This page is all about exposing the flaws in my posted "nanofictions", and otherwise having fun with literary criticism on my own stuff. Because of the challenge of the problem (55 words, dammit), and the additional challenge of coming up with a new one on a weekly basis (a challenge cheerfully accepted), I've cut corners in a couple of creative ways, so there's plenty of carpet to be called on. Basically, although I got the stories out there, I felt that there were a few unresolved problems, and wanted to talk about them. I was also proud of a few tricks pulled off in these stories and wanted to point out these places also.
Nanofiction is an infectiously challenging medium. Within 55 words (with a title not to exceed 7 words, not included in the 55), one must contain characters, a setting, a conflict, and resolution. It's a lot of fun trying to come up with stories that are natural for this form, and enjoyable to find words that can convey a convenient number or depth of meanings. I've often thought about the location of the boundary between nanofiction and poetry. I'm pretty sure it is maintained by the elements of conflict and resolution, to a lesser extent by the presence of characters. I wonder if I will come up with one of these things one day and realize that I've written a haiku! And where does dialoge fit into this picture? I'm still trying to come up with a nanofiction consisting entirely of dialoge. The problem I keep hitting with that is losing the element of "action", which oddly enough is not even mentioned in the "rules" but seems to be inseperable if you are to completely fulfill the need for resolution. We may infer that at least one change of "state" during the story is required by the resolution; but if the conflict is to be fully developed, there's a change from whatever state existed before the conflict also. So what happens if a nanofiction is weak in any of its four elements? How much does this disqualify it? These are all fun questions, and issues I try to strike a balance with weekly. Analysis of the results of my experiments are therefore chewed over on this "criticisms" page.
This is a community participation page! I am very interested in hearing thoughts from my readers, and enjoy a good literary debate at all times, even if I don't agree. So feel free to mail me with any comments of your own (about the stories!) and I'll post them below. Thanks!
A Common Misguided Kindness
I felt kind of bad about my use of "the south" as a setting for this story, as it was a cheap attempt to use a stereotype to convey a lot of details without using a lot of words. My readers from outside the U.S. wouldn't naturally get it, nor would any stereotype-free American. On the other hand, maybe I was unsuccessful in conveying the small-town garage scene I had in mind anyhow. You tell me. I also liked the way I added ever-so tiny the development to the main character by introducing him as "my friend".
I was really happy with my use of rhythm (i.e. extra words) on the first sentence to contribute to the hints for the setting, and the way the two POV's are kept pure all the way to the end of the story.
The Big Play
Not a lot of complaints about this one, I'm real proud of it. It came to me almost whole while commuting one day, and is based on my fiance Lisa's story of always being stuck in right field bored out of her mind in high school gym class.
You might debate whether running away is a resolution, but I'd defend the complexity of real life in that respect. The conflict is the hidden twist here, not the slight of hand with the action. At the start of the story, it seems as though the conflict is between the ball and the boy, but in fact we discover that the conflict is between the boy and his father and/or team (the resolution of that conflict has already been discussed).
Biff and Baff's great adventure
This one was a 60 word story painfully squeezed that last extra bit. It is obvious, of course, that one has to choose a small story as the first step in writing a nanofic; maybe this was just too ambitious. I don't think it shows badly, except in that mismatched verb in the third item in my list of nocturnal activities. This story had the attraction of having real characters and setting, but did that aid the readers any in identifiying with them? It also relies a lot on hints of later action, i.e. we assume that the girl noticing the mice among the exhibits will result in their being bought, so this story is intended to hint that it really is just a chapter in a presumed series of adventures. Is this a valid thing to do in nanofiction? The "rules" seem to hint by requiring a resolution that a nanofiction should be self-contained, a point one could argue purely on aesthetic grounds anyhow. Also, this story is not so much about conflict (although there is one, the mice being caught by the museum opening), so is it a true nanofic? You tell me.
The Dollhouse (and Toy) Museum described in this story is real, and is just
off of Western Avenue in D.C. near Chevy Chase. Here is a link
to an article about it. The museum's tremendous fun, and I'd recommend a visit to
it for anyone.
Fulfilled as a bird's nest
I have to say that I haven't been too pleased with this one, but as written it received such a ringing endorsement from Andy that I kept it unmodified. A perfect example of a "small story", it was still hard nonetheless to keep down to 55 words. My original concept of this story was much like it reads today, but then I realized that it seemed too similar to The Big Play, in that it just ended with a beginning of a journey. I decided that it had to have a definite ending, and even thought of a new person who would wear the hat after it escaped. Then, while in the inescapable editing process, I hit opon the idea of putting the ending in the title. There wasn't a good way to make clear, however, that the person in the title would be different from the person in the story, so I gave the hat a different destination, and it came out kinda charming.
I worked for a while on the last paragraph to get it to its present form, but in the end, I feel that it is too breathless and whimiscal. The point of this story is to present the initial situation, have it change, and then, as the gimmic, show what the hat itself feels about the change. My second version of the story accomplishes these objectives as well, so here it is for comparison:
A detail which got edited out of the final version(s)
of this story: The hat in question was envisioned as an
Orioles baseball cap. No big loss, but sort of an unintended
vaugeness in this one case.
"It's Not You, It's Me."
At last, I achieved my goal of writing a nanofic composed entirely of dialog! Although I received little feedback on it, I like this one a lot, because it perhaps explains one of the great mysteries of mine and maybe others' lives.
This one is also inspired by the word limit, as the title serves as a seamless
part of the story (while still summarising it pretty well).
Back To The Future
Wow, this may be one of my favorities, and many other peoples' as well. This one to me is so good not because of the (based on a real event) story line, but because of the subtle flavors placed in the indiscernable background. What is this nanofic about? There are several clues.
The video games, including the named one, carry plenty of connotations. These games had their heyday in the early 1980's, when a cool techno world seemed to be arriving. The musical reference fits into this theme as well, as does the movie reference buried in the title.
For many who played these games, I think it's safe to say that we played them while young (in my case, high school), so "Back To The Future" may also be about a brief return to that untarnished limitless perspective, when we were on our way to the future.
Lastly, when does this story
actually takes place? Maybe it takes place far in the future, when the world is in
decline, and a collection of old video games is like a kind of entombed treasure. The
Sting song mentioned (which I assume is coming from some kind of jukebox or radio)
is about this exact anti-utopian storyline. This is my favorite interpretation, although
there is no reason why this story would not simply be set in the present.
"I'm Sorry, Sir, Your Card's Been Rejected."
Thought up on the New Jersey Garden State Turnpike, this one shook out of the editing process pleasantly fast. I remember sitting in my car in the middle of the night in a camp site in New York, working on this one and "Back To The Future" with a flashlight, trying not to wake my camp mates.
Anyhow, the victories here are the use of the title as part of the story, again, and the use of the (made up) proper noun for the card reading machine at the end of the story. In nanofiction, a name for something or someone can save practically a whole sentence! My initial block for dialog in nanofictions seems to have been overcome at this point.
I love the way the attendant's reverie just
gets more and more fantastic until it's abrupt interruption. Hey, what can I say,
I loved the movie "Enemy Of The State", so there's a little piece of me in that
The Wonder, Humor, and Beauty
I just realized that this is my first story truly in the first person ("A Common Misguided Kindness" is not quite the same thing, being about a third person). I had thought that doing a first person story would be a special event for me, but it just slipped in there quietly after all.
So, does this little philosophical fragment adhere to the strict rules that I use for guidance in writing nanofictions? Ha! Yes! The three types of conflict in creative writing so often drilled into us in school included the elusive "Man vs. Nature". Admittedly, this story is a rather gentle conflict, but a real one, as this story is based on a true event. And, Nature wins, at least against Man.
I expected to get some kind of feedback, at least from the practicing
agnostics in the Society, because this story pretty deeply displays the
color of my personal religious beliefs. However, not a peep. I'm still
pretty proud of the story, and feel that I once again succeeding in pushing
the boundaries of nanofiction in a new direction.
Boy did this one write itself! Desperate for ideas on a Wednesday I just received a flash of inspiration while doing the dishes, and scribbled it out. I'd been thinking about the notion of doing something "surreal" (as a cop-out from writing a real nanofic!), and I've been spending a lot of time these days with my tools, as my days are now filled with house repair, car repair, and arts and crafts projects. Remember that joke, "How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb...?" It all somehow naturally came together out of these pieces.
I actually sat looking at my half-unpacked tool box in my living room to get
the personalities. However, I had yet another inspiration, picked up as a result of
recent listening to the radio I think. When I was a kid there was a stop-motion
Halloween Special called "Mad Monster Party", based loosely on the
popular "Monster Mash" song. I was pretty young at the time, so my memory
is rather fuzzy, but it goes something like: there's this mad scientist who
has invented this really powerful explosive, so he invites all The Monsters
to his island for a big party, but the party gets totally out of control and
the explosive is accidentally dropped, killing all the Monsters (the
scientist somehow escapes). I mean all the famous ones that we all loved.
It was wonderfully nihilistic; and years later I have tried to get that same
build-up of chaos to self-destruction in my admittedly not very surrealistic
story. As an aside, I now realize years later that the whole Monster Bash story seems to be allegorical to
the Mutual Assured Destruction in full swing at the time, but I wonder if
the animators intentionally meant it that way. Maybe it was just a product
of the times.
Eh, this is my lamest one in a while. It was pulled out of my bin of undeveloped ideas and thrown together as quickly as possible. As writing, it was generally good, but it has only a hint of the linear structure dictated by the nanofiction rules. Ooooh well!
The unforgivable problem here was that after I'd put it up I realized that it seemed
unclear that only two wishes had been used up. So, I've amended my archived
version to gloss that a bit. Sue me.
New York City, Dec 31, 1999 11:58PM
With this story another ambition of mine for the genre, to do a vampire story, was finally fulfilled. This story is a good example of the eerie life that nanofictions seem to be taking on their own for me these days. It seemed to write itself. It had to, I had 15 minutes to come up with one before my deadline to get mentioned in the WWN!
One of the main lessons I've been learning from Nanofiction recently is how many words and details are simply unnecessary. When the editing process required by the word limit is over, it seems that I am always left with a product ten times better than I started with. I had been kicking the idea for this story around for weeks. I thought it up by starting with the basic mission of the Rules, i.e. conflict and resolution. My conflict was to be a vampire attack, the resolution was to be that the victim turns out to be a holy person (Jesus?) and the vampire dies. I also had that line "Yeah, whatever, just gimme the blood" followed by the rather rude manhandling of the victim against the wall. Rather New York, I thought.
Over the past few weeks, I thought up various bits of dialog, Jesus attempting to proclaim his identity, etc. I also thought about what happens after the vampire is killed. I'm kinda interested by the immortality aspect of vampires, and the wretched consequences of that whole deal (ok, I'm not going to get into the whole vampire mythos here; most of you already know it. For the rest of you, just watch the entire "Forever Knight" series); I imagined he'd welcome death. Having encountered Jesus, however, it would seem that he'd either have to go to hell (more eternal life), or purgatory, or somehow be "saved" through the encounter and go to heaven (unfortunately, more eternal life). I imagined that after leaving his body he might be able to talk to his former victim, maybe be offered a choice, in which case I was trying to figure out what his choice would be, seeing that he might not appreciate any of them.
However all that fell away when it came to write it down in 55 words or less. And what I was left with was my original concept, just the conflict and its surprise resolution! I'm also pretty happy that I got to use the word "sloughed" in a story. The setting of the story at the turn of the millenium was an unexpected last-minute idea for me; I don't know where it came from. But I liked the fact that it composed the title for the story, and it contributed with almost no effort a supernatural backgound effect to the setting. However, I realized much after its publication that it explains what God would be doing on earth at that time. Too cool.
One last bit. If you realize that the character is a vampire, the last sentence has
an extra tinge of flavor: In "he noticed his wings were white" is from the perspective
of normally having the black wings of a vampire.
The Great Escape
This one.... is okay. These days, I just wait for the flash of inspiration to hit me during the week, and I try to write the fully formed story down as best possible in 55 words or less. In this case, maybe the story was just too *big* for the medium. Well, it got me through another deadline! In the end, I relied on describing only the action, leaving the reader the chore of putting together the underlying story. This seems like a very good technique for nanofiction, but for this story I feel a little gyped because if the reader did not come to the same interpretation then I haven't told the story I intended to tell. Anybody care to take a shot at writing me and telling me what's going on in this story? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? On the other hand, I figured when I posted it that if people come to their own conclusions and like them, then it's not so bad. I hope to hear from y'all.
The inspiration for this one, strangely, was listening to a friend's tape from the musical "Le Miserab". At the same time, I've been reading the novel "Cold Mountain," about U.S. Civil War times. Upbeat musical numbers not withstanding, these are both stories of periods of immense human cruelty and baseness, at least if "Cold Mountain" is to be accepted at face value. Mix in a little bit of the recent current events in Kosovo and East Timor and it begins to look like mankind is never going to be able to call itself civilized. I wanted to inject a little bit of real world darkness and dispair into my 55 words; hope it was shocking enough.
I deeply regret the inescapable influence of "The Prisoner" on interpreting
this story. If I could have done it differently I would have; try to
imagine reading this story as if that TV show didn't exist, which honestly
was how I thought it up. The use of numbers as single-word nouns is essential
to compressing the storytelling, and also part of the 1000-word backstory.
Nonetheless, I couldn't resist casting "myself" as a villian using the same
numbers in exactly the way I'm decrying. Ce la vie!
This is yet another fulfillment of yet another lofty goal I set when starting writing nanofiction: a Science Fiction story. For a while I thought it impossible. Thank goodness for effortless inspiration. This one is unique in that I didn't follow the "new paragraph" format for dialog. Not sure why, it just seemed to look better.
When I was in 3rd or 4th grade, one of the heavy "readers" given to us contained
a story with the following plot: The two-man crew of a tiny rocket powered intra-solar freighter receives a distress signal and discovers a crashed alien ship on an asteroid between Mars and Jupiter. One alien of that two-whatever crew is still alive, but running out of oxygen, etc. The humans could take in the survior, but their pathetic ship has only enough supplies itself for two life forms. So, one of
them volunteers to stay behind, and as he watches his ship depart he feels that he
did the right thing. Whew! Who let that slip into a 3rd grade
text book? After that I began looking up other SF books, starting with Heinlein's
"Rocket Ship Galileo" and a little later I was handed Andre Norton's confusing "Solar Queen" by a librarian at the big public library. I wanted my SF nanofiction
to live up to the high standards of the classics I was raised on, and am happy
with the result.
Raising The Dead
Alright! Did a topical story for Halloween. This story is based on two things,
first the true-life revival of the exterior of my Dad's house this year, and second
how the perceptions of kids are often unaffected by reality. No matter how much
work we do on that house, its reputation will probably condemn it to being the
"spooky" house on the block.
This is basically a joke I heard told by Joe Kubinski during the Halloween weekend
at a party, and I thought it was pretty funny. It makes a perfect nanofic, and fits
in with my recent "SF" theme. So, I decided to put it up as a guest nanofic. This
story is unique among all of mine in that it is less than half of the word limit.
Nonetheless, it fulfills all of the strictest nanofic criteria.
The Willowsdale Toast Society Meets Again
I have to consider this story a failure, although I received a few positive comments back on it. The idea behind this story was that it was set during the 1940's, and it had the members of the Wunderland Toast Society in a blue-collar setting (rather than as the college-educated eloi that we are) with a romantic story. However, in getting it to fit into 55 words, I had to cut out a lot of the setting details, and I get the impression that most of my readers didn't pick up on the WWII setting. But everybody enjoyed being mentioned, at least. There was so much of this story that got cut out, including other characters, and details of John and Gina flirting at the diner, that I think that rather than attempt to do some post- publication tweaking of this story, I might write up the entire thing as an entry to Waiting For The Dawn.
My final interpretation of this story was that in a previous life we were all friends also and met regularly in much the same way as we do now, and thus I made certain to include that last line about discussing the "future". I thought "Willowsdale" is a great name for a '40's era bomber-factory town. Another surprising thing I found while writing this story was how much of the WTS is female! The 1940's was not a femminist world; aside from "Rosie the Riviter" there wasn't much of a place for women in the factories.
This story was inspired largely, and oddly, by the charming animated video to Elton
John's "Club At The End Of The Street", which I haven't seen in decades but which popped
into my head as I was hammering nails on my friend John's house. I've gotten a
few nanofic inspirations while doing construction work, and this seems to support the
"alpha wave" theory of creative thought. I've done almost no research on this concept
myself, but in conversations with various people I get the impression that "alpha
waves" are brain waves that get set up when you are lulled slightly, such as in a
boring meeting at work, or doing something repetitive with your hands. In situations
such as these, I find that creative thinking becomes very effortless, and recently
I've tried to find ways to excuse myself and get down some of the ideas that come to me.
WYSIWYG saves the world
I've wasted so much time playing this game that it was inevitable that this
story should suggest itself. Knowing that this idea occurs to everybody trapped
in this situation, I tried to concentrate on writing it well. I'm pleased with
the result. For a story this pedestrian, I wanted to be sure to have an interesting
title, something that would pique the curiosity of readers of the Wunderland Weekly
News to get them over to my page. I'm also pretty happy with the title, even though
it is not technically correct. Sadly, I misspelled WYSIWYG in the original
publication of the story. It is also interesting that this story mundanely contains
one of the writing techniques I struggled so hard to get when I was starting, namely
a story told entirely in dialog.
Haven't you ever thought of how easy it would be to take care of certain health problems if you were shrunk down to a really tiny size and could walk around on your own body? I have. That is the inspiration for this story, and as such it is about the perfect size for a nanofic. Even so, there were a couple of great lines that didn't make it into the final story which I want to share with you. Basically, to make this story fit, I had to cut out only one sentence, but it was pretty funny.
It seemed OK to make a female protagonist for this story; I worry about writing for women's parts since I still think so much from my own perspective. It was at this point that the practical purpose of the title as an interest grabber became official. My nanofics are now advertised by title on the Wunderland Weekly News, and this jaunty phrase seemed like a good one for getting folks' interest.
The Milk Ring That Got Him A Divorce
This story was an experiment in dragging the reader directly through a subjective
slowdown of time and re-emergence; I think it works. I like the way that the peak
of the slowdown is the short sentence "Such a little thing." Did anybody get the
double meaning of that, BTW? Why a milk ring? Well, let's just say that this is based
on a true story; it was easier to keep the details consistent than to try to tweak them
into something new and risk losing even more cohesion.
What Could They Be Selling In December?
In our neighborhood, there's an icecream truck with really annoying music blaring
that comes around every day. Even in the winter. I've never gone to check it out,
which is why I was able to come up with this "suburban mystery" story. I like this one a
lot. This story is a good example of what I put into writing these tiny things. I
try to paint a picture as deeply as possible, and draw the reader through a set of
perceptions. In describing the character in the truck, I could have said "He wore
dark glasses", but it was well worth the extra words to add a threatening aura of
mystery, and further describe the POV of the narrator by saying "I couldn't see his
eyes under his dark glasses".
Christmas on 13th Street
As the opening line of this story suggests, I really do look for something
special in christmas light displays. I was thinking this as I drove off one
night for a customary drive around the neighborhood, and then the rest of the story
just wrote itself. Then about 15 words were cut out... For some reason I've been
on a horror streak recently; the other stories in the series I'm waiting until later
to publish so it won't seem so repetitive. I'm pretty proud of the phrase "incandescent
bulbs replaced my eyes" as a spine-tingling realization of my creepy vision. Really,
I think this story holds together great!
Good Gracious! Not one but *two* seasonal nanofictions for Christmas this year. I'm not sure if this is necessarily a good exercise, trying to be "topical", but it's a goal I set and it's helping with inspirations. This story is not just about Christmas, however, it also covers Y2K (which is fortunate, because my Y2K story ideas so far were pretty lame). The post-apocalyptic world depicted is intentionally only five years away.
Actually though, this story was inspired by the sight of an actual chipmunk as I
was walking back from a store this week. Those little guys can really move like
lightning; I suddenly thought of the song, and the rest was easy to write. "Lain" is
my favorite name for a post-apocalyptic character; I plan to shamelessly re-use him
The Last Session Of Congress
Not a classic or anything, I thought that this scene written a while ago in my
head while driving could be appropriate to the anxiety of the New Year. There's
some kind of implied breakdown in progress of which this is only a scene; I devised
the title to add a further clue. Aside from this, there's good natured humor at the
expense of the USA's two smallest states, and a poke at the rabid flag-wavers who
would attempt to modify the Constitution to ridiculous ends. When I originally wrote
this up, I forgot to include the gavel hits, although they were clearly part of the
scene in my mind. Putting them back in was difficult, but the increased dissonance
was worth it. Sadly, I misspelled "losers" in the original publication, since corrected.
Another installation in my "bad kids" series, and take on what I
imagine is a pretty common occurrance in the United States. The story is
pretty tight, but is it too similar to my other ones? In any case, its origin was
in my resolution to write something erotic, or at least smutty; I haven't gotten
any feedback yet so I don't know if I surprised, shocked or delighted anybody. I
saved it for the first story of the New Year to start the year off with a bang.
As he was leaving the dessert table...
This is a story of iron personality. The conflict of this story is between the man
and his own body! I was recently at a banquet where I saw very
old men and women leaving the desert table with plates piled high with cake, cookies,
and other potentially lethal food. Somehow I just got an image of the willfulness which
might make a person able to so fearlessly pig out. The last sentence, in which after
having a heart attack, the man goes on to consume the entire platefull of sweets, is
my favorite part. I edited out the adjective "vengefully" from that sentence, as in
the end it was self-apparent. The use of all caps is a good effect in the story. I was so
hard-up for words that I attempted to swipe the ones in the title, even though I would
have liked to have a nice generic title like "Heart Attack". In retrospect, I think I
shouldn't have given up and done it that way; the setting details really aren't all that
important after all.
This story was inspired by the sorry performance of people on the first snow of 2000
at the intersection where I live. Jez, how hard can it be to get some
perspective when something unexpected happens? Anyhow, I had a pretty good mental
image of what our hero looked like, but the testimony was a lot of words, so the
first sentence description of "Q-man" was really too minimal. I've
edited it slightly since the first publication so that his cape is now mentioned.
Another problem with this story is that I had to leave the dialog free floating.
I wonder if people had trouble identifying who was supposed to be who in this
story. Got to use all caps again, yay! When I published this story, it fit
in pretty well with my thoughts for the week, as I have been watching the
Batman Beyond cartoon a lot recently.
The Perfect Match
How do you like my second attempt at erotic nanofiction? I originally wrote
this in the boring old third person, but on consideration decided that this one
might be the right one for the leap into second person which I have been contenplating
for months. I think it makes it much more exciting to read. This is a little risky
for the case of my straight female readers (I have readers? I hope.),
but as with many pieces of erotic literature, it is intended to be consumed by
both sexes. To be safe, I tried it on a female friend of mine (I already
knew her to be bi, admittedly), who confirmed that it has the desired effect.
Specter of Evil
I seriously consider the challenge to come up with a 55 word story that actually "says" something, that has the greatest depth of meaning and worldly significance that I can pack into it. I've been rolling the idea behind this story around for a while, and the words suddenly came to me complete one night, perhaps inspired by music I'd been listening to. There's a little bit of "Small Blue Thing" in here, of course, but the echoey and gothic music of The Stranglers may have more to do with whatever clicked this together.
The basis for this story was that the conflict for this story is completely imaginary, and even has a resolution. Nonetheless, the greater story outside of this story, with its own conflict too horrifying to mention, gets told also.
I looked it up; "Specter" is the correct spelling.
Diane Donaldson reports that this is her favorite nanofic of mine so far! She wrote recently that it "Left a bad taste in my mouth," and that she "remembered it far longer than any of the others". Thanks Diane!
The Battle On The Mountain
I am not a big fan of war, or the obfuscating concept of glory, and this story is about
the big come-down when all the layers of zeal are stripped away too late. Its origin is
in a single quiet scene I imagined one day. In writing it up, the quiet and stillness,
occuring after a mighty tumult, were what I tried to emphasize with my choice of words
and rythm. I kind of imagined it being like a symbol-laden japanese poem (a subject I
admittedly know little about). In this story, a great battle between two mighty warriors
ends in their mutual deaths from loss of blood, etc. Who knows how they came to meet
in this secluded place, or what their causes were, but in the end their great battle will
go unrecorded because neither one will live to tell the tale. Although the title promises
glory, I described the fight itself in the most unflattering words I could find. Strangely, although my perspective is set down as clearly as I could, the story could nonetheless
still be read simply as a tribute to two great and focused warriors, if you had the right
frame of mind.
The Long Wait
This nanofic is based on a true story told to me by the owner of a domesticated wolf. The thing that impressed the owner was how after his wolf "marked" a circle around the intruding dog, that dog did not move out of the circle for anything until his own owner showed up. It is a pretty interesting story; I thought it would be the most entertaining to tell from the point of view of that dog.
"Barfly" is one of my oldest nanofic ideas, but it didn't get written until recently. It has the advantage of being a "small" story, but is also a genre example, that of a person finding their place in the world. I'm pleased by how the action in this one flows very naturally, so that the reversal of the last sentence from the first one comes easily. The key to getting this story written down was, like most, using setting description to tell most of the story.
The Becoming Of Eric
This story is essentially a character description, based on a bunch of unrelated things that have been happening to me recently. It starts with the story of a simple writing exercise which is of course my own story. I've been able to prove to myself in the past few months that the way to discover new hidden powers is to simply try stuff. I thought of the phrase "busting through the scab" to describe it in a moment of free association one day. That rather morbid allusion made me think about some "goths" I've met or read the writings of on the Internet and other sources, and my own surprising "Specter Of Evil" story. Many youth, even those with plenty of guns, take to writing as a catharsis. I imagine that for a select few the realization strikes that in words lies a powerful tool to invoke similar feelings in others. They must mull over this enormous potential and calculate carefully how best to evoke terror and despair in all they come in contact with. By the end of the story, our character has found and is using his new powers, and savoring his delusion of being an agent of darkness. The use of "becoming" as an objectless verb is something I saw scripted in a grim little psycho-killer movie from the middle seventies that I saw on late night TV once. For those that have seen that movie (probably none of you), you will recogize the title as foreshadowing the dark thought processes of the main character. Maybe its usage is more common than I realize, however, or maybe it is simply sufficiently creepy to fulfill the desired effect.
The Working Life
For the longest time I have been wrestling with how to tell a story in entirely symbolic terms, something abstract that can either be taken at face value or interpreted to a variety of levels. I've given it a couple of shots but generally stopped trying. Then, inspired by the real-life employment adventures of my fabulous future wife Lisa, this story practically wrote itself. I love the Cordwainer Smith -like airyness of the narrative, and find it a refreshing break from the usual dry sequence of events. Lisa used to work at Children's Boutique in White Flint Mall, but recently was hired by the local Behnke's Nursery working in their greenhouse. But you don't need to know that to read or even interpret this story. Or you may happily chose not to interpet it; as my nanofiction peer Andy mentioned, "I can imagine it as a fully illustrated childrens' book...". Perhaps with a "Yellow Submarine" style?
Radiation: Divine Creator
This story is my perspective on a recent nanofic of the same title by Andy. After reading his, I imagined a way to tell the same story in a much more dramatic way. My objective was to show the situation and its effects rather than just reporting them. For example, he wrote the line: "Their religions were shaken to their foundations"; I wanted to instead show that shaking occurring. In addition, I got to use an actual character, the cockroach archeologist who made the startling discovery and was being burned at the stake as a result.
My version, however, relies a lot more on the reader's assumptions to tell the story than does Andy's. Before publication, I sent this story to some folks and got back a concern that the backstory of the events occuring might not be clear enough. This is pretty true. For anybody familiar with a) the cockroach nuclear survival myth, b) the commonly used SF plot device of radiation causing evolution c) the history of Christianity in re. the Inquisition and evolutionary debate, the backstory should be easily recognizable. Otherwise, I have no idea how well it reads.
However, I also got back a lot of positive feedback on the story. Alison Frane wrote: "Very powerful. I like the way he says "we were once insects" After all they wouldn't think of themselves as insects at that point, even if they understood the concept. We may have understood that we were mammals, but we certainly didn't think of ourselves as monkeys when people first proposed evolution." Personally, the part of this story that I found unexpectedly gripping was the last line, wherein the inquisitors destroy the evidence. It's the evidence of our own existence, now long past.
This nanofic wins the coveted "Most Excaimation Points Per Nanofic" award.
After I wrote my version of "Radiation: Divine Creator", I suddenly imagined an entire story arc in which the events of both mine and Andy's stories could be contained. I came up with a nanofic prequel to the events of our stories, and then one closing. In the end, I shied away from publishing them as a series, and in fact published my RDC first, followed by the prequel and finishing with the postscript. (In this arc, it seemed clear that my RDC story occurred several centuries prior to Andy's, all part of the same story.)
This story explains the origin of the radiation which destroyed humanity and gave rise to a race of sentient cockroaches. But, it really is self contained, "a good nuke story on its own" as Andy critiqued. I like the way that it's a parable about the folly of paranoia. Fear of the unknown and distant leads to our unexpected annihilation from just on the other side of the planet. Of course, it helps to assume a healthy cold-war world as the setting of this story.
Another good thing about this story, I think is that a character is used to tell the story. It could have been done in a very dry way, but it helps the readability I think to have something like "It was his proudest moment..." in there. It implies some layers of human trajedy; the nukes are not just an unkind twist of fate but the result of hubris-induced blindness.
My last "Radiation: Divine Creator" story, I originally wrote this one with tie-ins to all the rest of the stories, but finally re-wrote it so that it would stand on its own. It's told from the unusual point of view of the roach-race, and is basically an exercise in developing a POV convincingly enough so that its final clash with another POV is a jolt.
Of course, you may be able to see that I have a lot of sympathy to those little guys. The story that Andy and I told of their coming to grips with their origins is also a very moving one when you think about it. From this, I came to imagine that they viewed themselves in a grand and heroic way. Thus my opening phrases are as epic and breathless as possible. For further inspiration, I had only to remember the breathtaking final sequence to the Anime movie "Wings of Honneamise/Royal Space Force", which still gives me chills down my spine to think about it.
As I've mentioned several times, I get pretty tired of the standard narrative form each week. "April 22" is just another one of my attempts to mix things up; the story is practically vertical, with very little development. In fact, there are no characters, so I guess it fails the nanofiction filter test, but at least it's different. The date in the title is just a generic sounding day. There's no intended reference to Easter, which this date happened to fall on this year (but I forgot to check). The origin of the idea for this story is: why doesn't this happen every day?
I was still in a "nuke" mood after writing the "Radiation: Divine Creator" stuff, and this scene popped into my head complete. It was the usual masterpiece of editing to pare it down to 55 words, however. And also as usual, the key was visual description. Truthfully this scene has occurred to me dozens of times in traffic. Is there something wrong with that, doctor? Anyhow, I got a rave back from Andy, who I imagine may have thought of this also while sitting on Rte 66 some time . With those cars streaching out for miles with the city somewhere far ahead, who knows what's happening up there?
Conflict in the city
Have you ever had a cat just stare at you, unblinkingly, from across the room? It's as though they're trying to exert some hoped-for psychic influince on you. Probably they're just thinking, "feed me", but maybe there's some more sinister exercise being attempted here. So far, in my case at least, it hasn't worked. So I wrote this story instead. It's a little half hearted. There's the weak slight-of-hand in describing some events at the beginning of the story which in fact are tangential to the actual story. The title is one I'm not so happy with either; with no real title idea to begin with I settled for something which adds to the POV distraction. The conflict is not the turf war outside, but the conflict of a captive animal in a restrictive urban environment.
This story is one of the straight horror ones I'd mentioned that I'd written around last Christmas time. It just didn't seem in season then, so I held onto it, through long dry writers blocks, until I just had to use it now. And it's ok, mosquito season is here and I have the bites to prove it. No words yet. The best thing about this story is it's perfect buildup to the final creepy event, making use of a natural phenomenon I think everyone is familiar with, the time lag of insect bites in swelling up. But it's also a parable against quick judgement. And we never do find out exactly what was going on, which adds to the creepiness.
The Ultimate Tag
I was pretty satisfied with this story when I first wrote it, but I've since modified it. Still, I think that I orginally accomplished my goal of writing something that draws the reader into the action. I started first with a quiet scene of anticipation. Then I jumped into the crime itself, describing the adrenaline-racing moment of committing the crime in terms that rapidly build: the alarm beam, the appearance of that cultural icon the Mona Lisa, the shocking action of spray painting over it, the imprecise completion of the task implying a sense of rushing, and lastly the appearance of the guards. I think it works.
The conclusion of the story was not as clear in my first revision as I'd envisioned, however, and failed to convey one important detail. I think that therefore the final sentence was somewhat confusing. In the version I've archived, the graffitist escapes to his art studio. Hopefully this implies that he is in fact an established artist, making the roles of the "art critics" in the story more appropriate. All of this is intended to elevate the end of the story into a question about the role of class in the perception of a crime. (Perhaps the Mona Lisa that was defaced was not even the original. Perhaps the exhibition in question is the artist's own work, of which a grafittied Mona Lisa is an installation. Perhaps this is simply a raw crime, excused because of the artist's status. Maybe society is more interested in the illegible squawk of trendy current art than a boring old classic.) Anyhow, my first shot missed; for those of you who checked back, perhaps you can read the new version and enjoy the intended implications.
In a distant galaxy...
This story is from a dream I had recently. The dream, and the story, are the fault of my friend Morwen (Zeynep Dilli), who is responsible for making me read a lot of "Star Wars: X-Wing" novels recently. In fact, the night I had this dream, I had stayed up late reading one most of the way through. The nice thing sometimes about dreams is that while you are experiencing them, you are really in the exotic setting of the dream. It was neat to actually be in the Star Wars universe. This also happened to Morwen, who told me that she had written her dream up and posted it on her web page. So I thought that given the similarity of our experiences I should copy her lead, in nanofiction form.
The nanofiction entirely describes what my dream was about; I was in the Star Wars universe, but thinking about the story of the U.S. space race. It would actually make a really good novel (several writers have done so, Michner, etc); the threads of international intrigue, engineering heroism, and pilot bravery are really woven together in an epic tapestry. From the point of view of someone who flew an X-wing every day, it would still be a compelling read, much like a historical novel is for us, much like the best science-fiction can draw you into a totally foreign world.
The character of Corran is the intellectual property of Michael Stackpole, used without permission from the first four "Star Wars: X-Wing" novels.
I got strong positive feedback on this nanofic from Andy. He liked it a lot! I think the things he liked about it are my favorites also. First of all, like me, he is a fan of the history of the Space Program. But the thing he most liked, as do I, is the shift of the POV. You are reading about somebody reading. It's two stories in one! It starts off in an X-wing hangar, and ends on the Earth's moon in 1969. The transition creeps up on the reader through the majority of the story, and feels much like the feeling of being immersed in a book. The last sentence is completely about the book; the original setting is forgotten and the romance of the story within the story is the subject. I particularly like the phrase "It ended in victory". Whose victory it was is not mentioned; it is not important for describing the emotional impact of the book being read, and of course we all know how it happened. Essentially, in less than a nanofiction, the story of the entire Moon Race is told, making the effect of this story much greater than 55 words.
Alison also read the story; she had some technical critiques which I was glad to get but nonetheless don't concur on. The transition of the POV was more confusing for her, and she didn't like the use of the semicolon between "It ended in victory" and the rest of the last sentence. You can certainly tell that I'm very enamoured of semicolons; I like to keep all the parts of a point together in the same sentence. In this case also, I feel that the rythmic flow is smoother with the semicolon, and therefore essential to helping hypnotise the reader through the transition. Except of course that it didn't work for her. I have no idea how to improve it however. It wasn't clear to her that "the hero" of the last sentence is the hero of the novel, and not the reader of the first sentence or some other character altogether.
I know you're not there anymore
Songwriting has long fascinated me. Some of the best songs I know of tell a very big or complex story with very little words. Now that I'm writing in a different medium in which the objective is to convey the greatest impact in a very few words, I've been thinking about exploring the relationship between songwriting and nanofiction. Songwriting is a litle different, in that the emphasis is not so much on plot as it is on emotion. Generally, you want to tell the story by telling the emotions of the story. Still, there is a story being told; could I write a nanofiction that way? Could I try to write a song and come out with a nanofiction?
Well, it isn't easy. Rather than starting from scratch, I thought I could take an existing song and cram it into 55 words and see what I got. It's not really fair to use somebody else's song, so this is one of mine that I wrote a long time ago and which has not yet been performed. It actually never sounded too good set to music, and I really whacked a lot of stuff off to get it down to the word count, but I'm reasonably satisfied with the result.
Criticisms: There's really not any plot progression. All action has occurred in the past, and it's a story of someone stuck in a present-day stasis thinking about those times. I found this acceptable because I like to be able to tell a lot of story outside of the story. My new "Columbia" reader was unimpressed, however. He said: "It just sounds like a bunch of reminiscences." I was very happy with a lot of the poetic descriptions, though. They make it a worthwhile story for me.
In response to Alison's feedback on "In A Distant Galaxy...", I tried to regulate my use of semicolons on this story. But I couldn't stand the choppiness that developed, and eventually joined my last two sentences together, "Every sunbeam..." and "They were yours and mine". It adds a little velocity to the wrap-up.
I really like the title to this one.
The Joy Of Youth
Boy, I can't please some people. I thought this was relatively good, but "Columbia" just didn't get it. I have to admit that I've been tinkering with this one almost non-stop since I put it up, and in fact the archive version is yet another revision. My changes all center around the title. It was originally "Spared," which seemed sort of redundant to me and didn't say anything about the implications beyond the story. So I changed it to "The Joy Of Youth" (it's based on a true story, folks), but apparently it's not clear that the subject of the story was not hit. Well, I had some words left, so I put "Spared" back into the story itself. Any better?
My objective in this story was to describe what I thought occurs to someone running in front of cars. It's not as if I know or anything, but I do know what it feels like to both be cranked up with pressure and to let control go and experience a moment of free-fall where your life could go any possible direction. I think that the latter is well described in my story. I have to stand behind my current title as providing a good layer of context to the action.
One POW's Story
I wrote this on the spur of the moment on Memorial day of this year, after I had watched a lot of PBS specials about World War II. It's hard to imagine the depravity with which prisoners were treated in that war, and the black and white film footage just makes it creepier. Anyhow, I thought I should lighten things up after the previous suicide story, and what better crowd pleaser could there be but a cannibalism story? My only fear was that some american veteran would take offense, objecting that no american would ever do such a thing (although I intentionally avoided specifying this, the proximity of this story to America's Memorial Day would no doubt bring about the association in somebody's mind). However, since I recieved no responses at all I guess nobody objected.
Best to Clean House on the First
Horray! It's a guest nanofiction! I've actually received a couple of these from other folks as well, but I haven't gotten permission to post them yet, so this is the first one from my friends that I've put up. I got to watch the creative process a little on this one, as John, my "Columbia" reader, sent me early drafts. Most entertainingly, I got to watch someone else go through the painful process of trying to edit down to 55 words. Originally, John described the story to me over the phone, and was shocked to hear that the word limit was 55 words. When he sent me a draft finally, he said that he'd had to cut out a whole lot and it was really hard. Unfortunately, he had attempted to cheat by hyphenating a lot of words together, which Steve Moss says is specifically not allowed. Well, I've done it once myself (I won't say in which story), but de-hyphenated, Johns final word count was 60! Also, his title was nine words. D'oh!
So John took the story back and reworked it again. His original story was stuffed with many clever concepts; there's about 5 different things going on. If I had been editing it, I would have just cut one of the ideas out altogether, but to my surprise, he gave it back with everything intact and the wordcount met. Way to go! I liked it so much that I decided not to publish one of my own stories that week for fear of suffering by comparison.
Well, like I said, there's a lot of stuff going on in this story. But I'm not sure how much John wants me to give away, so I'll hold off a week or so and see if he tells me to add more to this nanocrit.
You walk, I drive
Wow. This is another one of my favorites recently, probably because of it's spareness. Inspired by my actual thought one day of the opening phrase while driving (don't worry, nobody was killed :), this is a "descent into madness" story. Only the thoughts of the driver are contained in the story (and it is present tense, yay), so there is a bit of a jump as the protagonist goes from self-justification to rage and finally into a sort of demented denial. I think that this is pretty effective, dragging the reader though the character's reality, although some may be too stable-minded to understand it. This was the first week that I included a mailto: link under the story for comments, and I got two! One was from a person who didn't get it. Hey, I'm always glad to know, but in this case the story stands without modification. The other comment was totally flattering, however. I think I hit the mark with this reader, who seems to have gotten the whole "descent into madness" angle: "What did I think? Horriffic. Encapsulates a Steven King motif in 55 words. -harlan."
Yum! Ok, in fairness to my first respondant, and any others who found it confusing, here's an in-depth analysis of what's going on in "You walk, I drive". To those of you who liked it on its own and don't want every sentence spoiled by the following incredibly detailed explanation, stop reading now! For the rest of you, if you have a sound card, push this link to get some musical background for reading the following paragraph to, and then continue.
In the first few sentences, the identity of the first-person character as a driver passing a walker is established. The driver's feelings about that are that he's the superior one. His comparisons of himself to the walker are both broad and specific. "You're down, I'm up" is pretty smug. His own example of his importance is his busyness in driving: "I'm trying to get five places at once," which is a trap I know we all fall into while driving around doing chores or work-related business. The driver starts considering his opposite's lowliness with "you're just trying to get home". He goes on to muse about what this lowly walker's life must be like: "You're thinking about your parents, or your little high-school girlfriend, or your homework" I'm hinting that the walker is pretty obviously a kid, here. The driver attempts to sum up how this is inferior to himself, but instead his own thought forces a brutal realization opon him. "I left all that behind". It was a thought intended by the driver to savor how far he has come since being so young, but instead it brings a wash of loss instead. The sham of his own importance is suddenly obvious along side the simpler and happier imagined life of the walker. In desperation, his ego lashes out, blaming the walker for his misery. "I hate you," marks the sudden roller-coaster-like shift of the narrator's thoughts. He snaps, forced by the panic of his ego to run over the one who caused him such pain. I love the way the story suddenly shifts into action at this point; you can almost hear the squeal of tires as he leaves the road, see the panic on the pedestrian's face and the spatter of his body. The personal rage he feels is coldly portrayed by the way his thoughts address his victim as he kills him: "I swerve to mow you down" Nonetheless, we have not left the mind of our psycho main character. In the last sentence, he is driving away from the scene of the crime, and his thoughts are once again calm, completely lost in the madness of what he has just done. He has re-established his superiority over the walker by killing him, and his final thought is a savoring of the superiority that his car brings him as he casually turns on the windshield wipers to get rid of that inconvenient blood on the windshield.
Okay, anybody still with me down here? Let's talk about the problems with this story. The pivot of the story is very narrow, which is what I think has caused most of my readers' confusion. It changes very quickly, without a lot of warning; you have to grasp the significance between "I left all that behind" and "I hate you", and I don't actually explain the connection anywhere. However, this is one of the things I'm most fond of about this story. It's very spare, and what's happening is explained mostly through hints. Hey, I was even a couple of words under in this one's first publication. I hope that it will cause some readers to re-read the story to attempt to analyze what the problem is, and maybe think about it a little. And then there are my readers like Harlan above who don't need to have it explained :). It's also good that there's room for interpretation (my forceful spoilers above not withstanding). Maybe some will think that the driver was already mad before the story began, or that it's just a random killing with no psychological mumbo-jumbo involved. All that's fine with me. This story is also completely unique in that the words in the title are exerpted from the body!!! I've never been so cavalier with words before, but I like the effect. It's reinforcing, and makes it sort of like a song title.
This was the second week I included a comment link under the story, but to my surprise I got no critical responses from it. Andy did point out independently, however, that my second sentence was just not working; I finally sacrificed the rhythmicly valuable "a lot" in the first sentence to put "as" back in front of "an adult". I think that this is a pretty effective story, maybe one of my top five, don't you? I think it makes a semi-unique contribution to the body of work on the subject of old age, by being a specific personal story rather than a generic distant view. It's a forward-ordered explanation story; it seems to start off as a simple narrative, but by the end it focuses on a specific emotional scene which I hope the reader realizes that the previous events are an explanation for (and can re-read the story with that new light). Also, the entire relationship between father and son, and the failings of both are another subject of this story. Actually, this was the original subject I started out with. The conditions which caused this complex relationship are all that are laid out in the story (the title is a significant hint), but from that you can pretty much tell the entire psychological drama, thus expanding the impact of the story out of the 55 words, as I am so fond of attempting, yada, yada, yada. Anyhow, I find this story to be terribly tragic, perhaps because it might be my own story someday.
This story is sort of a time travel story... I was trying to think both about a story for the "Chrononauts" 1962' option and a story with a non-human character and this one popped into my head one day while driving. I always like to do a suprise ending story, in fact they get a little too similar to each other, but I have a great fondness for this one for several reasons. Of course, first of all it's a nuke story. Secondly, I like having a dolphin as the main character. In one of his requests for submissions, Steve Moss admonished not to try submitting stories where the gimmic is that the main character turns out to be an animal, but in this case it's justified by its significance. The fact that the one called to perform the suicide mission is not a human adds context to her unexpected betrayal. The humans had no reason to expect it, but should have. The sacrifice turns out to be for the benefit of *her* race, and it turns out to *be* the human race itself.
Ever mindful of my problem of not writing enough female characters, I thought I'd cheat and use the feminine pronouns for this story; I think it worked okay.
Don't Forget Your Past
This story happened too late to be entered in the "Lost ID's" contest, so I took great pleasure in launching my return to nanofics with it. One day while sitting at the intersection to Edgewood Road from the Beltway I was thinking about one of the best time travel movies ever made, "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure", and about how they always said "Let's remember to put the thing we need under this rock" and they'd find it. My musing was, what if they forgot? Somehow that evolved into this story. Huh.
Anyhow, this is better. I love the way that the future self, rich now (as a result of his own former time travelling advantages, I envisioned) just totally forgets the point and cops that rich-guy attitude. It's kinda cool how he knows its his old self, so we wonder then that his disgust may be due to more than forgetfulness. That last line I hear being read with increasing dismayed pauses between the words: "Thats when I arrived.. in this....trailer.....park".
I Joined The Corps For The Glamor...
This is a good story which I got into the contest, but its strengths could be its weaknesses depending on your opinion, so I don't know what to think. It makes reference to a well known American historical event, but on the flip side it's so obvious that this concept has to have been done to death before. The whole concept of the Time Corps was something I'd hoped would make it more attractive to the judging, but it's an old, old gimmic too that's now part of the SF vernacular, complete with the concept of being stuck with "cleanup duty". So, I dunno. I liked it.
As hard as I tried, I didn't get the wording right in my previous version, probably hopelessly crippling it. I was just trying too hard, but I've finally changed it to what you see here. The concept of number of "trips" was confusing and not firmly enough worded to be clear that we were talking about the narrator and not his other Corps members. What was I thinking? Anyhow, it's amusing that the biggest problem I had with this story was in the tenses, not so much because of the time travel element but because I didn't want to reveal until the end that Johnson was getting fired; consequently the beginning and end of the story don't quite match up and I have to weakly justify it by thinking "it's like a regular conversation". I enjoyed using the title is the first line of the story here because it sets the background so well.
Update! This story is a winner! Whoo-hoo! It is the first work of mine to be published by anybody else ever!!! (not counting a super-short run "literary magazine" by a writing class I was in). Andy feels that changing the wording from "canned" to "demoted" resolves the tenses issue mentioned above. I'll take it, but "canned" is just such a fun word so I'd keep it if I could. Thanks, Andy!
I just don't know what to do with this one. In my original version that I submitted to the "Lost IDs" contest, I never mentioned Hitler's name, hoping that from the context it would be apparrent. That's pretty Americentric though. The key phrase that I hoped everyone would recognize was "to last a thousand years". I left it to the end so that the story would be a "context discovery" story where the reader's sense of recognition supplies a feeling of satisfaction. I was also employing the title as a helper. But I was never satisfied that this really did the job, so I've tried it in the current form. Now, the reader has to work less hard, so is it less interesting? To me it reads now merely like an observation on the fulfillment of the Fuher's promise of the Nazi party's legacy, not quite as planned but true enough. What do you think? E-mail me with the link below!
Of course, there's plenty going for "Legacy" anyhow. I like the exploration of the time traveller's point of view. "He would be remembered as a murderer"; he expects his actions to be misinterpreted by the revised timeline and accepts it, consequently giving "Legacy" a multi-dimensional significance. I like that the rifle "vanishes in a flash of light", which is a purely visual description rather than a technical one, and his foil is identified only as a "familiar face". We don't need to know who it is; it could be a compatriate time traveller or it could even be himself. In general, the delicacy of hints regarding time travel in this story is something I am particularly proud of. It starts with the "one-way trip", which if he's disrupting the time-line is quite true, although it also implies desperate sacrifice, or maybe that the technology does not support two-way travel. But at this point in the story it could mean anything. Then the flash of light, implying futuristic weaponry. BTW, I contemplating calling the rifle the "ancient rifle", but figured that would be laying it on too thickly. Then the "familar face," perhaps implying himself. Then it locks in on the future-tense perspective in the dialog and final line. If only I could figure out just how to word that last line!
The penultimate time travel story in this collection, this is another exploration of time travel from the point of view of legacy, making use of another massively overworked major historical figure, with another attempt to supply only the minimum necessary context. It was entertaining to see this story duplicated by another entrant in the "Lost ID's" contest, only with a tree playing the role of poor Bob.
Again, I hoped "Pawn" would be a triumph of implied backstory. I liked the character, wearing the cliche tinfoil hat although it seems to be doing him no good. For a while I was trying to make the title "Bob adjusted his tinfoil hat", which would have gotten a sentence out of the way early using my favorite trick and been a fun title, but I decided instead to use the title's power of hinting instead and the sentence went back to the body of the story. Bob seems pretty whipped by those voices, doing whatever they say, although I like the use of the word "hissed" to imply their irresistibility. Getting a little too delicate perhaps, I tried to imply the event being altered just with the one word "motorcade", although really it doesn't matter much what president we're talking about.
The two really bonzer concepts I was interested in trying to explore are the implications of using a time-local person to stop bullets just by putting him in the way at the right time, and "what if the only time travel that was possible was the projection of sound?". Needing an ending, I kinda compromized that last one by seeming to show that poor old Bob is somehow being taken out of his time, perhaps to show him mercy for having been used. This also was to make him possibly more attractive as an "ID" to the judges, giving him a post-story place in the "Chrononauts" world. But maybe it was all in his head, seeing how he was dying of gunshot wounds. One last touch: the word "weapon". What did he have? It's not important! It could have been a soap gun for all we know; he was, after all, crazy. The vauge word here hopefully gives the reader a hint of Bob's general delerium.
This story is almost a year old. It was waiting around at the bottom of my list to see if it needed further polishing, and just never got published by the time I quit last year. It's the shortest one ever, at 47 words, which is one of the things that made me nervous about it. But I remained fond of the twist, and the way that the story reveals the title. Most of all I like the idea of my revised reincarnation scale, with humanity on the bottom under the bacteria, and if you fail to reincarnate up that's it for you!
For God And Queen
This was the time travel story which I tried the hardest to make conform to the needs of the Lost IDs contest. I tried to come up with a time traveller from Civil War times, hoping that perhaps his unique time of origin would help him find a home in the contest. But it was not an easy task given my personal techno-centric perspective. The Victorian-era time traveller of course, due to the romance of the concept really, is another cliche. So to make it interesting I tried to imagine how such a time travel machine might work. From this time, or maybe a little later, the new exciting technology was "electricity", so I tried to write it with the same sense of breathlessness that gives us "EPS Conduits" in our science fiction today. And at that time, any man of Physics was taught to accept the existence of the mysterious "Ether", an unmeasurable substance which transmitted the energy of light. Today we scoff, but what if it really existed back then, and just went away by the time of Michelsson's experiments?
This is another story which I've kept around forever. I like it a lot, but couldn't come up with a title. So in the end I just used the working title. Hopefully it inspired enough curiosity to garnish some readers from the WWN. This story was my other attempt to tell a story in a purely symbolic reference. I think it does a good job conveying the feelings I intended in an evocative way. Comments anyone?
This page last modified 7/5/01