February 11th, 2010


Kirkus Reviews Will Now Come with a Halftime Show and $10 Beers

Back in December it looked like the nearly 80-year-old book industry trade magazine Kirkus Reviews was a goner. Come January, rumors began to spread that there was an unnamed buyer in the wings waiting to swoop in at the last minute and keep Kirkus Reviews alive and its staff employed.

And now we know who that buyer is.

Herb Simon, the owner of the Indiana Pacers, the NBA team, and chairman emeritus of Simon Property Group, a shopping mall developer, has bought the venerable journal of prepublication book reviews from the Nielsen Company

The good news is that the company will retain its current editorial leadership, which means Elaine Szewczyk won't be replaced by Reggie Miller anytime soon. The bad news is that Simon and his co-venturists plan to make no immediate changes to the magazine, other than beefing up its digital presence, which means Kirkus Reviews will go on being the review world's ornery old man who hates everything and is always telling you how everything you like is mind-rotting garbage.

But what I'm really looking forward to are the dancing Kirkus issues that I'm sure will inevitably come out during the Pacers' halftime shows! Or maybe they'll go with a new mascot instead: Kirky, who is a rolled up issue of the magazine and likes to diss referees with zingers like "oracular psychobabble," "Holmes himself couldn't deduce any meaning from this limp pastiche" and "impenetrable dreck on the level of a rhesus monkey's random bangings upon the keyboard." Now that would get me watching basketball!

DEAD AIR: Darkest Hearts

My February "Dead Air" column is now live as part of The Internet Review of Science Fiction's final issue. It being February, this column's theme is love--in particular my love of horror and where it came from.

As I'm sure it is with most genre fans, my love of horror stems from childhood. As a little boy growing up in Connecticut, with little to do but follow wherever my imagination led, I became fascinated with dinosaurs. I remember owning a plastic bag filled with tiny, multicolored, plastic dinosaurs of every variety: bright-yellow Stegosauruses, blood-red Tyrannosaurus Rexes, sky blue Triceratopses. If my mother is to be believed, the more frightening the dinosaur looked, the more I wanted to play with it. My bookshelves quickly filled to capacity with coloring books and Weekly Reader publications about dinosaurs. I simply couldn't get enough. That is, not until the great monsters of the imagination—Dracula, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein's monster, King Kong, Gamera and so many others—marched out of the mists of time to grab my attention. Only then did those little plastic dinosaurs start gathering dust.

Also of note in this issue are an interesting, lengthy essay on Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, one of my favorite novels ever, and a very good, detailed review of John Langan's novel House of Windows.

I can't tell you how sad I am to see IROSF go, nor how proud I am to have been a part of their family over these past five months. I'll miss them. In the meantime, I'm still mulling over some options on where to take the column next. Stay tuned.