Kirkus Withdraws a Review (and that’s a big deal!)

Recently, YA author Laura Moriarty wrote and sent out arcs of a book called American Heart. Its description:

Imagine a United States in which registries and detainment camps for Muslim-Americans are a reality.

Fifteen-year-old Sarah-Mary Williams of Hannibal, Missouri, lives in this world, and though she has strong opinions on almost everything, she isn’t concerned with the internments because she doesn’t know any Muslims. She assumes that everything she reads and sees in the news is true, and that these plans are better for everyone’s safety.

But when she happens upon Sadaf, a Muslim fugitive determined to reach freedom in Canada, Sarah-Mary at first believes she must turn her in. But Sadaf challenges Sarah-Mary’s perceptions of right and wrong, and instead Sarah-Mary decides, with growing conviction, to do all she can to help Sadaf escape.

The two set off on a desperate journey, hitchhiking through the heart of an America that is at times courageous and kind, but always full of tension and danger for anyone deemed suspicious.

Basically a story about how Muslims are people too and rounding people up in camps is a bad thing, probably handled with all of the nuance and subtlety of Margaret Haddix’s cheesy Among the Hidden series.  Not really my kind of thing, probably written as a genuine and heart-felt progressive kumbaya from a well-intentioned liberal YA writer.

Unfortunately, it was less-than-well received by certain individuals on Goodreads:

Jabba the hudge

It’s easy to laugh about this, because progressives have the tendency to eat their own–you can never be progressive enough to satisfy those more progressive than you. So, “ha-ha, look at the lady who tried to virtue signal and got dog-piled for ‘doing it wrong'”, right? Well, it gets more complicated than that.

Moriarty had submitted her book for a Kirkus review, a site that will write reviews for authors on a for-pay basis. Now, paid reviews are sketchy as it is, but this is gonna take the cake!

Originally, Kirkus gave a positive review for Moriarty’s book. It was apparently even reviewed by a Muslim woman who “is an expert in children’s &YA literature and well-versed in the dangers of white savior narratives”, and “she found that American Heart offers a useful warning about the direction we’re headed in as far as racial enmity is concerned.”

So, ironically, Kirkus has chosen to silence a Muslim woman because people disagreed with her review. They’ve backpedaled and thrown up this new review calling the book problematic.

Here’s the thing about reviews. Reviews are always going to be subjective. They are the opinion of the reviewer giving the review based on their experiences, prejudices and believes as they make contact with the content they’re reviewing. So, yeah, even ‘fuck muh whiteness!’ up there is perfectly entitled to her review and I don’t have any real problem with it. But if you’re a review site whose sole purpose is, well, reviewing stuff, then you need to stand by reviewers’ reviews. You may feel like you need to say, as an editor, “I don’t necessarily agree with what this reviewer said,” but to pull down a review and take it out to the woodshed because people have different opinions from the reviewer means that you should probably get out of the reviewing business because your credibility is shot.

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Big Sale This Week

Issue 6 will be coming out on Friday. If you missed the Kickstarter, you can go ahead and pre-order it. Also, the paperback and hardcover versions will be available then as well.

Kindle copies of Issue 1 will be free all this week.

All Cirsova Hardcovers have been marked to 50% off. Additionally, if you use the promo code “6LZFHB4T” at Lulu, you can get an additional 25% off.

 

End of the Year: the State of Cirsova HF&SF Magazine

So, I’m closing the books on 2016.

Cirsova paid out roughly $6.5 K for content in 2016. This includes art for four issues and content for six issues (7 issues worth of content).

We had about $6.2 K in gross income. Sounds great and all, but given our small profit margins (we want to keep costs to our readers as low as we can), the disparity is much greater than it would appear at first glance.

Good news, with the exception of artwork, 2017 is paid for in that big $6.5 K (to the tune of $1300) and we anticipate recouping at least a decent chunk from our pre-orders which we will be taking next month. Plus, we’re reaching a point where Amazon sales of assorted issues are amounting to a not insignificant $100-ish per month, and this will hopefully grow as we get more issues out. Also, it’s still in its infancy, but our merch store should grow our revenues without increasing our overhead.

We did receive enough submissions of quality that we could have put out 3 full-sized issues in 2017; I folders of manuscripts for issue 5, manuscripts for issue 6, and manuscripts to cry about because we couldn’t afford to make offers on them. Instead, we’re planning on two slightly-thicker-than-usual issues (128 pages each instead of 108).

We’re golden for 2017, and should have art for both issues early next year. 2018 is a bit hazier. I’ve said before that as important as the zine is to me, I’m willing to sacrifice it to see the Stark project come to fruition. I don’t want it to come to that; I may even get lucky, and the Stark project may not only pay for itself but give us extra resources for the zine.

If you want Cirsova to keep on keeping on beyond 2017, there are a lot of things you can do to help us:

  • Write Reviews – this is easy and free. If you like what you’ve read, leave a review on Amazon. If you have a blog, write one there. Plus, we take some choice pull quotes from our favorite reviews and stick them in the hardcovers’ dust jackets. But seriously, Simple Amazon reviews will help a LOT.
  • Check Out Our Merch Store – While we don’t have much up yet, we are planning to grow this, featuring all cover art going forward, plus a few cool odds and ends we are able to scrape together. We are using TeePublic, because they are substantially cheaper for customers than CafePress, and I’m told they offer significantly better quality prints.
  • Support our advertisers – Selling adspace is best way we can defray costs and keep the lights on. To sell ads, though, advertisers have to find us a worthwhile investment of their money.
  • Buy Advertisement – All advertising dollars go straight into our acquisitions & operating budget as opposed to the small slice of each sale. For instance, a single $35 quarter page ad sold does the equivalent of selling a dozen copies on Amazon for our bottom line.

We hope to be announcing the Kickstarter for 2017 soon. We WILL be offering adspace through Kickstarter again, as well as through the site.

Projects, Projects, and More Projects

We’ve just about finished going through all of the submissions for 2017. We should be able to announce the line-up for at least issue 5 by mid-December. Issue 6 may be a little later, partly because the incredibly tough choices that need to be made within the constraints of budget and space. While I can always adjust for space, the only way we can adjust for budget is by our reader’s support.

  • Buying copies for stocking stuffers helps, naturally.
  • If you’d like to buy a back cover advertisement for either issue, that covers an entire story, right there.
  • We’re also considering doing some merch, for people who’ve bought all of our issues but still want to find new ways to support us. We will be setting up a CafePress or similar store soon, hopefully in time for Christmas, but it’s looking a little late for that, now. We also need to touch base with our artists to make sure that they’re okay with that in the use terms for the art we’ve commissioned.

I need to put together the pre-order Kickstarter for next year. I’ll probably flip it live in January so you’ll have someplace to spend that Christmas money you get.

With everything that’s been going on, I’ve struggled to keep up with both my pulps column AND writing new gaming content, but the last couple weeks, S:tT helped inspire me to get a few more gaming posts, and the long weekend let me not only catch up on my Planet Stories reading, I started the first volume of Swords of Steel. I’m always a little wary of promoting advertisers by way of review (ethics, and all), so I wanted to read it for myself before I started going into how you need to buy this (but really, support our sponsors, so they’ll continue to sponsor us). You need to read them. I’ll do some mini posts on it, if not actual reviews of the stories, but Swords of Steel is the real deal, and if you want more stories like the kinds we love and publish, DMR’s anthology series is a must read.

Lastly, things are coming along nicely with the Stark project. I’m probably going to go over the text AT LEAST one more time before I say “the text is good to go”, but I have the text from all three novellas prepped, formatted, and checked against the original Planet Stories text. I’ve avoided taking an editorial pen to the text except in occasions where an obvious typographical error is present and in one or two instances where a missing comma creates a confusing sentence.

The stage I’m at now is writing up character descriptions backed with examples from text, assembling project specs that could be turned over to artists. Once that stage is done, I’ll just need to scrounge the money I need to get things started. Fortunately, the Kickstarter for that is more or less ready for me to flip a switch on. When the day comes, I’ll have a press release to send out.

Lastly, I’m considering writing a self-help/DIY book on how to put out an SFF mag or anthology. I’ve gotten a lot of comments along the lines of “oh, wow, that’s so impressive, I wish I could do something like that, it’s crazy how you managed to put out a magazine that looks as good as it does.” The truth is, anybody can do it, and unless you go at the breakneck pace I did for 2016, it doesn’t cost a lot of money, either. So, I may try to collate and impart what I have learned.

Last Week for a Big Push!

It’s the last week of our Kickstarter for issues 3 & 4! We’ve been hovering around just $200 shy of our goal as backers tinker with their pledge levels down the final stretch.  To be safe, I’d like to see us well up over our $2500 goal so no last second surprises sink the ship.

Some things to consider:

-Backing for $1 gets you 3 issues

-Backing for $3 gets you all 4 of our 2016 issues

-We have a track record of delivering pledge rewards within about a month of the Kickstarter’s end date (two weeks for funds to process and about two weeks for fulfilled items to arrive.

-By those who have read us, we are considered one of the best new ongoing SFF publications on the market.

Please help us clear this hurdle so we’ll have funds to keep going in 2017!