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On the usefulness of reviews …

augusti 18, 2013

This is not really about fantasy or sf but about the nature of scholarship and the life as a scholar, so feel free to stop reading if you like.

My book Here Be Dragons has been out for about six months now, and reviews have started to appear. Some have been good (Thank you!), some have been annoying (It is a book of literary scholarship!), some have been indifferent, and, occasionally, some have raised interesting points (The settings of H. P. Lovecraft deserve a study of their own!). In a way, it is very much like a drawn out work-in-progress seminar, except no one tears your work apart at quite such fundamental level. Even a bad, annoying review cannot compare to the experience of having several really smart people inform you of every problem your text has, page by page. That pretty much inoculates you against disappointing reviews down the road.

But I thought I’d share one review with you, not because it is glowingly positive – it isn’t, not really – but because it drew my attention to something that I needed to have pointed out to me. Something I once was completely aware of but had forgotten. Jonathan Crowe, in a review of my map chapter, returned to the fact that what I have written is not the final word on fantasy maps but the first. And although I believe that the first words on this subject have been said (well, written) long before by other scholars, I agree: there is a long way yet to go, a lot more to do. And reading Crowe’s saying this, I suddenly remembered how much I wanted to go on looking at fantasy maps when I wrote the final sentences of my chapter. I have taken a slight look at fantasy city maps in a conference paper since then, but that’s about it.

And thanks to Crowe, I have come to realise how I can combine more map work with my current project about urban fantasy. In a way, the map and the city seem incompatible in fantasy, and yet, there are some maps that deal with urban environments. Time, thus, to drag maps into my thoughts about cities. Thank you, Jonathan!

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