META: Tom Russell's Review Policy for 2007

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Mon Jan 8 22:39:53 PST 2007

This past year, I've tried to review and/or comment on every story I've
read on RACC-- which comes pretty close to every story posted on RACC,
to boot.  For 2007, I'd like to reconfirm my commitment to giving
feedback to my fellow authors-- with a couple of stipulations.

First, as some of you may know, I am running for Mayor of Dearborn,
Michigan.  In the highly unlikely event that I win the election, I
don't think I'll be writing anything for RACC-- stories, reviews,
essays, or anything else.  While I'd still read the stories here
whenever I could, being mayor of a city steeped in financial crisis is
pretty much a full-time job in-and-of itself.  I would not have the
time or energy required to participate.

Now, barring that...

I feel that above all it is important for me to give _useful_ comments.
 "That was good", "That was bad", and "Diseased hyena droppings" are
not good, useful comments.  Useful comments tend to fall into three

1, Comments that are useful to the writer.  This would most likely take
the form of constructive criticism.  Things that I feel the writer is
good at, things that I feel the writer isn't so good at, suggestions as
to how to make up for those areas that in my opinion are lax.  If the
writer is doing something interesting that I'd like to see more of, I
might make a special note of that and try to give encouragement along
those lines.  As always, these are just my opinions.

2, Comments that are useful to the reader.  These would take the form
of an advocacy review; a review that says, hey, you should be reading
this and here's why.  I think I am generally an enthusiastic kind of
guy, and these reviews usually reflect my enthusiasm more than the
first type.  These are more likely to be "gushers" and more likely to
be hyperbolic.  Most of my essays looking back at past stories tend to
fall, naturally, into this category.

3, Genre criticism.  I love yammering on about superheroes, the genre,
its tropes, et cetera, and if a story provides me a place to do said
yammering, than I have no qualms about doing it. :-)  I guess you could
also call this the Off-Topic Review.

The thing is, I can't always provide useful comments.  Since I haven't
reviewed ASH in a while, let me use it as an example of a situation
where it is hard to provide useful comments.

The world-building in ASH in terrific and extremely well thought-out.
The writing style is a mixture of omnipresent flatness and
conversational joviality.  It is very well structured and plotted.
Sometimes the dialogue rings a sour note, but this isn't a
dialogue-based series; it's plot-based, it's setting-based.

Dvandom can plot and Dvandom can write.  He can write really well, and
we all know this. :-)

Some writers are very personal.  Martin Phipps's work is very
interesting because it's so completely Martin.  Saxon Brenton's prose
style is very literature and tongue-in-cheek, and I can identify it
easily.  Arthur Spitzer's surreal, sick humour stands out as very
Spitzeresque.  Jochem's Godling has a very unique and identifiable
energy to it.

But Dvandom's style is more functional.  It doesn't call attention to
itself.  There's no stylistic jumping-jacks for me to comment on, no
personal obsessions (other than sci-fi and world-building, I guess) to
relish, no obvious failings for me to pick at.

I'm not saying that his writing isn't good, or that ASH isn't
enjoyable, or that "less-personal" stories aren't as good as "personal"
ones, or that they aren't as deserving of comments.  It's just that
there's not really much for me to say other than, I enjoyed it.  And
I'd rather not waste anyone's time with such a pittling little nothing
of a comment.

I try to review every story I read.  I make an honest, conscious effort
to find something to say.  I read and reread and sometimes rereread the
stories to try and find something to comment on.  This takes time.  You
might not get a review until a few days or even weeks after the story
has been posted.  Maybe even a couple months later, who knows?

And if you still don't have a review, it's not from my lack of trying.
Sometimes, I just don't have anything to say.

And I would take that as a compliment: because if I didn't like the
story, I would _not_ be silent about it.  My less-than-kind reviews of
some of Mr. Willey's 2006 stories attest to that.

If you don't get a review, despite my trying and trying and trying, it
probably means that I liked your story.

But _don't_ expect a review immediately.

It takes time to read, time to reread, time to think, and time to write
(and rewrite).   It takes time to do my own writing for RACC.

It also takes time for me to work during the day, to cook dinner, to
eat, to read other books and watch movies, to spend time with my wife
and to sleep.

You have to give me that time, and you have to remember that just like
Saxon and Eagle, I'm doing this as a volunteer, out of my love for this
community.  So, please, be patient.

Thank you.


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