I have an hour or so to get through another few stories.
See my previous post for disclaimers.
Story 61 (1/4/2011 Horror 3068 words)
This begins in mid-action, which is good. We have a character in context. I’m a jaded reader, but I think Vincent telegraphs the ending. The rug is very nice and the viewpoint seems about the right age. This is an interesting, if not totally unique, device. I’m hoping the story will do more with it.
Second scene escalates. I like it, but I’m not feeling as compelled as I ought to. I’m missing a deeper dimension. The idea is neat but it needs to be exploring deeper issues as well. There are hints that it might, but I’m feeling like a tourist right now.
Next scene provides a nice complication. I’m intrigued. Next scene is the climax. There is tension, but I’m not feeling emotionally involved. I like the MC, but don’t feel invested in her journey yet. It may be that this story needs to be longer, with more space to develop the characters both in the real world and fantasy world. I really don’t feel that the MC earned this outcome; it just kind of happened. Though the idea behind the twist is really creepy. Imagine how Stephen King would develop this and this could be quite delicious. As it stands now, it’s a little too superficial though the plot is delivered well.
The final scene only emphasizes this for me. It basically hinges on idea and distances us from the protagonist rather than engaging our emotions. Still, it’s a good effort.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 6 This is a nicely constructed story with a likable protagonist, but it doesn’t go deeply enough beneath its surface idea.
Story 62 (1/6/2011 SF 4100 words)
This begins in mid-scene, which is good. We have a protagonist in context and a potential motivation. We get some background. What we don’t get is a concrete piece of information the protagonist clearly knows. This feels like artificial mystery. I’m losing interest.
Well, we’re off to backflash. I don’t mean to pick on this story, but if you’ve been following this blog you’ll know that we see this ALL the time. It gets old. I’m virtually conditioned at this point to expect a less interesting scene of backflash wherein the story stands still. Will this one surprise me? I hope so. It’s an active scene, which is good. It’s delivering information disguised as dialogue, however, which isn’t so good. I do like the expression passage. I also like the last line. The scene, however, falls kind of flat as it’s obviously a device to deliver background rather than a motivated character moving forward through his story journey.
Back to the present. I’m no longer sure the character has a motivation. Ah, middle of page 4 we get motive. Scene leaves us with another false mystery. Character knows the answer, but author withholds it to tease us onward. Typically, I feel frustrated at such junctures. Guess I’m a character identification kind of guy.
I like the next scene. It’s a lively little exchange, but I don’t really see how it advances the story. And the story does need some advancing. Two scenes later, this thread continues. I like this thread. Is it relevant to this story? There’s some good stuff here, I’m just not getting a sense of story momentum. It may be a matter of refocusing things a bit.
Okay, it’s making more sense now. If the story had not withheld items early on, it would likely have worked better. If the info on page 11 about base maintenance had been placed in the first scene, we would have had a stronger sense of character motive and the story probably would have more tension and momentum.
The footprint is a nice touch. It’s a nice complication related to the story concept. Good.
Then: “I explain my rationale.” And I’m lost irretrievably. I was identifying with this character and now the author steps in to hide vital information from me in an artificial manner. This is false mystery and it turns me off (granted, I’m hypersensitive to this, but it’s definitely not a great characterization technique).
The ending takes too long, but its heart is in the right place. It’s an interesting solution to the final complication. I’m just not sure I buy it.
This one is difficult to deal with. It’s got a neat idea and the writing is solid (very good at times) and it has a plot that leads somewhere interesting, yet I’m not really excited by it. It’s possible that refocusing the opening (and playing less hide and seek with relevant knowledge) and amping up the emotional tension through the middle would be enough, but I really don’t know. It’s a story that could be expanded to more fully explore core issues (what is the value of being human in this situation) or it could be shortened to focus more sharply on the final twist. Right now it seems in between, not hot or cold, lukewarm. It’s also a recent reprint, which further nixes the deal for me.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 6 An interesting idea and good exploration of concept, but it feels glossed over. This can be a very good SF story with more work.
Story 63 (1/7/2011 SF 7600 words)
First reader said: “I didn’t read all of this. The story is too long. The beginning is too slow. It takes 7 pages for the POV to get to the planet. There’s a lot of chit-chat. I looked at the last few pages.”
Needless to say, I’m not going in with much enthusiasm. The story opens with a clump of background information. It’s not badly written, but doesn’t really move the story forward. Dialogue begins, which is good, except that it’s purpose seems to be to trigger thoughts of additional background information in the MC. It’s not bad at all, but I think this is a case of novel pacing rather than short story pacing. I’m betting this secondary character doesn’t play a part in the story, that this background is mainly unnecessary (in the sense that we could pick it up as easily later when the MC is actually moving through his story journey).
I have to agree that the dialogue is mainly chit-chat. It’s naturalistic enough, but it’s not moving the story forward or creating tension between characters. It’s just taking up space and delivering occasional information.
Okay, I’m to page 7 and I’m going to stop, not because it’s poor writing, but because I’m way behind on slush reading and this story is 50% longer than we accept and it’s clear that the main problem is that it’s written with novel pacing rather than short story pacing. It’s taking forever to advance the story plot.
No slushy rating on this one since I didn’t finish it.