One of the coolest blogs around is Iceberg Ink (Hah, see what I did there?! Sorry, I’m easily amused.) Run by two Canadian gentlemen, Chris and Scott, it’s an eclectic blog which covers all kinds of speculative matter, ranging from books, to TV series, to film, comics and anime. In addition, they also run a podcast called The Giggle Loop. Iceberg Ink has been around for just about as long as A Fantastical Librarian, so as year mates I thought it was high time I asked Chris and Scott for a Blogger Query. Read on for the results!
Who are Chris and Scott?
Scott: Scott is a 30-something Canadian SFF geek, with various fandom affiliations, and an unhealthy obsession with both Doctor Who and Dowton Abbey.
Chris: I’m a charming rogue, with rakish good looks and a carefree demeanour. And I strongly suggest you don’t believe Scott if he tells you anything different.
Actually, what I really am is a media addict. Book, films, television, music, comics, newspapers, magazines, websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook; I’m in a perpetual state of consumption and stimulation. An addict in every sense of the word. I just get a buzz from the constant stimulation of new stories and ideas. Creativity gets me high.
What got you into blogging?
Scott: I really think it came about from Chris and myself getting together at pubs for drinks and gabbing to each other verbal reviews of things we loved (books or otherwise) and deciding that we both couldn’t shut up so why not start a blog to write all this stuff down. The hope being to inform the masses of what we liked and didn’t like and perhaps help them discover new and exciting things.
Chris: I’ve known Scott for over a dozen years now. From time to time we’d bump into each other, thanks to a mutual friend. We ended up as roommates, which was a total mistake. That much concentrated nerdliness should not be kept in one place. We had opinions. A lot of them. [Ed. Note: You had opinions?! ;-)] We’d get together and bend our arms for a couple hours and just talk about the random pop culture nonsense that wormed its way into our heads. I can’t speak for Scott but there weren’t many people around who shared my particular POV on this stuff. A blog just seemed like the natural forum to spout off about the things that interested me and maybe connect with other like-minded individuals.
Why Iceberg Ink?
Scott: Oh man, we went over this for a while. We had a myriad of name choices. Some were cool, some were just okay and some were downright awful. Chris might have the list somewhere, but I’m tempted to believe we discussed it over text so it’s probably long gone. At any rate, we wanted to use ink because of the book reviews, but wanted it to also kind of cover all the other stuff we thought was “cool” as well hence, iceberg.
Chris: I think we went through every possible name permutation for the website. It literally took weeks for us to settle on something. Naturally all the best site names were taken. We went from the obscure, to the wacky, to the out and out bizarre. Finally Scott threw out ICEBERG INK and we never looked back.
What is your unique selling point? Interviews, humour, news coverage?
Scott: I think we try to cover all bases, but by no means are we attempting to be a catch-all SFF sink either. I think book reviews and TV reviews dominate our blog, with the casual news items only showing up if they have us especially excited. I feel the most unique trait we have is the clear differences in what we like. This way we have two distinct voices that a lot of the time don’t match up…which I think lends extra credence to when we DO agree about something. It makes that agreed upon item a bigger deal.
Chris: Scott and I have different strengths. When it comes to books he takes on the fantasy material and I cover sci-fi. There’s some overlap, but fortunately our tastes are individual enough that we’re rarely playing in each other’s pools. Everything else is fair game, whoever gets there first, gets to write about it.
I think we do humour well, but if we’re being honest the Internet is full of somewhat cynical review blogs written by people who can’t string a sentence together unless it’s dripping with sarcasm. I think we’re fairly earnest in our reviews but we’re not above taking the mickey out of something if we feel the situation warrants it.
What are your goals for your blog?
Scott: I think my personal goal is merely to inform. If I enjoy something I want that out there so that people can digest it and make their own decisions. It’s why I break down Doctor Who episodes to the degree I do, as DW fandom is awfully particular, but they do love to analyze. My hope is that we help people analyze their fandom and make educated choices when they head out to purchase books, watch certain shows or the like.
Chris: I want Iceberg Ink to be a forum for conversation and debate. Agree or disagree with something we’ve said, tell us. More importantly, tell us why! I’m going to be throwing this stuff up no matter what, but if you disagree with something I’ve written and you’re engaged enough to start a conversation with me about it, well that’s like striking gold. [Ed. Note: Which reminds me I need to comment more often on the various blogs I follow.]
One of the eternal book reviewer debates is to rate or not to rate? Where do you stand on the issue?
Scott: We don’t rate. Which I think has to do with our own mental idea that one person’s 5 is another persons 2…so why not just throw the feelings out there and let the readers make up their own mind as to what number they’d give it.
Chris: I wouldn’t know how to rate a book if I tried. I wouldn’t want too. Let’s say you’re online and you see a review where the critic\reviewer\blogger has given something 3 out of 5. If I see that review I’m probably going to pass up on that book\movie\show in search of something that’s got a higher rating. But in reality, a 3 out of 5 is pretty good, good enough that I as a reader\watcher would probably get some real enjoyment out of it. But who wants to settle for pretty good when we know that there’s an amazing book out there that we just haven’t found yet. It’s human nature to not want to settle. A non-rated review allows for more nuance and forces the reader to take the time to see if our problems make it something they’d find worthwhile.
Negative reviews, yay or nay? And why?
Scott: Always yay. It’s one of the sticking points Chris and I always agree on, that we shouldn’t be reviewing things if we are going to be one-sided. If we are luke-warm on something we’ll tell you, and if we outright hate it (it happens) then we’ll tell you that as well. We will always try to tell you WHY we didn’t like it though. I think that’s the only way to be fair.
Chris: We’re not cheerleaders. (Although I bet I’d look smashing at the top of that pyramid.) We’re here to give you an honest opinion about what we think of the work. Overly negative or overly fawning reviews always make me feel awkward. I think most books fall squarely in the middle and have their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s up to us to high what we think they are and leave the rest up to you.
What are the benefits of blogging together? Are there drawbacks?
Scott: Benefits: We can split the work on TV stuff that we both watch which alleviates the workload. We also get to bounce stuff off one another too to make sure it sounds good before posting, which is a big plus to sharing responsibilities on the site. We don’t do it too often, but it’s a nice sounding board feature to know we have.
Chris: Drawbacks? Sometimes we read the same stuff and I don’t want to have two different reviews, months apart, up on the site. Not that that’s ever stopped me. But you know, still. Also, we’re always having these gigantic email conversations about things which I think will make a great post. But by the time we’ve hashed everything out I’ve lost all interest in writing up a post, or recording it on the podcast, because it means rehashing the issue over and over and over again. Benefits. Scott’s turned me on to a couple authors who I would not normally have stumbled across. His POV, which I frequently disagree with (which is GOOD), helps me to better articulate and develop my own opinions.
You also do a podcast together, The Giggle Loop. What made you decide to branch out in this direction?
Scott: I think this was Chris’ idea in the beginning. Again stemming from those long pub chats. Chris and I have always had a good back and forth and we thought to ourselves “What’s another feature we could add to the site?” and Podcast seemed like an easy option in that regard. It was kind of a no-brainer when we sat down to think how we could further entertain. That also made it so folk didn’t have to look at us (like a TV show). So we pulled out my laptop, hit record and jumped in with both feet, and it worked (we think). [Ed. Note: You came up with a brilliant name that’s for sure! I love the giggle loop theory as expressed on Coupling :-D]
Chris: Long rambling posts that frequently change topic and border on incoherence are terrible to read. Somehow, doing that same thing on a podcast makes us funny and hip. Also, it gives us an excuse to get together once a month and continue our bullshit sessions.
How important are blogs to your reading choices?
Scott: Personally, I think very important. Having done this for a while now I actually know which fellow bloggers tastes fall in line with mine. Aidan at A Dribble of Ink is a good example of this. His reading habits and favrouties almost always synch with mine and I know he’s a go-to recommendation. I think that’s far more valuable than trying to use GoodReads or Amazon collective review numbers to decide if you’ll like a book or not. So for that aspect I think blogger reviews can be priceless to readers.
Chris: Never. I tend to bumble along, trying an author here and there. Then when I come across a book I love I’ll read that author’s entire back catalogue. When I’ve finished that I’m back to the Russian roulette, picking up whatever strikes my fancy at the time.
How do you think blogs and reviewers fit in the book business?
Scott: Again I think it’s a matter of longevity in the blogosphere. People get to know you and your tastes and they start reading your stuff on a more regular basis. I think that’s invaluable to the book business in general just to show that in the Social Media Internet Age, buzz is almost everything. Word of mouth only goes so far and newspaper or professional reviews only go so far. Blogs, when used in conjunction with Facebook and Twitter, are total buzz-machines. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve glommed onto wanting to read strictly from blogger buzz. The number is quite high.
Chris: I think that blogs and reviewers are an important part of the pop culture ecosystem. It increases awareness about books and authors, jump starts conversations about important topics and creates a community where like-minded individuals can get together and talk about the stories that matter to them.
Also, professional reviewers can’t review everything and unfortunately I find that genre books are frequently overlooked.
What is your current read and what book are you most eagerly awaiting?
Scott: Currently reading Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus series (very similar to the Dresden Files) with Fated, and wondering how this author came out of left field and crafted such readable, addictive Urban Fantasy. [Ed. Note: Scott’s review for this one is already up!] Most eagerly awaiting would probably be Brandon Sanderson’s second Stormlight Archive book. The Way of Kings blew me away and I can’t wait to read the sequel.
Chris: I just finished God’s War by Kameron Hurley which started off a little shaky but really pulled it together by the end. Then I’ve got Jack of Ravens on deck, which is the first entry in a three book fantasy series. Which, to be honest, I’m kind of avoiding for no other reason than that the character on the cover looks like Robert Pattinson. [Ed. Note: Oh my, that does look a lot like RPatz!] I’m looking forward to Brandon Sanderson’s final entry in the Wheel of Time books and The Dark Defiles by Richard Morgan.
Is there something else you’re obsessed with other than books?
Scott: I think Doctor Who falls into that category. I obsess over that show like a madman (with a box). I have far too many t-shirts, toys, and books that are DW based. I’ve also become (as I mentioned) unhealthily obsessed with Downton Abbey. Who knew turn–of-the-century, upstairs/downstairs soap opera was going to win me over so much?
Chris: Comics. Movies. Ultimate Frisbee. Bacon.
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?
Scott: Alphabetically for the majority of the books (by author surname), but I have two shelves that are reserved for entire series and specific authors. Malazan, Dresden Files, Neil Gaiman, Harry Potter, Dragonlance. I don’t know why they get special treatment, they just do.
Chris: Books I sort alphabetically, except for some oversized reference books. I also have a smaller bookshelf devoted entirely to Stephen King for no other reason than all my King books fill the shelf perfectly. Comics I sort alphabetically by character, which sounds more straightforward than it is.