My Preface to the SPSFC2 Semifinalist Round
This round introduced six new books for Team Escapist to read. We'll evaluate each of the books and coordinate with the other teams to determine the finalists. The reviews I post are strictly my opinion, and do not reflect those of other members of Team Escapist. So, in no particular order, the books are;
by John Triptych, Michel Lamontagne
Empire Reborn (Taran Empire Saga #1)
by A K DuBoff
The Diamond Device
by M.H. Thaung
by David Hoffer
Echoes of Another Earth
by J. Daniel Layfield
A Space Girl from Earth
by Christina McMullen
To clarify my judging techniques, I’ll start by reiterating that I’m not concerned with sub-genre. First contact, dystopian, space opera, mystery, romance; it doesn’t matter to me as long as the story-craft is good. Which means, the fundamentals of basic creative writing must be strong in order for me to even consider a passing grade at this point. Yes, we’ve hit the semifinals, and that means it’s only going to get harder. We’re looking for the best, and the best can’t suffer from simple mistakes that all published authors (trad, indie or self) should have a firm grasp of. I’m talking about the basics; show don’t tell, proper use of POV, a beginning-middle-end (whether 3 or 4 act structure), believability, intact promises to readers, meeting genre expectations.
These are just a few of the things I look for when I’m judging, but honestly, the list is actually much longer. And it’s only after I’ve established the author’s grasp of the fundamentals will I then look at the more creative issues involved in the story. For example; tropes, character development, setting, overall originality.
As for editing … this is a tricky one. At this point, no book with copious amounts of copy editing issues should even exist in this contest. Having your book ‘edited’ was a stipulation in the contest rules. That said, I didn’t have any issues with copy editing in any of the six books.
But … some had some very obvious content/developmental editing issues.
I’m sorry, but ‘beta readers’ alone aren’t ‘typically’ (please note that I use the word ‘typically’) enough to catch everything, or even know or be able to explain well enough, what the story is missing or needs. That’s my two cents, take it or leave it, because I know there are always exceptions to every rule. And I don’t know who the beta readers are for each book, or what their qualifications are.
That said …
Having been very excited to read all these books, I have actually already finished reading all six of them. And based on my initial criteria, unfortunately, not all of these books have passed. One book was exceptional, another was very, very good, but alas, the other four fell way short of meeting where I think the bar should be at this point in the competition. And please remember, this is my sole opinion. My 3.5/10 is another judges 8/10 … and yes, there is a book (or two) in the above list that has been given (by me), the score of 3.5/10.
This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the story, but as a book, with the fundamental mistakes obvious within the pages, it does make it hard to give the book, as a whole, a high rating.
The SPSFC contest is meant to support, uplift, celebrate and showcase how good self-published science-fiction can be. It doesn’t do anyone, especially self-published sci-fi authors, any good when books with fundamental writing mistakes are lauded as ‘best book ever!’ … and given merit by being a finalist in a competition. It undermines the self-published world’s need to be taken seriously.
Sorry. Not sorry.
So … Over the next few weeks, I will be posting my individual reviews for each book, as well as posting some ‘missing’ reviews of earlier books in the competition that I’ve read.