Fictions & Fandoms Official Site Launch Announcement
I want to formally and warmly welcome you to Fictions & Fandoms, a news, reviews, and commentary site dedicated to science fiction & fantasy books, the fandoms connected to them, and other media they inspire. The goal of this site is to connect readers with great SFF novels, authors, and related fiction, and offer thoughtful discourse around them.
Fictions & Fandoms is a sister site to the Fictitious podcast, a show about the storytelling craft of sci-fi and fantasy. I’ve hosted Fictitious since 2018, interviewing authors about their books, careers, and writing processes. Those interviews are designed to be accessible to aspiring and working writers, as well as casual readers. But it’s certainly writer centric—and I like it that way—but I wanted another vehicle focused on broader reading audiences and fandoms.
The F&F Origin Story
My ideas for Fictions & Fandoms actually predate Fictitious, going back to 2016. It began as a podcast concept, featuring deep dives into fictional properties and the fandoms that rise around them. The original production design reflected the documentary style of podcasts like 99% Invisible, Radio Lab, and shows from Gimlet Media.
The pilot—about the 1986 animated cult classic Transformers: The Movie (one of my all-time favorite films)—featured five different interviews. I talked to one of the film’s original screenwriters, two writers working on current Transformers franchise properties, and several media professions who were lifelong fans. The conversations were fascinating, and illuminating, and fun.
But making that pilot was a HUGE amount of work.
I hadn’t really anticipated the sheer mountain of effort it would take to create just one of those episodes. In retrospect, it was a very stupid mistake. All of those previously mentioned podcasts had full-time, paid teams putting them together. While I had the skills required to do all the individual production pieces, I was still one guy juggling every element.
Eventually, I had to admit the project just wasn’t doable, and shelved the idea before the initial pilot was completed. But I held onto the F&F name, and backburnered the project until I had a more doable concept.
During that time, my wife and I had already been producing the Nerd For A Living podcast for several years. With the initial F&F project shuttered, we shifted to creating spinoff podcasts about careers in creative industries. Fictitious was one of these. After the first season, I altered the focus of Fictitious from writing careers to storytelling craft, and truly found the show’s voice.
Why the Shift to a Book Focus for F&F?
Over the last couple of years, the Fictitious podcast took a long hiatus (I wrote about why here). The show returned earlier this month, though, with new interviews. Jumpstarting it back to life also dumped me right back into the deep end of the book world.
My conversations with authors and publicists contain a common refrain: promoting books right now is HARD. The market is more saturated than ever with new and legacy releases from big conglomerate publishing houses and small imprints, plus an enormous wave of indie, self-published authors.
Social media sites, once useful for promotion and connection with audiences, continue to fracture, drive away users, and sprout new versions like some kind of hellscape hydra desperately flailing its tentacles.
Bookstores continue their struggle to survive as e-commerce sucks up market share. But those online shops, so helpful in their ease and availability, also deluge the shopper with choice and lack of useful curation. And, of course, Amazon damages the eco-system as much as it helps, by undercutting the prices traditional bookstores can afford to sell at.
(I say this as both an Amazon shopper and affiliate. Their disruption of traditional publishing and retail is highly problematic. However, they’ve also made it possible for a ton of indie authors to profitably publish and sustain careers in ways that simply weren’t possible in the previous market landscape.)
The Online Reader Community is the Book Industry’s Lifeline
The bright spot in all of this comes from the book-loving content creator community. Online reviewers, podcasters, commentary channels on YouTube, and the extraordinary impact of BookTok now create a significant avenue for book promotion.
It’s all become an important part of the publishing ecosystem. While it is a highly nebulous cloud of creators, micro-influencers, and very vocal, very opinionated fans to be sure, the collective reach of these communities is a lifeline for publishers and authors.
Review sites like GoodReads, while important in their own right, suffer from the same issues that plague social media platforms and Amazon reviews. Commentary on there swings wildly from super-excited-fan-squeeing to extremely toxic hate critiques. The former is appreciable, if generally uncritical in a way I don’t find helpful. The latter is useless and awful, poisoning the well for all involved.
Finding the Best Reviewers and Promoters for Your Taste
The online space might be saturated with reviewers and commentators at this point, too. So what’s the point of another site wading into the fray?
There’s a cultural reliance on review aggregation: The average stars on an Amazon product or GoodReads book profile. The critical consensus or audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. These can be helpful tools in a world full of too many choices to parse.
But I think we’ve all found ourselves annoyed when our tastes don’t match up to the consensus. Felt surly when reviewers bag on a movie we loved, maybe venomous when a celebrated BookTok breakthrough novel utterly disappoints us.
Most discerning readers cannot trust the judgement of the aggregator. Nothing feeds book burnout like a string of reading failures and DNFs shoveled into our TBRs by sources untrustworthy to our personal taste. It’s in our best interest to seek out like-minded reviewers that can pair us with quality reads, while still expanding our boundaries and introducing stories we might have otherwise dismissed.
What this Site Offers Readers
So, yes, Fictions & Fandoms forms another island in a vast sea of online influencers. (And, yes, I know “influencer” is a gross word.) But I hope to create a specific identity here that is helpful and appealing to a certain kind of reader.
The goal of F&F is to offer an enthusiastic and thoughtful exploration of science fiction and fantasy. Reviews will be fair but critical, with an eye toward entertainment value, but also writing craft, message and theme. All criticism is meant in good faith, avoiding both surly rants and uncritical fan-squee.
I know that the identity and viewpoint of a reviewer matters, too. I’m aware that my identity as a middle-aged, straight, cisgendered white man influences how I experience and interpret stories.
I actively seek stories from and about diverse people and backgrounds. I want stories that challenge me, that stretch my imagination and understanding of the world. And I seek out reviewers that examine stories from perspectives outside my own.
As F&F evolves, I hope to add other reviewer voices and perspectives here. But, in the beginning, I will do my best to amplify quality, engaging reads from skilled authors across a variety of sub-genres and perspectives. I’ll try to save your time and money by steering you away from things that don’t work. And I hope to share with, and promote, the greater universe of book commentators.
Hopefully, for you the reader, Fictions & Fandoms will provide great book recommendations, food for thought, and another way to engage with your favorite pastime.