Saturday, July 18, 2009

Reviewer Time: Carl V. from "Stainless Steel Droppings"

Among the escalating numbers of review and book blogs, which invade the Internet, there are bound to exist the trend setters or the highlight of a movement in blogging. The same manner “The Fantasy Book Critic” stands for objective professionalism and “OF Blog of the Fallen” highlights the more philosophical approach to blogging and reviewing, I think, “Stainless Steel Droppings” captures the spirit of the Indie surrealistic aesthetics.

Carl as you will find out in his interview is not anchored to the future and the current trends. He isn’t keen on the newest or most popular titles in either fantasy or science fiction, even though he is an avid reader of both. He doesn’t place his trust solely on big company names in the publishing business and also isn’t bound to any publishers. In this sense he is independent to pursue his passions, the books and art and topics that urge him to sit down and express his reactions. But perhaps I might not have clarified what I mean in the previous sentence. What reviewers do, they do because they enjoy it, but then again in the world of reviewing there is this sense of immediacy. A reviewer has to be upbeat with his title choices and most blogs function on the principle of being an information venue for the most current directions in genre fiction and literature as a whole. Carl on the other hand does not abide these unwritten conceptions and ideas about blogging and is not afraid to venture into the past, reexamine personal favorites or classics; just follow the ever changing winds of his whims. This is his thing, his charm and frankly it has an amazing gravitational pull when it comes to me as a reader.

A regular reader at “Stainless Steel Droppings” won’t be surprised by the colorful specter of books featured, from fantasy to science fiction to non-fiction, from novels to art books and so on. My favorite experience is the discovery of new visual artists. As a visually inspired and charged person I find art as my main source of ideas and in this regard “Stainless Steel Droppings” is a treasury or better yet a wonder emporium with something magical or weird, whimsical or surrealistic, but by all means skillfully crafted and of high aesthetics.

Also what Carl manages to achieve in his reviews is not only to bring a sense of structure as a skeleton to built upon, but also echo the spirit of the story. Where most reviews provide an analytical look upon a book, which is always intriguing for me, Carl manages to bring out the essence and convey his passion for the subject on words. His language and vocabulary positively delight and I usually lose my sense of time spent reading there, no matter what it is. My respect can only grow seeming how generous he is with his reading challenges and outside. Once you begin to visit on a daily basis you will notice that the year at “Stainless Steel Droppings” is structured and has a schedule with reading challenges of great interest, which not only satisfy the materialistic needs of the participants, but also act as glue for the community.

With this commentary I think I covered the basic highlights here and even if I wish to be critical towards a website, because I don’t wish for the Reviewer Time to become a gallery dedicated to empty praise, in this case I am too much of a “Stainless Steel Droppings” fan to come with anything.

HM: We usually know so little almost to none about the people behind the reviews, so I think it’s appropriate to kick off this interview with some personal questions. Who is Carl in the life outside “Stainless Steel Droppings” and what does a regular day look like for him?


By day I dress up in one of those little French maid outfits and clean houses for rich old ladies and by night I play bagpipes in a Scottish themed restaurant.


I’m the director of a number of community-based services for a mental health center in Independence, Missouri. In that position I have responsibility over a group home, a crisis house, a semi-independent apartment complex, a foster-home type program, a large adult in-community case management program, a youth in-home case management program, a school-based program, a day treatment program for adults, a vocational rehabilitation program for adults and on and on it goes. It is a BIG job. I am a member of several committees that meet at the state and local level to try to enact changes in the mental health system in Missouri. I go to meeting after meeting after meeting. I boss a lot of people around, ha! It is certainly a challenge, but one that I enjoy. Most days.

My evenings are primarily spent with my wife and daughter. Of late we frequent the local library, checking out various British and American television series to watch. Our latest addiction is Foyle’s War. We take walks, play with the dog, read, hang out with friends…pretty much the normal stuff.

HM: In the fun spirit of list-making, please tell us three things that people would probably never ever guess about you.

Okay, here we go:

1. I bite my nails. Not because it is a nervous habit, but because I can’t be bothered to go get the fingernail clippers and clip them. Although I can be bothered to do so with my toes. I distinctly remember a day in my early 20’s where I noticed my nails were getting long (as I was driving down the road) and I decided to go ahead and just bite them down to size. Now it is what I do.

2. I’m an I, Carly fan. There, I said it. It is the only live action Disney channel show that I can stand. I am also a big fan of the cartoon The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. I love that wacky show. It cracks me up every time.

3. I’m a book lover (as everyone knows) but I have not set foot in a bookstore for 2 months. Two months!!! No, I haven’t suddenly grown sour on books. As some of you know my wife and I are following the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover plan in order to get ourselves out of debt so that we can live a much more prosperous and content life in the future. The biggest money grabber for me has always been books and my resolve to resist temptation is not easy if I am standing in a store surrounded by treasures that want to come home with me. So, for now, I stay away. The library has become my great friend and every time I hear of a new book coming out that I think I want to read I immediately pop over to the library to put a hold on it. For the time being my rare book purchases will be very special items that I save up for and pay cash for.

HM: Now to go nearer known territory. What’s the origins story behind your site?

The origins of my site are fairly simple. It began merely because of my own ignorance of the technology of the blogging world. I had a friend who began a blog and I wanted to post a comment on her site and mistakenly assumed that I had to create my own Blogspot blog to do so. I quickly whipped one up and once I had done so I thought, “Why not post some of my musings on here, now that it exists?” What began as a haphazard and stumbling effort to find my voice and find my niche in the blogging community eventually grew into the structure that Stainless Steel Droppings exists in today.

HM: “Stainless Steel Droppings” is an awesome name. How in the world did you come up with it and as an additional question how did you pick the lit genres you discuss?

When silly ol’ me thought I had to create a blog to comment on blogs, I knew I needed a name. The first things that popped into mind were my literary heroes: Poe, Stoker, Gaiman, and of course Harry Harrison, the author who caught me at an early age and helped shape my love of science fiction. The choice to me was obvious: Harry Harrison’s singular creation, Slippery Jim DiGriz, the Stainless Steel Rat, was probably the most little known of these four influences and so making my blog name an homage to him made perfect sense. Calling it ‘Stainless Steel Rat’ seemed less like a nod to Harry Harrison and more like copyright infringement and so I had to think of something else. As I hadn’t created a blog with some grand purpose in mind, I knew my early efforts would be little more than do-do, and the word ‘droppings’ (rat droppings to be exact) fell into place and thus the name Stainless Steel Droppings was born.

As for the genres I choose to discuss, I am very much a creature of whims. I knew I would never be able to be a part of the book blogging community without discussing the genres I am passionate about: science fiction, fantasy, and gothic fiction. But I read many things outside of these genres as well so it becomes impossible for me to be consistent with the genres I post about. Over the course of the year there is probably more of the above three genres than any other literature, but I certainly don’t limit myself to them. In the end I just have to write about what I am passionate about at the moment. Which is why sometimes my blog seems to follow a set pattern and theme and other times it is all over the place.

HM: Now let’s rewind to the beginning in a barrage of questions. Did you feel it was easy? Was it easy to supply enough books and how were you received at first?

Easy? No not really. I was received the way that I think many bloggers are received, and that is that few people read my posts and few people commented on them. Mostly these were very close friends and I adore them for making the effort when I began. It kept me encouraged enough to stick with it when I stumbled around for many, many months trying to figure out just what my blog was supposed to be, why it needed to exist, etc.

I knew that ultimately I wanted to post about the art and literature and music and other things that excited me. Many of these things were not things I discussed with the majority of people in my life because they were not into them. When I discovered other bloggers who were doing what I wanted to do, like Jenn See and Mysfit and oldben at Following My Fish, I began to get really inspired to build my blog around what I really wanted to write about. Neil Gaiman’s journal was also an inspiration. Discovering the book blogging community months later ended up being that final piece to the puzzle…it helped focus Stainless Steel Droppings. The book blogging community is wonderful and I consider it one of the greatest things about being a blogger. Being able to passionately discuss books with fellow book lovers is a joy that cannot be quantified.

As for supplying books, I have always had a BIG appetite when it comes to purchasing books and so, even to this day, I have far more books that I haven’t read than I may ever have time to read. I doubt I’ll ever run out of books to read!

HM: What’s your approach to writing reviews, your signature so to say that makes you different from all the others? Can you give a tip or share something insightful about the craft?

I’m not sure I go out of my way to be different from everyone else. More than anything I try to convey the experience I had with the book as opposed to merely writing a book report. I have no desire to try to emulate paid professional reviewers and so I never set out to write those types of reviews. I don’t believe in giving much, if any, of the plot away when I review a book. I do not want to spoil the reading experience in any way. What I want to do is try to convey the mood that the book put me in, the place it took me too, the adventure I went on when reading it. I like to compare books to other books, films, etc. to give the reader of my reviews a sense of what they are getting when they pick up this book. Reading is an emotional experience for me and if a book has touched me in some way I try to be passionate about it in my review. And many books are simply fun to read and if that is the case I try to emphasize that aspect of the reading experience.

The very best tip I can give is to be yourself. If you like a particular person’s reviewing style, sit down and figure out what it is particularly about their style that you like and incorporate that into a way of writing that feels comfortable for you. When I write a review, I sit at my computer and imagine myself in a conversation, rolling various words and phrases around to determine what ‘sounds’ best. If the words feel right to me I put them down and generally things just flow from there. Sometimes it is a lot of work and other times it is the easiest thing in the world. Do not think that you have to be a great wordsmith to write reviews. Just tell your audience about your experience with the book, let your passion come out through your fingers, and leave the worries and stresses of writing the ‘perfect’ review to those who actually get paid to do so. There is enough stress in day-to-day life without having to stress about writing reviews for your blog.

HM: What’s your reading schedule? How do you arrange your day to find time to read and review to keep up relative activity?

Reading is very much a mood thing for me. For example, I’ve been so focused on things in my personal life over the past month that I’ve done very little reading. That is a pretty rare thing for me though. Generally I am always reading something.

As for a schedule, I read whenever I can snatch moments to do so, be they long moments or just the time spent in the bathroom doing what nature intended for us to do when in the throne room! I always have reading material with me: in the car, in my office, throughout my house. I rarely go anywhere without having something to read. It wouldn’t seem that brief, stolen moments would amount to much but I get a lot of reading done that way. And on top of that I just make time to read. Be it early in the morning or before bed, I just love to get some reading in.

It has become more of a struggle recently to find both reading and blogging time because of some lifestyle changes I have made, the biggest being a desire to improve my health now rather than waiting until something bad happens to me. As part of that effort I am going to bed much earlier than I used to and so time that was normally set aside for reading and blogging has now become sleeping time. Hey, I guess I had to grow up at some point, and at 40 years of age it is really not in my best interests to stay up until 1 or 2 a.m. every night and try to function on 5 to 6 hours sleep. It doesn’t work anymore. As a consequence of trying to get more sleep I can see that I am much more alert, more focused, and ultimately happier during the day. The other big change being the previously mentioned effort to eliminate debt in my life and live on a budget. We have been having so much fun figuring out ways to earn and/or free up funds to pay down debt that this has taken some time away that I usually spend reading or blogging. It is well worth the sacrifice, but I am still striving to find a way to have that focus AND nurture the other important parts of who I am, like reading and existing in the blogging community.

HM: In retrospect, have you ever done a negative review and how did you handle the situation? Every once in a while a book comes that doesn’t agree with a reviewer and there was a heated discussion revolving around negative reviews and what comes afterwards. Was there any fear of ruining your relationship with publishers?

I have and it was hard to do. The one I remember hurting the most was reviewing the Neil Gaiman, Michael Reeves book Interworld. I just didn’t think it was very good. It seemed very flat and simplistic to me…not at all up to par with what I expect of Neil Gaiman. I’m not one to generally spend a lot of time posting critical reviews, however. I would much rather spend time about books I am passionate about. However I felt the need in this case since Neil Gaiman is by far one of my favorite authors. This was simply a collaborative dud in my opinion.

I rarely accept books for reviews from publishers. I have one publisher that I have a relationship with in which I can request any book at any time for review. By giving me that option to pick the books I want to review I have managed to not get any lemons from that publisher, so I’ve had no reason to put that publisher off by posting a negative review. I will say, though, that if someone is getting into the book blogging community just to snatch up free reads, I would have to doubt the veracity of their reviews. A reviewer, be they a paid professional or an amateur putz like me, should never be anything but honest with their readers when reviewing a book. Now there are ways to be kind and professional in your criticisms, and I applaud that, but I don’t think anyone should skew a review in a positive direction for a book they had problems with just so they don’t risk the publisher getting mad at them and cutting off the free book supply.

HM: Now, how do you think you and your blog have grown from your first post up until now? Did the formula ever change and can you describe the path of your evolution?

The blog has grown every year mostly because I have grown in the confidence of what I want my blog to do. I started out posting about whatever piqued my interest at the moment and as such my blog was sometimes just what I wanted it to be and other times felt forced and disingenuous. I wanted an audience to read and react to what I was writing and at the same time did not want to talk about hot-button topics like religion and politics and things that would cause my blog to be a place of heated discussion. It isn’t that I don’t have strong opinions about those things, but that was an aspect of my life that I didn’t feel like posting about.

I have a lot of hobbies and interests and I knew that was the direction I wanted my blog to take. What helped it evolve the most was figuring out which blogs I liked and taking pieces of those blogs and mixing them with my own creativity to make Stainless Steel Droppings into something I was happy with. As I mentioned earlier, the discovery of book blogs really helped me coalesce my blog into something that had definite shape and purpose. Over the years I have formed two distinct reading challenges, the Once Upon a Time Challenge in the spring and the R.I.P. (Readers Imbibing Peril) Challenge in the autumn (and more recently the Sci Fi Challenge in January/February). These challenges anchor my blog and give it a structure built around the calendar. I like having that structure around which to build my blog each year. Within that structure I am allowed to be me and to present things to the readers that I love and want to share. My goal has never been to impress (although all of us want people to like what we are doing), it has been to be something of a host, bringing forth art, literature, music, films, and other things to share with those who read my blog. I have always wanted it to be a collaborative effort. The people who comment have as much to do with making a blog post successful as I do in writing it. The exchange of passion is what is important to me.

HM: So as we know some bloggers that review books and know enough about literature, have writing aspirations. Do you want to stand on the other side of the business?

I have always toyed with the romantic daydream of writing a book, but that is all it ever has been: a daydream. I have never shown the propensity for the kind of discipline it takes to be a successful writer. I just don’t have that in me, at least not at this point in my life. I’ve seen myself grow more disciplined in other areas of my life so I assume it is possible I could make changes and be more committed to giving writing a shot, but it just hasn’t been something I have wanted to put any great effort into. Now if I could get into the book business doing Irene Gallo’s job as Art Director at Tor Books, that would be something I could be committed to do!!! J

HM: Whose your favorite author and why? In the same vine, there must be an author you had the misfortune of reading and will never ever approach. Who is it in your case and why?

I can never really name just one. My top three, who continually jockey for position are Edgar A. Poe, Bram Stoker, and Neil Gaiman. Poe and Stoker reached me at a critical point in my development, around that pre-adolescent time when reading could have become less important and instead became more so. Their style and subject matter captured my imagination. It also helped, I think, that I grew up in Nebraska. My birthday is in November and the weather associated with October and November, that autumnal time, was always my favorite and still is to this day. Poe and Stoker are writers whose words evoke feelings of autumn in me whenever I have the pleasure of reading them and so I get so much more out of reading their works that just the thrill of the story they are telling.

Neil Gaiman’s work reached me at another pivotal time in my life, in my early twenties when I was ‘growing up’ and developing my own personal adult style. His gift with words made a profound impact on my life that remains to this day. So much of what I have come to like in the way of art and literature and the way I feel about creativity can be traced back to seeds planted by Neil Gaiman. He and his work have touched my life in so many ways, one of the most important being the deep friendships I have made in my personal life and online because of a shared love of his creations.

There are certainly other authors from childhood and in my adult life that blow me away and hover very close to those top three: Patricia A. McKillip, H.P. Lovecraft, Harry Harrison, John Scalzi, Ian Fleming, Robert Jordan, Edgar Rice Burroughs, J.R.R. Tolkien (who honestly is joining the top three to become a fourth jockeying for the top slot). But these three have something magical about them that won’t let go and so I gladly allow them to remain at the top of my list of favorite authors.

I’m not sure I’ve ever had the misfortune of reading anyone because there are authors I stay away from. And I am the first to admit that I may be staying away from them to my own detriment. I sometimes get weirdly turned off by authors who become wildly popular. For example I have never read a word written by J.K. Rowling and I have no intention to. This is not because I think there is anything wrong with her books and I obviously have no valid opinion about her as a writer. I just do not have any desire to do so. The same goes for Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyer, and others who quickly become a phenomenon. There is really no rhyme nor reason why I have an aversion to these authors, but I do and there is no point being anything but honest about it. If I am missing some great reading experience by not picking up their books, then it truly is my own personal loss. I do not think that people who like these authors have any more or less taste in books than I do or anything like that. I don’t think that what I read is necessarily better. I just have no desire to read them. It is that simple.

HM: What are your personal pet peeves when it comes to the speculative fiction genres?

My pet peeves regarding speculative fiction mostly amount to being annoyed at people who claim to be SF fans who then feel the need to be hyper-critical about the genres, as if they are ashamed to be unabashed fans. There are so many people who seem to want to proclaim that there is no good fantasy being written today or that there is no good science fiction being written today. Or conversely that the older stuff is garbage and the new stuff is the bomb. Both camps are full of crap in my opinion. This year alone I have read new SF books and old SF books and in both cases I have found myself lost in adventurous, exciting stories that brought me great pleasure. Perhaps I am just a simpleton who does not know any better. But if that be the case then far be it from me to change. I do not want to be someone whose critical skills grow to the point that I can no longer enjoy the simple act of reading.

HM: Is there a tendency for these pet peeves to resolve?

They only resolve if I keep myself out of those discussions and arguments. I respect someone who can give an honest opinion about a book, even if I do not agree with it. It is not those people who bug me. It is those who feel the need to pontificate about the ills of speculative fiction and who cannot bring themselves to enjoy anything unless it is some abstract, hard-to-understand, ‘new’ concept. If I stay away from those reviewers and do not let myself get pulled in to a pointless argument then the pet peeve resolves. If I get righteously indignant and feel the need to share my two cents, then I find myself ruminating about these people for days.

So I just stay away. Most of the time.

HM: What do you think of self publishing? This is a very interesting topic as of late with the numbers of authors self-publishing on the rise and the treatment they receive not only from reviewers, but the whole book publishing community including readers.

I used to think of self publishing as more of a vanity thing, but more than ever it appears to be a great marketing tool for getting one’s work out to the public, especially when authors publish things free online. John Scalzi has done a lot to change my mind about this and to remove whatever stigma I felt was associated with it. I believe successful print authors like Scalzi will continue to help make this a more accepted and viable option for authors.

There will always be critics, especially those whose livelihood is affected by authors making their works available for free. And those pretentious critics who seem to think that the only ‘real’ writing is that which is discovered by a publishing house and offered to the public at a cost.

I am not one to go out of my way to read things online. I much prefer to have a solid book in hand as that is as much of a part of the experience of reading for me as are the words on the page. But I no longer have such a critical stance on the idea of self-publishing.

HM: Another hot topic is the crisis in the publishing industry. It’s true that the recession pretty much hit everywhere, so as a reviewer do you feel the pinch from it all and how do you see the industry shaping?

The economic climate is affecting every aspect of our lives and it is not surprising that the book industry would experience a big hit because of it. Books are luxury items, and when people are struggling to provide the necessities, luxuries are the first things to go out the window. As I’ve mentioned above, I have certainly had my own very small affect on the publishing industry by not visiting bookstores and instead visiting the library. I easily spent at least a thousand dollars, if not double that, on books every year and now I am spending little or nothing. If I am any indication on how the economy is impacting book sales then they are taking a big hit. The loss of income from many people just like me has to have a big impact.

Unfortunately I predict one result of this economic downturn is that books will even more rapidly make their way to cheaper (i.e. electronic) means. Many have predicted the eventual death of the hold-in-your-hand book and I fear that this climate will accelerate that decline. I’m old school. I want to feel that book in my hand when I read it. I want to smell the paper and gaze at the cover art. I want to appreciate the paper stock and the typeface chosen and all the little things that make a book a book. I don’t get that with electronic books and I do not welcome the change.

HM: Do you think there are still areas fantasy has slipped that you would like to cover in other mediums? And how far do you think the fantasy/sci-fi culture will enter mainstream? This I ask because art purists denounce fantasy and sci-fi on a regular basis and yet they keep coming back full speed ahead.

Art purists will always denounce fantasy and science fiction, regardless of how popular it is. In fact the more popular it becomes the more purists will remove themselves from the ‘masses’ and will sit on high with their noses in the air, denying that anything with a fantasy or science fiction theme is art. I say let them sit on high, somewhere that we can ignore them. Art is a subjective medium, to be sure, but only a true snob can look at the work of well known and respected science fiction and fantasy artists and not see the talent and skill represented. Artists like Alan Lee and John Howe, John Berkley and John Harris, Kinuko Y. Craft, Donato, Frazetta…the list goes on and on…are incredibly gifted and talented artists whose work is definitely fine art. Those who choose not to see it are living in a very close-minded place and I cannot have any respect for their opinion.

I think fantasy and science fiction will ebb and flow in popularity as it has always done. You can look back over the decades and see times when fantasy and science fiction is very prominent in literature, film, television and times when it virtually disappears. I have enjoyed the fact that more fantasy and science fiction and comic inspired movies and television series have found their way into mainstream entertainment, but what is more important to me is that what is put out there is good. Popularity has not stopped garbage from being introduced and the proliferation of garbage will eventually sour people on the genres and something else will rise up to take its place. But even then there will be those whose love of speculative fiction will keep them producing works in every medium that we fans can enjoy.

HM: Also there has been much denouncing of urban fantasy in pretty much the same vein mainstreamers give fantasy and sci-fi the cold shoulder. Where do you stand in this matter?

I think the denouncing of urban fantasy is more a product of the over-saturation of the marketplace than any real opinion on the quality of the work that is out there. As with anything, if something becomes popular, suddenly everyone is doing it. That proliferation waters down the market and ensures that you have legitimately good authors competing with those who have marginal talents. But the fact remains that there are really good books out there in the urban fantasy genre. It is popular right now to bash these books and I feel the same way I do about this as I mentioned in the pet peeve question. I don’t mind people railing against particular books or authors that they have actually taken time to read and have a well-reasoned opinion about. What annoys me is blanket criticism of a genre, or sub-genre in this case, simply because the genre is a hit with the ‘masses’. Which is why I also mentioned that I have no business and will not criticize Rowling or Meyer or Brown. How can I? I haven’t given their works a chance. Just because something about those books doesn’t spark my interest does not mean that I can sit on my throne and proclaim them to be poorly written or worthless or derivative or any of the other criticisms leveled at speculative fiction. It all becomes hot air at that point. Good books are good books, regardless of the genre they are written in and regardless of whether I or anyone else who writes about books likes them or not.

HM: I am not sure what a closing question sounds like at this topic, so you are free to some some closing words on your own regarding reviewing.

I would first off like to thank you for this opportunity. These were fun questions to answer and really gave me a lot of food for thought.

People who want to make a living at critiquing books, films or any other thing need to do the work necessary to develop a critical eye. To be really good, in my opinion, they also need to be able to hold on to the love of books, the love of film, etc. Not everyone can do that. I have chosen to write out of my passion for books and movies, etc. Not to become the next boy wonder, but because I am passionate about these things and I want to give voice to that passion. I ultimately do not care if I review a book or film or television show and people look at me and say “well I just cannot respect him if he actually liked that!”. I am honest enough to say that sometimes I just want to be entertained, and so something goofy like Spongebob Squarepants or Big Trouble in Little China can be a work of genius. Other times I need something that I can more firmly argue is a work of genius, like the linguistic skill of J.R.R. Tolkien or the short story skill of Edgar A. Poe. In the end I choose to be open and honest about my passions and share them in the most entertaining way that I know how.

I do not proclaim to be the next best thing in blogging nor do I attempt to compete to be better than this person or that person. What keeps me involved in blogging is the community. It is that sense of community that makes this all worthwhile. Otherwise, for me, it is nothing but white noise. I like sharing things that we are passionate about. I like discovering authors and artists and musicians that I wouldn’t have discovered had it not been for visiting this or that blog. I try to provide the same forum for people who come to my site. I want people to be able to come in, pull up a chair, and talk about what they like. I hope that is what Stainless Steel Droppings conveys now and I hope that it will always do that. If it does, then I am a success.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful interview of one of my oldest blogging friend's. As you so wisely said, Carl has his own venue which is what keeps his readers coming back. They never quite know what they will find, but it will be interesting, unique, or artistic. Probably all three! I've not been a Sci-Fi or Fantasy fan, but Carl has greatly stretched my appreciation of those genres. What a great interview, Harry, as well as a great reviewer! (Like you.)

Carl V. said...

Thanks so much for doing this Harry! I really appreciate it and it was a lot of fun. Hopefully you'll get some more visitors over here because of it because you have a really fun blog.

Thanks so much Bellezza for the nice comments, I am blushing!

Anonymous said...

A terrific interview! Thank you. I have long read and admired Carl, and loved hearing about the evolution of his blog, and his reading routines, and lately the debt reduction plan. Here's to the library!!

Jeff said...

Great interview. I've loved the community that visits Carl blog for a long time. Everyone is welcome and respectful of each others opinions. Great place to have wonderful conversations on art, movies and books. Don't take my word drop in for yourself and check it out.

Harry! Great blog! I will be visiting again soon.

Carl V. said...

Jeff: I need to get you to write my copy for me! :) Thanks buddy!

Bloglily: Here's to the library indeed!!! And here's to you for being so sweet and making my heart swell!

ds said...

Great interview! I am new to blogging and new to Stainless Steel Droppings (now I know what it means!!). Carl has been nothing but generous and welcoming, and has truly expanded my thinking about fantasy and graphic novels especially. His greatest gift is that he is himself; his integrity is both model and lesson. And now I have a new blog to check on also!
Thanks to you both for a wonderful read.

Anonymous said...

Most "interviews" I've come across in Blogland have been thinly disguised vehicles for promoting the interviewers' blogs. This is interviewing at its best, providing evocative questions and spacious room so that a fuller picture of the "interviewee" can emerge.

Also new to Carl's blog, I've been appreciative not only of his writings but for his willingness to guide his readers into less well-mapped territories. I'll now read Stainless Steel Droppings with more appreciation, and return here for more pure enjoyment.

Nymeth said...

Fantastic interview, and great thoughts on blogging and on fantasy. "Be yourself" is indeed the best possible blogging advice, and it works in other areas of life just as well :P And I'm also with Carl on the community and conversation aspect of blogging. That's what keeps me going.

Carl V. said...

ds: I'm glad that through this you were able to discover Harry's blog. Thank you so much for your nice compliments, I really do appreciate it.

Shoreacres: You nailed it on the head. Harry is obviously doing this for a greater purpose than self-promotion and I'm so pleased to have been one of the interviewees.

"guide his readers into less well-mapped territories."

I like that, because it really is one of the things I want to do with my site. Thank you.

Nymeth: Being yourself really is the most important thing, isn't it? And that's not to say that one shouldn't try new things, etc. on one's blog, but trying to be like someone else really makes the experience less genuine and more work than fun in my opinion.

Harry Markov: daydream said...

Thnk you all for coming and reading this little feature with a dear blogger and friend Carl. His blog is everything you relay in these comments and much more. I also would like to thank to all for all the wonderful feedback and compliments. :) I feel very flattered.

Debi said...

What a fantastic interview! And what an incredible introduction you wrote leading into the interview. I just couldn't agree with you more. Stainless Steel Droppings is such a fun place to hang out! :D One thing I can say about every time I visit--I'm always inspired, and I'm always learning (okay, that was two things, but they're both true). But as incredible as Stainless Steel Droppings is, Carl, the man behind it all, is even more incredible! He is a man of integrity, of generosity, and of bottomless kindness. This was a truly wonderful post...thank you!

Carl V. said...

Aww shucks Debi!!! :)

Mark David said...

I have to say, I'm very seldom read blog posts that are longer than five paragraphs but this one's quite entertaining. Great interview (and this is not just a "default" comment, I do mean it). It sounds very true and honest.

I agree with what Harry said about that "sense of immediacy" that's apparently prevalent in many book blogs. I think many bloggers really are caught up in it, and appear to be in a constant rush to be reading and posting whenever there's a hot new book in town (particularly with the young adult genre, it seems). So it's actually more interesting for me to read blogs that aren't so caught up with trends and focus more on sharing richer, more personal thoughts about their reading experience. Also, as someone who's rather new to reading literature, it's always a delight for me to read insightful blog articles about classic works. I have a shortlist of blogs that I like to frequent because they have this kind of delightful-to-read quality.

Carl's right about not "giving much" when writing a review because that does tend to take away from the reader the very experience that you yourself enjoyed as someone who had not read a detailed review before reading the story. It's usually nice to read specific comments that illustrate why the blogger felt that way about the book, but unintentionally learning beforehand about certain details critical to the culmination of the story, or even just a plain and simple spoiler, can be quite frustrating. I myself sometimes fall victim to this, like when I'm so excited to share my thoughts about how great a certain part of a book is, and then I realize as I'm writing the review that I'd be denying those who would read my post of the sheer pleasure that I got from the experience because I hadn't been expecting it at all. Sometimes, a comment as simple as "prepare for some really cool plot twists" already takes the surprise (and the joy) out of it.

I think it's interesting when a work is being compared with another work the reader might be familiar with, but in my case it's something difficult to do accurately because my knowledge and experience with these things is still very limited. I know some writers don't like being compared and it's understandable, but in the case of a reviewer I think it shows one's level of expertise on the subject matter.

I've recently had the uncomfortable experience of having to write a review for a book that I didn't like but nonetheless felt compelled to do it because the book was sent to me for free and I actually even requested it. It was painful for me to look for something nice about the book and at the same time write about what made me not enjoy it. My lesson there is to only request a book after reading an excerpt and finding it really interesting. So I very much agree with Carl's approach on the matter.

I can understand what Carl says about simply not having the desire to read a particular author. It's more of a gut feeling I guess. I've read Stephenie Meyer last year, and for some reason I can't explain I did enjoy the Twilight experience. But I have no intentions on trying out J. K. Rowling and I'm not sure if I'll enjoy reading another one of Meyer's works. Maybe it's just because I love vampire stories, but then again I have absolutely no desire to read all those other young-adult vampire fiction filling up the bookstores these days (clearly, Dracula is something i "must read"). As Carl put it, sometimes you just want something entertaining, and it can be different everytime. And different people also tend to like different things. So I too like to stay away from arguments about why I like a particular author while others do not. "There will always be critics", as Carl said. And though I'm more inclined to what people call "literary fiction", I certainly consider the masters of speculative fiction amazing artists, surely no less of a genius than those who focus on literary art. There's a number of fantasy books, both classic and contemporary, that I'd love to try.

Mark David said...

Fantasy fiction is something very new to me, but I've recently had an exhilirating experience with K. J. Parker's Devices and Desires so I'm bound to explore more of that genre. I even wrote around 8 pages of notes during the course of my reading it, which in my case translates to just how much I was fascinated with the book. Though I don't feel comfortable about writing a review about it just yet since it's only the second fantasy book I've read and I thought I should read a few more of that genre, particularly the classic ones (I have Dune in my shelf but I haven't started on it yet), before I can probably feel qualified enough to write a good review. I'm afraid I might say something like "this thing is really great!" and later find out that it's actually such a common thing in the world of speculative fiction.

Well what do you know, I'm being talkative again and now I believe I've just written my longest comment ever. I apologize. But anyway, Carl's site really is a very attractive and unique site. It's really nice that you did this review. Being new to this whole business of blogging, I actually find it inspiring. Thanks for doing this review. It's really nice to find out about you two, Harry and Carl.

PS: We don't have autumn here in the Philippines, but somehow the images of that season are the ones that feel most stimulating for me. So like Carl, I also enjoy works that evoke that certain autumnal feeling. I usually get this from of Japanese literature :)

Carl V. said...

Wow, Mark David! Fantastic comments.

It is really easy to get caught up in the immediacy thing, and I've done it myself. There can be great pleasure in being one of the first ones to review a new work. What I decided long ago was that I would only do that for things I was genuinely excited about and wouldn't try to be the 'first' on everything. There are many great sites, like SF Signal, that keep one up to date on the latest speculative fiction and I would rather trust that crew to have their finger on the pulse and allow myself to do what I am more passionate about.

I don't envy you and your negative book review. It is an unpleasant thing to have to do, but honesty is really important in my opinion when it comes to reviewing a book. I never want my opinion to sway someone to spend their hard earned money on a book unless I truly had a good experience with it.

As you continue with your blog I certainly would not worry about how you feel about a certain work compared to how it is accepted in the general public. If you thing a book is great, then for you it is great and you should say so. Especially if you read a 'classic' and find it to be a gripping read today. There are plenty of critics who do not like various classic works regardless of what genre they are in because they compare it to what is out now and are more enamored with the contemporary stuff. Which is okay, but that is a personal preference. It doesn't mean they are experts. That is why I write about my own 'experience' with a book. The book could be trash in someone else's opinion, but if I enjoyed it then I enjoyed it and nothing is going to dissuade me from saying so.

I really appreciate all you had to say, both the kind things about me and just the great thoughts about blogging and reviewing in general. It was nice to get to know you more through your comments.

And yes, you do need to read Dracula! :)

Harry Markov: daydream said...

I can only say that wow I am super grateful that I received such a long and insightful comment and I shall respond on this via long e-mail. :)

Otherwise thanks for the discussion here and also Dracula is a must read. If you love Vampires then you can't go wrong with this one.

Mark David said...

It's always a pleasure discussing books and stuff around the blogging community. When I get to read one book and then have multiple discussions about it with several people, it feels like watching a good DVD and then having all those bonus features to enjoy afterwards. It makes my blogging effort all the more worthwhile.

Thanks for the Dracula recommendation. There's four of you now that have suggested I go on reading it. I definitely will, one of these days... Happy blogging! :)

Harry Markov: daydream said...

Mark David, 'Dracula' reads fairly fast, so I think you can devour it in one sitting, when the free afternoon presents itself of course. :) You won't be disappointed.

mel said...

"As for supplying books, I have always had a BIG appetite when it comes to purchasing books and so, even to this day, I have far more books that I haven’t read than I may ever have time to read. I doubt I’ll ever run out of books to read!"

This strikes a cord with me-I have just imposed a book buying ban on myself until the first of October at least. I like to tell my wife well at least you know I will be at home reading my books!

Harry Markov: daydream said...

I can relate to the book buying addiction moment. Whenever I can spare 10 bucks more than usual they go into a novel, I will most likely not have the chance to read soon... We need a special Rehab.

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