Sunday, December 21, 2008

Expansion Plans 

As I indicated in a note to the last New Books page posted on the site, http://www.locusmag.com/2008/Books12_1.html, I'm deliberately scaling back on detailed listings of all new books I see or am sent each week. This is because this task for the website is easily the most time-consuming of any of the website tasks, taking four to five hours at a time, and generally consuming much of the one free day I typically can find each weekend, given personal circumstances. I think it's a fundamental section of the website, alerting readers to what books have been published in a more timely fashion than the print magazine can possibly do, but it is time-consuming, especially given my posted invitation to include any copies of all new books seen or received -- which means including a steady number of books received that can only be described as self-published...

Anyway, the reason for this is to find time to develop and implement the long-planned expansions to the website that either I've alluded to, or which the Locus Home Office has desired, for several years now. More the former. I almost hesitate to specify what I mean, since it's been so long that I've indicated such plans without following through... e.g. in the Introduction page to the Locus Awards Index... that I feel it's become my own private LDV, if you know what I mean. But what I mean is, the extension to the Awards Index that takes all sort of additional factors besides awards into account, to generate a truly comprehensive overview of canonical novels and short stories, laid out on a timeline, ranked overall and by year and decade, sorted by theme, and so on. A superset of the awards data. I've been compiling source data for years, played with layout options and ranking schemes, but never brought it all together. I think it will be really cool when all in place -- a fundamental resource, more comprehensive and up-to-date than any other such resource online or in print, of the basic, canonical, novels and stories across the history of the SF (and F and H) genres.

The Locus Home Office tasks haven't lingered quite as long, but they have been discussed in those annual Locus Foundation Board meetings once or twice a year for a couple three years now, and more recently in a visit by Liza Groen Trombi to me in LA last August: a 'news ticker' function on the website that would allow the Locus office staff to post breaking news, without my intervention, and a Locus Roundtable opinion blog, with contributors such as ... well, such as editors and reviewers for Locus Magazine, without naming or promising names... which would also be linked in to the Locus Online homepage.

So I've begun all these tasks, with some downtime on the LHO tasks while waiting for feedback from the staff (who do have a print magazine to put out each month), and for an indefinite duration I plan to not only scale back on the book listings for the website, but more to the point also stand down from all recreational reading during any time I might instead be working on these tasks at the computer. (I might still read a bit while exercycling at the gym.) This may be for a period of months -- I'm anticipating at least a couple, maybe three, maybe six.

I reached this decision over a sequence of dinners alone the week before last, during a business trip to Arlington VA, and have begun by applying these 'if not now, then when?' resolutions to the Awards Index itself -- due for its annual update just about now anyway -- and have been for the past week been applying them to a thorough scrubbing of the underlying database code that generates the site, to layout issues I've long meant to rework, and to streamlining the HTML coding of the index pages themselves.

More on that, and everything else, as these plans progress.
I'm not sure if you have this in mind already, but one thing I'd like to see is an integration of the awards index with best-of-the-year contents. For example, if I looked up Greg Bear's "Blood Music," in addition to the awards it won I would also see that it was reprinted by both Gardner Dozois and Donald Wollheim in their respective annuals. The info is already available in the Contento index, of course, but I think it would be useful in the Awards Index as well.
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Mark R. Kelly

The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Mark R. Kelly, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine.
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