Expert of the Week: Dan Livingston

Dan Livingston

Owner of Best-Sci-Fi-Books.com

 

What is your professional background?

I have a degree in marine zoology, which probably explains my affinity for science fiction that occurs underwater.

After working in a marine lab, I realized I was a better fan of science than an actual scientist. I then spent a couple of decades as a web developer, occasionally wandering into graphic design. I also wrote ten computer books, which no one I know has read. I then wrote Nyx, a fantasy novel about a mildly homicidal fairy, which seems to have found an audience with teenage girls.


What sparked your interest in creating a blog about science fiction?

One of my favorite parts of the day is climbing into bed with a good book. To find more to read, I found myself looking at “best of” lists for science fiction books. Many of the lists are great, but there are also a lot of repeats. I thought I’d find new books by actually doing the research myself, and it worked! So I figured, “Why not share that information?” I also get a ton of great recommendations from readers kind enough to comment on the blog (even if they totally disagree with me).
 


How do you assess the quality of a book?

The whole process is totally subjective, of course. I have an emotional reaction to a book and then try to figure out why.

 

I like compelling, three-dimensional characters in original, imaginative situations. I love ideas that I never would have come up with on my own. If a book bores me, I have no problem putting it down permanently. It doesn’t matter how far along I am into it.

 

I’m also biased towards certain kinds of stories. I tend to like novels that deal with the mind and consciousness like Echopraxia by Peter Watts. I dig mysterious alien mega-structures like Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds. I’m a big fan of humor, like To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, and gentle madness, like Gun, with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem and The Maiden Voyage of the Destiny Unknown by Nicholas Ponticello.



How are you leveraging social media to promote your site?

I don’t spend much time on social media. I’d rather be creating new lists or reading books for review.

When I do release a new list or review, I’ll submit those links to StumbleUpon, Twitter, Facebook, reddit (r/booklists), Tumblr, and Google Plus.

 

What advice would you give to someone looking to become a blogger?

Focus on something you actually enjoy thinking and writing about. Blogging’s a marathon. I’ve had my blog for over two years, and it took a long time to get any kind of regular traffic.

 

Also, keep the blog’s content tightly focused. If you have a paleo slow-cooker blog, don’t post political rants. When I visit a blog, it’s usually for a specific reason, and seeing a potpourri of different kinds of posts feels chaotic and makes me trust the blog less.

 

Finally, schedule your time. It’s easy to write like mad for three weeks, and then peter off into nothing. I work on my blog on weekend mornings, without fail.


Check out Dan’s site.