Like much of America we’re in the throes of a lake effect snow. Eight inches today, another few overnight. Seems a good time to read slush, neh?
See my previous post for disclaimers about my posted reactions, etc.
Story 3 (12/3/2010 Fantasy 2235 words)
The story begins with an authorial overview, a sort of preamble. It’s well written and interesting, but does not hint at genre. This makes me dubious that it will fit the anthology. For now I read on with interest. I’m feeling a little bit preached at on this first page. The prose holds me, but its grip is becoming tenuous.
Second page shifts into omniscient. Not really a problem in terms of theme, but a hamper to plot movement. An interaction with father is the first real sense of plot movement and it’s well written. I’m having a little problem with the protagonist, however, in that he seems something of a straw man rather than a real person. I would be more invested with the message of the piece were I more invested with the character. He seems placed here as a mouthpiece at present. I understand what he feels, but not why. I have no sense of what has gone before in his life or what has formed his opinion/obsession (madness?). I remain curious, but also leery.
This gets interesting at the end of page three. I like the fantastic element (which may simply be unreliable perception, but that’s cool), but the shift to colloquial doesn’t feel earned. It feels intentionally provocative. Artsy. Again, for me, this comes back to the character. If the story doesn’t really take the character seriously, should I? This said, I very much like the top of page 4. I like where this goes, just not quite how it gets here.
The story segues into drollness. The situation is pretty funny in a yuk-yuck way and the writing lively. Lots to like about that. Some very cool stuff here. Page 6 reveals this is definitely alternate history. Dallas Cowboys 3-0? Nah 😉
The story ends sharply. I very much like it. The beginning, not so much. It’s authorially intrusive, and does not establish the potential for this riff on the sublime. I suspect the story would start better at the end of page 2, with dad waking the protagonist. That’s where the language takes life and the character begins to be revealed. I’d probably want a little more of that revelation to give the ending longer teeth, but I could maybe live without that. Yes, the protagonist is delusional, but he should be real enough that I can empathize with his delusion (rather than simply snorfling along with what he says and does – this is the difference between enjoying and feeling compelled by a piece, for me).
So, the question becomes whether to suggest a revision. Am I certain our other editors would appreciate this story even with a perfect opening? It’s an iffy proposition. I will pass it along with a note outlining my reaction. If others do like it, we’ll talk about a revision request. Complicating matters, a portion of the story has been published, though likely in a market our readers will not be familiar with.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 8 This seems a valiant effort to entertain me into accepting a message. The second half works wonderfully. The opening feels a little precious to me, and doesn’t set up the irreverence of the ending (though it talks at length about irreverence). I feel the opening looks down its nose a bit at believers rather than pulling us into a character who looks down his nose at belief. I can see why it was published, but it could be stronger.
Story 4 (12/4/2010 Fantasy 6300 words)
Note to self: 5000 word limit, give or take, apparently opens the floodgates to longer works. It’s a shame. Longer stories will have to be incredible to be accepted.
This is an intriguing opening. Not a hint of genre, but I’m interested. Unfortunately, the ensuing conversation feels very much like it’s being held for my benefit rather than the characters’. Seems like background disguised as dialogue. The story is not moving forward. This goes on for a few pages; we get some veiled hints that burial has been replaced by some new technology, but it’s mainly a lesson on how not to tell us what we want to know. An SF reader is not going to have her jaw drop when this technology is revealed, so withholding it isn’t helping matters. Skimming to end of scene.
Scene 2 shows the results of the tech. This is better. We get some visuals, some characterization. Very nice descriptive details. Unfortunately, we’re still dealing with the same issue as in scene 1, just new words. It’s not going to awe an SF reader, who’s read stories revolving around such technologies for years. A story was nominated for a nebula last year, I believe, with the same basic thrust. There, the tech was on the page and a vibrant part of the story experience. Here we’re pretty much talking it out. I do like some of the points made, and certainly many of the lines themselves, but the story feels very static. Skimming to end.
I do feel the guy’s angst and like the way the scene on p16 opens. Love the bit with the medicine man on p21. To the story’s credit, it’s not really about the tech reveal, but a commentary on human nature and our irrational views of death (and living). The final scene is wonderfully surreal satire. It’s just not right for the anthology.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 8 As a literary story that utilizes an SF concept to make a satiric point, it works well. I do think the very slow opening scene detracts from the experience, particularly as it comes across as background disguised as dialogue. Personally, I would have started with the second scene.