Two summers ago, it was my great pleasure to attend the Campbell Conference at the University of Kansas. While there, I dialogued a great deal with Diane Turnshek, SF author and director of the Alpha Writers Workshop, "the science fiction, fantasy, and horror workshop for young writers," about ways to introduce SF&F to new readers.
The result was "the Pyr street team," a group of ten (now fourteen) readers, all between 15 and 25, who volunteered to read arcs (advanced reader copies) of Pyr books in exchange for blogging about them, ideally in places and communities that Yours Truly might not be hip enough to be up on. Diane handpicked the members from Alpha, submitting them to me for final approval, and we've been up and running since August, 2006.
One of the conditions going in was that I insisted this not be the propaganda wing of Pyr books, and stressed to the team that they were being asked to blog honestly about a book, whether they liked it or not. Part of this is my concern that if it were strictly propaganda it would smell as such and therefore be of little use. Part of it is my feeling that honest, intelligent discussion is more interesting and engaging than straight praise. And part of this is my desire to get real feedback on Pyr books from actual, (non-professional) readers. The result has been very informative - if sometimes painful. Because honest they have been! (Hi, Shara.)
What I didn't expect out of the program was the degree of communication that would evolve between Yours Truly and the members, with some very interesting genre-related discussions on our private email list. I'm not sure but what this hasn't actually been the most valuable aspect of the whole program for me.
Now, one of our most active participants, who blogs as Calico Reaction and Symphony for a Devil, has launched a year-in-review series of linked posts she's calling the Pyr Trifecta. Two of her three posts are up now. First is what she styles her "serious" post, Pyr Post # 1: A Year in Review, where she looks back at everything she's read from us in 2007. She discusses our cover art as well, with some good words for both Stephan Martiniere and John Picacio. And she breaks her reading down into four categories: Wanted to Like and LOVED; Wanted to Like and DID; Really Wanted to Like but Didn't, Sadly; and Didn't Think I'd Like and Didn't. (See that note about honesty above.)
Pyr Post # 2: 2007 Superlatives is more light-hearted. As she explains, "Remember the good old high school days, and those oh-so-lovely senior superlatives that were really a popularity contest but supposedly represented the best in our class? I thought it'd be really fun to do that with the 2007 crop of Pyr titles..." Books are awarded such interesting categories as Coolest Premise, Most Likely to Make an Awards Ballot, Most Likely to Make a Kick-Ass Motion Picture, and Best "Girl" Book.
Any nice things said about Yours Truly was probably paid sponsorship, but the rest of it is well worth reading.
Update: Pyr Post # 3: Pyr Book Giveaway !!!! is up now. It's a contest in which two lucky winners get the Pyr book of their choice, selected from out of the 2007 books discussed. Also, there's a poll, the results of which I'll be curious to see. Check it out!