I have realized that I have managed to accumulate a reasonable number of short stories/novelettes, some of them unsent to potential publishers or awards, others sent but rejected (although usually with an “almost a winner” note appended, so there’s that.) And I have also realized that since I follow a setting-less style of writing (or at least a setting that is hidden from the reader and unexplained) I can just string them together. And that’s probably what I will do.
That’s from the Terror at 5 1/2 Feet, from The Simpsons episode Treehouse of Horror IV. It’s known that that story is based on The Twilights Zone’s Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, although there the gremlin looks a bit different.
But I was looking for non-awful sci-fi short stories (pre-decline Hugo short story nominees, to be precise) and came across this old Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine cover. It could be a coincidence, but I wonder if this inspired them to some degree when they designed the gremlin:
Of the many things I wrote in my book Dangerous
Gaymers Gamers, one that readers (the half-dozen of you) usually point out as surprising is my claim that the Internet kerfuffles and “controversies” surrounding entertainment and, especially, the so-called political bent, bias, or content that has been injected in video games, games, movies, books… (i.e. nerd and popular culture) is not really political. In fact, I even said that political thinking and sociopolitical content has virtually disappeared from popular culture. And I was right, and I’m still right.
In a previous post, I mentioned I believe the usual advice given to writers (or, rather, to people who want to write) may not be that good, if not downright useless. And if one wants to be controversial, you might as well start with a big bang:
“Read a lot. Reading will make you a better writer,” or variations of the same. It seems logical, common-sensical. But if you think about it, it’s a bit like saying that if you want to be a good musician, you should listen to a lot of music, or look at many paintings if you want to be a painter. A kind of craftsmanship by osmosis.
*Kyphosis, actually, but that doesn’t sound that funny.
I saw this image yesterday, and I chuckled immediately. It was a reflexive laughter, and it took me awhile to understand what exactly had triggered my reaction.
As I said, I laughed when I saw this, even before I had consciously processed what I had seen. A few minutes of heavy thunkin’ later, I realized what was wrong: they look ridiculous while trying to look cool, which is the worst kind of ridiculousness that exists.
Among all the lists that tell you exactly how many “types of story” exist, I like this one about the Seven Quests. No, I don’t mean the famous The Seven Basic Plots but this one in this more obscure, plain, and unsourced website: Love, Money, Power, Glory, Revenge, Survival, and Self. I don’t know the source behind it, and I don’t think it’s an exhaustive list —I can think of two other important motivations— but it’s useful, simple, and surprisingly powerful.
What I like about that list is that it actually focuses on human emotions and motivations, not abstract Jungian narratives like “Killing the Monster.” After all, what does that even mean? Killing it, sure,… but for what? Because you want to loot his treasure, revenge, or simple survival? It changes the story quite a lot whether the motivation of our hero is one or the other, and it also highlights the pitfalls of each motivation, its dark side if you will (Love -> Jealousy, Money -> Greed, Power/Glory -> Arrogance & Wrath, Revenge -> Obsession & Moral downfall, Survival ->? (this one is morally neutral as I will explain later.)
The original goal of this post was to write a mini-essay on something that annoys me about contemporary writing. As far as I know, it has no name, and I struggled to find one, so I had to settle for something as cumbersome as “mid-action or mid-description beginnings.” Essentially, the story starts in media res, but not in the middle of the plot, but in the middle of a scene, with people (sometimes a lot of people) doing, sometimes exciting or action-related, stuff… for no reason we can discern. No goals, context, purpose, or meaning are given. It’s just a picture, like a movie scene (and in many cases, it shows the writer imagined it as such.)
The protagonist can be fighting another person (and we know nothing about them so we have no reason to care,) sweating profusely from some equally strenuous activity, engaging in a heavy dialogue with a character we know nothing about, or sometimes it’s a cliché-ridden description as the character prepares to do one of those things (the standard in fantasy until a few years ago was to describe, for some unfathomable reason, the sky – usually a sunset or dawn- and how that light reflected on the local vegetation.)
The opposite, of course, is to start like all stories have always been written, with a small, perhaps only a single sentence, explanation about the why, where, and when so we can contextualize what is happening and will happen.