Tag: formal inventiveness or unconventionality

Novelette: “Dead Air”

“Dead Air,” by Nino Cipri

Appeared in Nightmare Magazine and dramatized really well in the podcast (some excellent acting!) and featured on Dread Central

10,284 words

I enjoyed the peculiar form and the building mystery—and the fact that it’s Maddie who turns out to be the weird one, not eccentric artist Nita—but I wanted the story to reveal something at the end, something a little more definite than what was revealed. I’ve talked about big reveals in stories sometimes being disappointing, but I feel certain the author could have made it work.

I’m envious of the way the author uses the transcript format and blithely violates it with narrative interpolations (“[It’s a goodbye kiss, but Nita doesn’t know that.]”). How does that work so well?


Short story: “A Howling Dog”

“A Howling Dog,” by Nick Mamatas

Featured in PseudoPod 562, September 29th, 2017

2,166 words

Clever, though I thought the ending was rather abrupt and over the top. Of course, if you leave off the ending, it’s not horror.

Short story: “Hysteria”

“Hysteria,” by Meg Elison

Appeared in Terraform, November 2nd, 2017

1345 words

Love this. The way the plot is implied is really clever.

Has the world moved on?

“I remember in [David Foster Wallace’s] review of a biography of Dostoyevsky he wrote with great admiration about Dostoyevsky but also a certain envy that he had lived at a time when one could write in a very morally serious way without inviting eye-rolling and ridicule. It’s as if Wallace decided that the only way nowadays to explore deep philosophical and moral Dostoyevskian themes and be taken seriously was to package it in an attention-grabbing, startling, and sufficiently unfamiliar form so that readers couldn’t dismiss it as ‘the same old same old’ or think they could understand it if they just read it through quickly, but would have to slow down and properly pay attention to it.

“But I wonder if that was a product of his spending so much time in certain rarefied or fringe circles, like graduate creative writing programs. Has the world as a whole, or have readers as a whole, really moved on from serious but conventional Dostoyevsky-style literature, or is it just the people he tended to interact with who rolled their eyes at it and craved only irony, self-conscious cleverness, intentional obscurity, fractured narratives, and the like?”

—Philo (x)

Short story: “Monomyth”

“Monomyth,” by Kendra Fortmeyer

Appeared in The Cincinnati Review, issue 14.1, summer 2017

Maybe 5000 words? Not sure

I really like this. The different people’s lives fit together neatly and yet organically. I don’t really get the monomyth conceit though. Maybe it’s a framework in the mind of the failed screenwriter.

Short story: “What It Is to Preserve”

“What It Is to Preserve,” by Amber Taliancich Allen

Appeared in Ninth Letter, Winter 2017; online here

2726 words

This is a pretty cool form for a story.

Short story: “Seventeen Comments”

“Seventeen Comments,” by Elyse Friedman

Appeared in The Malahat Review No. 195, Summer 2016online here

1816 words

This is a good piece, although in an age where these miniature dramas can be found everywhere, it feels less necessary. Still, putting it in the form of a short story makes it harder to disregard the commenters’ feelings and experiences—they’re not strangers on the other side of the world, they’re characters, and that paradoxically makes them more real to us, more knowable. We can trust the author in a way that we can’t trust actual internet commenters.

It’s impossible to tell if the comments on this story are taking the piss or not. Or at least I’m not going to knock myself out trying to decide.

Edited to add that the author says: “Mine is written, but you could likely find some that could stand on their own as art pieces. You’d just have to frame them. Put the urinal on the wall, so to speak.”

Flash fiction story: “Regarding Lichen”

“Regarding Lichen,” by Isaac Yuen

Appeared in Tin House‘s Flash Fridays feature, October 13th, 2017

678 words

The form (and title) make me think of “Concerning the Bodyguard.” I like how the characters and their relationship are almost implied rather than shown.

I wonder if you could get away with calling this science fiction.

Tin House insists on writing “1000 words or fewer” instead of “1000 words or less.”

On making unconventional art

“There’s this idea that at some point you master how to tell basic stories, and then you can tell masterful stories. But that’s not true. You never master how to tell a basic story. In fact, you never master any part of writing. Mastering something implies that you can do it again and again, without flaws. […]

“Nathalie Sarraute never wrote a ‘standard’ novel with regular rising tension and beginnings and ends and all of that regular stuff, and I don’t believe there’s any evidence that she was capable of that. I don’t think that a person improves as an artist by producing work that they don’t care about ‘just for practice.’ I believe that you always, from the beginning, have to be aiming at doing something that interests you. And some people just aren’t ever going to be able to interest themselves in the standard forms and models for fiction.”

—Rahul Kanakia (x)

Short story: “The Testimonie of Alyss Teeg”

“The Testimonie of Alyss Teeg,” by Carys Davies

Appeared in Ploughshares Summer 2016, guest-edited by Claire Messud and James Wood; the opening can be read on Project MUSE

Pages 25–37 in the magazine, maybe 3000 words?

A fine, cruel story.

The eccentric spelling and capitalization seem to insist on the authenticity of the narrative voice. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing; it made me pay closer attention to the narrator’s diction and syntax, asking myself whether someone could have written this without being what I think of as fully literate, questioning, doubting.

The word “testimony” suggests that Alyss is presenting for our judgment the real truth of what happened. But of course she can’t give us the real truth, any more than she could give it in court; the real truth is hidden in the heart of her sibling, the one she never stops calling “James Elward.”