26 March 2008

Look, Look, Look!

Here's a blast from the past -- the Complete Elfquest Online project.

Unvarnished Reviews

I know you're thinking, "You've only read five stories since your last post?" Not so. I've actually read about fifteen additional pieces out of the collection Varieties of Disturbance by Lydia Davis. Anything I'd have to say about some of those pieces would be longer than the pieces themselves. I don't think an off-the-cuff review is possible, except with terms like "Damn!" and "Oh, snap!"

These on the other hand...

Jeffrey Thomas, "Immolation" - From The New Weird antho. Very nice crime tale. Lots of phrases I liked, like references to "...some world not yet raped, merely groped." Another excellent example of world-building, too. 5 out of 5.

Angela Carter, "The Snow Child" - From her collection The Bloody Chamber. I'm not sure how much the praise of her work affected my reading. In any case, I did love this short piece, with the way it slowly disturbs you like a creeping vine that you don't realize has wrapped itself around your leg until it's too late. 5 out of 5.

Karen Joy Fowler, "Shimabara" - From her collection Black Glass. You'll think this story is about one thing and Fowler will turn it around on you. Only to then turn it back around, and unsettle you. Brilliantly done! 5 out of 5!

Jay Lake, "The Lizard of Ooze" - (pdf) Also from The New Weird. Intricate, straightforward plotting and execution. Definitely a lesson in worldbuilding. I didn't feel too invested in this world, though, or its characters. 3 out of 5.

Karen Joy Fowler, "The Elizabeth Complex" - Also from Black Glass. I really get what she was trying to do here. The story's clearly about multiple Elizabeths in order to make a universal statement. But Elizabeth I figures so prominently that Fowler's attempts to weave in various anachronisms just doesn't work as well as in other pieces I've read. 3 out of 5.

20 March 2008

Oh, the Pain

Remember when I said...
Now I just have to wait for some of the cooler flash markets to reject the pieces I've already sent them to make room for this one. I probably won't have to wait too long.
Well, I was right. Got the rejection email mere hours after I posted this. Unfortunately, they're not taking stuff for another couple of weeks. No reason to wait, I figured, so the piece I wanted to send out got sent elsewhere.

16 March 2008

Tough Love

For the past two sessions of my critique group, I've cheated by bringing non-genre stuff. I've gotten no complaints so far, but I'm starting to feel like I'm violating the group's social contract. I'm probably commiting a more grievous offense by bringing in a piece I've workshopped elsewhere. Still, it paid off today.

I edited a 155-word flash piece that got very favorable reviews in one workshop and one near-unanimous criticism that I tried to correct. I did, and then I brought it to today's group. Judging from the reactions, I think I fixed it!

Now I just have to wait for some of the cooler flash markets to reject the pieces I've already sent them to make room for this one. I probably won't have to wait too long.

12 March 2008

Unvarnished Reviews

Didn't get a lot of reading done this past week (that wasn't critique-related). It looks like I did, because I went through some flash stories. As usual, I tried to take as much time reviewing them, unpolished and off the cuff...

Thomas Ligotti, "A Soft Voice Whispers Nothing" - From The New Weird, this was a short piece that seemed to go nowhere at first. But the pace picked up, and the message of the piece was finally revealed. It's not a pleasant one, but that's actually not why it gets 3 out of 5.

China Miéville, "Jack" - I thought I must've read this when I first picked up China's Looking for Jake and Other Stories. I must not have; I would've remembered a story this good. The best part was listening to a narrator that ended up being as interesting as his stories of Jack Half-a-Prayer. 5 out of 5.

Benjamin Rosenbaum, "The Orange" - I might've read this before, too, as I went through the Flash Fiction Forward antho; I maybe even talked about it. The story doesn't have that "snap" at the end that you see in a lot of flash fiction. It pulls off something harder, building up a smooth narrative arc from start to finish in such a small space. 5 out of 5.

Jim Crace, "21" - Also from Flash Fiction Forward. A good experimental piece, blurring the lines between showing and telling. The showing was the telling. It leaned a touch too far on the showing side to me, though it made sense later as I read that the piece was an excerpt. 4 out of 5.

Karen Joy Fowler, "Contention" - From her collection Black Glass, the story brought to mind Amy Hempel's "Celia Is Back." But where the protagonist's ultimate desires in that story were up for interpretation, the protagonist in this story wants something more specific. I felt there was a disconnect between how the tale was initially presented and what it was ultimately about, but the writing made that transition almost seamless. 4 out of 5.

Karen Joy Fowler, "The Black Fairy's Curse" - Also from Black Glass, here's another reinterpretation of a classif fairy tale. More like an amplification, really. 5 out of 5.

04 March 2008

Unvarnished Reviews

Everything I've read this week is from the antho The New Weird (Powell's | Amazon). A couple of them were novellette-length (gasp!), but they'll get the same quick, off-the-cuff treatment that any other piece gets.

I have to say that I don't think I've ever enjoyed a crop of stories this much!

M. John Harrison, "The Luck in the Head" - This is the second Harrison story I've read, and unfortunately I think I've fallen into the camp of those who really admire his prose but who finish his stories feeling, "WTF?" The novelette length didn't help, either, but that's a personal thing with me. 3 out of 5.

Clive Barker, "In the Hills, the Cities" - Oddly enough, this story must've been about two or three thousand words longer than Harrison's story. But it took about 1/5 of the time to read. I did think it was a touch too long, with a little too much time spent on the interactions between the two main characters relative to the payoff at the end. Still, 5 out of 5.

Michael Moorcock, "Crossing Into Cambodia" - This is a nice an homage to Isaac Babel as I've ever read. A great blend of literary iconography: a Babel-like protagonist caught up in a Moorcock world. 5 out of 5!

Simon D. Ings, "The Braining of Mother Lamprey" - I have to give this 5 out of 5. I actually thought there were a couple of characters too many and I got mired in some of the details, but I'll be damned--I never got lost. This is definitely one to re-read, if nothing else, for the tutorial on world-building in a short-story.

Kathe Koja, "The Neglected Garden" - There's nothing like a fantasy/horror story that could, with a little imagination (and not a very "nice" imagination, at that), take place in your own back yard! 5 out of 5!

February Scorecard

I make no excuses, except to say that I did have the Andromeda Strain in my lungs for the better part of two weeks during the shortest month of the year.

1 (resub)

02 March 2008


Anyone have an opinion on the wisdom (or lack thereof) of writing while pursuing a (non-writing) graduate degree?