Paula Guran explains Fantasy Magazine‘s reviews policy:
The idea here is to review anonymously (like Publishers Weekly) while still saying exactly who the reviewers are — just not who wrote exactly what. I feel it frees the reviewer while still assuring the reader that a variety of respected opinion is being presented. (Issue #4 has two “featured” reviews with bylines, btw. )
Why? The number one reason is that this way the reviews are seen as “Fantasy” magazine reviews. The second reason is that genre is a small world and few of its knowledgeable reviewers live in ivory towers so it sometimes helps you be a better reviewer if your name is not on a review. That being said, it is only fair to the reader to know s/he can have confidence that a review is written by someone whose opinion they respect — thus the list of reputable reviewers doing the reviews.
She asks for opinions. I’m ambivalent. On the one hand, as was covered at tedious length in last week’s discussions, I’m all for honest negative reviews. Not only do I think they’re good for the health of the field, but I enjoy reading discussions of books people didn’t like just as much as I enjoy reading discussions of books they liked. So if an anonymised reviews section creates an environment that encourages that, I’m for it. On the other hand, though, I can’t see an particular reason why it should be necessary. I know a similar desire for freedom was behind the Dark Cabal (remember them?), for instance, but magazines like Interzone don’t seem to have had trouble recruiting a group of people who are prepared to say what they think under their own bylines.
And anonymity could also be frustrating. Some readers may not notice who writes a review, but I tend to; in part, admittedly, because I write reviews myself, but that’s not the only reason. Pretty much everyone who reviews for either Locus or NYRSF presumably falls into the category of ‘respected reviewer’, but I don’t agree with anyone who writes for either venue all the time, and some of them I disagree with frequently. I have no reason to expect that Fantasy Magazine‘s reviewers are any different, but because most of the reviews are quite short, and therefore don’t have the space to develop a detailed argument, there’s more of an element of taking what the review says on trust. I take Paula’s point about creating trust in a more general reviews ‘brand’, but it still looks a bit like an attempt to claim objectivity for an activity which is, by definition, subjective.
UPDATE: Further discussion here.