Monthly Archives: April 2006

Locus Poll Finalists Pending

The votes have been tallied, the rule-offenders deleted, and the finalists determined… though I’m going to wait just another day or two to see if any lingering paper ballots trickle in to Locus HQ in Oakland before declaring the finalists final, and posting them on the site. Expect something by Sunday, or Monday at the latest.

What I Meant by Fantasy Romance

Every week I scan the online bestseller lists (for the weekly Bestsellers page on Locus Online) and more and more I can’t help noticing how many books, based on their brief descriptions on such lists, seem to have some fantasy component, even though their nominal genre is ‘romance’ or ‘thriller’. This is especially apparent on the USA Today list, which ranks all books by sales in the preceding week regardless of format or subject matter (thus allowing a lot of mass market paperbacks to rank that go unnoticed on lists from other sources).

Thus, for example, from this past week’s USA Today list, some titles and the USAT descriptions–

#12, Dark Demon by Christine Feehan, Jove — Romance: Female vampire slayer is seduced by her enemy

#26, Bump in the Night, by J. D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Mary Kay McComas, Ruth Ryan Langan, Jove — Four stories about the paranormal

#35, Master of Wolves, by Angela Knight, Berkley Sensation — Romance: Werewolf meets the lovely Faith Weston

#85, The Mask of Atreus, by A.J. Hartley, Berkley — Unholy grail has terrible powers

#87, Tomb of the Golden Bird, by Elizabeth Peters, William Morrow — Amelia Peabody finds she must protect her family from the sinister forces

#111, Warsworn, by Elizabeth Vaughan, Tor — Paranormal romance: Powerful healer pays the consquences after swearing an oath of loyalty to a Warlord

#118, The Serpent on the Crown, Elizabeth Peters, Avon — Amelia Peabody must untangle the mystery of an ancient relic that carries a curse

#130, Labyrinth, by Kate Mosse, Putnam — Thriller: Two women born centuries apart are linked by a common destiny

… not to mention various seemingly historical novels about the Knights Templar, the king of Camelot, novels about secret religious histories, and the like.

There seems to be this entire parallel universe of fantasy publishing by authors and publishers who often have no connection with what we regard as the fantasy and SF genre, a universe where fantasy themes are being taken more and more for granted in genres that traditionally haven’t embodied them. On a related note, I recall reading recently that the ‘paranormal romance’ genre generates several hundred, perhaps on the order of 1000, original titles each year. Locus Magazine, as far as I can tell, lists such books when it sees them, and they are partly why publishing numbers that Locus reports continue to inflate year after year, but I’m wondering if we shouldn’t acknowledge that there’s a fundamental distinction between us and them, and let them be, and stop trying to ‘take credit’ for them in our statistics and tallies. For Locus Online, I’m letting go; I did include Dates from Hell on this past week’s chart, but a while back I made a decision to stop compiling J.D. Robb novels on my bestseller lists any more. And none of the examples listed above.

Fantasy Romance

As usual, I didn’t notice that another anniversary of Locus Online has passed; Monday was the 9th anniversary of the site’s going online. I’ll have to plan something visible for next year, perhaps the long-planned expansion of the awards index.

I have a more substantial topic to discuss, but I’m not sure I’ll finish this evening. I’ll post this much for now, and the rest when I finish.

Second to Last Day

Over 50 Locus Poll ballots received today! It’s possible some of them were paper ballots received by the Locus office in Oakland and then keyed into the online form — they tend to do so every week or two, in batch mode — but even so, it means that over 1000 ballots have been submitted so far, and even when the duplicates (some deliberate, some due to e-mail downloading glitches) and invalid ballots (we keep telling you not to vote for the same item more than once in the same category…) are eliminated, it’s very likely we will exceed last year’s total of 911 valid ballots after all.

Check the site later this evening for some awards news…

As Widely Seen on the Net…

Too busy lately (re-engineering and consolidating the various Locus Online databases, in part) without any particularly urgent topics to discuss, to post anything in a while.

But I did want to note, for anyone reading this, that the Locus Poll deadline is just 2 days away. Despite the very fast start with poll responses this year, as of this moment we’re still a bit behind the total responses of last year, though the rate of submissions in the last few days (10+ per day, accelerating toward the end) may make it up. It will be close.

One passing item for now: I’ve always tried to take design cues for the Locus Online homepage from the designs of various prominent professional sites… CNN, New York Times, etc. It’s been interesting to note that in the past couple weeks both of those sites, not to mention my local NBC TV news station site, have increased the width of their sites to something on the order of 980 pixels. (The current Locus Online homepage is 800 pixels wide.) It’s to take advantage of the increasing use of large screen monitors, the NYT editor noted, fairly enough. I observe this with interest, though I have no thoughts about expanding the Locus Online homepage size anytime soon. I’m reasonably happy with the homepage layout at the moment, and since there’s a significant portion of the SF audience who, despite the futuristic, progressive theme of their literary interest, are in fact somewhat conservative in the actual practice of their use of new hardware and software, I’ve actually tried to stay rather a bit behind the breaking edge of website design for Locus Online. (Comments welcome, pro or con, as always.)

April Foolishness

Response to this year’s April 1st ‘issue’ was mostly positive, though there was one significant Not Amused e-mail from a well-known, indirectly involved professional. I’m sure he was right, though whether the offense was to be expected as part of the territory of running April 1st type spoofs, or whether it was due to a lapse on my judgement, I’m not certain. Probably the latter…

I also got some flack about the pop-up ad, which on that day appeared as an overlay on the homepage (for something called The Grudge) that disappeared after about 15 seconds. The income from the various service-provided ads isn’t so great that I’m willing to put up with pop-ups myself, but the agency assured me this was a worthy deal. I won’t know any time soon, since ad agencies seem to have a 3-month cycle time for doling out commissions. Anyway, the immediate feedback will make me less likely to agree to such deals in the future.

I’m tempted some year to run no spoof articles at all, but to save up three or four legitimate news items and post them all on April 1st, and let readers figure out if they’re spoofs or not. Would that be too cruel? It would certainly be easier.

Nobody User

The difficulty with the online forms, including the Locus Poll form and the subscription form, has been resolved. (The problem was that the emails to locusmag.com generated by submitting these forms weren’t being received; they were disappearing somewhere.) The problem does seem to relate to some recent e-mail upgrade by Locus Online’s hosting service, CI Host. This is what they said:

We have been upgrading our email programs on our servers and in this case the nobody user which the webserver runs as did not have the correct permissions. Our admin fixed this once we brought it to his attention.

Now why didn’t I think of that.