September Short Fiction

Sep 27, 17:30 by IROSF
A thread to discuss short fiction.

Lois' reviews can be found here
Sep 27, 19:40 by Carl Frederick
Hi Lois,
Thanks for reviewing my story in Asimov's, 'We Are the Cat'.
At one point in your review, you say about a character, 'Carl begins to lose it'.
Well... the character's name is Conrad. Are you perhaps trying to tell me something? :)
Sep 27, 19:46 by Bluejack
Sorry, Carl. That's fixed now.
Sep 27, 20:34 by Lois Tilton
"All names beginning with the same letter are identical."

Tilton's Law of Name Dysfunction. Or something like that. Also known as: Ooops!

Sep 28, 16:53 by Martin Bonham
Concerning your review of the 2nd issue of Jim Bean's Universe which I have just enjoyed reading.

Two comments which I hope do not seem too nitpicky.

(1) Your text calls it "vol. 2, August 2006"
Alonside the cover art correctly identifies this as Volume 1 - Issue 2. Thus the second of six issues in the first year of publication.
I assume that the JBU staff are going to publish Volume two next year.

(2) Concerning "What Sleeps in the Shadows Belongs in the Depths by Julie Czerneda" you asked
" I am not sure if this particular story is a sequel to some previous work, as it seems to be."

I believe that this story in issue two it is a sequal to her story "Ware the Sleeper" in issue one, two months earlier.

The easiest way to find the earlier story is probably to click on the links to the authors name.

Martin Bonham.

Sep 28, 19:12 by Lois Tilton
Thanks for the corrections.
Oct 9, 19:12 by twosheds
Concerning F&SF,

"Revelation" started out as a traditional story with an obvious hook pounded into the reader: The Earth is an egg. That's ridiculous, so that's probably how the story's going to end (Earth as egg). The similes were tortured for the most part, but half-way through the story, I really started to see the subtle ironies the author was weaving in, and the strange reversals of perspective—the characters and their own perspectives as to what constitutes the truth and a lie. Reality and perception. People protected in their own cocoons to be discarded as the dragon discards its egg shell. I loved this story. I'd even say that the last paragraph, the only part of the story which places it in genre, could be discarded. It didn't really matter if U's beliefs were true or not, and if Strange Horizons can publish non-genre and call it genre, why can't F&SF?

"El Regalo" had some weighty blocks of narrative which bugs me sometimes. It was interesting enough to keep me reading all the way through, but the trope is obvious and often used: the unrealized (and unknown) magic ability of the main character. The last time I read it (in either F&SF or Realms) a house magically appeared in the neighborhood one day causing a minor stir among the neighbors. It turned out the main characters, a mother and daughter as I vaguely remember, had latent magical abilities discovered by the two witches next door. But there are many more incarnations other than this.

After I forced myself through the blocks of narrative at the beginning, I was able to cling to "Killers" to the end. I nearly choked on the assertion that the horrors of war were making all of the men go wild. I guess there were no horrors in the Civil War or WWI or WWII. If my uncle, who barely survived the Battle of the Bulge, were still alive, I could tell him WWII was a cake walk. But it's the ending that really got me. Despite the hardships and deprivations of these extreme circumstances, women are still capable of the most catty and petty of reactions. If a man had written this, there'd be an uproar- - and rightly so.

I spent a lot of red ink on "Abandon the Ruins". The author is a good writer, but needs polishing in places (as do I). Yes, it must be part of a larger piece because it has no sense of direction. In fact, as part of a larger piece it still has very little direction. Even a chapter should give a reader a sense of direction and purpose. This just ambles like a zombie. It wasn't until section 8 that I perceived something that felt like direction.

"Pop Squad" was another "forever young, and its unforeseen problems" story. It had a strong "Logan's Run" feel to it. We never get a sense of the dinosaur's representation – the psychological aspect that draws the main character to it.

"Pol Pot's Daughter" had an odd but compelling start. Sith doesn't start off as a sympathetic character, and the reader isn't given an obvious conflict at first. Not a lot driving the story. But as I started to understand the theme (something like, modernization can't purge a social/historical conscience) I started to see the Sith character as a representation for Cambodia's young society. I started to dig it. I REALLY started to appreciate the story and thought I was reading Nebula material until near the end. At one point, the spirit gives her the A, B, and C as how to proceed to fix her problem, but it shouldn't have been that easy. She should've been forced to figure it out. In this case, she had no inner resolutions: the spirit made it easy for her.

I don't have the same misgivings about historical license. I've written and will soon publish stories that would make historical purists cringe. But if the story reveals itself in such a way to the author, then it should be pursued. I would have a different opinion if the story was intentionally malicious (Pres. Bush conspires with the devil to kill children, or Pres. Clinton uses black magic to seduce women). But the powerful theme of historical conscience in this piece is, IMHO, wonderfully done.

Concerning Realms:

"The Marriage Game" was a simple story of stereotypical M/F relationships.

Now that I'm thinking about stories in Realms I realized I have much less to say about them because they are so different from F&SF. The editor is asking me to think less, so I have less to say. That sounds like a dig, but I like Realms just as much as F&SF. Different editorial approaches are needed to ensure the broadest range of fiction is available.

Anyway, in "Dead Man's Tale" I had a number of comments in the margins about logic and confusion. I really don't remember it. There was nothing to make me want to remember.

"Sunday:" was twice as long as merited by actual story. I don't like simpering female main characters. At the end, I wrote "impeach the editor." OK, I take back what I said earlier about needing a range of fiction.

"Blood of Virgins:" OK, combined with "Sunday", this issue of Realms is an ode to the book publisher, LUNA. (or Tiger Beat if that's still around). I envisioned a different ending, but it was quite X-rated (but more interesting).

I strongly agree with the comments on "Snake Charmer." It kept me reading, and the writing was considerably more sophisticated than the other crap in this issue.

"A Fish Story:" I have a number of POV and clarity problems circled. At the end, I had written "a story with no purpose." Again, I really don't remember it.
Oct 9, 21:41 by Bluejack
Hey thanks for your thoughts, twosheds! It's nice to get some more opinions going here!
Oct 18, 11:37 by Ed Morris
Ah, Lois Tilton, noted author of such alternate-history classics as _Guns of the Supermarket_ and _I Could Have Written This Better Than You_ sees fit to trash my story. Hmm... who else did she trash? All the unknowns. Hmm.

I'm about ready to bust out crying. Instead, I think I'll write ten more just like 'On the Air' and dedicate them all to Lois, despite the fact that I couldn't even get a buck for her DS9 novel at Cameron's Used Books downtown. What a wonderfully inspiring influence she is to new authors worldwide.
Oct 19, 12:11 by Lois Tilton
Twosheds - somehow I missed your comments when you posted.

I would say the purpose of "A Fish Story" is to invert and subvert the cliches of the romantic comedy of manners.

You're quite right, tho - there is definitely a theme of mating rituals in this issue.
Oct 21, 16:28 by robert eggleton
I'll buy that novel, if it's still for sale.

Robert Eggleton
"Rarity from the Hollow"
Oct 25, 05:28 by twosheds
Lois didn't trash my first story, but she didn't praise it either.

Oct 25, 09:21 by Lois Tilton
Did she review it?
Oct 25, 14:23 by twosheds
Yep, she did.

must protect nom de plume to carryout evil plans
Oct 25, 18:28 by Lois Tilton
Just clarifying the options!
Nov 13, 18:29 by robert eggleton
I Owe One to Robert Eggleton
By Evelyn Somers, The Missouri Review

Earlier this year I was contacted by a first-time novelist asking if I would review his forthcoming e-book. If people knew how many requests of this kind editors get, they would understand that out of self-preservation we sometimes . . . well, I ignored it.

Robert tried again. There was something in the tone of his e-mail. Clearly this mattered to him. So I said yes, I’d take a look, though I didn’t think we could review Rarity From the Hollow. This is all fogged somewhat in memory: in the months since then our magazine moved its office, I was hospitalized for a cat bite (yes, they’re dangerous!), we’ve published several issues, read hundreds of manuscripts, I went to Africa, etc., etc. But as I recall, Robert sent me the first chapter, which begins with two impoverished schoolgirls (from the Hollow of the title) studying together and spelling the word for an adult sex toy. It was quirky, profane, disturbing. I said I’d look at the book, not entirely sure what I could do to help.

He sent me the whole thing. I read portions of the book, which is subtitled “A Lacy Dawn Adventure,” after the girl protagonist, Lacy Dawn. I liked Lacy, who lives in a world of poverty, classmates with precocious sexual knowledge and/or experience, unemployed men, worn-down women and cruelty so casual that it’s more knee-jerk than intentional. Maybe I was just too bothered by the content, but at a certain point I knew I just couldn’t do anything. Time was nonexistent.

So I deleted the book.

Robert contacted me again, and I got soft. You see, there was something about the whole project in general. Robert is a social worker who has spent at least a portion of his career working with child-abuse victims in Appalachia. The book was partly about that, and mostly very strange. In the Hollow, Lacy takes up with an android named DotCom, from “out of state,” which really means out of this world. Under DotCom’s wing, she decides that she will “save” her family. Little does she know she will end up saving the universe. Robert was donating the proceeds from sales to help child-abuse victims.

Robert is not a kid; he’s maybe my age, maybe older. This wasn’t about youthful ambition, vanity and reputation. It was about some kind of personal calling. I believe in those. I also believe in people who are driven to get their writing out there to an audience, through whatever venue. The e-book idea intrigued me. The earnestness of the appeal got to me. Send the book again, I said. He did. It’s still on my hard drive. (I suppose I should delete it, since I haven’t paid for it.)

Robert kept after me. If I liked it, could I write a blurb? Yeah, of course. I was fund-raising for my African trip (a Habitat build), teaching, editing, raising three kids. But who isn’t busy? We set our own priorities. I put Robert and his book lower than some other things, which really wasn’t fair because I said I would do something, and I didn’t.

And it has bothered me. Here’s another thing people don’t know about editors. They sometimes have consciences about books/stories/poems/whatever that they’ve allowed to get lost or neglected in the shuffle of what amounts to thousands of pages.

So I’m belatedly giving Rarity From the Hollow a plug. Among its strengths are an ultra-convincing depiction of the lives, especially the inner lives, of the Appalachian protagonists. The grim details of their existence are delivered with such flat understatement that at times they almost become comic. And just when you think enough is enough, this world is just too ugly, Lacy’s father (who is being “fixed” with DotCom’s help) gets a job and Lacy, her mother and her dog take off for a trip to the mall “out of state” with Lacy’s android friend, now her “fiancé” (though as Lacy’s mother points out, he doesn’t have any private parts, not even “a bump.”) In the space between a few lines we go from hardscrabble realism to pure sci-fi/fantasy. It’s quite a trip.

Rarity is published by FatCat Press, which has other e-books for sale as well. You can find it at The blurb on the website says in part:

Lacy Dawn is a true daughter of Appalachia, and then some. She lives in a hollow with her mom, her Vietnam Vet dad, and her mutt Brownie, a dog who's very skilled at laying fiber-optic cable. Lacy Dawn's android boyfriend, DotCom, has come to the hollow with a mission. His equipment includes infomercial videos of Earth's earliest proto-humans from millennia ago. DotCom has been sent by the Manager of the Mall on planet Shptiludrp: he must recruit Lacy Dawn to save Earth, and they must get a boatload of shopping done at the mall along the way. Saving Earth is important, but shopping – well, priorities are priorities.

Yes, priorities are. I should have had mine in order. Robert Eggleton’s book deserves your attention. Check it out.
Nov 16, 13:38 by twosheds
Nov 16, 15:19 by Lois Tilton
You rang?

Do you require deletion, excoriation, assassination?
Nov 17, 05:17 by twosheds
I didn't know I had so many choices.

I'd prefer that Mr.Eggleton not spam boards with his inane, fraudulent advertisements like the one above, but that seem like an empty wish.
Nov 17, 10:19 by Lois Tilton
An empty wish, alas.

Mr Eggleton is impervious to the wishes of others. It is quite remarkable how he fails to understand that the more he persists in thrusting himself upon their notice, the less it is welcomed.

I pity Ms Somers, who has doubtless come by now to wish that she had heeded her first instinct and deleted Mr Eggleton's missive on sight, as all the rest of the world has long since learned to do.


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