Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Reviewer Bias Revisited

© by Gerald So | | 4:00 A.M.

The topic of reviewer etiquette came up yesterday in Short Mystery Fiction Society discussion. A member blogged a review of a story in an anthology including his own story. Another member pointed out the pitfalls of doing this, mainly that some readers discount such reviews as veiled sales pitches.

Many reviewers find it a good rule of thumb to declare biases up front, but I replied with an example of how even this can backfire: Lee Goldberg declared his friendship with Reed Farrel Coleman in an August review of Coleman's novel, Robert B. Parker's Blind Spot, leading one member of my Parker discussion list to dismiss Lee's review as biased.

My reply went on to say I have reviewed work by authors I've met in person, as well as stories in anthologies including my own work. In some cases I've mentioned it, in others I haven't. The tone of my reviews is always as objective as possible. I focus on the work alone. I don't delve into my knowledge of the author because readers may not have that knowledge. I don't compare the author's writing to mine. As such, I don't feel obligated to mention my personal relationship or my own writing at all. What I do bring up in reviews is valid regardless whether the author is a friend or the anthology includes my writing.

What drives my reviews more than anything is the material evoking a response. If the desire to respond is strong enough, I go ahead, without worrying how readers will perceive my well-thought-out review. Individual reader perceptions, as shown above, are beyond a reviewer's control.

Have a look at my review of "A Visit to the One-Eyed Man", a story by my friend Bill Crider, published in Noir Riot Volume 1. The same volume includes my poem "A Definition of Noir".

1 comment:

Bobbi A. Chukran, Author said...

Great post, Gerald. I believe that readers don't really care if you're reviewing an anthology that you have a story in. It's usually other authors who question it.