBO and its storied (if brief) history here

[The MASTER INDEX for Phase I - Mark Lawrence's blog]

[11/May: Intro post (this one!)]

[16/May: All our books are in hand, and reading has begun.]

[30/May: Finished the initial reading, and will be posting first round reviews from July. Killing the time by giving unwanted writing advice.]

[3/June: This is fun. My  favourite covers for the cover competition. FWIW, I read everything before I saw any covers. Any correlation - or lack there of - with my finalist pick(s) to be discussed.]

[3/July: The first 26 reviews.]

[7/July: ...make that 27 reviews. There was one (belatedly-spotted) invalid entry, so I read and reviewed one of the reservists to make up for it. Added to the link above.]

[13/July: A quick overview of the criteria I'll be using for the next four books.]

[25 - 28/ July: The final four reviews - Under Witch Moon, Irons in the Fire, Dead Letter, and The War of Undoing - including the grand reveal of my Official Finalist™.]


Why the why

I'm reading 30 books, with the ultimate goal of choosing one finalist for the next round (the best part). I'll then read the other 9 finalists, score them (the worst part) and then there's an ultimate winner.

I don't have a ton to add to last year's introduction, so I'll be quick. Here's why Pornokitsch is involved:

  • Reading challenges are fun
  • As far as competitions/awards go, I respect the process. It is a) ruthless and b) as close to 'blind judging' as I'll ever get
  • I like finding new(-to-me) books and authors
  • I have a personal passion for encouraging fantasy books to be as good as they can be. If this helps, and I think it does, I want to chip in. 

And the big, selfish reason: I'm interested in capital-F-and-bolded-Fantasy as genre. And by that, I don't mean a particular shelf in a bookshop or tag on Amazon, but more as an accumulation of trends. Where is it going? How is it changing? This is a genre in which an author is given a completely blank slate - the opportunity to build their universe, characters and themes from the ground up. What do they choose? That's fascinating if you think about it - what are the trend-lines of our imagination?

I don't pretend that reading 30 books will give me the 'ultimate answer' to what Fantasy is in 2017. But, by the end of SPFBO, I will feel better informed than I did when I started - and that's something. 

Round one

I'm going to follow last year's format, as it worked pretty well: I'll do a first pass on all 30. I'll read to the 20% mark of each one. If, at that point, I'm like 'goddammit, I don't want to stop', I'll set it aside, and come back to it.

I'm not reading the entirety of every book, but, to be honest, I've done both slush-reading and awards-judging, and 20% is erring well on the side of generosity.

Until I know how many books pass my 20% test, I'm not sure what the next stage looks like. It could be 2, it could be 29. Last year was six. 

The mandatory caveat: I'm not a particularly warm and fuzzy reviewer, but that's not because I'm a dick. I give self-published books the respect of treating them like any other bookThat's the actual mission statement of Pornokitsch. This means reviewing them seriously, and giving them the same consideration that I would anything else. These books are virtually shelved with - and competing for reader attention against - China Miéville, Brandon Sanderson, Ursula Le Guin, and, you know, every other book ever written in human history. The stark reality of the market is: don't take a swing against The Blade Itself with an ill-formatted ebook, no proofreading and cover art made in Word. That's not fair to the reader, or, for that matter, the author.

I'm sure there will be some great books in this year's competition, and I look forward to reading them.

Bits of stuff

I'll add links and dates to this post when I write reviews, or have other news. 

I'm not a member of the Facebook group, but if you're participating (or just enjoying the spectacle), that seems like a good place to hang out for authors and readers. (I'm going to stay out, to make my life a little easier.)

Our review policy is here. This includes when we take review requests. Spoiler: we don't take review copies. We do, however, check out and purchase books that seem interesting. Please, please, please don't hit me up during SPFBO. As you might expect, I'm a little busy! However, at that link, you'll find a few dozen other blogs in the comments. If you're an author, look thataway. If you're a reviewer, consider adding your own.