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SFFWRTCHT: A Chat With Blogger John DeNardo of SF Signal

John DeNardo is the Editor of SF Signal, a group blog about speculative fiction. He also likes bagels. He can be found online at www.sfsignal.com, on Twitter as @sfsignal, on Facebook, and addictively trolling the internet for news and more. And he’s a heck of a nice guy, too, so don’t be afraid to chat him up.


SFFWRTCHT: Let’s start with the basics, John. So when/how did your love for speculative fiction come about?

John DeNardo: At the golden age of 12, as they say, or thereabouts. I simply tended to gravitate toward Science Fiction. The first book I recall reading (on my own) was Ringworld by Larry Niven. But I was assigned some Science Fiction in school, like 1984 and Flowers For Algernon. In retrospect, I wish I was assigned more Science Fiction in school. They have SF courses these days. How cool is that? But yes, the main motivation of reading it for me is escapist entertainment.



SFFWRTCHT: What led you to start SF Signal and when?

JD: In 2003, my buddy J.P. Frantz suggested we start a blog. We both liked Science Fiction, so SF Signal was born! Funny thing is, I was hesitant at first, thinking nobody cared what I had for lunch. 8 years later, we’re still going strong.

SFFWRTCHT: What are your goals with the site?

JD: Goals? We don’t need no steenkin’ goals! I kid! Basically, we’re just out to have fun. That’s our motivator. SF Signal is about sharing genre-related news and views, and generally promoting the field we love so much.

SFFWRTCHT: How have you gone about building a relationship and credibility with the SFF community?

JD: Respect and Perseverance. It’s not something we consciously did, but over time, we made contact with writers and bloggers, and we linked to them and they linked to us. And we grew steadily. The Internet makes it incredibly easy to reach out to authors, much more so than in days past.

SFFWRTCHT: How much time does it take you on average a week to run a site like SF Signal?

JD: If I think about it, it makes me question it. Probably twenty-five plus hours a week, at least. I don’t really track it. It’s just fun.



SFFWRTCHT: In case anyone’s unfamiliar, what are some of the features you offer regularly?

JD: Regular features at SF Signal include daily tidbits of news and cool things around the web, interviews, reviews and our most popular feature, the Mind Meld, a roundtable discussion posting every Wednesday. One question, multiple panelists. Here’s an index of all of our Mind Melds that will keep you busy for months. Mind Melds are virtual convention panels. They’re a lot of work to coordinate, but the end results rock. You can follow all of the SF Signal contributors via this Twitter list: http://twitter.com/#!/SF Signal /sf-signal-peeps

SFFWRTCHT: What kind of responses do you get from both professionals and fans?

JD: Responses from the community (pros and fans) are generally positive. I guess they like what we do!

SFFWRTCHT: How did the podcast come about?

JD: Ah…the podcast… We had been threatening to do a podcast for years but it never came together, mostly due to too little time and experience. But then along came our saviors, wearing hat and guitar…of course, I’m talking about Patrick Hester and John Anealio, aka The Functional Nerds, who stepped in to produce our podcast. Through their Herculean efforts, we finally got the SF Signal podcast off the ground. We started at one podcast per week, but it got longer and longer. Now we do 2 smaller podcasts each week. We have a new podcast every Monday &Thursday. We’ve passed our 75th episode: http://www.SF Signal .com/archives/cat_podcast.html now.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you think the podcast has added to the site’s growth or has it been more the site feeding the podcast?

JD: I think the site and the podcast feed each other. Some read the site, some listen, some do both.

SFFWRTCHT: Is the site a hobby for you or a business? How does your real world intertwine with the world of the site?

JD: It started as a hobby, but to help pay for the site (hosting, mailing review copies, giveaways, etc.) we started advertising. We’re not gonna quit our day jobs by any means. I work in a technology industry. I like science and tech. Science Fiction is written science and tech so yes, they kind of do intertwine peripherally.

SFFWRTCHT: You have talked a lot with people about the state of publishing, especially with ebooks. What’s your take on that?

JD: Publishing is not going away, it’s just evolving to adapt to a new way of doing things.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you think the result might be more smaller publishers playing a bigger role? Will it even the playing field?

JD: I don’t know about leveling the field. But there will be more people playing in that arena.

SFFWRTCHT: How do you see SFF changing and developing in the near future from where it is now? Discovering any trends?

JD: I see Science Fiction and Fantasy as being cyclical at times.  Steampunk is big now (longer than I thought it’d be) and soon we’ll see other trends come around. Remember when it seemed like every novel was about the singularity& posthumanism?

SFFWRTCHT: How did the series you are doing for Kirkus — How To Start Reading SF for non-genre fans — come about?

JD: Kirkus Reviews contacted me about contributing to the new blog they were starting on their website. They asked if I would consider contributing science fiction articles to the blog. It seemed like a really good fit since Kirkus focuses on books and that’s the preferred format in which I get my sf fix. So I said yes. My articles with Kirkus run one per week, usually posting Wednesday mornings.

SFFWRTCHT: What are the ways authors, publishers, editors, etc. can become involved with SF Signal?

JD: We often have guests coming on the site to write guest posts or as guests on the podcast. Having more than one voice on the blog is, in my opinion, makes for a better website. Having guests contributes to that melting pot of ideas and perspective. Authors, publishers, editors, etc. can contact me directly (john@sfsignal.com) about guest blogging opportunities. My only requirements are that the topic be genre-related (because that’s what our audience likes to read) and respectful of others (because anything else is not cool).

SFFWRTCHT: How about fellow bloggers?

JD: Fellow bloggers looking for guest posts (and especially those looking to contribute more frequent posts) can contact me the same way and be mindful of the same requirements.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you recruit your own people or do they volunteer themselves?

JD: Both ways. Some people I noticed through my addiction-level trolling of the Internet. I liked their writing and asked if they wanted to be part of the team. Other folks have contacted me directly.

SFFWRTCHT: You run a large feed with 12k subscribers, right? What are some of the tools bloggers can use to build their audience and subscribers and grow their blogs?

JD: We’re close to 12,500 RSS subscribers, actually, but who’s counting?  Additionally, we currently have nearly 5,000 Twitter followers more than 1,200 Facebook fans.  OK, I’m counting. Seriously, it’s not about the number of followers you can get, it’s about doing something you genuinely like to do and sharing with others.  People will notice that and your audience will grow. There are ways to artificially grab an audience (sensationalist headlines, spamming, etc.) but that’s not our thing.

SFFWRTCHT: Any favorite memories of posts, guests, etc. over the years?

JD: Regarding the people…I’m thankful for all the contributors we’ve had over the years. These are people who took time out from than more-important-than-blogging lives to share their stories and views. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are and you’d be interviewing someone else.

As far as events and things, well, it was exciting for the old SciFi Channel’s website (and magazine) to recognize us a site of the week. We are tickled all shades of pink whenever James Patrick Kelly mentions us in his On the Net column in Asimov’s. I was also grateful to Sheila Williams for offering us an exclusive when Asimov’s went digital. Just this year, we were voted as an SFX magazine 2011 Blog Awards winner. And perhaps most humbling of all, SF Signal has received Hugo votes for best fanzine.

To balance out the negative effects of my ever-inflating ego, I will share a terrible memory. I was blogging late one night and noticed a breaking story that James Earl Jones’ father had passed away. The problem was, in my bleary-eyed state, I thought that it was James Earl Jones that had passed away. It wasn’t until after I published the post that I realized my huge mistake. I deleted the post, but people saw it in our news feed and I posted an immediate apology. It was so embarrassing. On the bright side, I can honestly say that I killed Darth Vader.

SFFWRTCHT: LOL Hadn’t he been through enough? What kind of impact have you seen from the blog on the industry, fandom, etc.?

JD: Hard to say. How would I know? Best to ask the industry and fandom. :)


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the forthcoming space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.