Ten Things I Want From The Locus Blog

Martin draws my attention to this post by Liza Groen Trombi at the recently-launched Locus Roundtable blog, and this quote in particular:

While most have welcomed the blog and the launch discussion, we have clearly annoyed a few people by not conforming to their ideas of what we ought to be doing. I’m sure this blog will be many things in its time, and all in all I’m very pleased to have it up and running.

I’m among those to have found the “2008 in review” discussion much less time-worthy than I would have expected, though I would describe myself as more frustrated than annoyed; a Locus blog should be a good, interesting and useful thing, but what we’ve had so far has been those things only in brief flashes. But what do I think they should be doing? Well:

  1. Not moderating comments. There has already been some discussion on this point, but at present the fact that every comment is moderated, and that it takes hours for said comments to be approved and appear on the blog, makes something of a mockery of the idea of actual discussion, and is thus rather a disincentive to commenting at all.
  2. Showing complete posts on the blog home page. I can’t be the only one who finds the current brief snippets and “read more” view irritating; I’ve already come to your blog, don’t make me click through to a separate page for every post, please. (If there’s a good reason to hide something — spoilers, for instance — then fine, but I see no reason to make it standard.) On the upside, the full text is syndicated, so I can read it all as long as I don’t actually visit the blog … but of course, that’s another way of driving me away from engaging in discussion.
  3. Discussing specific works of sf. As Jeff VanderMeer pointed out, the paucity of such discussion was (bizarrely, given the people involved) a problem with many of the 2008-in-review posts. But more generally, this is surely something Locus is very strong at, and while I appreciate that most of the contributors’ thoughts about books will be channelled into reviews for the print magazine, I’ve never yet written a review that manages to say everything there is to say about a good book (particularly when writing in a word-limited context). (Actually, there’s something else I’m not clear on: now that the blog exists, will the posting of sample reviews from the print magazine cease and desist? I think it would be nice if it continued.)
  4. Demonstrating awareness of a world beyond Locus. God bless Graham, who is so far the only person to link to anything of substance beyond the Locusosphere, and even linked here! (Paul Witcover did manage some Amazon links, I suppose.) The rest of the posts seem to exist in a sort of splendid isolation, though.
  5. Interacting with said world. This is, surely, part of what blogs are for. Lord knows I’m not always the best at this myself — I frequently find myself contemplating a post in response to something elsewhere, only to find myself without time to write the damn thing, and reduced to lumping it into a link round-up — but it would seem more worthwhile to go over to the Roundtable and post a comment and wait for said comment to appear if there was an indication that they had any interest in listening to what other people are saying.
  6. Providing critical commentary — the history, theory and practice of sf (and fantasy) criticism. This is what they’ve done best so far, up to and including Graham’s post about advocacy and recognition in sf. More please.
  7. Providing publishing commentary. This should be another area a Locus blog could excel in, in part on the news front (I’m sure I’m not the only person to make a beeline for the “books sold” and “books delivered” listings in each issue), but more relevantly for the Roundtable, I would have thought, in terms of commentary — Locus has a unique perspective on the sf market.
  8. Providing other commentary relevant or of interest to the sf community. Which is, basically, code for allowing the bloggers elbow room to talk about whatever catches their fancy.
  9. Failing all of the above, setting up an “about” page wouldn’t be a bad idea. At the moment, there’s just a link from the Locus home-page, with no explanation of what the Roundtable is or what it exists to do; so it’s perhaps not surprising that people have formed opinions about what it should be doing. A line somewhere along the lines of “The staff of Locus discuss X, Y and Z” would do it.
  10. Last but not least, they should be posting pictures of the Locus cat. If there is one. Because, as is well known, no blog is complete without cat-pictures.

If you detect a subtext in my list to the effect that I think they should be writing a blog that’s a bit more like Torque Control, well, there’s probably an element of truth in that; I try to maintain the sort of blog I want to read, after all. But it also boils down to this: a Locus blog, it seems to me, should be the first online stop for intelligent commentary on sf literature and related topics and at present, unfortunately, I don’t think it is. Fingers crossed for the future, though.

18 thoughts on “Ten Things I Want From The Locus Blog

  1. Points one and two are the most important to get right immediately if Locus wants its blog to succeed. When you first linked to it I took a look around but got annoyed by the clumsy way in which it was set up and quickly left. There’s a reason full posts on the front page is the default.

  2. 1) is definitely important. By and large I feel that there’s not enough discussion in the form of comments in the sf blogosphere, but I see no reason why Locus should make things worse.

    4) is vital. Between Tor and the other one (suveda?), there are plenty of publisher-led blogs that stone-facedly ignore everything that gets said out here. It would be nice if the great and the good participated in discussions a bit more, if only for the people who might read Locus but might not know about the good places to find Sf-related discussion.

  3. Martin: yes. I would be happy to acknowledge that arguably only the first two are issues that have to be addressed for the blog to succeed; the rest is about what kind of blog I’d like it to be.

    Jonathan: to be fair, Tor.com does sometimes link out, and does at least have a fairly broad selection of people writing for it. I like it more than not. But I take your point. I suppose I want the Locus Roundtable to be a sort of anti-io9 …

    Graham: well, cute animals of some other kind, then?

  4. The problem with the Locus blog is that it is not really a blog, it is a webpage with some interesting writing on it. Linking and responding to posts in other places and having a lively comments section are key parts of blogging for me, and at the moment I have no incentive to comment on the Locus blog because it probably won’t appear for hours and someone will have made my point already.

  5. “I try to maintain the sort of blog I want to read”

    And many others enjoy reading too, and we greatly appreciate your efforts.

    I haven’t yet had the chance to really check out the Locus blog, but certainly I’ve pointed many people at Torque Control as an example of exactly what I think a good blog ought to be doing.

  6. Niall: These are good points, but I wouldn’t say Torque Control is that much more successful on some of those. The roundtables you do are often cumbersome, sometimes inbred, and also sometimes too self-important (it may be that such things are always going to come off that way in a blog setting, however). You also have your own blind spots, and what I would call a definite UK bias. One reason it’s important that Locus succeed is to have a definite counter-balance to things like Torque Control. (I read and enjoy TC, but I don’t believe it can be anything other than what any blog can be: constrained by the vision and core interests of its creators.)



  7. Jeff:

    TC is the blog for Vector, which is the magazine for the British Science Fiction Association. It OUGHT to have a UK bias; if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be doing its job.

    Can’t disagree about your other points, though.

  8. Tom, Jeff, thanks both; though I wasn’t actually either seeking validation or meaning to imply that TC does it all perfectly. Though I do endorse Ian’s point about the UK focus — it’s a feature, not a bug.

  9. “The problem with the Locus blog is that it is not really a blog, it is a webpage with some interesting writing on it.”

    What is a blog if not a webpage with some interesting writing on it?

  10. Nick H.: A blog is just a publishing tool. You can do whatever you want with it. This blog might not do what you want it to do (and it might not have what you usually like about blogs) but it’s still a blog. Well, I guess this is just nitpicking over definitions — as someone who does not usually get very involved on blogs I don’t see it as so bad, but I see Liz’s point.

    Martin: you forgot the NSFW warning! I caught it on the URL…

  11. Starting a brand new blog, then turning off the comments a few days later before anyone has found out about it much is some weird corporate thinking? Like ‘press conference over, thanks for coming’?

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