Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Scalpel Dissects Reviewing

Gabe Chouinard and Jonathan McCalmont have teamed up to create a new on-line magazine that focuses on reviewing – specifically the newly coined ‘street-level criticism’ style of review. Checkout Scalpel Magazine – they are currently looking for reviewers.

Our Mission

Jonathan McCalmont and Gabe Chouinard founded Scalpel Magazine to serve as an outlet for what they have come to term “street-level criticism”, a style of reviewing that serves to bridge the gap between academic criticism and standardized reviews.

Our purpose is to allow reviewers to utilize the rigor and tools of literary criticism in order to properly assess genre fiction, while discarding the elevated tone and reliance upon jargon that often mars academic criticism. In order to create useful, critical reviews far removed from the publicity-style “Four Flaming Swords of Five” reviews that dominate the speculative fiction field, Scalpel Magazine encourages its contributors to honestly and fully engage not only with what a given piece of genre fiction is about, but also the context in which the piece exists, as well as its thematic, stylistic, political and conceptual content.

What We Desire

Scalpel Magazine seeks sharp, intelligent reviews and interviews. Period. Achieving sharp, intelligent reviews and interviews’, however, is another matter.

In many ways, good reviews are like pornography… we’ll know them when we see them. We have no stringent limitations, no hard and fast rules on what we seek. However, there are some quick and easy benchmarks that can be used to decide if a review is right for Scalpel Magazine:

  • Does the review consist of a summary of the work under review, followed by a brief summary of your likes and dislikes? If so, this is not a review for Scalpel Magazine.
  • Does the review indulge in easy, generalized relativism? If you have used the stand-by line of “If you’re the type of person who likes books like this, then you’ll like this book.” or any of its permutations, this is not a review for Scalpel Magazine.
  • Does the review sound like a fourth-grade book report? If so, this is not a review for Scalpel Magazine.
  • Does the review read as if it could have been written by anyone but you? If so, this is not a review for Scalpel Magazine.

What We Really Desire

At Scalpel Magazine, we treat reviews and interviews seriously. However, we are not some lofty glass house. Sure, we seek sharp, intelligent reviews and interviews. But more than anything, we are seeking strong, individualized voices. We want reviewers that are not only informed about their subject, but also confident in their judgments. We are looking for skewed views, humor, and irreverence to be coupled with intelligence. Street-level criticism is about breaking the mold of traditional reviewing and traditional criticism. In our opinion, reviewers should be just as creative as the writers under review. Good reviewing is an art, not a science, and we treat it as such.

Some of you may be wondering why I would post this since I don’t really write reviews that really fit into the ‘street-level criticism’ envelope. Well, Gabe and Jonathan have assured me that there is hope for me yet and I certainly hope they succeed. Will you see a review of mine in Scalpel Magazine? Time will tell, but I wouldn’t be surprised.


Roh said...

It would be nice to see you there. :)


Neth said...

I think you will


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