Yagiz, of Between Two Books, is also one of the contributing reviewers to Speculative Book Review. I always enjoy his reviews and I’ve been following him ever since I discovered the book blogosphere. In addition to being an interesting reviewer, Yagiz also has an interesting background, having lived in three wildly different countries throughout his life. How this had influenced his SFF reading was something that interested me a lot, so I asked him for a Blogger Query. Here are his answers.
Let’s start with the basics. Who is Yagiz Erkan?
In a few words: A happy man :). If I need to add a few more details: I’m a 38 year-old book-lover. I live in Cork (Ireland). I’m married. My beautiful wife and I had a son 20 months ago. He’s pretty much at the centre of anything going on with our lives at moment. I play guitar. I like to do pencil drawings. I enjoy scuba diving and good wine (not altogether). And finally I’m a software engineer.
What got you into blogging?
I’ve always been a social person and always liked to discuss with my friends about the things they like, their ideas and their opinions on various subjects, etc. As a person who’s lived through the development and popularization of Internet, this side of my personality pushed me to remain active on-line as well. Anyone old and techy enough to remember early 90s would probably be familiar with the era where IRC (Internet Relay Chat) was the king. Starting with IRC (with a very cheesy nickname) [Ed. Note: Who didn't have a cheesy nickname in the early days of the internet?], I’ve always kept and enjoyed an on-line presence. I’ve developed (and co-developed) on-line user groups, have moderated and administered popular forums and have blogged on my company web site for a long time. Therefore sharing my humble opinion about books that I read on-line came naturally. I was discussing about them on various forums (especially on SFFWorld) and decided to write the same things as blog articles in a better structured manner.
Why Between Two Books?
It probably should have been “Torn between two books” :). I always complain that there are too many good books to read but not enough time. Therefore choosing a book to read is often a difficult thing to go through and the books that I decide to read later torment me :). So I imagined myself undecided between two books but in reality there are many more than two.
What is your unique selling point? Interviews, humour, news coverage?
Oh! To be honest, I’ve never thought that my blog had a selling point. I’ve never been an aspiring writer and haven’t studied writing and literature seriously. I’ve never been involved in it professionally either. Therefore I’m coming at this from only a reader’s perspective. It’s about the books and my thoughts and feelings about them. So if there has to be something, my selling point would be my humble opinion.
What are your goals for your blog?
Nothing less than world domination (insert evil laughter here)! These days my goal is to get back to a decent cadence. But in general my goal is to create a social opportunity to discuss about books.
One of the eternal book reviewer debates is to rate or not to rate? Where do you stand on the issue?
I agree. This is one of the eternally debated subjects. I used to think that rating was a very important part of a review. However now I don’t think that it is indispensable. Actually it is probably better if no rating is provided. I think we should convey that score throughout our reviews.
Negative reviews, yay or nay? And why?
Of course yes. But just like in any situation involving negative feedback, things have to be said properly and more carefully. It is also harder to write a good negative review. I, for one, spend definitely more time and am more careful if I need to write a negative review. It is a bigger responsibility. Not only towards the author and the publisher, but also because a negative review is perceived as more credible by the readers. [Ed. Note: That's an interesting observation, about the credibility of a review being greater if it's negative. I'd always just kept that to the reviewer, as in the reviewer is more credible when she writes both positive and negative reviews.]
You blog at both your own blog and Speculative Book Review. Why two blogs? And is there a difference in how you blog for either?
I first started to blog on Between Two Books. Then, a few of us (from SFFWorld Forums) got together to create a bigger and more diverse place under the name of Speculative Book Review. I don’t explicitly behave differently when I blog for one or the other. Obviously, I’m only responsible for a portion (a rather small) of the content on SBR however on BTB I decide on the entire content. Does it make sense to keep a personal blog in my case? To be honest, I’ve already thought about concentrating all on SBR but I’m not convinced that I have to pull the plug yet.
You live in Ireland now, but I know you’re originally from Turkey and that you’ve lived in France. Have you only ever read SFF in English or did you read it in Turkish and French as well? France has a healthy SFF publishing culture, but is there much SFF published in Turkey?
Very interesting question. My parents have always loved books. Me and my brother grew up with books and encyclopaedias around us so it was natural to pick something and try to read. My parents taught me to read pretty early. I knew how to read properly at 4. Until the end of my teenage years I did most of my reading in Turkish. Unfortunately we didn’t have a well developed national SFF scene back then. It is currently more vibrant. Now… don’t get me wrong. Turkey has produced very good writers but most of them are only popular nationally. Only a few like the 2006 Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, or Yasar Kemal have been able to reach an international audience. However, even though fiction has been popular in Turkey, SFF has never achieved a proportionally important status. Therefore all of my genre reading was in Turkish in those years. I was a fan of King and Koontz at a pretty early age. I got into sci-fi and fantasy later.
I moved to France when I was 18 and as you just mentioned, France has a strong national SFF market. Not only as novels but also as graphic novels. So, wine was not the only thing that I learnt to appreciate there :) FNAC was a great place to go and spend some time. *sigh* I had so much time during those years, it’s hard to believe now.
Moving to Ireland in ’99 allowed me to become more familiar with the UK SFF scene. My wife doesn’t want it, but I would probably move to London just to get closer to the events and the community.
Currently I do most of my genre reading in English. I also occasionally read in French, in Spanish and in Turkish.
How important are blogs to your reading choices?
Very important. There’s a big list of them that I regularly follow and a shorter list of bloggers whose opinions and tastes display parallels with mine. Rightly or wrongly, I base most of my new author discoveries on their recommendations.
How do you think blogs and reviewers fit in the book business?
Seeing a book blog simply as a promotion engine would probably be too short as an answer. As I’ve already mentioned, I love the social side of Internet. It is a great enabler for people who want to get together for some common cause. And the community that forms naturally, that lives, feels and reacts together and that evolves according to what the external agents present is an amazing thing. I think this is the true power of blogs and reviewers. It is probably similar to swarms and the swarm behaviour. There’s no single commanding brain but the behaviour of the whole can almost be perceived as the behaviour of a single living entity.
What is your current read and what book are you most eagerly awaiting?
Currently I’m reading Adam Nevill’s Last Days. He is an absolutely brilliant writer. No doubt, he is one of the rising stars of Horror. [Ed. Note: To prove Yagiz's point, Nevill won the August Derleth Award, one of the BFS awards, for The Ritual.]
There are a few upcoming books that I’d like to hold in my hands immediately, but the first on my list is Joe Abercrombie’s Red Country. Very recently they announced a delay for the US publication, but thankfully the UK publication has remained unaffected.
Is there something else you’re obsessed with other than books?
Obsessed? Hmm. That has a rather negative connotation in my mind but exercising is one other thing that I cannot live without. I’m a gym regular and I’ve played Water-polo for a long time (even though I’ve officially taken a break since the birth of my son I’m planning to get back to it soon).
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?
:) I think mine is a mixture between the age of the book (the more recent ones are at a more accessible height) and its genre. I have a separate section for my signed copies and for my graphic novels.