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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.