In my office at work I’ve got a placard advertising Simon Spurrier’s signing for A Serpent Uncoiled at Forbidden Planet. On it are two blurbs, my first blurb ever and a blurb by the well-known blog Pornokitsch. When people first see it, their eyebrows always rise a bit at the name, but I always tell them it’s not that kind of blog. What it is, is a fantastically varied blog looking at more than just speculative fiction – they sometimes have delightfully pulpy noir detectives too – which always manages to surprise me with their playful and insightful reviews. In addition, they are the organisers of the Kitchies, an innovative and interesting annual set of awards. Never stopping in their bid to take over the world, they are also the people behind Pandemonium Fiction, the Jurassic imprint which has brought us some fantastic anthologies and has already announced several more. Lots of interesting things to talk about, I thought, and so I asked them to be part of a Blogger Query. To my delight, they said yes and today I present you with their answers.
Who are Jared Shurin and Anne C. Perry?
A llama and a walrus, respectively. That’s an attitudinal thing, not a physical resemblance. (We hope.)
What got you into blogging?
We actually began as food bloggers. It was a lot of fun, and we did some crazy stuff, but after a few years (4?), we discovered that we were using our (ostensibly culinary) site to talk more about books, movies and culture than we were, you know, food. In 2008, we bid a fond adieu to that and started afresh…
There’s a long answer and a short answer. The long answer is something quite cunning that Anne put together about how our mission is to evaluate – seriously and respectfully – the unappreciated and ephemeral. [Ed. note: This is Anne’s long answer.] The short answer is that one of us [Jared!] went through a period of buying domain names based on silly words. This one seemed the best fit. (We’ve only really regretted it once, when we were doing a children’s event with Foyles and the Society of Authors. Poor Sarah McIntyre had to introduce us – repeatedly – as “seriouslyignorethenameitissafeforkidsandaverynicesite”.)
What is your unique selling point? Interviews, humour, news coverage?
That’s really tough. The internet being what it is (big!), we’re not offering anything that isn’t already there in a hundred other places – and other places probably have more cat videos.
We’re almost entirely reviews, interviews and arguments – none of the newsy stuff. We’re diverse in terms of genre (SF/F and horror, but also mysteries, Westerns and the occasional nurse romance) and publication date (half our reviews are from titles more than 20 years old).
We may be the only blog with recurring features on Robert Chambers, John D. MacDonald and 80’s fantasy movies. Does that count? [Ed. note: Yes it does. Monsters & Mullets is a thing of genius.]
What are your goals for your blog?
To keep having fun. We’re not paid journalists and this isn’t a higher calling. Fun’s the best (and possibly only) reason to do this.
One of the eternal book reviewer debates is to rate or not to rate? Where do you stand on the issue?
We rated for a couple years. Then we changed to nonsense ratings (Anne once declared a book to be “two spoons and a biscuit”). Then we got ditched of the ratings entirely. They’re a very handy shorthand, but it became increasingly difficult for us to compare them all on the same scale, arbitrary or otherwise.
Before we stopped, the all-time lowest rating we ever gave out was “negative one-zillion” – to Chris Claremont’s Exiles: Starting Over. And it deserved it. [Ed. note: Oh dear, but that review is awesome.]
Negative reviews, yay or nay? And why?
Definitely. It is a matter of respect to treat genre fiction (kitsch!) with the same critical rigour that we’d give to anything else. This isn’t ‘snark for snark’s sake’ (of which we were once accused); it is because we genuinely love this stuff and want it to be as good as it can be. And that means calling out the bad as well as the good.
How did Pandemonium Fiction come about? Was it a direct result from your work at Pornokitsch or did it come from something else?
Our Pandemonium anthologies are an extension of the blog in a few ways. On our soapbox, we wanted to demonstrate how SF/F can be a means of exploring intriguing, relevant topics. Off the soapbox, we love books, right? It feels pretty wonderful to participate in making one.
The whole scheme has been much more successful than we ever anticipated. Our third anthology is at the printers and we have three more in the works. The ‘chapbooks’ – 99p publications that showcase new authors – are a feel-good spin-off, in that we’ve put interesting, talented new voices in front of thousands of readers.
Plus, all the Panda titles are for charity. All the proceeds go to the contributors and to our charity partners. Warm fuzzy feelings for all everyone involved (including the readers).
How important are blogs to your reading choices?
Very. There are a lot of bloggers that we trust implicitly. And others that we respectfully disagree with about pretty much everything ever written. In both cases, we find their recommendations incredibly helpful.
How do you think blogs and reviewers fit in the book business?
We’re more important than they think we are and less important than we think we are.
What is your current read and what book are you most eagerly awaiting?
Jared: I’m enjoying the crazy, Commie-busting adventures of Edward Aarons’ Sam Durrell, a properly sleazy spy series.
I’m really looking forward to 2013: Mark Charan Newton’s Drakenfeld, Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s The Last Banquet and Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls. I’d follow all of those authors into the fire (literarily speaking), but the blurbs on them sound – well, perfect.
Anne: I just finished Sarah Lotz’s incredible novel Pompidou Posse, about a couple of English runaways sleeping rough in Paris. It’s hilarious, heartbreaking and, most staggeringly, semi-autobiographical. (Can I say that?) [Ed. note: This is a great interview about Pompidou Posse for which Anne included the link. The book sounds great.] And I second every book Jared mentions above. I’m also very, very excited about the next Joe Abercrombie and the new Scott Lynch.
Is there something else you’re obsessed with other than books?
We hoard all sorts of silly things – from vintage games to BBQ spices to bouncy cats – but nothing to the same extent.
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
Ideally, alphabetically by author. Non-fiction gets shelved separately, by topic (art, history, science, occult, bibliography, etc). Small presses and key publishers are all separated out as well.
Of course, we’ve never actually had that ideal situation. Our books are spread across six [Ed. note: SIX!?] different storage sites in the US and UK. In our home, books just go… wherever they go: double- or triple-shelved; piled and stacked; haphazardly shoved wherever they might fit. It is upsetting to think about. Although, on the plus side, occasionally we discover things we’d forgotten we own…
Thank you so much for letting us do this!
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions! Pornokitsch is a site you should not miss out on and don’t worry despite the name it’s very Safe For Work. You can also follow Jared and Anne on Twitter.