See my previous post for disclaimers. Wherein I continue to advance through the ranks of hopeful stories for possibly inclusion in Triangulation: Last Contact. My sincere apologies to those of you who have been waiting patiently for decisions. At this point we’ve officially accepted 15 stories (40,000 words).
Story 261 (3/11/2011 Science Fiction 4100 words)
Reader 1: “This story was unnecessary elusive and I didn’t feel any particular connection to the love story.”
This comes from a writer with a strong track record. It is a reprint so the bar is higher. It opens well, dropping me into scene. Greek mythology references abound. This gives the story something of a mythic feel, yet the conversation is grounded in the everyday. It is, however, a bit stilted.
First scene creates an aura of mystery around the identities of the characters. I’m interesting, but not compelled because I’m not connecting to the scene. Second scene does escalate a bit. Lots of astronomy here juxtaposed with mythology. It’s an interesting blend. I don’t know where the story is going. It could be good, but it’s going to have to be important to justify my waiting.
Some very nice lines, evocative. The story has a dreamlike quality that is compelling in its way. Plot-wise the story is escalating at a leisurely pace. I very much like the dream battle sequence, the way the unreal becomes real and then maybe not. I like where this ends up, moving opposite expectation. I like a great deal of this.
But, it takes a long time to get there. It feels a little unfocused, a little too large for its container. If, for example, we could get to the “mission” early in the story so that the protagonist has an other world motivation rather than a generic real world one that we don’t quite understand, I think the story will compel rather than entice. For us that’s important. I’ll pass it on for another view, but I’m not too hopeful. I did enjoy reading it.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 7 A haunting cross genre tale about a voyager and the gods it rouses to action. The leisurely pace and diffuse focus, particularly early in the story work against it.
Story 263 (3/11/2011 Fantasy 1002 words)
Reader 1: “It’s fairly well written, but not very compelling. Since it was already published, I think we can do without it. ”
Another reprint. It’s funny how submissions seem to run in streaks like that. Well, the bar is higher for reprints, especially since I’m not too concerned that we won’t have enough original material for the anthology. Lots of goods stories this year, folks. Thank you.
The opening is nice enough. It’s narrative, so not very immediate, but it does achieve a nice mood and gives me relevant information. A second paragraph is similar, then we get to the inciting incident. In a flash it would probably be wiser to start with the incident and work in just enough background to provide context. I’m reading, but not avidly.
I do like the matter of fact approach to the “adventure”. Some nice observations. The big problem, for me, is that I don’t feel a deeper level to this. It seems like what I see is what I get, and that’s just not enough. It does escalate nicely through the action scene. Ooh, nice ending. Jamie may like this. I’m not a huge fan, but I’ll pass it along. For me, the story and characters need more development to really work.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 6 A fantasy that goes to a dark place fast. Lack of character development works against it.
Story 264 (3/12/2011 Fantasy 1500 words)
Reader 1: “There is no real story here. There is no character development, so tension, the POV isn’t fighting against any obstacle.” (plot spoilers removed)
We see a lot of this “lack of story” thing, don’t we? The anthology is pretty well known for it’s focus on story over mood or idea or technique. We like all of these things in support of story, mind you, but not so much vice versa (there are exceptions, usually because they’re concise and fit the theme extraordinarily well).
Anyway, this one also opens with summary narrative. A story being told to me by fabulist convention. That’s okay, so long as it compels more than it tells. It doesn’t. It’s basically telling me about a story rather than inviting me to experience it. Good for a campfire tale, not so much for our anthology.
Yep, no story here. The story being explained sounds pretty interesting, but I’m held way outside the experience. Not for us, I’m afraid.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 4 A fable about finding ones place in the world. Lack of immediacy and complication hold this one back.
Story 265 (3/13/2011 Fantasy 3800 words)
Reader 1: “This story was compelling, but didn’t quite work for me. I kept getting lost, which might have been the writer’s intent, but I hope not. I think the woman is an unreliable narrator, but we don’t get a hint of that until too late in the story. I think it needs to come earlier. I think this story could work but will need sharpening and clarification. It may be too much work, but I’d like to see what others think of it. ”
Strong opening. A matter of fact presentation of the strange is often a good way to catch a reader’s interest. There’s concrete detail, true mystery, and a character with implicit motive. Nice details, almost poetic (but not settling for poetry over forward momentum). Nice final paragraph on page 2. Character reacting to stimulus; the intellectual comes after visceral; it takes time to emerge, but then does so very concretely while also hinting that she could be sick.
Second scene begins with back flash done the way back flash should be done. The MC is reacting in a thoughtful way to what happened in the last scene; she’s carrying over the implications of a thought she had in reaction to the inciting incident. She’s rehashing a scene from her past as evidence of her earlier conclusion about the present. It does give me important information, but it does so because she needs it. the scene moves forward with purpose (still in back flash) and we end up with a new understanding of the MC.
Third scene borders on surreal. It works to escalate the mystery and my doubts about this woman’s reliability. The story is starting to lose a little steam, though. I want it to go somewhere bigger. Soon.
Nope, we return to the back flash thread. I’m less interested now. I don’t need most of this background to appreciate the forsground story. Here, I feel as if the MC is laboring through this memory for my benefit.
I like the next scene. Personally, I think the prior one could simply be cut and this scene would continue the foreground story. We don’t HAVE to slavishly follow a logical pattern of scene flow (foreground background foreground background…) In fact patterns usually work against fiction – they’re not unexpected.
Ah, good, the next scene stays in the present. The next short scene is a reminiscence and it works well because it’s a reaction to the complication at the end of the prior scene.
Nice escalation in the wine scene.
And here’s the problem. The wine scene feels like climax (a very good one too). Then we have the longest scene in the entire story describing what happens afterward, providing another bit of evidence for what we already suspect. This throws the story out of balance. This scene needs to be short and direct, much like the opening scene was, and leave us wanting to make sense of the story.
I wouldn’t want to publish this “as is”, but with some work I think it would be a nice addition to the collection. I’ll pass it on.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 7 An fascinating fantasy that verges on surreality. A overlong anti-climax and an unnecessary background scene weaken it.
Story 266 (3/13/2011 SF 1870 words)
Reader 1: “This is a captains log at a time when [something happens]. The author has tried to make this seem dangerous, but I don’t think there is any scientific reason for it to be so. The log entries are very dry. There is a two page summary in the middle about how they got there. Overall, it wasn’t compelling. This was first person and I never felt I understood the person. ”
That’s a common issue with first person. People think it brings built in reader identification, but the opposite is true. It’s more difficult to get a reader to identify with first person than close third person (in general). The connection to perception is deeper in first person, but the trade off is that perception becomes a filter through which the story must be told and that can be distancing.
The opening is interesting, though not compelling. It provides context and motivation and genre succinctly, but no sense of surround (which would be difficult int his format, granted).
Yeah, I’m not a fan of this. It’s intellectually interesting but very dry.
Second entry seems to anticipate this and becomes more human. It’s nothing terribly new, though, so I’m not sucked in yet. Then a two page history lesson meant to feed me information. You know what I think of that 🙂
There is some neat background here, especially the social stuff, but the story is cumbersome. A nice nod to Fredrick Brown. He could have gotten away with this back in the time. It’s more difficult now.
It gets pretty wacky as the effects of the mission take hold. That’s fine, but I’m not connected enough to the character or situation to take much note of the details I’m afraid. This feels like a throwback to the old pulps. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not a good fit for us. All idea, little character, no immediacy.
Slush-o-meter (1-10): 4 A Physics joy ride that goes terribly wrong. Lack of immediacy hurt this.
That’s going to do it for tonight. Another candidate story.