Saturday, 1 January 2011

A Kraken First Blogiversary

Do you remember where you were a year ago?

I do.

For the life of me I couldn't recall what I was doing just a few hours before now. I hadn't made it to bed yet... I know that much. (A friendly warning, from me to you: give growed-ups a few drinks and they come alive, like clockwork toys! You've never seen the like!) New year, eh?

So as to what I was doing a couple of hours before now, no, to my shame; not so much. But a year ago? Why, a year ago, I was sat right here, with the same cat warming my lap. A year ago today, resonant with the chime of the bells bringing in 2010, I launched The Speculative Scotsman.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into...


I'd already been lurking about the blogosphere for years. "Lurking" being the operative word in that there phrase. I rarely spoke up, rarely commented on reviews or partook in discussions, but collectively, the sites I came and returned to, day in, day out, were as important a guiding light with respect to speculative fiction as any Kotaku or Engadget had been.

Gradually I came to realise I wanted to be a part of that collective. More, even. Not just an idle cog off in the corner, but a functioning piece of the machinery that makes up the blogosphere. What had been a banner year for me, in terms of an ever-swelling appreciation of speculative fiction, in all its forms, came to a head with The City and The City's release and my long-belated discovery of Tigana's unearthly delights.

About that latter book in particular, I knew I had things to say. I'd reviewed before, various things for various places - best forgotten, all told - and as I made my languorous  way through baby's first Guy Gavriel Kay, I began to take notes. I had a Word document on the go, as I recall; a veritable proliferation of impressions and opinions, with no notion of what I would do with them at the end of the day. I'd begun drafting up the review you can read here before the notion of hosting my own blog ever crossed my mind... but what else was I going to do with it? Put it up on Amazon?


Last New Year, with a name in mind and a review hardly half-written, I resolved to be a blogger.  And moreover, to go at it with some chops; to blog, each and every day. In that, I failed. In that, I expect to continue failing. I'm a slow reader and a slow writer. Rare is the day I can knock out a review in anything less than three or four hours. So it was hardly a realistic ambition.

Nevertheless, I gave The Speculative Scotsman my all - within reason - and thanks to more folks than I can possibly single out here, "early adopters" if you will, movers and shakers amongst the pre-established blogosphere kind enough to point a link or even a recommendation in my direction, people started reading the nonsense I'd posted in those first few weeks. Actually reading it!

I was astonished. I'd expected The Speculative Scotsman to be a slow burn, and that at best. Yet within a couple of days the first commenters had their say; I polished off Tigana, put up my review, and awoke a few weeks later to an email from Guy Gavriel Kay, saying - would you credit it? - he'd enjoyed, even appreciated, the things I'd written.

If I'd been astonished before, and I had been, I was officially blown away that morning. Ever the gentleman, Guy introduced me to one of the first publicists I had the pleasure of dealing with in 2010, so I could have an early read of his next novel, Under Heaven.

Fast forward a few months. The very same publicist hooked me up with a bound manuscript of the new China Mieville - an author long among my very favourites - and the day Kraken came in the mail, I was so over the moon I basically put my life on pause, the better to read and absorb and inevitably review it. These things I did. Here is what came of them. Oh, and here.

Now Kraken wasn't my favourite China Mieville novel - irreverent where The City and The City had been profound - but to hell with all the haters. As I wrote at the time, I had a cracking good time with it, so when a mysterious postcard scrawled to the utmost margins arrived in the mail a little while after I'd published my review, I spent a day doing double-takes.

Because God above, China Mieville had taken the time to write me!


That lovely postcard, the email from Guy Gavriel Kay... those are memories I'll look back on and treasure, absolutely; experiences I take pride in, and heart. But neither would have been at all possible if it hadn't been for you.

Yes, you.

Every one of you, for if you hadn't taken The Speculative Scotsman seriously, nor, I can only imagine, would I have. If you hadn't made a habit of visiting and commenting and generally encouraging me, I don't know that I'd have had the heart to go on, day after day.

So equally, you've no-one but yourself to blame! :P

It's not always been easy, this blogging business. And sure as light turns to night and day breaks again, I've not always gone about it the right way... but such is life, you know? You make mistakes, and if you're lucky enough to have the chance, you learn from them. I have been abominably lucky. That I'm still here, still blogging, and still enjoying the act, speaks to that.

A year ago to the day, then, I launched The Speculative Scotsman. And I couldn't be happier that I did.

Happy first birthday, blog!

And for helping to making it happen, from the bottom of my miserable Scottish heart, thank you all.


  1. Happy blogiversary! May there be many more to come!

  2. I call bullshit on being a slow reader and writer. You are at least 10x more productive than I am. And you manage to maintain a consistent (and intelligent) voice through it all.

    Congrats. Now go away. You're making the rest of us look bad.

  3. Happy Blogiversary. While I am seething with envy over your postcard from my favorite author.... I still wish you a wonderful new year! ;)~

  4. Happy b-day, you rascally, Scottish blog!

  5. Thank ye all kindly! Bloody sweethearts, aren't you?

    Seriously though, Patrick: at a comfortable pace, I'd be lucky to be reading a book a week. I just haven't read at a comfortable pace in near enough a year. Over the next wee while you'll hear about a couple of changes on the up as re: TSS which reflect that, in fact. Two or three books a week have left me a shadow of a man, I'm afraid!

    Albeit a substantially better-read-than-before shadow of a man. ;)

  6. Good on you, man! I can't remember, for the life of me, how in the bloody hell I found your blog, but I'm glad I did. I read pretty much every post that you put up, and I look forward to another year of witty, sharp tongued commentary on some of my favorite subjects.

    The Sound and Fury of Kristopher A. Denby

  7. Happy Birthday Speculative Scotsman!

    Thanks for doing all the grunt work and sifting through book after book. Please keep up the hard work so I can slack off ;-).

  8. A letter and a pat on the back from GGK? A postcard from Mieville? The jealousy I feel is crippling. Your blog is proof that you deserve such amazing things. Keep up the good work.

  9. Congrats! You should feel proud. You're very good at what you do. Here's to another quality year.

  10. Happy blogiversary :) I do hope you get to read at a more comfortable pace soon. I honestly don't know how some of you can read that much! I wish I could, too ... :)

  11. Happy Blogoversary Niall :) And thank heaven, I'm not the only one who's a slow review writer! I thought I was weird taking so long in writing my reviews.

    Onwards and upwards for The Speculative Scotsman I hope, I love reading your blog and seeing you on Twitter. Here's to an awesome second year *raises coffee mug*

    p.s. Hope the other half is back to feeling her normal self!

  12. She is, Mieneke - she'll appreciate you asking after her. The concussion's been put to bed, thank the dead... although it turns out she did in a toe in the fall too, so that's been causing her no end of torture since.

    Always something to complain about, eh? ;)

  13. Happy Blogiversary Niall. One of the best out there... Keep up the good work ;-)

  14. I won't forget winning my first ever ARC here , Niall :) :) Congrats & best wishes for next year!