This issue is being put together on the fly this summer, between vacations and conventions. This editorial is written weeks after the layout, during which time I have accumulated a lot of things to talk about in this and other editorials.
The SF Museum in Seattle did open, and I was there to see it; I took pictures for this issue and the next. I was particularly impressed with the care that was taken to link the toys, games, films, and shows to written works, sources, and printed images. It is an intelligent museum, worth several visits, and worth supporting. You ought to become a member.
Of the many other possible topics, here's one very close to the core interest of NYRSF. There has been a general fuss (and some prurient interest) during July 2004 in the press and the literate magazines about Hatchet Jobs, a collection of Dale Peck's killer reviews. To my mind, the most useful response has been from John Leonard (who once said Frank Herbert didn't write well but is worth reading anyway):
[I now] suggest some hard-won guidelines for responsible reviewing. For instance: First, as in Hippocrates, do no harm. Second, never stoop to score a point or bite an ankle. Third, always understand that in this symbiosis, you are the parasite. Fourth, look with an open heart and mind at every different kind of book with every change of emotional weather because we are reading for our lives and that could be love gone out the window or a horseman on the roof. Fifth, use theory only as a periscope or a trampoline, never a panopticon, a crib sheet, or a license to kill. Sixth, let a hundred Harolds Bloom. (The New York Times, 18 July 2004.)
I find myself charmed by the spirit of this list. I have always been suspicious of (if not downright out of sympathy with) reviewers who perform to entertain the reader rather than to illuminate the text for the reader. The hardest and most useful thing a reviewer can do is to explain why the successes of a book are worthwhile and interesting, while gently noting its failures without dwelling on them. Let a hundred Leonards bloom.