It's about two in the morning, and I've read through three straight pieces of short fiction tonight. Along with the two works I went through yesterday afternoon, that means that I've got critiques for five of the shortlisted entries in the Fully Booked contest. That also means that I'll definitely be placing my notes online within the next couple of days.
It's struck me that this move could be somehow controversial -- after all, I'm a relatively unknown writer without the same level of writing chops that some of the more established people hold. These eight entries are presumably the best works submitted to a single national writing contest, possibly by big-name authors with credentials longer than my outstretched arms. What right do I have to suddenly go through them, and tell people what I think?
The answer, I suppose, lies in the fact that I'm a reader. And if anything, it's really the reader who has the last say in determining whether a work is good, or bad, or otherwise. It's the readers who curl up with your book in their hands and a bag of chips on the side, it's the readers who drive sales and put your name on the bestseller lists, and it's the readers who'll ultimately stop you in the middle of the street and tell you how much your writing affected their lives.
I find that last point important. I want to read these shortlisted works, and I want to write down what I think of them. My reviews may end up being good, or they may end up being tyrannical and scathing, but I'll have them down on (virtual) paper, and that's really all that I want to see.
It's not as much fun if I'm doing this alone, though. I invite any other readers out there to have a look at the same set of short stories, and post their thoughts on their online journals, just so that we can have a better, more subjective view of things. We can even go around and trade ideas on each of these pieces; Reading, after all, is a matter of sharing views as much as it is deciphering words and letters on paper.
That, and there's less than a week before everybody goes off and votes for their favorite author or short story at the Rockwell tent on Saturday. So if you're going to put up an opinion on something, then you'd better do it soon.
On my part, I'm going to be posting mine within the next few days... and maybe cutting some barbed wire and caltrops while I'm at it. I still don't know what the real critics out there will think, but I might as well be prepared.