Category Archives: Opinions

Goodreads for Short Stories?

55 Short Stories from the New Yorker
55 Short Stories from the New Yorker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m a fan of Goodreads – even before the website came out I was toying with a similar idea – not so much for the social networking aspect of it – but more as a way to record the books I’d read. Previously I’d done such things by the use of spreadsheets, but obviously a website and app that you can access everywhere and has a database of published books makes that take a lot easier.

Why record what you’ve read?

For me it’s because I’d forget what I’ve read otherwise and be doomed to start reading or even buy something that I’d already read before. I tend to read quite a few books from the library, so a quick glance at a bookshelf doesn’t always solve the problem.

Also I think its good to be able to rate titles – for instance if you’ve read a book by one author and did or didn’t like it then the next time you’re tempted by another book of their’s you can see what you thought of their previous stuff.

I tend not to write long reviews though – usually just a simple rating suffices for me. I’m more likely to leave a brief note for myself on Goodreads if I really hated a book and why so I can remember to steer clear in the future.

Short Stories?

Which brings me onto short stories. If you read a short story collection or anthology, or even an issue of a short story magazine, there’s no way on Goodreads or similar sites of recording what you think about individual short stories. You can only rate the whole book. You could then write a detailed review of each story, but that’s quite laborious and also wouldn’t enable you to search your reading history by author or story title to see if you’ve read a story before and what you thought of it. Given that short stories can pop up in different anthologies I think it would be very useful to do so.

What’s to be done?

I think for short stories there needs to be some way to have short story level meta-data so you could actually tag a short story once you’ve read it and provide a simple rating or a review if you want to. Ideally this should be linked to your ereader software if you read ebooks – then you can just rate a story as you read a collection and update your database that way. I’m sure Amazon must be thinking of linking Goodreads in that way at a book level – how about at the short story level?

What do others think? Do you come across this problem as well?

In Search of Historical Fantasy


Medieval (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

I think that I may have a problem as a writer. Hopefully not in the quality of what I do, but in the choice of one of the genres that I like to write in. I do write mostly historical or fantasy fiction, and quite often what I enjoy most is to write historical fantasy. However, I think there’s a problem with that.

The problem is that Historical Fantasy (note switch to capital letters – to provide some more gravitas) is a slippery genre to define. If you check out the listings at online retailers or on places like Goodreads – or reader discussions online – then you realise that Historical Fantasy means different things to different people – and don’t get me started on Wikipedia.

The issue is that my definition, I believe, doesn’t match with that of some others. For me Historical Fantasy should be a piece of fiction actually taking place in an historical setting. So for instance, for my Hell has its Demons story, the setting is Fourteenth Century England. I then add in fantastical elements – basically demons and magic in my story are real.

Yet it seems for other people – and for those genre listings on online retailers particularly – the genre is in fact anything that has a vague historical tinge to it. So you get books by Tad Williams, G R R Martin, Brent Weeks, Michael J Sullivan and Joe Abercrombrie all appearing. If you then look at the sub-genre of Medieval Fantasy – which I think I’m writing in, then you get pretty much the whole Epic Fantasy genre. I just can’t understand how those books muscle into my ghetto and claim historical/medieval definitions!

But another issue with the genre, even if you take a stricter view of it, is that it is a bit of a mash-up. There’s no Historical Fantasy section in traditional bookshops or libraries. There’s actually not that many well known authors/books in the genre. I would say a handful really still writing – Gabaldon, Novik. Susanna Clarke – who wrote what I would say is the defining book of recent Historical Fiction – doesn’t seem to be producing anything new at all, which is a great shame.

So in a sense I am writing in a genre without much of a real fan base. But hey, maybe that’s a good thing! I think there is a desire for this kind of fiction, and it would be great to see it better defined and promoted by the big retailers – kick out the second-world fantasy that includes armour and swords please!


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