Sunday, February 28, 2010

[Reviewer Time] Peter William from 'Ubiquitous Absence'

Blog: Ubiquitous Absence [puzzling, but sophisticated name]
Founder: Peter William
First Post: February 28th 2009 [rookie]
Average Number of Posts per Month: 6,83 [based on the whole 2009 and 2010; I know it is not the definition of frequent blogging, but the man has a soul-sucking job]

Genres: Fantasy as in Epic & Traditional [good & steady focus]

Highlights: He is the mastermind behind the Sunday Night Spotlight, which is a light-hearted and funnier rip-off version of Reviewer Time. Book Bloggers are invited and interviewed.

Why do I bother?: I have been kindly invited as a guest on his feature and it is only the right thing to do and return the favor. We also had quite a few nice chats and he is a decent guy.

My Two Cents: I think I will be short in my speech about Peter William and his blog, mainly as the site’s name suggests Peter is largely absent. He’s been around for a year and he has left only 82 posts to be remembered by. By the way, I am actually posting this on the day his first post went live. Congrats to making it so far, even if it is with such a pitiful number of posts. I am certainly hopeful that with this new year you will have more time to devote to your blog.

But is being deprived from the joy to blog acceptable? I say, HELL NO. Reality should offer at least two hours daily to us bloggers. I am contemplating upon releasing a petition. Who is with me?

Anyway, let’s move to the more important aspects of this post. I will hope to answer the very important, if not existential, question: Why should you add Peter William’s creation to your Google Reader? The most obvious answer is that ‘Ubiquitous Absence’ is easy to follow [not updated regularly and all] and will not cause your Reader to go overweight such as certain content machine guns.

On a more serious note [I vow to not be a dick], when Peter has the time to post a review, he does a decent job. I have been adding books to my wish lists [I am that cool; I have several] because of his reviews, which are quite fast to read, easy to digest and a good basis for me to make a decision about whether a book is good for me or not. It is true that I am not an expert on epic fantasy, but I do have basic intuition. Also, the fact that the focus falls on just one genre [subgenre, really] translates that the guy knows his genre, loves it and is competent as a reader, thus as a reviewer.

Another benefit is the Sunday Night Spotlight, which is more or less a rip-off… no way I said that already [I broke my promise, I know. I am a dick.]. The truth is that it is, indeed, a fun feature to follow, because it angles at different topics and creates a lighter atmosphere. Length and introduction vary than my own and are just one fun pill that will take a manner of minutes and not a steady half an hour with my epic ramblings and questions, which is quite positive in this ADD and time-obsessed culture. Not to mention that he invites intriguing guests.


Hello Peter, welcome to my virtual chair and behold the experience that is Reviewer Time [insert evil laughter]. How are you feeling? Good? I figured that much. Anyway, let’s kick this thing off with a few questions about you. What do you do, when you do not read & blog?

As a shadowy miscreant of dubious character, I conduct numerous questionable endeavors. Actually, I work in commercial property management, with six buildings across three separate hospital campuses. My wife and I have six month old DominicWilliam to stuff with food, change, wash, rinse and repeat. When I can get bonus “Pete” time, I’m throwing darts in a league hosted in local pubs (ours having some seriously sick award winning brews).

It is safe to assume that you are addicted to reading. Correct? [insert mumbled reply] Yes, I am as always correct. However, when did your fixation with literature began?
I suppose admitting my addiction is the first towards real help, but I don’t want no stinking help. When I was in the second grade, an uncle gave me the entire Chronicles of Narnia. Then, in the third grade, our teacher read us The Hobbit during reading time. By the fifth grade, a new student to our school from the UK introduced us to Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain. That set me on the track to our favorite little genre, but what started my affair with reading was my mother. During summer, after chores were completed, we had all kinds of time to ourselves – all the adults were at work. Trouble was found and enjoyed by all. My mom’s solution was simple, assign a book to be read and she would quiz each one of us at the end of chapters. After we were fine with reading books instead of wreaking havoc (ahhhhh! That’s not fair!!!!), we got to pick our own stories. That first assignment was Jack London’s Call of the Wild.

Anyway, what sparked your love for fantasy? What is that reason that makes you return every time to speculative fiction?

The works that cemented my love for fantasy were The Lord of the Rings, Donaldson’s First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and Williams Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. I continue to return to fantasy because, for me, it represents the imagination unbound. The sense of limitlessness I experience, when reading fantasy fiction, is liberating, if even nothing more than self-delusion.

You are the editor of your very own fledgling review, the so called ‘Ubiquitous Absence’ [the first part of which I always manage to misspell]. Tell us how that blog came to be and why in the world you had to give it such a complicated name.

I had seen numerous SF&F blogs and found them to be a lot of fun to look through. Two things then struck me: 1) I could use a blog to regularly post to, in order to return to a habit of writing regularly and, 2) it would be fun and seemed to have a degree of difficulty just low enough for me to handle. The title is indicative of my level of consciousness during certain phases of its own intermittent nature.

As I see, you are soon to celebrate your first year as a reviewer blogger. Can you cast some insight to what is changing in regards to blogging and how the journey so far has been?

With time the whole thing improves. Seriously, I’m just ‘winging it.’ After almost a year though, things have started to draw together and it’s becoming something more blog-like. The journey so far has been great.

Have you been blessed with your first ARC, yet? I think for many people it’s a rite to adulthood in the blogosphere.

Yes. I have received John D. Brown’s Servant of a Dark God, Laura Bynum’s Veracity and Liane Merciel’s The River King’s Road: A Novel of Ithelas. At first, I was a bit nervous that they might be hellaciously lousy books, since someone bothered sending them to me, but was pleasantly surprised by the quality of each debut.

Of course, that and the occasional scandal about a negative review or some inappropriate statement. Have you had one of those too?

Not really. I have had one negative review that I knew would be unpopular, because of plenty of great reviews of the same work. It was Daniel Abraham’s The Price of Spring. On the boards I visit, I copy and paste the text of the review in appropriate threads. When I posted it at Westeros, it sort of lit up one person, who mellowed out very quickly and was quick to post that his response wasn’t meant to offend. After a couple of days, I opened an email directing me to moderate a comment from the blog left by….Daniel Abraham. Uh-oh. It was a bit like going to the principal’s office. Seriously, Abraham was nothing but extremely professional and gracious in his comments, a true class act.

Say, looking at your blog, I see that you are a man of few posts [dastardly clever, ain’t I?]. What keeps you so busy and away from your online destiny? Ultimately, do you not feel discomfort or pressure to expand your activity and increase the frequency, with which you post?

No, not really. I know I should be trying to drive traffic, but it’s just not a priority for me at the moment. In all honesty, I’m trying to use the blog to sharpen my chop. My real passion is to tell stories. For the time being, I’m moved to express that passion using writing as my outlet.
You swear that you have not copied my Reviewer Time in order to create your Sunday Night Spotlight, but where did you get the idea for that one and so far are you satisfied?

Many moons ago, I spoke with Ken over at Neth Space. I had considered putting interviews together, of authors, editors, bloggers and other such genre associated personages and asked Ken if I could interview him. He told me that he had just been interviewed by you (curses, I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you pesky kids) and that I ought to beware doing anything too closely resembling Reviewer Time. I looked up the segment on Temple Library Reviews and thought, “Whoa, this guy gets traffic. Obviously, my reviews will be nothing like his.” So far, it’s been rather fun. I get to ask the questions that come to my mind about each participant. In reading their blogs, I often wonder what makes them the bloggers they are, and want keeps them going.

Yes, well I am superior in the review bloggers category. Though, I think Sam Sykes may steal the show from me, that bastard. For real everybody with a SFF review blog do better than me so I know what you mean. But who would you love to interview?

Oh, there’s a few in there. I would like to interview Tad Williams. Without a doubt, my favorite living author. It’s probably because of the sentimentality I have for past experiences. I read Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, in hard cover, upon release several years (20? – how’d that happen) ago.

I would like to interview Sam Sykes, because he is, clearly, a lunatic.

I would like to interview GRR Martin. Martin is, in his field of endeavor, famous and successful, but then you read a blog (let’s just say it’s Pat’s – The Fantasy Hotlist) where he is portrayed as a gracious, friendly and humble man. I love interacting with people like that. It revitalizes my goodwill (in perpetually short supply, I’m told) toward members of my species. The biggest problem there is that he’s a New York fan. The first 30 years of my life were spent growing up a quarter-mile from a cemetery hosting 7 generations of my family in the Champlain valley region of Vermont (i.e. New England). I’ve been down with the Red Sox, Patriots and Bruins since the late 70’s. I don’t do New York.

I would also like to interview Joe Abercombie because he might be a lunatic, but you just can’t tell. After all, it’s the quiet ones you have to worry about.

Do you want to be a published author? If yes, what do you write?

Yeah, I do. Currently, I’ve not been writing much (curse you real world!!!). I’ve been involved in a couple of flash fiction runs the past couple of months over at SFFWorld. I want to put a couple of shorts together that I think will sell. My biggest problem, is the novel(s) length of fiction (fantasy) I’m anticipating. I’m struck by various snags that have been resolved only recently. One of the things restraining progress is how I want the whole thing to unfold. I’m considering several stand alone projects, introducing the reader to the setting, cultures and characters involved (each stand alone concentrating on a particular character/storyline), before drawing events together in the main saga.

When I try to estimate words, chapters, books the main saga seems to be 3 to 4 books. Depending on how I fix the outline concerning a couple of characters, the stand alone projects I’ll start with could be 5 or more. Until I fix the outline and certain glaring problems therein, I won’t really be able to nail that down.

Judging by the sheer number you want written and the mention of cultures, I gather you speak about epic fantasy? Is this your first and strongest love and is there a genre, which you would also love to try?

I’d say alternate world fantasy is my favorite, followed by epic fantasy. I would also like to try a blend of fantasy and horror. I’ve seen it attempted but….lets just say I wasn’t scared. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea, it just means it has a higher degree of difficulty.

What are your biggest pet peeves, when it comes to your favorite genres? What eats your soul like acidic maggots and dooms you to reader dissatisfaction [ominous, eh]? And do you keep an eye out to avoid them in your fiction.

My biggest pet peeve is authorial sock-puppetry for the sake of issuing a social, political, theological and/or philosophical commentary. If I have to read page after endless page of dialogue thinly camouflaging the author’s pet philosophy (i.e. screed), then that book won’t get finished. Wasting money, or time, on reading a book that is really an axe being ground, for the sake of advocacy, is a trap to avoid at all costs.

There is quite the debate going on with eBooks and eReaders and god knows how many e & i affixed in front of words. How do you see the invasion of electronics into literature and what is your take on the eBook pricing as well?

In my largely uninformed opinion, it is an unmitigated mess. There are numerous parties attempting numerous things to the effect of no great result to the consumer, as yet. I think it will ultimately become something that gets ironed out, but I would bet that there is plenty of stumbling left to go.

A recent interesting topic, started yet again by Gav at Nextread, is whether or not the world needs more book bloggers and whether being fewer of us and more content a better ratio. I imagine that publicists will have a tough time deciding, where to ship review copies and author might find themselves overwhelmed with interview invitations, and reviewers might recycle the opinion on the same subject until the readers start rolling their eyes. But the question remains. Your take.

The internet, like any environment, has a carrying capacity constructed by several factors, including review copies available, readers, blog viewers, authors, publicists, etc. When this environment is carrying more bloggers than possible, it will correct itself. Some will fade away through changing priorities in life, discouragement and too numerous to list other reasons. Also, there is always a Bell-curve. Some blogs are simply better than others. Better for viewers, or better for publicists, or better for authors, and on, and on. Those that can’t find a niche in which to thrive will be, simply, hobbyists with low traffic (e.g. that clown over at Ubiquitous Absence).

Let’s say that you can choose which two authors to fight a death match. Who would you like to see fight against each other.

Oh, that’s easy! Joe Abercrombie and Brent Weeks (or Sussex Days, Kent Years – whatever he’s going by nowadays). Say one thing for Joe Abercrombie; Say he doesn’t waste time on a goatee. (j/k everybody – no authors were harmed in the construction of my lame attempt at humor).

If you could have a super power, what would it be?

I love this question! I’ve played this one out in my mind for years. My current favorite power would be that of Hiro Nakamura – to be Master of Time and Space. I could return to 1986, sit in the stands at Fenway, stop time, put the ground ball in Buckner’s glove, reseat myself and watch the Red Sox drop the evil NY Mets like a sack of dirt. I would then take a jaunt into the future, read the remainder of ASoIaF, return to the present and torture everyone with vague references full of misleading innuendo about how the rest of the story unfolds.

You save a genie from a pack of greedy nuns carrying machine guns. She grants you three book related wishes. What would you wish for?

Hmm, I would probably wish for the next books from the authors I treasure most in sf&f. The first would be Tad Williams’ Shadowrise. The second would be Stephen R. Donaldson’s Against All Things Ending. The third one is a book whose cover art is green in color and there’s a dragon on the front. Yeah, that one.


Alec said...

Heh sounds like Terry Goodkind must be your favorite author.

If you are still interested in interviewing Abercrombie send me an email as I have an interview chit with him I have yet to cash in.

Harry Markov said...

You are so connected. Thanks for stopping by.

PeterWilliam said...

Harry, thanks again for the fun time here at TLR.

Alec, I might be interested in taking you up on the Abercrombie spot. I've yet to read his latest, however. I've been holding it "in the bank" so to speak for a day when I want something I know I'll like. Concerning Goodkind, yeah, I can't take it. If I was interested in someone else's advocacy, I'd stop by a local protest, not pay money in a bookstore.

Harry Markov said...

Ah, pleasure as always.

Deborah Beale said...

Hi, I picked you up on Google alerts - you want to interview Tad? Email me (Tad's manager etc.)

Harry Markov said...

I will make sure to get this to him.

Tyson said...

Really enjoyed the interview. Peter is a class act.

Harry Markov said...

That he is. :) Glad you did enjoy it. Pleasure to hear.

PeterWilliam said...

Thanks again. When it goes live, you're going to be credited for the big assist.

Harry Markov said...

Very, very generous. Thank you, although I do not see myself as a great assist. :)

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