It’s time for the next entry in my Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project. For more about the Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project, go here. You can also check out the other great fanzines and fancasts featured by clicking here.
I have decided to expand the scope of the project to also cover fancasts, because the fancast category could also use a boost. And besides, the borders between fanzine and fancast are porous anyway.
So today, I’m pleased to feature the two-time Hugo finalist Quick Sip Reviews, a blog which focusses on reviewing short speculative fiction.
Therefore, I’m happy to welcome Charles Payseur of Quick Sip Reviews to my blog:
Tell us about your site or zine.
At Quick Sip Reviews I review as much short speculative fiction as I can. For most of my time doing it, and through 2020, that meant basically a review post covering a short fiction issue or monthly content from a publication every weekday, with additional coverage of certain anthologies, novellas, collections, and the like. I’ve run some interviews, written a bit on reviewing and my own thoughts on genre related topics, and generally just tried as much as possible to celebrate the amazing works being produced in short SFF. Moving into 2021 I’m broadening my coverage but reigning in my review length, while moving to a weekly posting schedule rather than a daily one. But yeah. Short SFF reviews. It’s what I do.
Who are the people behind your site or zine?
While I’ve worked on collaborative blogs and projects like Nerds of a Feather and The Book Smugglers, Quick Sip Reviews has pretty much been my one man show since I started. So hello, I’m Charles Payseur! Hailing originally from the suburbs of Chicago, I now live in Western Wisconsin with my husband and two cats. Aside from my work at QSR, I’m also a fiction author and poet, and starting this year I’ll be adding anthology editor to my resume, as well as putting out a collection of my own short fiction.
Why did you decide to start your site or zine?
Equal parts love of short SFF and guilt. I actually got into reviewing kind of sideways, from a call at Critters.org to apply to review at Tangent. This was before I really knew anything about the field aside from having read in the genre since I was young. So I started reviewing there, and it’s not really something I was super happy with, for a number of reasons. So while I was reviewing there I applied to be a short fiction reviewer at Nerds of a Feather, and began a monthly column (The Monthly Round). My work in that brought me much more into the fandom side of things, and brought me onto Twitter, where I began to hear more about Tangent and its history. Because I’m sort of geographically distant from conventions and couldn’t afford to travel at the time, social media really was where I got to hear the conversations about short SFF reviewing that I had never been exposed to. And I decided I wanted to do something that didn’t empower Tangent to further the harm it was doing (a sentiment that was underlined by a homophobic review that Tangent ran that year and I got to witness from both within and without). It was then I made my excuses, left Tangent, and focused on my own work.
So, of course, I started a blog! I’d run personal blogs before and I just wanted to follow through on the promise of what I wanted to do in the field. I knew there was a hunger for longer form reviews that covered every story in an issue. So that became my mission, to cover everything put out at the venues that I would cover. So I picked a bunch of publications, both new and old, and got to work. I don’t know that I would have started or done as much if not for the desire to in some ways atone for my time at Tangent. But what’s sustained for the past six years is more than that, is the passion for short SFF and reviewing that got me into the field to start with.
What format do you use for your site or zine (blog, e-mail newsletter, PDF zine, paper zine) and why did you choose this format?
Blog 100%. Though I’ve recently changed the frequency and style of my posts, 2020 was probably the height of my blogging output, with posts every weekday. Aside from my bread-and-butter, reviews of whole issues, I also covered some anthologies, a bunch of novellas, and did some other miscellaneous nonfiction like interviews, essays, and updates. It’s just…what works for me, I guess. It fits my mission, with each blog post delivering full coverage of a particular issue or month of content. It also allows my reviews to be a bit more bite-sized, as over 40,000 words of content would probably get a bit long in the tooth for a monthly issue/zine format. Being a blog makes tagging and organization easier, which is important for those wishing to navigate based on author of publication or month. And again, it’s just something I was familiar with from running my own personal blog for a few years before I ever got into fandom.
The fanzine category at the Hugos is one of the oldest, but also the category which consistently gets the lowest number of votes and nominations. So why do you think fanzines and sites are important?
For me, it’s that it shows people engaged in the field in ways driven by their passions. Some of the very best work in nonfiction and media coverage is happening in fan spaces, in fanzines. Because it’s people doing work that they are compelled to do for the sake of the work. It’s not really about making money, even for those who manage to make some, because there are likely more profitable ways to spend time. It’s about doing something because you have something to say and…say it. Now, I won’t say that there are no barriers to entry, especially because it’s often unpaid or greatly underpaid and there’s always the question of who can afford that. But, that’s still a very low barrier to entry, considering that otherwise, gatekeeping doesn’t have a centralized structure. Anyone can start a blog for free and start sharing things, and that’s rather wonderful, especially when it’s engaged and engaging, when it’s based on a love of the genre or a love of what the genre could be. And really I just love thinking too much about stories, and that I could start a blog and find that a lot of people were into exactly what I wanted to do, that’s magical.
In the past twenty years, fanzines have increasingly moved online. What do you think the future of fanzines looks like?
I could see fanzines being reframed further over time. Could a social media account (a Twitter feed, for instance) be a fanzine? No one is paid for being on Twitter, and certainly the case could be made that a feed that contained mostly “original work” should count as a fanzine, but something like that would privilege those with large platforms, regardless of how those platforms were built. Now, for me, that seems a little bit not in the spirit of things, but it probably would go a way towards addressing the concerns in the previous question, because a well known social media feed would likely draw votes based on recognition alone. Part of the issue in my opinion is that our online time has become so commodified that older traditions in blogging are running into the ways that social media companies have caught up to their own technology and leveraged their algorithms toward making themselves money. So there’s intense competition for attention, and given that fanzines tend small and unpaid, they do get a bit drowned out, or at least a bit fractured, which I think is why the vote totals tend to be lower and less concentrated. Part of it, too, is that the tools for being paid for fan work have increased, which is in one instance a very good thing, but in another a very complicating factor in what makes a fanzine a fanzine. A Patreon cannot be a fanzine by its very nature, nor can a paid newsletter or subscription anything. So where does that leave us as routes forward? I’m not entirely sure, though I am excited to see what shape it might take.
The four fan categories of the Hugos (best fanzine, fan writer, fan artist and fancast) tend to get less attention than the fiction and dramatic presentation categories. Are there any awesome fanzines, fancasts, fan writers and fan artists you’d like to recommend?
So, so many. I’ve worked with and deeply appreciate Nerds of a Feather and The Book Smugglers. I love what A.C. Wise does and the care and attention of her reviews. Bogi Takács, Vanessa Fogg, Alex Brown, and Maria Haskins are also wonderful. Jason Sanford does great coverage of the field, and really there’s so many amazing people doing heroic work as fans.
Where can people find you?
Thank you, Charles, for stopping by and answering my questions.
Do check out Quick Sip Reviews, cause it’s a great blog.
Do you have a Hugo eligible fanzine/-site or fancast and want it featured? Contact me or leave a comment.