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When it pays to be in a ghetto

My email newsletter from NPR had a link in it to this NPR column about the demise of the separate book review section in newspapers. According to this column, titled "Literary Death Spiral? The Fading Book Section," the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle are the only large newspapers that still run a separate book review section. Columnist (and book author) Dick Meyer laments this with comments such as this: "But newspaper critics had a special role, exposing a large, general readership to a wide variety of writers, books and genres with at least a modicum of fairness, civility and erudition." If he is suggesting that book review sections actually reviewed speculative fiction and other genre fiction at the same rate as mainstream fiction, I take exception. The Washington Post's Michael Dirda is a spec fic champion but reviews of science fiction and fantasy in Book World were still pretty much limited to a once a month, one-page feature with five or six short reviews of maybe four paragraphs each. Even with the occasional in-depth review of books by authors like Neil Gaiman, whose popularity made it safe to review them without labeling the page "Science Fiction and Fantasy," Book World's spec fic coverage probably worked out to fewer than 80 spec fic books a year. And if you were a female spec fic writer, your chances were considerably less than one in 40, because they tended to review more male spec fic writers than female.

Don't get me wrong! I miss Book World. I read it every week. But it's difficult to miss attention that you've never had, so I am guessing spec fic authors will probably spend a good deal less time wailing over its demise than mainstream authors.







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