-By Richard T. Watson–
March 2011 is a significant month for fiction in the UK. Mostly for readers of fiction, but I guess that’s most people involved with fiction at one stage or another.
This month is significant for two main reasons. The first is the widely-popular World Book Night, which involved 20,000 people giving away thousands of copies of books. The second is the much more important fact that the Sabotage blog has undergone some changes, including the appointment of a Fiction Editor (hi!). Forget Comic Relief – this is the heavy stuff.
World Book Night was most successful in generating a buzz around the idea of reading a printed book; largely thanks to extensive use of Twitter and a dedicated night on BBC Two, it brought the reading of literature to a mainstream audience. The remarkable act of giving away thousands of books for free has been shown to have a positive social impact, when it was revealed that homeless people in Manchester love to read and are encouraged to hang out in libraries. Though perhaps the appeal of a library is not its reading matter but its heating.
While I admire the spirit of the mass giveaway, I can’t help feeling that World Book Night missed a trick in only giving away printed books. Sabotage has been highlighting the rise of the online publishing since 2010, and World Book Night may have reached an even wider audience by giving away e-books or Kindles.
Speaking of Sabotage, the other event to rock the literary world this March is our expansion and re-structuring. As of March 2011, Sabotage has someone specifically in place to commission reviews of fiction. It means that Claire can concentrate on poetry reviews without limiting the scope of the site. So I’m looking for short stories, novella, fiction journals, zines, pamphlets etc. for review. I’d also love to hear from you if you’re interested in reviewing for us. I’m prepared to be open-minded on the form of things we review, but we won’t be reviewing novels or larger works: they have the PR machinery already. Every now and then, maybe I’ll liven things up a bit with a feature article or a non-review.
If you want to get in touch, I’m at [email protected], and you should probably have a look at www.sabotagereviews.com/guidelines too. Our fiction reviews should offer intelligent critique of work, be fair (even if not balanced) and allow space for debate. The internet means that criticism is no longer the closed shop it once was, and this site has already seen the increasingly interactive nature of criticism playing across its comment threads. That’s the future and we fully endorse it.
I’m off to raid iPlayer for Faulks on Fiction and to ignore Comic Relief. Do drop me a line on [email protected].