Saturday, April 21, 2007

A note on my story quality ratings

Among other things, this site as also my new Variety SF site, provide quality ratings on stories reviewed. There are also 4 big lists that rank stories by decreasing quality: Arthur Clarke's novels & short stories; other authors' novels & short stories.

Will my ratings make sense for you? Here is a quick test: here are some stories I consider among the best; & here are some I consider among the worst. If you disagree with placement of more than a few entries in these lists, odds are we have different value systems, & you probably won't find my ratings very useful.

A description of how I value stories, & an explanation of the rating scale used follows.

The way I value stories.
First & the most important thing about a story is its entertainment value. I rarely read a story book with the primary purpose of increasing my knowledge, or for appreciating how good a guru is in foreseeing the future. Both these attributes are useful, but first & foremost is entertainment value. More entertaining story tends to get a better rating.

While I do often enjoy reading description of fancy futuristic gadgets, I am an engineer & a bit too rooted to ground. I typically am able to appreciate only those gadgets or physical principles that I can actually understand. Too many gadgets like "Monolith" in Space Odyssey series tend to bore me. Books using too many of them will generally get low rating.

I sometimes do read fantasy, but I prefer Harry Potter to aliens. I certainly don't enjoy reading about the aliens that behave like gods & ghosts. Or where they are described in graphic detail. Such stories will typically get low rating.

I occasionally can appreciate philosophical or religious musings, but too much sermonizing puts me off. Result will be low rating.

If your value system for judging a story book is very different from this, you might be better off reading recommendations of someone more compatible.

My rating scale.
I use a 3-point grade system for ratings:

  • A Time well spent
  • B OK if you don't have anything better to do
  • C Complete time waster
Note that I did initially began with the popular 1-5 numerical system, but ended up abandoning it in favor of this 3-point grade system. I find the 3-point system more actionable.

Note the icons are added late Sep 2007; newer entries sometimes carry them in addition to A/B/C text; old entries still use only text.