Friday, January 20, 2017

Teaching "Spec Fic For Free"

My next theoretical exercise for Writing for Digital Media involves making a syllabus for a class I would like to attend or teach.  I decided that I want to (theoretically, and only possibly in the near to distant future) teach a course titled "Spec Fic For Free."  You can see the raw details for this class below.

This course could be taught face-to-face, but it could also be done online using digital methods.  A growing number of authors are developing online courses accessible to the masses (often for a fee).  That is probably the way I would go for this.  I would either livestream or record lectures in advance, making them viewable only by those who pay a bit for the class (unless I have a good pool of assets by that time).

"Spec Fic For Free" would contain lots of documents with hyperlinks to different locations where free speculative fiction can be read (such as here).  It likely would also feature links to articles about the various topics discussed.  All assignments and tests would be conducted through the Internet, and conferences would be held through some form of video chat.

Never a problem online

I'm interested in one day actually teaching this course.  First, I need to become the sort of person you'd want to be your teacher.  My experience with the field of speculative fiction publication is still slim, even if I do have a handful of publications.  Maybe some day.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Self-Generating Teacher

I used the "10 Things I Want to Learn:" pages of the klepto journal.  But I cheated.  I wrote eleven things.  Because I know not the laws of this world (and none of my eleven are those).


I quite like the concept of these analog pages with my jokes (and my two serious topics), but it would be interesting to make a digital product for them.  My digital product would be a self-generator of instructive text.  Essentially, typing one of my eleven topics into the generator would result in a random answer output.  There would probably be a separate, limited pool of answers for each topic, though I could add some scrambling to make the answers even more random.  For a topic like "Who let the dogs out" there could be a pool of individuals with a random draw of one, two, or three of the individuals as an answer.  The pool could resemble this list: Batman, Robin, George Clooney, You, Me, The Real Slim Shady, Kanye, Mrs. Robinson.  For some of the topics, the answers could be more complicated, like full paragraphs for "How much wood a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood."


The main purpose of this digital product, as with the analog, would be humor.  I like writing comedy, though I rarely do (because it's hard).  I think this generator could be pretty funny.  For the two serious topics ("How to play the violin" and "Welsh") the generator would probably spit out links to videos of complex examples of the two.  Beyond humor, this generator, I believe, could give food-for-thought for some of the great, funny questions of life.  And, heck, doesn't everyone wonder where the socks go?  Maybe this generator could one day aid in this Grailic quest.


I'm not quite capable, at this point in time, of making this self-generating teacher, but I hope to be able to make it some day soon.  Python is one candidate for software, and there are probably other programs I don't currently know of that would work well too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Spaceman

There are a lot of elements I really like in "Spaceman" by Florence Vincent, published in the sixth issue of Shoreline of Infinity, but there are a few that I question.

I really enjoyed the characters in "Spaceman."  There are two of them, and they're both very interesting.  It took me a few scenes to realize that there are two characters, with alternating scenes taken from alternating viewpoints.  The characters' voices have some level of distinction, but I question whether they are separate enough from each other, at the very least in the first few scenes.  The backstory of the second character is engrossing, and the first character is strange enough to draw the reader in.  I could've went without the handful of crude sentences sprinkled throughout, but those sentences definitely helped with the voices of the characters.

Shifting slightly from voice, the general writing style of "Spaceman" is beautiful.  No, it isn't beautiful like poetry; this style is plain glass with great execution.  There are several fantastic sentences (that I won't spoil for you).  The flow was only interrupted, for me, by that whole character confusion, as well as one slightly-crude sentence I wasn't expecting.

The true setting for this story is fairly basic, which is fine by me.  The overarching world, commented on by the first character, may have strayed a bit too far to the weird, but it was certainly interesting.  The setting worked well with the characters and the plot, always a "plus."

I have a few reservations regarding the plot of "Spaceman."  The second character has a compelling storyline up until the end, where it felt a bit like a cop-out.  The first character gets the real ending, and it fell flat for me, unfortunately.  It kind of made sense for the character, but not incredibly-so, and I never really felt like the two characters "belonged" in the same location at all (allowing them to interact with one another and bridge the viewpoints).

There are plenty of reasons to still read Ms. Vincent's sci-fi short story from the Scottish Shoreline of Infinity, even if it had some potential problems.  For one, you may decide that everything works out for you.  The writing style and characterization present are quite good, so "Spaceman" can yet offer some instruction on those fronts (thinking like a writer).  So, why not give this story a read?  You'll need to pay a few pounds for the issue in which it appears, but I think it's worth it, for this story and others.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Brief Piece on Double-Dipping Description

I've written posts before about my philosophy for description in stories, but it's been quite a while, and I can't recall how much ground I have covered.  My use of description is counter to that of many works of modernism.  Rather than taking up long paragraphs detailing the appearance of the setting and characters and giving sensory details to accompany those, I try to make my descriptions as short, tight, and potent as possible.  I frequently "double-dip" with my sentences.

Henry's chestnut hair matched the parlor wallpaper, aluminum tracery included.

This sentence came to me while I was thinking on this subject a few minutes ago.  It's not my favorite sentence, and I don't believe I'll be using it in a story, but I think it should work well to illustrate my concept of "double-dipping."

Without any other context, this sentence tells us several things about the story in which it hypothetically resides.  First, there is a character named Henry.  This character has chestnut hair, though that probably isn't integral to the story (and I often omit such details).  This scene takes place in a parlor, and that parlor has chestnut wallpaper with aluminum tracery.  Perhaps the wallpaper even mimics the wave of Henry's hair or the lack thereof in its pattern.  That's up to a reader's imagination.  What is important here, though some readers may miss it, is that his hair is graying.  Henry could be anywhere from forty to seventy-five with such a description, but he is "aging" in any case.  First sentences will always give a lot of information to a reader, yet this sentence gives more than the typical sentence you will find, I think.  I don't "double-dip" (that is, describe character and setting at the same time) with every sentence of description that I write, but I do use this tool frequently.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Overkill

It's been a long time since I last posted a review here (over a year *gasp*).  Truthfully, I haven't written many reviews in that time period, but I think I still have a sense of what I'm doing.  Today I shall be reviewing "Overkill" by Rob Butler.  This sci-fi flash fic comes out of the fifth issue of the Scottish magazine Shoreline of Infinity.  You can purchase the issue here.

"Overkill" is written in 1st-person plural.  It's a move I appreciate, and it gives a very eerie feeling to the piece.  It feels like there's a cohesive protagonist, yet the viewpoint comes from a group.  The members are simply so battered and lotless that they work as a collective just as well as any individual protagonist.  I love how limited the group's development is.  There's enough for a good glimpse into the members' lives, but not enough to disrupt the impact of the final few paragraphs of the story.  One character is named, and he's given a small bit of personality.  It's unclear whether he's part of the collective or not.  Working in 1st-person plural, it's difficult to distinguish if a sentence like "Joe opened the door" (not from this story) implies that Joe is not part of the collective or if he is simply being named by the remainder of the collective.  But I digress.  The mouthpiece of this story, a nameless old man the collective encounters, has a basic mold to his character, yet he remains a gripping force.  His manner of speaking is direct and descriptive, and unless one holds it under the light for too long, it's quite entertaining.

There's very little plot in the "present" of this story.  The little that's there is intriguing and works well with the characters and setting.  Most of the plot comes from the old man's recounting of past events.  His tale is brief, but it is satisfying.  It gives the setting a shape that carries the weight of the story and gives it value.

There's some level of tropiness to the setting of "Overkill."  I can't say that I've never seen it, and I can't say that I haven't written something in a similar vein.  In fact, I just wrote a story recently that shares some characteristics with this story.  It's the execution of the setting that makes "Overkill" stand out.  Perhaps after several read-throughs this story would lose its luster, but, being a man who rarely reads something more than twice, it works well for me.  This story deals with some philosophical questions that are fun to think about, even if they are slightly grim.

It is the seamlessness to the characters, plot, and setting of this story, along with its general writing style, that makes it so enjoyable, I think.  This is typically what I look for, especially in flash fiction, and "Overkill" definitely delivers, despite a short length.  I recommend paying the few dollars to buy the fifth issue of Shoreline of Infinity to read this story and the several others contained in a high-quality Scottish bundle.