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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November 9 post: Deep POV is shallow (and harming fantastic fiction)

I don’t feel like writing a story today so I’ll make a post on writing. This post will pull together different issues I have hinted or referenced in other posts, focusing on what I believe has become a serious problem in fiction literature, especially what is known as ‘genre writing’: the death of the narrator. I blame what is known as Deep Point of View, although perhaps a new term would be needed for what I will talk about, perhaps Character-Only Narrative, but Deep POV will have to do because nobody would know what I’m talking about if I start talking about CON.

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Asimov’s Adventure editorials III: on mythology, sword & sorcery, and economists.

This is the third editorial [first and second] of Asimov’s Science Fiction Adventure Magazine, a short-lived magazine with only four issues (from late 1978 to late 1979,) where the famous writer explained his understanding of adventure, science fiction, fantasy, and their place in the current scientific era.

His thesis is that there is an important abyss between the pre and post scientific understanding of the world, especially concerning the problem of how to manipulate the universe or to make it work for us. He isn’t wrong, though, but I’d really like to know what was his opinion about writers like Jack Vance, who were aware of that pre and post scientific chasm but consciously played around it to undermine it and mix the different worldviews. Unfortunately, I have never come across any suggestion that Asimov knew or cared about Vance.

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The pitfalls of worldbuilding.

You are hungry, but there is a bakery near your place, so you go up and leave your home [you are a ratman, and you live in the sewers], following that delicious smell.

“Hello, Mr. Ratman,” says the fine lady behind the counter. “May I help you?”

You can choose one of these answers:

a) Just ask for a classic butter croissant.

b) Ask for the same croissant, and explain to her why you like them so much, perhaps illustrating the point with a humorous or beautiful short story about your croissant-filled past. It’s a small town (but with big sewers!), though, so people don’t mind a bit of small talk.

c) Ask for the croissant, and then go rambling for half an hour about its origins during the Siege of Vienna, and about all the European kings who have ever suffered from lactose intolerance.

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