27 June 2008

Comments from this year's Locus Poll & Survey

Comments from this year’s Locus Poll & Survey ballots are grouped into four categories:
February cover

Criticism & Suggestions

Words of Support

The State of the Field

Voter Tastes and Reading Habits

This page is open to (moderated) comments -- for convenience, comments from the ballots are here numbered for reference.

Criticism & Suggestions

  1. One thing you might want to add for the future is a section about if you are involved with running a convention, at what level, and how many.

  2. You should add the question "How do we get more young readers to read SF?"

  3. You should separate Fantasy and Horror in your poll.

  4. We Canadians don't have access to the Sci-Fi Channel, but I do have access to Space, the Canadian equivalent.

  5. I notice that the advertisements throughout the magazine are a mix of, for lack of better terms "mainstream" (Military heroic, media related) and "literary" (not as popular, hard sci-fi). However, the reviews seem to be largely covering the literary reads. Maybe there just aren't any reviewers who are interested in the mainstream stuff, or maybe you all have determined that intended readership is not interested. I think that one "throws out the bait" in the form of what's popular, then "reels in the fish" to the other facets of the genre. I also would like to see reviews about re-issued classics. Thanks for asking for my two cents!

  6. I've never understood why you give the same options for new books per month as you do per year -- surely anyone ticking anything other than the first box of the monthly will tick the last box of the annual?

  7. I would like to see more horror coverage.

  8. You need a category for e-books, as well as Hardcover, MM etc.

  9. Movies per year would be good, like books per year versus books per month.

  10. Too long!

  11. Your choices suck. The authors seem evenly divided between those I've never heard of, and those I’ve tried, and given up on. [ The commenter wrote-in votes for novels by Tom Kratman, John Ringo, David Weber, Mercedes Lackey, and John Lambshead --ed.]

  12. As usual, a big proportion of the books I buy are discounted "remainders", and I am never really sure whether they count as "new" or "used" for purposes of this survey.

  13. Where is all the online content? All the fanzines and SF reviews I read today are online

  14. Under "which of the related subjects..." there should be an anime/manga tick-box.

  15. As a podcaster, I find myself consuming more and more SF through podcasts. Thanks to Escapepod, Podcastle, Podiobook.com, authors like Cory Doctorow, James Patrick Kelly, Tracy Hickman, and Jon Armstrong, and interview shows like Adventures in Scifi Publishing (that's mine), The Future and You, The Agony Column, Dragonpage, I Should be Writing, The Sciphy Show, and more, I find that podcasts are adding incredible resources and entertainment to the business and pleasure of SF. I'd like to see more of a focus on podcasting in the magazine. I think it would be a nice addition.

  16. Your question about how many conventions I attend should be more specific... I do go to work related conventions but I assumed you meant related to this topic. You might just want to say that in case people take you literally.

  17. Would like to see more about some smaller, independent publishers and their works on occasion.

  18. I wish your reviewers would focus more on hard science fiction and horror (the latter of which gets almost no coverage), and less on young adult fiction, fantasy, and (especially) romance science fiction/horror. I'm not much interested in fiction where you have to try to decide if it's science fiction or not, either. More and more I am reading less and less of your reviews, which used to be my favorite part of your mag.

  19. Why no separate category for horror novels?

  20. My favorite book for 2007 was not on the Fantasy list...Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One). I just finishing reading the second in the series, Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book Two)... U.S. publication date 25 Mar 08. The quality of the writing and the originality are very reminiscent of George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. Hope to see volume two on the 2008 best books list.

  21. I noticed some omissions from your recommended reading list that seem -- well -- odd. Maybe you didn't think the last Harry Potter novel was one of the better fantasy novels of the year, but it was certainly one of the notable young adult fantasy novels. I also wonder about the omission of J. R. R. Tolkien, Naomi Novik, Orson Scott Card, Lois McMaster Bujold, and other "popular" writers. Of course, you call them as you see them. Even so, it seems "popularity" is a strike against a book.

  22. You've got Jericho listed but not Firefly? Tsk.

  23. You should also ask how many books we read per year, and how many of those are SF/F/H. Then ask where we get the books we read but don't buy (friend, library...)

  24. I found out about the poll through Boing Boing and am not a Locus reader. I haven't heard of many of the nominated books. There was no option for borrowing books from the library anywhere. I mostly find out about new topics from my local Toronto Public Library SciFi / Fantasy librarians or what looks interesting on the shelves. Neither of which leads me to new fiction super often. I'm more likely to look for new authors and then read everything they've ever written and pine for more.

  25. You didn't ask how many *new* TV/Video/DVD movies. I mostly watch my collection over and over again to save money. Also, I do have access to the Sci-Fi Channel sometimes, but only through friends and family's cable or satellite.

  26. I'd read Locus Online more often if it weren't such a cluttered mess. Hire a good information architect (and I mean *hire* one, don't ask for a volunteer to step up to the plate), have them reorganize the site, and then we're cooking with gas.

  27. Locus should make more of an effort to reach out to younger audiences.

  28. About time for a new list of best novels of all time. People ask where to start reading SF and I give them a copy of the Locus poll from 1991 I have xeroxed in my desk.

  29. While I have never been to a science fiction convention, I've attended quite a few anime/manga conventions. I imagine if you included an option for such conventions (I doubt it needs to be its own "related subject," as "comics" pretty much covers it, to me at least), you'd find a surprising number of sci-fi and fantasy fans cross over into that world.

  30. I believe that LOCUS should add a section in the magazine and poll on comic books/ graphic novels. Brian K. Vaughan's "Y: The Last Man" and "Ex Machina" are two of the best science fiction stories published in the past few years--although they are comics, so not eligible for any category on the ballot.

  31. Find your magazine very informative. However, I have never found Carolyn Cushman to ever review one single book that I would conceive of being interested in.

  32. The link to the Poll and Survey was not easy to find.

  33. I enjoy the poll yearly and now it's much easier filling it out online than with the paper form. Hopefully that'll be done away with soon. You ought to add a question of Favourite Movie of the past year.

  34. SFScope is in danger of supplanting Locus Online as the #1 source for news about the genre. I find I know go to SFScope first. It appears to update hourly.

  35. Why comment? Makes no difference now does it? :-)

  36. In the future, PLEASE include "no award" among the drop-downs. For example, I was appalled by the poor quality of the art books published in 2007, and would not dignify any of the candidates as other than "best of a poor lot."

  37. No Scott Lynch on the ballot for best fantasy novel?

  38. Small press publications or online magazines (Strange Horizons, Bewildering Stories, Lone Star stories, Electric Velocipede, Subterranean, ...) are underrepresented in your lists of stories. Ditto for very good small press anthologies (Foundation 100, disLOCATIONS,...). On the contrary, professional anthologies such as "Eclipse One", good but not outstanding, are overrepresented. What we agree on: the main sources of good fiction this year were Asimov's/F&SF/THE NEW SPACE OPERA.

  39. Concerning editors, I'm surprised by the absence of Mike Resnick, JBU's editor and good anthologist.

  40. Podcasts are the way I get 90% of my short fiction. It's a shame some of the more well-known podcasts (like Escape Pod and Pseudopod) aren't listed here. And I think Steve Eley, who edits Escape Pod, might be doing as much for SF fans as any other editor out there.

  41. As I say every year, the subcategories for "what kind of fantasy do you read" seem very outdated.

  42. Should be an electronic version with all those electronic questions, shouldn't there?

  43. Too many questions.

    Words of Support

  44. I enjoy the columns by Doctorow and Strahan. I also like brief personal opinions inserted into Editorial Matters by Charles Brown (the key being the brevity).

  45. I still look forward to receiving each issue of Locus. I'd prefer more Hard SF book reviews, but I realize fantasy is what is selling now. I just can't stomach the stuff.

  46. The poll is much easier to do on line this year -- thanks for putting some effort into the revisions.

  47. I think your poll is much more representative of the SF world than the Nebulas or Hugos.

  48. Another wonderful year. The SF novels were better this year and the short fiction was delicious. Love Locus - the magazine and the on-line version. I love to read SF.

  49. Congratulations for the whole team and the hard work.

  50. I'm just an avid reader of SF, not involved in fandom or any aspect of the business besides reading. I appreciate Locus so much as being a source -- really, the source -- of information and criticism for me.

  51. I've only just learned about Locus and I'm looking forward to learning more/subscribing!

  52. Congratulations on 40 years of LOCUS and carry on like you’ve done before.

  53. I enjoy the in-depth coverage that I get on publishing matters that I don't see anywhere else but Locus.

  54. Thank you. This is great.

  55. I always love the ICFA issue.

  56. I notice you had YA in some non-YA categories. Good for you! Most SF is "really" YA...

  57. Keep up the good work!

  58. Locus is, hands-down, the definitive journal of record of the sf/fantasy field.

  59. Feels strange to filling this out on-line for the first time. I don't read SF as much as I used to. However, Locus is a godsend for me, because it gives me information about forthcoming books and the reviews help me recommend titles to customers at the bookstore where I work.

  60. I value the Locus interviews with top authors. Good questions and great stories.

  61. Without Locus, I would have no idea what to read next. Of course, with Locus I have WAY to much to read! My bookstore and library thank you.

  62. I am so sorry that I have never purchased your magazine! PLEASE FORGIVE ME! But this actually sounds like a good way to find new authors, as opposed to the point and guess of wandering through bookstores or online "Other users who purchased this book, bought...". Thank you for starting me on the path to enlightenment.

  63. I've just discovered Locus after years of reading in the dark. While I love the classics, it's wonderful to have a resource pointing me toward current writers as well. Through Locus I've been introduced to Scalzi, Chabon (his SF), Iain Banks, and many others - Thank you!

  64. I love the diverse coverage of Locus (Nalo Hopkinson to William Gibson) and would like to see more and more of it. Maybe a small profile section on one new writer per issue would be interesting? But, otherwise, keep updating your site which I check often and is a great resource. As a Mexican-American/Latino/Whatever reader of all fiction (mainstream, genre, etc) I love it when you all feature great writers from different gender and racial backgrounds. I strongly believe some of the most cutting edge writing is coming out of genre (SF/F/H) so you all's importance as a resource will grow, hopefully.

  65. Keep up the good work, Locus! I look forward to your book reviews and news of the SF field each month!

  66. LOCUS is the sine qua non of the field.

  67. The magazine retains its high standard of excellence. Books recommended by Locus are consistently worth reading unlike some review magazines such as the New York Times Book Review.

  68. The poll has gotten better over the years as it strives to keep current.

  69. Thanks for the good work. I do so look forward to my Locus magazine every month.

  70. We're getting older, aren't we? I still gravitate to hard science/space opera,(the ones I began with I still love, namely Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, Clark, etc.)and it's primarily YOU (i.e. Locus -- the Recommended Reading lists, esp, but also the reviews) that have steered me to Alistair Reynolds, Joe Haldeman, Jack McDevitt, Stephen Baxter, Greg Egan, Robert Charles Wilson, Charles Stross, Robert Sawyer, Vernor Vinge, Ken MacLeod, and especially Connie Willis, plus additional favorites by Jack Williamson, Silverberg, Farmer, and editors like Clute, Hartwell, and others. So, thanks!!!! Over and over, thanks!

  71. Locus is great. Keep it up! I didn't answer how many books I buy because I have so many I've put a moratorium on buying. I need to catch up with what I've already bought.

  72. I enjoy Locus, but, for some reason, I can read it much more quickly in recent years than, say, several years ago. Not sure if that change is primarily due to changes in your content, or to changes in me.

  73. Locus is the best!

  74. Sorry, I didn't vote for short stories, or novellas. I don't read much short fiction at all. Thanks for the magazine -- I've been subscribing since 1995 and I always find books I would have missed without your reviews.

  75. I read the magazine cover-to-cover as soon as it arrives. I also check on-line several times a week, usually daily. Thank you all for keeping me up-to-date.

  76. I like doing the poll online. Disturbed that I'm reading less SF, but it's a busy year; I hope it's not a trend. Locus remains a godsend for picking what I'm going to read.

  77. I love Locus. My job precludes my reading as much as I'd like, and Locus points me to what is most worthwhile.

  78. The Graham Sleight article "Yesterday's Tomorrows" in the February 2008 issue is one of best columns I have read in past year.

  79. Please continue as always, you are simply the best.

  80. Though I don't attend Cons or interact socially on the internet, it is through Locus, Ansible and NYRSF etc., that I feel as if I am part of community that enjoys the same writers, books and entertainments as me. My home page is locusmag.com, it's the reward after a long day of work to see what's new, second only to that one day a month when the actual Locus Mag is in my mail box.

  81. Thanks for making me feel part of something important and worthwhile.

  82. I always read LOCUS when it arrives. Have always loved it.

  83. I have been reading Locus since 1975 and I have always felt it is the finest publication in the science fiction world. I hope you will always keep publishing for as long as I live.

  84. Keep up the good work!

  85. What would we do without Locus?

  86. Mark Kelly -- "LOCUSonline" continues to be awesome.

  87. Both the print and online versions of Locus remain a wonderful and most necessary resource.

    The State of the Field

  88. It's odd and perhaps significant that my favorite new "SF" novels -- Glasshouse, Execution Channel, Halting State -- are "SF" mostly as a courtesy.

  89. I decry the fact that fewer and fewer "hard-science" SF novels are being published (hints at lack of science ed. from grade school thru high school.) The growth of fantasy fiction (with its multi-volume plot-lines) since the 1970s is proof of lower standards. If 99% of SF is junk, then 99.99% of fantasy (esp. mass market) is crap!

  90. I'm concerned about distribution of genre titles into large stores, such as Borders etc., since indy stores are rare; and the unavailability/invisibility of so much of the work. If even a new James Morrow (pub. by Morrow) can't be found in a store (Nashville, Cincinnati, Louisville, Knoxville), then obviously VanderMeer or Jeffrey Ford, Liz Hand, Sarah Monette or Kim Newman don't stand a shot. Crowded out by tie-ins and commercial fantasy trilogies? And YA! I hope if J.K. Rowling is finished, that the YA fad for genre writers fades (and fades from Locus); IMHO :)

  91. I won't make my standard remarks about the year -- I found so little new work at the novel length this year I considered worth the time to read that it depresses me to think about it for very long.

  92. Is there a fund to which I could contribute that would pay Hal Duncan to never write anything again. This would be using my powers only for good!

  93. I am a bookaholic. As such I frequent two large bookstores every week. The sale of SF is shrinking at a rapid pace. The shelves are more and more given over to romantic, supernatural fantasy. Carolyn Cushman remarked on this in her year end summary. But whereas she might find this entertaining, I find it disheartening. Maybe this stuff is no less trashy then some of the SF that used to crowd the shelves, maybe I'm just nostalgic, or maybe the readers, few that they are, are dumbing down. I certainly think that male readership is way down in comparison to female readership. At least the woman and girls are reading something. i fear that more and more men and boys are just playing video games. As Kurt Vonnegut said: "So it goes".

  94. Desperate for good SF on television, and better SF movies - feel like it never gets a fair viewing because of the general outdated and uninformed ideas of what sci-fi is and who enjoys it. Case in point: Battlestar Galactica and Firefly.

  95. I've noticed that more good YA SF has been published in recent years.

  96. Firefly was the best SF show ever. Vampires are the new Unicorns (dammit). The only fantasy I can stomach is non/anti-genre (Pratchett, Powers, Gaiman). Stross is a powerhouse, both insightful and funny. Tim Powers is under-respected.

  97. I am greatly disturbed that once again the World Fantasy Award Judges are ALL MEN. When will this stop happening? The perception and reality of bias are real.

  98. We're in the Golden Age! I hope it isn't the fin de siècle age, something like John Barnes indicated in an interesting essay recently. Thanks for Locus!

  99. I'm more excited about SF/F/H now than I have been in some time. Slipstream, New Weird, whatever you want to call it -- there's more imaginative, great stuff coming out these days than I can ever recall in my adult lifetime. I only wish that I could keep up.

  100. Science fiction seemed on the verge of growing up 5-10 years ago, but only some of the small presses seem to have kept up.

    Voter Tastes and Reading Habits

  101. I read a little over 60 short stories and novelettes that were published in 2007, and tracked my favorites among them in part with later doing this survey in mind. I didn't read enough novellas and novels published last year to make an informed choice, except for a couple standout favorites.

  102. I have always loved Fantasy books -- but with two small children my time is really limited now!! It is so wonderful to escape into those worlds for a few precious moments a week. My book buying is low in the last two years because of the kids -- I expect it will go up again once they are bigger!!

  103. While we OWN only one computer, strictly speaking, and it a desktop, both of us have company-issued laptops that are almost always with us, and all three are linked on our home network -- so we de facto have three computers, two of them laptops.

  104. Since becoming a parent, my ability to wander off to the specialty bookstores has been dramatically reduced, but my need for detailed YA reviews has increased.

  105. First time with the poll... heard about it on Cory Doctorow's podcast. Won't be the last! I'll be interested to see how things work out.

  106. I don't have the same kind of time to read science fiction that I used to have, so Locus is even more important to me today than in the past, especially the reviews and blurbs about books. It is difficult enough to keep up with the books being published in my academic field, and I could never keep up with the books published in sf without Locus. Adding to this welter of books, I have started reading more collections of stories, especially those published by the SF Book Club (though there wasn't one in 2007 that I bought, different from both 2006 & already in 2008). I hope that the high-quality collections, both anthologies and single-author books, keep coming out since I never have time to look at the sf magazines in the mag racks at the bookstore.

  107. Since I don't have the funds to buy many hardcovers, I haven't yet read most of the novels that are nominated. This seriously skews my vote, because when I read them a year or two later, I think, "Wow... I would have voted for that... but it's too late." Thus, already-famous authors (Kage Baker, Guy Gavriel Kay) or brand-new authors who come out only in paperback have a serious advantage with me.

  108. I think I've finally reached the age where I no longer worry about the "future" of sf -- it's going somewhere, though certainly not where any of us could have anticipated, and that's more than a little thrilling. Good writing by good writers -- and more of it. There are more good editors and presses out there. An embarrassment of riches I can hardly keep track of, which is why it's good for me to tag along with LOCUS for the ride.

  109. I am a HUGE fan of Michael Crichton style hard-sci-fi, and only recently discovered "soft" sci-fi since the writer's strike drove me to watch cable tv for the first time in my life

  110. My first SF book was Heinlein's "Space Cadet," then a juvenile anthology featuring Asimov, Clarke, Silverberg and many, many other greats. That was over forty years ago and I've never stopped reading SF, even while my tastes have expanded to include mysteries, military history and hard science non-fiction. For a while in my late teens and early twenties, I subscribed to Analog and Asimov's, but as I grew older, short stories were less satisfying for me. The resurgence of hard SF led by Weber and other Military SF writers has been wonderful for me.

  111. I'm an SF professional. I archive SF as one of the SFWA Depository libraries, so my convention-going, reading, etc. are part of my work (although I do enjoy it as well). I'm still working on getting my library (Northern Illinois University) to subscribe to Locus. I'm hoping to archive as much of the current SF writing market as I can.

  112. I've only become aware of SF/Fantasy since working at Tor. But it's cool, and I love the closeness and history of the community.

  113. I love Sci-fi it started in fourth grade when my advanced reading class did the First Harry Potter. Fantasy has bee everything since then.

  114. I am realizing how many authors are out there that I am woefully ignorant of. I'm going to use your poll to check out some of these people!

  115. The increasing volume of free short fiction available on the internet is making the Locus Poll more challenging every year.

  116. Sci Fi is my rock. I love to go to used book stores and buy up old magazines and anthologies. I love to wonder about the authors and trends and memes they were trying to predict.


  118. I don't really like SF. I mainly just like fantasy.

  119. It's hard to pick the 'best' publisher. There are so many who are doing a great job. I picked Baen mainly because of the Spider reprints. Which may not be a very good reason, but it tipped the scales for me.

  120. Wow. My vote is pretty much worthless -- I don't think I read but a couple of the nominees (in retrospect, I think I know why -- I don't buy hardbacks. Paperbacks only). Part of the problem is that it's hard to know what's worth reading. I find stuff on Amazon, but I don't know of a good online scifi book review site. I have my "stable of authors" whom I read, but outside of that or recommendations on Boing Boing (or looking at the Hugo/Nebula nominees, if I remember), it's hard to know who's out there worth reading. Okay, I'm 35 and a nerd, I get that. But there's _so_ much drivel being published these days, it's really hard to figure out what's worth reading. I don't need another Tolkien retread, I don't need another cliched science fiction save-the-world plot. I want something new, innovative, _original_, even if it's borrowing from the past. Here's who I'm currently reading, in case it helps y'all: Stross, John C. Wright, Scalzi, Alistair Reynolds, Simon Green (okay, guilty pleasure), Jim Butcher (ditto), Modesitt, McDevitt, Karl Schroeder, Varley, James Alan Gardner, Neil Stephenson. I'm a child of the 70's and grew up reading Heinlein, Asimov, etc.

  121. I find very little of the science fiction being published today to my liking and a lot of it isn't what I would call science fiction. Even the SF Book Club has more fantasy and Horror than it does science fiction as, sad to say, does Locus. When I open Locus Magazine (I still eagerly anticipate each issue) I find that the bulk of the reviews and advertisements for new material to be mostly for or about fantasy and/or horror. I guess I haven't kept up with the changes in the field. I find that most of the books I do buy these days are collections with a few exceptions (McDevitt, Flynn, Haldeman, Niven, and Scalzi to name a few authors). I do spend most of my "collector" dollars at specialty bookstores buying pulps, digests, and books from the earlier days. Unfortunately I am finding that more and more of these small stores are closing for one reason or another and it is getting very difficult to find these items, at least around the Cleveland area. Enough of my rant, I do wish for the continued publication of Locus as I have been a devoted reader for over 25 years having most of your issues safely stashed away in the depths of my greater collection.

  122. I suppose it's worth noting that I actually get most of my fiction for reading from local libraries rather than by purchase.

  123. I read less and less SF/Fantasy as I get older, and my interest in collecting SF has waned. I read just as much as I always did, but now I tend to read nonfiction. I collect just as much as I always did, but very little SF now. It doesn't interest me as much.

  124. I keep current with Business Week, U.S.N.& W.R. and Locus. I'm 3 and 1/2 years behind in 5 fiction monthlies and have about 30 novels stacked up (mostly SF) I fear I will never read. Life is getting short but there may yet be time.

  125. Found myself doing more re-reading this year, Poul Anderson, Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey, WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE/AFTER WORLDS COLLIDE, etc. Not impressed by most of the TV or movie offerings in SF. Thanks for making it possible for me to at least try to keep up.

  126. I am 57+ years old. From the age of 7 until well into my 30's SF was my main reading. I now read everything including many graphic novels. My part time job is working for a comic book convention company so I attend 8 - 10 comic conventions a year as a part of work. I crash Luna Con about once every other year as a guest of a good friend.

  127. Grew up reading SF, drifted away when everything became Star Wars derivatives; found crime fiction more "adult" and original. The only SF writer I buy regularly (and in hardcover) is Robert Charles Wilson. I miss the old days, of Zelazny and Niven before they attempted fantasy, or Clarke or Vance, etc.

  128. I much prefer buying mass market paperbacks because hardback and trade paper take too much room!
Comments are welcome, but are moderated.


At Saturday, June 28, 2008 9:11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I strongly disagree with comment #26; I think the Locus website is excellent in both design and content. Thanks!

At Saturday, June 28, 2008 2:30:00 PM, Anonymous Lord Walking Clam said...

I used to read Locus and couldn't help but notice how there was always biased lavish praise for Robert Heinlein. This was annoying at first and then became irritating as numerous editions hailed him as the alpha and omega of science fiction. This is odd considering 90% of his writing is either for juveniles or dirty old man stories. This is not to say he didn't write the occasional good novel, but there isn't much that doesn't fit either description. Lest you say I know not what I type, whenever I attend used book sales what two novels are usually in the science fiction section more than any others? Time Enough for Love and Stranger in a Strange Land. Locus' slant is doubtless the result of Mr. Brown, who I am surprised hasn't purchased a life-size statue of Heinlein and glued his lips to his ass. Then there was the front page article "Robert Heinlein would have been 100 today." You should have told me sooner, I would have baked a cake. How about the other science fiction writers this could be said of? You've got a decent magazine but you should drop your propensity to sing Heinlein's praises above all others.

At Friday, July 04, 2008 3:53:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I strongly disagree with the first reply (just above) on comment #26. The Locus website is not excellent, it needs a serious overhaul. Its certainly not the worst, but it could be much better.

At Friday, July 04, 2008 7:54:00 AM, Blogger Mark Kelly said...

Unfortunately, Anonymous, there's nothing I can do about your advice for a "serious overhaul" without specifics, or at least an example of another website you approve of. Otherwise, it's unlikely that any changes I make to the site would satisfy your discontent... --the editor.

At Monday, July 07, 2008 9:35:00 PM, Anonymous Claire said...

On the complaints about Locus's reviews: I originally subscribed to Locus in the late eighties, when it was reviewing a lot of books by authors I liked. Over the next few years, the focus of the reviewers shifted so that the only reviewers I tended to agree with were reviewing horror, and as I wasn't interested in horror (especially the sort popular in the late 1980s/early 1990s), I ended up letting my subscription lapse.

Skip ahead a dozen years or so, and Locus is back to reviewing lots of books I'm interested in again, or maybe the market is back to publishing the sorts of books I like, which, yeah, are those yucky "literary" ones. Sorry for the folks who don't like those books, but I've been very happy with Locus over the last couple of years. I've discovered a bunch of new authors, and caught up with old favorites, too.

But the moral of the story: Just wait a few years, and maybe Locus (or the market) will shift back to the sorts of things you like reading.

Also, @#5, I am also amazed and amused by the ads, many of which are for books that no one at Locus seems to be remotely interested in reviewing. Still, if it helps pay the bills and keeps Locus reviewing books I want to read, I'm fine with the wacky ads. Just don't tell the advertisers we don't care....

At Friday, July 11, 2008 7:00:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Locus is a great source of info but it is indeed cluttered (cf. #26). Too much info kills the info. This is personal and cultural though (Japanese people enjoy very dense web-pages for instance...).

At Friday, July 11, 2008 7:04:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Food for thought: maybe one reason for the scarcity of hard SF compared to Fantasy and Horror comes from the poorer science production to tap in (Internet and mobile phones are less impressive than landing on the moon for the first time or discovering nuclear energy). Also, the perception of the world as a hard place to live in because of technological progress (in a 1984 sort of progress...) may lead us more towards Fairy tales. I am 35, father and an engineer, and I sure would like fairies to exist in times like these.

At Friday, July 11, 2008 7:21:00 AM, Blogger Mark Kelly said...

Again as for clutter, what should be removed from the homepage to make the site more palatable? Which info is too much? I suspect everyone would have a different idea. I'm genuinely open to suggestions for improvements, and I spend a lot of time studying other successful sites (as for clutter, have you looked at CNN, or Slate, or SciFi Weekly lately?) and updating our layout regularly, but comments such as 'too cluttered' or 'needs an overhaul' aren't specific enough to work with. Sorry if I'm being obtuse! What sites comparable to Locus Online are more elegantly designed? Let me know.

At Saturday, July 12, 2008 8:23:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Mark. So, about the website, from a strictly personal point of view of course. First of all, I am happy with the content. There are 2 areas where I would appreciate "improvements": (1) graphic chart aesthetic (2) clarity.
1)a. It would be nice to use colour scales, not flat colours. Ex: USA Today blue & white title banners; Scifi purple & white banners and backgrounds of frames.
1)b. Round corners look slightly old-fashioned to me. I would prefer square corners for frames.
1)c. Colour coordination: the main colour is a water green shade - which is fine by me, provided some scaling is used. Other colours should be coordinated with this green shade. Dark blue does not match so well as a dark emerald green or simply black or white. There is some coordinate between the green you use and banners like "Future History" and "Blinks". Unfortunately, this color is a bit bleak. I would suggest an emerald green and black colour scale. Any green you choose should have some blue in it to reflect your main colour (grass green would not do).
Likewise, the blue background for the right column items is a nice color, but it strikes out next to the green. Personnally, I would choose less colours, with different shades of them and contempory looking scales (both white and black).
Titles should be anything but red (unless you chooses this as the new main theme color). I would suggest a flat, dark shade of your main colour - or simply black or white.
2)d. Font size. Titles should but bolder - twice as big as text (cf. USAToday, JapanTimes, etc.). Text font should be bigger too (I need to zoom in the page though I don't need glasses).
1)e. Font color. Ditto for titles. Too many words stressed (bold in black, hyperlink in blue). You could for instance set everything in blue hyperlink - cf. Mainichi Daily - or only a subtitle, in black hyperlink (USAToday).
2)a. You should not need using bold characters in the text: the title should say it all. Even for the issue summary, in which half is bold - either we readers do read it and we will see the names of authors, etc. or we don't, but it is not easy to read as it is. Same for the italics in "Blinks" (strange name by the way).
2)b.There is a great source of information that should be put forward more in the upper banners ("News", "Online Features", etc. and "Locus Index to SF", etc.). How about using a large banner that would include Locus logo and these links as in the SciFi site? (You may notice they use a nice graphics in the banner - which is not the case of USAToday, flat & uniformly blue for historical reasons probably).
2)c. The left column I seldom read. Maybe you would like to rename it "Events" or something and make it accessible from a link on a new page. With the room left, you could rearrange and declutter what is in the middle column.
2)d. Lack of clarity comes from the blog format and the great variety of subjects. For an author, that works well because the main topic is themselves (I like Neil Gaiman's for instance). For a magazine, it would be easier to read with the old-fashioned categories (Bestsellers, Obituaries - sic -, Awards, Reviews, Publishing Ind. Economy, etc.) like in ... USAToday (referrenced here only for its outlook, not for the content of course). A "Last minute info" could be useful, if kept small.
2)e. The text of each article should be in a different page. Restricting to enticing titles and subtitles only should make the home page breathe.
2)f. Fonts. Fortunately, the one used is not as severe as Times, but it still look a bit formal. Maybe it is the size? I like round characters (Arial, Verdana, Calibri, etc.).
I hope this will help make it nicer to read - at least, other readers may argue with my personal view on precise points and lead us to some consensus about what "nice" should be. Keep up with the great job and thanks for asking.

At Saturday, July 12, 2008 2:34:00 PM, Blogger Mark Kelly said...

Great set of comments, Anonymous. Let me try to respond at least briefly for now:

The color scheme is intended to reflect the semi-independence of Locus Online and Locus Magazine. I'm not sure debate on exact shades is fruitful, since this and other sites look notable different on different computer monitors -- on my big flatpanel monitor, the right box highlighting Locus Magazine is distinctly purpose, while it's blue on laptop. Also, rounded corners may be passe, but on the homepage at least they are part of the frame that wraps around the page and leads to the little rocket ship at the bottom--something of a design signature for the site, which I would be relucant to abandon.

Colors have been flat because they're coded as html, rather than set as graphics; the site has been around since bandwidth and loading time was more of a concern than it is now. Also, I do the entire design myself, for lack of any available help mostly, and simply haven't taken the time to learn how to generate glitzy graphics like those on other, better-financed sites. I do the entire site in my 'spare time' after my day job, and the budget, in the three-figures per month, mostly is spent on reviewers.

Bold and italics are used mostly to be consistent with Locus Magazine, which bolds book titles and italicizes magazine and film titles. I don't think I agree that bolding key names or words in a paragraph of text doesn't make it more readable; here I would link a recent Slate item about how people read websites... which I am not easily able to find on its site, just now; it was a month or so ago.

The author events and conventions may not be of interest to some, but they are to many others, including the authors and convention runners... When you say you don't read the left column, you include the Blinks?

I suppose I could recategorize with old-fashioned names, but the site has been categorized this way for a long time -- see site map...

And the default font *is* Verdana...

At Saturday, July 12, 2008 2:37:00 PM, Blogger Mark Kelly said...

Correction to middle of 2nd para above: On my big flatpanel monitor, the right box highlighting Locus Magazine is distinctly *purple*, while it's blue on my laptop...

At Saturday, July 12, 2008 2:43:00 PM, Blogger Mark Kelly said...

And here's that Slate article: How We Read Online.

At Saturday, July 12, 2008 4:25:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking the time to review my comments about the web-site.

I guess using HTML as opposed to some Adobe solutions for instance is central to the overall look. An alternative would be to advertise for some assistance from a volunteering computer graphist.

Color does not need to be exact. I simply suggested limiting the number of different colors and using various shades instead (just like some people prefer not to wear red socks with a green suit - but then again, some do and why not). Also, on top of that, colour scaling effects would look nice and current. Obviously, giving the site an overhaul takes lots of time - but since you kindly asked for our opinion, there you go.

I agree with design signatures, and in any case should every site look the same.

I scanned the State article and could not read it for the same reasons as exposed previously (but maybe it's just me who has trouble with too many bolds, italics and hyperlinks - I do take bullets though). Your posts are, on the contrary, readable and clear to me.
Anyway, if this stems from being consistant with the mag...

I did not say that author events and conventions were not of any interest to me. They are, as the rest of the content. Well, most events are too far away from where I live, but that's my problem. To answer your question, I don't read the Blinks (and I am probably missing good stuff here). Now that the topic came out, I think I will try to find out what's inside the column.

Well, this sure won't prevent us from reading you. Thanks for doing this editing work, especially on your 'spare time'. Maybe you'll run into a friend specialized in graphics someday, who will give a hand in the same way as you do.

At Thursday, November 20, 2008 12:39:00 PM, Anonymous Hank Shenk said...

Mark - the Locus website is the best resource that I have found for SF. I'm a book collector and use the Awards page and indexes frequently. The wealth of information is staggering. More frequent updates would be welcome, but as you're on your own time, time constraints are understandable. When is Locus planning on undertaking the next 'All-Time-Best' polls? Thanks for your efforts.


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