Guest post: A Few of the Little Red Reviewer’s Favorite Things

Today I’ve got Andrea over from The Little Red Reviewer! She’s a superb reviewer, smart, and all around a lovely person, and today she’s here to tell you about her new Kickstarter project. Without further ado…

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These are a few of my favorite things

When The Little Red Reviewer first started, the books I reviewed came from my bookshelf or from the library.  I’d scan the “new” shelf at the library and see what caught my eye.  Guilty as charged: I was mostly reading popular books from big publishers, as at the time, those were the books that were easiest to find. So, it’s 2010, 2011, and my blog is chugging along nicely. The books I was reading were fun and all, but I felt like I was reading the same story over and over and over again.  There had to be more out there, the universe couldn’t possibly be this small.

And then around 2012 / 2013 two events occurred that changed my world:  I read my first Clockwork Phoenix anthology from Mike Allen, and I attended a small science fiction-fantasy convention in Ohio. Mike has now put out 5 volumes of the Clockwork Phoenix anthologies, and that first one that I read was a watershed moment for me.  I had struggled with anthologies for what felt like forever, and this was the first time I felt like an anthology worked for me.   I thought I didn’t like short stories, I thought I didn’t like anthologies. Little did I realize that what I was really saying was “I’ve not yet found an anthology that works for me”.

And then there was the convention!  Mostly small press, these were authors and editors who’d decided years ago to break all the rules.  I found myself surrounded by speculative fiction that was pushing the envelope, authors who broke the mold, and fictional worlds where the rules didn’t apply.  My blogging life was about to get really interesting!  Even better, I felt like I’d finally found my tribe – people who just wanted to sit around all day and talk about envelope pushing fiction.

I remember one time I described Catherynne Valente’s writing style to someone as “she writes metaphors that don’t make any sense, but when you think about it they actually make perfect sense”.  That is the kind of writing I gravitate towards.  Make it poetic, make it lyrical, make it speak to my soul, and break all the rules.

I gravitate towards books that make me nervous about writing the review because I’m afraid I won’t do the book justice.   I gravitate towards characters who lives maybe don’t match their morals exactly, sympathetic “bad guys”, people who have been used by the system and then rebel in glorious and ingenious ways,  characters who  quietly make terrible decisions and know they will be judged for it, characters who help me feel normal for having experienced anxiety and depression, and who share with me the sheer wonder of the workings of the universe, AI’s who show me the tiny steps I can take to be a better human.

I love characters who make me earn their trust. I love quiet scenes, where you can hear the soft-crunch-squeak of the character walking across freshly fallen snow, even though that phrase is never mentioned on the page. I love me some well written hard science, and some soulfully written magic and mythology.  Weird biology and science mash-ups help too!

I gravitate toward beautiful language.  Epic poetry isn’t a thing anymore, but there’s plenty of fiction out there that can make you feel like you’ve joined a oral tradition going back generations, that by reading this fiction you are now part of something bigger than yourself.

I gravitate towards authors who ignore the “rules” of what fantasy or science fiction is “supposed to be”.   There are no rules, that is what makes these such wonderful genres!  People who swim through space to get home, bio-tech that looks like fantasy in the far future, ships that are living creatures, gods who walk among us, trees covered in books, humans who are augmented to have insects inside them . . . those are a few of my favorite things!

I gravitate towards tightly focused stories, I love first person perspective, and I get lost in large casts. There are some amazing books out there with huge casts. I know these books aren’t for me, that I’ll struggle with them.   Doorstopper books have lost their allure, I find myself intimidated by 700 page chunksters these days. That’s not to say I no longer read longer books, but I am loving novellas, short novels, and short stories.  It’s just a lot easier to slip a 200 page book into my purse than a 700 page book, you know?

I gravitate towards fiction that inspires me to write beautiful words about it. If the book turns a light on inside me, I want my review to turn a light on inside someone else.

Does this make me a biased reviewer?   Sure does.  I know what kinds of things I usually like and I know what I gravitate towards.   It’s sort of the same as knowing that I don’t take sugar in my coffee, so if you hand me a coffee that’s got 5 tablespoons of sugar in it, don’t be offended if I say it is too sweet for me.

And notice I said “I usually like”.  I’ve said for years that I don’t gravitate towards military fiction. Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire trilogy is straight up military science fiction, and I couldn’t get enough of them.  I used to say I didn’t like romance, and that’s been proved false over and over again.  It isn’t that I don’t like certain genres, it’s that I gravitate towards first rate writing.

Want to see what books turned a light on inside me? Which author’s prose made me feel like I was part of something bigger than myself? Want to meet the characters who forced me to earn their trust?  Take a look at my Kickstarter for The Best of Little Red Reviewer, the print book of my best book reviews.

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This Kickstarter is a viability test of if my type of book reviews have enough value that people want them to exist outside the internet. Are they worth the paper they might be printed on? Let’s find out!