Sunday, July 12, 2009
Interview & Contest with SciFi Guy, Doug Knipe
When I started blogging, I did so to connect with readers, which has been great. One of the unexpected delights is getting to know those dedicated book-lovers who've set up their own blogs. I can't remember when I first discovered Doug Knipe's SciFi Guy, but I immediately loved the site's cool retro design and great content.
Doug's site quickly became a favorite with the scifi, paranormal, and urban fantasy fans because he's always got new and interesting posts, whether he's sharing the latest cover art, or doing an in-depth review of a yet-to-be-released novel. And, of course, he makes fun videos.
I'm thrilled to find out more about the man behind the Canadian mist.
Doug's graciously offered to give away an advanced reading copy of Shadowfae by Erica Hayes here. The contest will run through next Saturday night, July 18, and a winner will be chosen at random. To enter, just leave a comment saying what you'd like to see on genre book sites, i.e. cover art, upcoming releases, snarky reviews, summaries, etc.
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MARTA: Hi, Doug, and great to have you here at Vampire Wire! When I started this blog a few years back, there were very few sites that reviewed vampire and paranormal lit. Now there are lots, and your site really stands out among them. Why did you decide to start a blog devoted to this genre?
DOUG: Actually it wasn’t originally my intention to devote the blog to urban fantasy and paranormals. I’d been a life-long fan, collector and reader of all things science fiction and fantasy, but in 2006 I got hooked on Laurell K. Hamilton, Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris and Kelley Armstrong. I quickly proceeded to seek out everything in the urban fantasy and paranormal genres that I could find. I started blogging in summer of 2008 to share my passion for SF&F (I consider UF and PNR subgenres of fantasy) planning to focus mostly on SF with some urban fantasy. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was enjoying and having way more fun reviewing urban fantasy and made it my principal focus. I haven’t once regretted the choice.
MARTA: I don’t want to shock you or anything, but, psst, you’re one of the few dudes around a genre dominated by women writers and women readers. Does that make you feel weird, or special? Can you make any global, unsubstantiated observations about books and men?
DOUG: Actually I’m going to answer the second part of that question first. I think a lot of men still suffer from the “real men don’t eat quiche” factor when it comes to books and fiction. If it is gender neutral (mainstream, crime fiction, thrillers etc.) or has a traditional male connotation (westerns, horror, science fiction) they read it. But many have difficulty embracing anything with a perceived “for women” label attached to it such as romance, chicklit, urban fantasy and paranormal. When they do acknowledge reading it, urban fantasy for example, they seem to gravitate to the male writers such as Jim Butcher, Simon Green, Charlie Huston, Mario Acevedo, etc. I don’t recall coming across any men saying (admitting) they’ve read a paranormal romance. On the flip side I find women are much more inclusive and willing to embrace most any genre.
So does my preference for the genre make me feel weird? No. Special? Yes, because I feel I have tapped into an undiscovered country and been made part of an exclusive club. But really the water is fine, guys come on in, dip your toes, I promise - there aren’t any sharks.
MARTA: You are a cipher inside an enigma twisted into a conundrum. We know you are Canadian, so naturally much of your time is given to moose-hunting and maple syrup festivals. Is there anything else you’d like to share aboot your private life, eh?
DOUG: Well when I am not checking my trap line or grooming the sled dogs, I like to take in a movie, or two, or three (note to Hollywood – enough with the remakes already there are zillions of terrific books waiting to be adapted). I love a good game of poker and play with the same group of cronies several times a year where we gossip and talk about imported and microbrewery beers. I’m fascinated by genealogy and have done extensive research on many branches of the family tree (Irish mostly – apparently some distant ancestors were hung for horse-thievery). I’ve travelled a lot of places, but have always called Southern Ontario home. And did I mention I’m into books?
MARTA: That’s fabulous! Besides me, would you tell us some favorite authors you think deserve a wider readership?
DOUG: That could be a very long list but I’m going to stick with urban fantasy. A few that come to mind are Kat Richardson (her Greywalker series), Laura Anne Gilman (the Retriever series), and C.E. Murphy (the Walker Papers and Negotiator series).
MARTA: You’ve been able to get some terrific interviews with bestselling authors. Have you learned anything surprising about authors and the publishing industry?
DOUG: Authors and the publishing industry are definitely two very different beasts. I think it amazes more than surprises me, at how hard-working, dedicated and devoted writers are to their readers and their craft. The tremendous effort it takes them to get their books noticed. I really respect that and their generosity with their valuable time. Publishers on the other hand seem slower to recognize the role and opportunity the internet, bloggers and online communities represent. Like any rule though there are plenty of exceptions.
MARTA: Many bloggers are also authors. Do you also write fiction?
DOUG: I’ll be honest and say I haven’t written a piece of fiction since the sixth grade. Do I have story ideas? Sure. I’ve even outlined a couple of them. But when it gets down to it, writing is really hard work. If you want to do it seriously you need to be dedicated, focused and I think you have to make a lot of sacrifices to make it happen. Much as I’d love to create something and see my name on it, I’m happy being a reader. Now if I had a do over, that would be a different matter. (I know it’s never too late).
MARTA: Have you noticed any genre trends? Do you think you and the general public will grow tired of paranormal?
DOUG: Well I think the most obvious trend for the genre is its growth. The number and breadth of titles each month, the injection of new authors; it shows no signs of slowing down. More importantly, the genre has discovered it is a platform that allows every type of story to be told within its framework – crime stories, mysteries, horror, adventure, romance and more – all packaged in a fantastical wrapper. Critics have characterized urban fantasy/paranormal as the kick-ass heroine/vampire/shape shifter genre. While largely true in the beginning, this is no longer the case. For years, similar criticisms of lack of scope were once leveled at science fiction which now sports a multiplicity of sub-genres and has for decades. We are seeing the same happening in UF/PNR only at an accelerated pace. A final genre trend is the growth of young adult titles. A smart move that is investing in the generation of future adult UF/PNR readers.
Personally I don’t see myself tiring of the genre. I love character-driven fiction and the fantastic and UF and PNR deliver that in spades. Paranormal is also largely set in contemporary situations mixed with magic and the fantastic and is not afraid to explore the tropes of other genres. For that reason, I think this form of escapism has a broad appeal to the general public and has captured their imagination. Paranormal may still be in its infancy compared to other genres, but it is here to stay.
MARTA: What did you hope your blog would be when you started it, how has that changed, and where would you like it to be in another year?
DOUG: In the beginning (that sounds ominous), I thought I would have a blend of science fiction, fantasy and paranormal articles and reviews with a main focus on science fiction based on my many-years of reading and collecting. After all I chose the SciFiGuy name for that express reason. But the paranormal bug was firmly entrenched and my reading choices continued mainly in that vein. So in the beginning there were lots of changes and still are. Becoming a blogger is an apprenticeship and an evolution both in terms of the mechanics of managing a blog and in finding your voice and responding to your chosen community. I truly love the genre and the people in it. I’ve only been at this a year and hope in another year to have applied more of these early lessons to make the blog better and grow with the UF community. I also want to find the balance necessary to avoid blogging burnout and ensure that it will continue to be a fun and rewarding experience.
MARTA: What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you since you started the blog? What’s the nicest?
DOUG: Well the weirdest isn’t particularly weird, I’ve been lucky with no X-Files experiences or anything truly wacky, but the power of the internet can be a powerful and scary thing. Early on I was lucky to get 30 visitors a day. Then a certain Vampire Wire publishing executive shared a link to my Tramp Stamp Video with the Smart Bitches and blam - several THOUSAND visitors over a couple of days. Amazing and what a boost.
Nice moments happen every day because the book reading and blogging community is so sociable and sharing. Comments back from readers that discover a book because of a review and love it always provide the warm and fuzzies. Perhaps the most thrilling was when a particular author let me know that their publisher was considering using a blurb from one of my reviews on their next hardcover dust jacket. Whether it ever happens or not is immaterial, the gesture made my day.
MARTA: If a movie was made about a techie Canadian guy who became the world’s most popular book review blogger, who would star in it, and would it be a comedy, tragedy, drama, action-thriller, etc? Describe the character’s sidekick and the hot car he’d drive and the song that would blast from the stereo.
DOUG: I love this question. It would be an urban fantasy action-thriller starring Brendan Fraser (a fellow Canadian) with a suitably sexy demon slaying/vampire hunting heroine beside him in his Mustang GT blasting out Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway.”
Thank you Marta for inviting me.
MARTA: Doug, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!
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Remember, if you'd like a chance to win Shadowfae, leave a comment.
GRATUITOUS VIDEOS OF THE DAY
In honor of our guest today, the GVDs are tributes to Canadians. Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis are featured in this SCTV video.
And here's Brendan Fraser.
I can't ignore Canada's top teen singer in all history, Robin Sparkles.
Posted by Marta at 5:23 PM