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Want to have your [x] reviewed on Popcorn?

We can do that! Though I should probably throw some caveats, and as small a number of rules as I can get away with, at you.

General

1. Unless your book/movie/music is the absolute epitome of what I happen to be looking for at that particular moment (and I am mercurial depending on what I have been reading/watching/listening to), I don’t/can’t work on deadlines. I have Vine books, and a movie or two, that have been in my possession for three years that I haven’t started reading/watching yet. One is never quite sure when one will be in the mood for, say, Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America. I can just tell you that in my case, the answer is still “not yet”. [ed. note: it ended up being August 2013, two years after the book arrived.] That’s part of the reason. The other, and more compelling, part is that even with things I have finished, I’m usually running a backlog of between one hundred and two hundred unwritten reviews. Unless a review is a capsule (one or two paragraphs), I look for some sort of hook. Sometimes I get that while I’m reading the book/watching the movie/etc. 90% of the time, however, I have to let something sit for days, weeks, months, in one case a year and a half before I figured out how to get at what it was I was trying to say.

2. Supplying me with a free copy is not, by any means, a guarantee of a good, or even a mediocre, review. One of the worst reviews I ever wrote was on a book whose author emailed me and asked if he could send me a promotional copy, and the review linked above is far from the only bad review I gave to something like that. About the only thing it will get you is that I tend to be (slightly) more tactful in cases like that. If it makes you feel any better, knowing me personally is also not a guarantee of getting a good review.

Books

I’ll read just about anything, from dime novels to literary criticism to the English catechism of the 1780s. As I said above, I am mercurial about what I feel like reading at any given time, but I have a thing for genre fiction, especially supernatural horror from the eighties. I also read a good deal of poetry–more than anyone I know of who doesn’t professionally review the stuff. Caveat: I tend to judge poetry far more strictly than I do prose. Of my ten favorite books, half are poetry collections. Of my ten least favorite, all are poetry collections. If it helps any, here are the adult fiction books I’ve given five stars to over the years, as of January 1, 2013:

Barry Hannah, The Tennis Handsome
Catherynne Valente, The Labyrinth
China Mieville, The City and the City
Clive Barker, Sacrament
Don DeLillo, The Names
John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let the Right One In
Joyce Carol Oates, Cybele
Karen Russell, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves
Karen Russell, Vampires in the Lemon Grove
Kathe Koja, Kink
Kathe Koja, Skin
Kathe Koja, Strange Angels
Margaret Laurence, The Diviners
Matthew Stokoe, Cows
Robin Hobb, Forest Mage
Stephen King, ‘Salem’s Lot
Stephen King, The Stand
Steven Erikson, Midnight Tides
Tom Piccirilli, A Choir of Ill Children
Wendy Walker, The Secret Service

As far as format goes: I prefer print books to e-books, but that’s a personal preference, and I know shipping costs suck, so yeah, by all means, send me an ebook… provided it is in epub format. That is NOT a personal preference, especially for poetry, it’s what my e-reader can capably handle, and converting other formats–which, note, can only be done with DRM-free files, so take that into consideration as well–with Calibre is…not the best solution, especially for poetry and books with illustrations. If it’s an ebook and it’s not epub, you’re basically sending me something that, by the time I read it, may well resemble a third-generation dub of a badly-degraded master tape that was recorded on a twenty-year-old walkman at a club where the amps were all failing and spitting out feedback. In other words, stuff gets lost in the translation process. You don’t want that to happen with someone who has a tendency to castigate laxness in proofreading.

Am I okay with self-/vanity-/POD-published work? You bet I am, preacher! In fact, I actively encourage it. Everyone’s looking for the next John Dies at the End or Push or Harlem Girl Lost. I’m no exception (hell, as far as I’m concerned, I found it, but no one’s listening yet…). If you wrote it, let me know, I’ll read it.

Movies

I go the other way on movies–I prefer digital copies to DVDs or DVD-Rs, but even a mediocre digital print of a feature-length film runs 700MB, and a DVD rip is four gigs, and you don’t have that kind of server space. I know it. Movies I tend to watch faster than I get around to reading books most of the time, but my review backlog in movies is ten times as large as my review backlog in books. (I do not publish reviews in the order I write them, so it may be a week between the time you ship me something and the time I review it, or it may be a year. I can’t tell you.)

Again, regarding genre, I go pretty much everywhere. I tend to dislike straight romance pictures made after 1960. Horror is still a guaranteed high-priority watch, mysteries and thrillers are boss. Documentaries are killer–I am a believer in the idea that anything can be interesting if it is presented correctly. Comedies… best to pass. Drug comedies, or drug movies of any sort? Don’t even think about it. There have been maybe ten great drug films ever made. Yours ain’t one of ’em.

Music

I started out writing music reviews. These days I write them very rarely. I would like to get back to it, but haven’t found the time or inclination save coming up with the yearly best-of lists. But if you want to send me your stuff, I’m game. The general rule of thumb: if it’s radio-friendly, there’s a 99%+ chance I’m going to loathe it. And I can’t give you a formula for when I don’t–I can’t tell you why I like Stockholm’s album better than the thousand things that sound like it on the radio (the loathsome Kings of Leon, etc.), but I do. I can count on one hand the number of country or rap albums that have ever been in my collection, and there has never been a hip-hop or “dubstep” album there. Jazz I’m extremely picky about, and again I can’t tell you what makes one album tick and another not (and “smooth jazz”? Please, just stop making music now. Forever). You’re much more likely to get traction with me with doom metal (especially funereal doom), noise, powerelectronics, or death ambient/death industrial. (Please for the love of huckleberries no “power noise”.)

As regards format, I go old-school for digital: mp3s rule, because I can normalize the volume with mp3gain, and that is a big thing with me (I generally listen to music by integrating it into the car’s mp3 player rather than just sitting down and listening to an album, and something that’s 10dB lower than everything else I’m not even going to register as playing, you know?). My mp3 player, being a crappy knockoff, can handle mp3 and, um, I THINK wav. I know it doesn’t handle flac or ape, which is unfortunate but the state of my wallet. As far as physical media, I like CDs/CD-Rs. I can do tapes, though both of my tape players are shitty, and I can do vinyl, but man that’s a pain to ship. (On the other hand, you just can’t beat vinyl cover art, can you? I still have some of those E. J. Repka gatefold-cover albums from the eighties….)

Again–I can’t guarantee a good review. And I won’t. But honesty? That I can (and will) give you…and the public. You can hit me up at popcorn dot reviews at gmail dot com. I try to get to my email at least twice a day. If I turn you down, it’s not you, it’s me. (Really. I often get overwhelmed by the backlog and resolve to not commit to anything new until I’ve pumped out two or three dozen reviews…)

One response »

  1. Pingback: I Hated, Hated, Hated This Obituary | Popcorn for Breakfast

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