You are now entering Land of Spoilers and Criticism

Stuff on this blog:

  • Personal and professional biases, without full disclosure
  • Spoilers, with and without warnings
  • Unpleasantness, with and without warnings

Short story: “The Teratologist’s Brother”

“The Teratologist’s Brother,” by Brandon H. Bell

Appeared in Apex, issue 83, April 5th, 2016

6,700 words

An interesting story. I didn’t understand what teratology had to do with it, but maybe I’m being dense. Could allude to the emergence of this world from other words, or to the brothers’ upbringing. Speaking of the latter, here’s a great line: “The children of selfish, unstable trash are inflicted with bad compassion. Not the breed that lets you put yourself in the other’s shoes. The kind that makes you wear the other person’s shoes for them and walk for them and get their blisters for them because … Mommy loves you.

Short story: “Death Flowers of Never-Forgotten Love”

“Death Flowers of Never-Forgotten Love,” by Jason Sanford

Appeared in Apex, issue 82, March 15th, 2016

1,800 words, according to Apex

That was pretty cool. I’m curious whether other people in this world choose to keep their memories and pains; the narrator’s choice is obviously unusual, but it’s also, I think, very human.

Short story: “The Artificial Bees”

“The Artificial Bees,” by Simon Guerrier

Appeared in Uncanny Magazine issue nine, 2016

1,357 words

Bittersweet and nicely done. I should have seen the ending coming, but I think I would have enjoyed the story just as much if I had.

Short story: “The Blue-Nosed Reindeer”

“The Blue-Nosed Reindeer,” by Mike Resnick

Appeared in Urban Fantasy Magazine, Xmas Eve, 2015

7,844 words

Silly, cheesy, yes—but fun.

Short story: “The Elixir of the Not-So-Disgusting Death Smell”

“The Elixir of the Not-So-Disgusting Death Smell,” by Carlie St. George

Appeared on the Mothership Zeta blog, March 21st, 2016

5,503 words

That was a fun read.

On writerly temptations

“A lot of Act 6 [of the webcomic Homestuck], mostly the later parts, look a lot to me like the product of a certain temptation that is familiar to me.

“It’s the temptation to use the fact that ‘shit has gotten weird’ in the plot to justify writing choices that aren’t very good, even on the story’s own (strange) terms. The fictional world is ‘breaking apart,’ so why shouldn’t the writing break apart, too—form fitting content? This can be done well. Sometimes writing choices that are objectively lazy, from your perspective as a writer, are also the right choices for knocking the reader off-balance in a certain desirable way.

“But of course, once you recognize this possibility, you’re going to start doing motivated reasoning, talking yourself into the idea that this or that lazy choice is oh-so-conveniently a good one. You can always talk yourself into rash and sloppy writing because ‘the plot is getting too wild for subtlety’ or ‘I have to surprise the readers somehow’; you can always talk yourself into not resolving things you’ve set up because ‘the story is about uncertainty’ or ‘things don’t resolve in real life.’ But is any of that really true?  When you set those things up, is this the sort of thing you hoped to do with them?

“Certain [reader] interpretations rub me the wrong way because they seem like they’re enabling this behavior. Sure, if someone’s mind was blown by a writer’s lazy choices, their mind was blown, and that’s just a fact. But sometimes it looks to me like people are teaming up with the little devil on the author’s shoulder.”

—nostalgebraist (x)

“[David Foster] Wallace was steadfast in defending stylistic choices. When his agent, Bonnie Nadell, tried to dissuade him from ending the novel [Broom of the System] mid-sentence, Wallace ‘proceeded to explain the entire Wittgensteinian philosophy behind why it was what it was.'”

—Zac Farber (PDF)

And so, as a result, for the rest of my life[,] I will see that book occasionally at signings. And I will realize I was arrogant, and missed a chance to make that book better. And hopefully I won’t do it again.”

—David Foster Wallace

On bothness

“The Idiot is, as I said, from time to time near that borderland where every thought and its opposite are equally true. That is, he has an intuitive perception that no thought, no law, no mould, no form exist which are true and right except as regarded from one pole—and every pole has its opposite. The situation of a pole, the taking up, that is to say, of a position from which to view and order the world, is the first stage in the foundation of every cultural form, of every society and morality. Whosoever considers Spirit and Nature, Spirit and Freedom, Good and Evil as interchangeable, if only for a moment, is the deadliest foe of every order of civilization. For there begins the contrary of Order; there begins Chaos.

“A line of thought which turns back to the Unconscious, to Chaos, disturbs every human system of order.”

—Herman Hesse in “Thoughts on Dostoevsky’s The Idiot,” translated by Stephen Hudson (another translation in PDF here)


All the publications listed in the opening pages of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

Short story: “Double Time”

“Double Time,” by John Chu

First appeared in Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories (Twelve Planet Press), edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (buy the ebook); reprinted in Mothership Zeta issue 0 (September 21st, 2015)

Roughly 4,478 words

A touching story, but I found the ending sad in a way I’m not sure was intended or not. What a terrible fate, to get the pride and approval you need only by cheating time and eavesdropping.

On pre-visualization in storytelling

“I wish I didn’t have to shoot the picture. When I’ve gone through the script and created the picture on paper, for me the creative job is done and the rest is just a bore.”

—Alfred Hitchcock, as quoted in Hitchcock on Hitchcock, Volume 2

I’ve heard that this statement is at best an exaggeration, but I sort of want it to be true. Not that I want to be bored while putting a piece of fiction together, but I want to believe that outlines and imaginative daydreams can be the heart and skeleton of a story, and that the writing itself is just the breath that animates the thing.

There’s been at least one case when I was bored while writing a scene because I had already written the surrounding story and determined what the scene needed to do. And it seemed to work! At least, people weren’t bored reading it.