Opening Salvo

Hi. I’m glad you’re here. Come in, make yourself comfortable, and let me introduce myself. My name is Keith West. I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy for about 35 years, coming to the genre through comics, Star Trek, and Star Wars.

You’re probably wondering what I’m going to blog about. After all, there are quite a few bloggers here at Amazing Stories®. What sets me apart from the others?

No offense, but that’s not necessarily the best question to ask. Everyone here is a fan. Yes, I know some of the bloggers are professional writers, but we’re all still fans at heart. The exact nature of our fandom will vary by individual, but we all, every single one of us, are fans.

So the question is, what do I bring to the discussions here at Amazing Stories® that will enrich that dialogue?

I maintain a couple of blogs, which have been going for a little over two years now. Many of the items I post are reviews. I’ve discovered something in the time I’ve been reviewing. There’s a lot of great fiction being published by small presses and independent authors. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the two apart. Many authors start their own publishing imprints for a variety of reasons.

Some of what’s being indie published is from established authors reprinting their backlist. Others are publishing works that the major publishers wouldn’t publish because the publishers didn’t know how to market it or it was too different from the author’s previous work. Some are doing both, brining out their backlists as well as publishing new works.

There’s another group of indie authors who have never been published by any of the major imprints. Some refuse to be pigeonholed. Others don’t want to agree to some of the contract terms. These authors all have their reasons for doing it themselves, and the reasons are as varied as the individual authors.

If you listen to the defenders of the publishing establishment, you could easily get the impression that what’s being indie published, (“self-published” is the term frequently used, often with a sneer) is horrid writing that’s poorly formatted. A “tsunami of crap” is the term I’ve heard several times.

I’m here to say that’s not the case for everyone. Yes, there’s a lot of crap that’s indie and small press published. The same is true for the major publishers. Sturgeon’s Law applies pretty much everywhere and has never been repealed.

What I hope to do is help you find some of these indie published works that you might like. There’s a lot out there worth reading. Likewise for small presses.

I’d like to look at what’s happening in the small press arena. Small presses have a long history with sff. Publishers like Shasta, Fantasy Press, and Arkham House, to name only three, had major impacts on the field. Now presses such as Haffner, Tachyon, and Harp Haven, to name three more, are carrying on the tradition.

So, in answer to the question, what will I bring to the discussions here at Amazing Stories that will enrich the dialogue? I’ll have reviews of novels, anthologies, and short fiction. My goal is to cast my net as widely as possible. We’ll look at fiction from authors who’ve never been traditionally published, authors who are indie publishing their short fiction while continuing to publish novels through traditional publishers, established authors who are putting up their own backlists as well those publishing their own novels.

One of the more unique forms of publishing is through Kickstarter. I’ve read several really good anthologies or single author collections that I supported last year. There are more being funded every day. Some are collections by established authors that their traditional publishers weren’t interested in. Others are labors of love that the editors cared passionately about. Still more are being used as fundraisers for various charities, with the authors contributing stories for free. And of course there are a number of small presses that have been around for a while that focus on reprint collections.

Short fiction is, I believe, the lifeblood of the genre. And there’s a lot of short fiction being published these days outside the traditional venues. Novellas have always been a hard sell with traditional editors, and for completely understandable reasons. They take up a lot of space. When the word count is limited, sometimes the editor has to go with quantity. Indie publishing is changing that. For once authors can write a novella or novelette they’re especially proud of and make it available themselves. Since novellas are one of my favorite forms, I’ll try to review a number of them.

I’ll have interviews with indie authors and small press publishers. As I’ve stated, the reasons for an author going indie, whether partially or fully, are unique to each author. I’ll be interviewing some authors from time to time, usually in conjunction with a review. My practice will be to post a review one week and an interview with the author the following week. This will give those of you who might be interested in the book a chance to get a copy. Not every book I review will have an accompanying interview. In fact most won’t (unless I get a lot of requests for more interviews). I’d rather tell you about a book you might want to read.

And every once in a while I’ll share my ever humble opinions.

So stick around. It’s gonna be fun.

A point of information and a request. First, I’m going to try to read and review as widely among science fiction and fantasy as possible. Since Amazing Stories® has always been first and foremost a science fiction magazine, that’s where I’ll try to place my main emphasis. But a great deal of science fiction readers also read fantasy, so I’ll include quite a bit of that as well. I may occasionally review a horror novel, but that will be a rare exception, if it ever happens.

Second, the request. I’ve got quite a bit of backlog I need to read. So for now, please don’t ask me to review your novel/collection/manifesto. When I’m ready to solicit material for review, I’ll dedicate a post to it, laying out some ground rules about what I’m looking for and how I’ll select among the material I receive.

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