Copper Knights and Granite Men, by DiBaggio and DiBaggio (11:06)

IOD-CopperMenToday we see that multi-dimensional digressions are bad for your health.

What I gleaned about the story: A group of super heroes interrupt their high-level government negotiations to investigate a disturbance at the museum.

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Note: Like any place, it had some high points – Duke’s Smorgasbord and my favorite cathouse on 49th, for example – but overall it’s crowded, the people are rude, and it smells like a dump.

Using a hyphen surrounded by spaces is just wrong. The correct typography here is an em-dash, with no spaces. It’s not an immersion buster, but it is a sign of weak editing. And it comes in the second sentence. No WTF charged, but I’m now on alert that this book has not been edited properly.

Note: Matt – as I often call Matteo Mancini, that Dean of Superheroes you call the Promethean, just to annoy him – was there to check up on the Challenger Foundation’s property after the recent handover. 

That’s a mouthful of an aside, especially because it has a second aside of it’s own folded inside. It’s all just a bit awkward for my tastes, and we’re only into the second paragraph. Again, not an immersion buster, but these minor frictions just dig a hole from which the author and story are going to have to work even harder to climb out.

WTF #1: “Amazing,” The Promethean breathed, his jaw muscles fairly quivering with excitement beneath his sunken cheeks.

Analysis: I spent way too much time trying to decide if I’d ever seen jaw muscles quiver with excitement. Tension, yes. Anger, yes. But excitement? I concluded that I hadn’t, but by then, the damage had been done, because I was worrying about the words used rather than seeing the story.

WTF #2: There was something beautiful about them too, even despite their often horror stricken faces. 

Analysis: By now I’ve gotten tired of the steady diet of minor editorial issues. In this case, it’s an adjectival phrase that hasn’t been properly hyphenated. I admit it’s an entirely petty thing to charge a full WTF for, but that’s what happens when editorial flaws get together in number. They’re like mosquitos. One you can ignore. Two you can ignore. But when they become a full-fledged swarm, it’s time to get out the flame-thrower and go to town.

WTF #3: While examining crime victims who have recently been fossilized by a super-villain: “These people are not dead. At least, I don’t think so.” 

Analysis: Human beings have been converted to marble on the molecular level and they’re not dead? How does that work? Which particular chunk of inanimate stone that now stands where their bodies once were is the living part?

I could live with this if the bodies had not been closely examined, but the super team has just finished conducting some kind of atomic-level micro scan of the statues, and they did not say anything like, “Ah, here is some unconverted tissue around the medulla oblongata, which might still hold their living essence.” Nope. They appear to be all stone, all the way through.

Note: “I’m not sure,” was the Promethean’s honest answer. He went on with his examination.

I wanted to bring this up, because I see this kind of thing fairly often, and I think it’s worth mentioning. Technically, this is a POV violation. The Promethean is not the narrator, so the narrator does not have access to his internal mental state. But if he doesn’t, then how does he know whether the answer was honest or not? It might not seem like much, but it raises potential problems later, because now the reader doesn’t know whether to trust the narrator or not. Sometimes he seems to be omniscient, while other times he isn’t. When information is not conveyed in some later scene, the reader starts to wonder whether it’s because the narrator doesn’t know, or whether he does, but he’s withholding it.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Download one of these free short stories, in the format of your choice, and decide for yourself.

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About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is underqualified in just about everything. That’s why he writes.