Reading the Hugos (2020) Ten Excerpts from an Annotated… oh God that’s a long title.

Some particular trends in genre literature have become obvious during the past few years. One of them is the use of Brobdingnagian titles, a compulsion to write paragraph-long titles, some of whom even give away the plot. I suspect this may have started as a quirky, ironic thing to do, but I don’t think it’s funny unless you are lampooning or referencing some stuffy style like academic papers or writing comedy. And, to be fair, that’s to some extent what this story is doing—referencing, not the comedy.

The complete title of this very short piece by Nibedita Sen is Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island, which is way less interesting than my alternative title: The lesbian cannibal she-devils of Ratnabar Island. It’s mating season… and they want your blood!

Continue reading “Reading the Hugos (2020) Ten Excerpts from an Annotated… oh God that’s a long title.”

Reading the Hugos (2020) Do Not Look Back, My Lion

I wasn’t sure if this year I would bother writing these analyses of the Hugo short story finalists. Although my experience has usually been that close to 90% of them are bad, at least they are bad in an interesting way. This year they are mostly bad and boring. Besides, to be honest, I don’t care that much about writing anymore. But these reviews of mine are sort of a blog tradition, so here they are once more. I think, however, that this may be the last year I do these. It’s neither worth it nor funny.

If you have stumbled upon this without knowing what I’m talking about: The Hugo Awards is one of the most prestigious literary awards in science fiction and fantasy. Also, they nominate a lot of crap, but it’s from that fact that the hilarity ensues.

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How fiction starts: an analysis of 1200+ sff books

When I make my writing analysis posts, I usually pick random sentences but beginnings may be an even better choice. They are probably the most edited, if not overthought, parts of a book, and it’s also where writers show off their skill or (if they fail at it) their weaknesses. And if you want to see how writing changes through time, the first sentence may actually be all you need to read. And for those who have huge submission piles to plow through, the first two sentences is all you need to read for the first culling.

If you have followed me for some time, you already know my dislike of contemporary writing fads and techniques and my belief that you can see its decline in quality just in the formal aspect of writing. Strange syntax, (too) deep POVs, -ing participles galore, unnecessary descriptions, showing where telling would be perfectly fine and, finally, no personal style and no distinctive narrator—just piles and piles of descriptions, one after the other, like a transcription of a video recording. And, sure, it’s fine and all to talk about these things in the abstract and using a few examples from time to time, but it’s better to have some solid evidence to back you up. So here it is.

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Reading the Hugos (2019) STET

STET, by Sarah Gailey, is a short story finalist that plays with the layout and formatting possibilities of a website to explain a story through footnotes and comments. It’s basically a very short (a single paragraph) text written in standard, soulless academese but the text is expanded thanks to a copious amount of footnotes which, at the same time, have comments, back and forth, between the original writer and the editor of the piece. In fact, the title of the short story, STET, is the annotation written by writers or proofreaders when commenting alterations made by an editor, and it means “let it stand” (in other words, ignore that comment/I don’t agree with your correction.) It’s through these notes that the real story unfolds and you get a good glimpse of what is going on behind the apparently emotionless text.

As I said, the text itself is quite short, and I’m going to post it here (and there’s a reason I don’t want to link to it right now):

Section 5.4 — Autonomous Conscience and Automotive Casualty

While Sheenan’s Theory of Autonomous Conscience was readily adopted by both scholars and engineers in the early days of Artificial Intelligence programming in passenger and commercial vehicles, contemporary analysis reinterprets Sheenan’s perspective to reveal a nuanced understanding of sentience and consciousness. Meanwhile, Foote’s On Machinist Identity Policy Ethics produces an analysis of data pertaining to autonomous vehicular manslaughter and AI assessments of the value of various life forms based on programmer input only in the tertiary. Per Foote’s assessment of over eighteen years of collected data, autonomous vehicle identity analyses are based primarily on a collected cultural understanding of identity and secondarily on information gathered from scientific database, to which the AI form unforeseeable connections during the training process. For the full table of Foote’s data, see Appendix D.

Now that you have read it, you can jump straight to the first note and read them from there, navigating using the ↩ symbols. Don’t scroll up; only down. I’ve never cared about spoilers in these posts I make about the Hugos, but this time I will wait for you to read the story first; it’s not too long and I believe it’s worth it.


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Project Contact, chapter 4

Constantin Howard began to holler orders as he flipped through the menus and sub-menus of his tablet. He was activating his audio broadcasting privileges, but nobody else had seen the visual feed of the incoming attackers, so the people around looked at him as if he were a hobo who had suddenly started yelling about the end of the world.

“There’s a terrorist convoy coming this way!” He shouted. “Everybody to the lab elevator now!”

He didn’t know what they were. Terrorist or something else, but the word worked and their previous passive confusion gave way to a hurried but well-drilled flight towards the bowels of the building. Both  Wickerman and Svoboda signaled to him but he waved them off, telling them to go with everybody else. He switched on the compound-wide broadcast system and began talking in the most relaxed tone of voice he managed to muster. As he talked, he ran to the policemen posted outside, who were even more oblivious of the approaching threat.

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Project Contact, chapter 1

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have some ideas for a science fiction setting. I’m still not ready to send space marines out there jumping across asteroid fields with nuclear-powered jetpacks while they blast alien ships, so I’ll start with a more down-to-Earth prequel of sorts. I don’t know what title to use so I’ll use the generic label Project Contact because it fits thematically. The “chapter” in the title is a bit misleading since this is too short to be a chapter. If I continue writing these, and if this ends up being a book, it will have hundreds.


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Terror at 10^6 feet: Twilight, Asimov, and the Simpsons.

 

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.

PubTThou01.jpg

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:

asimov gremlins

 

gremlin3