Fencing Reputation, by William L. Hahn (26:50)

IOD-FencingReputationToday we see that no matter how engaging the story, if the same issue keeps chafing at the reader’s eyes, it will eventually drag him out of your world.

What I gleaned about the story: The near-legendary stealthic known as Feldspar has taken a new identity. His own. And nothing could leave him feeling more vulnerable. So when he sets off into the city to set up a new life, it is with the unaccustomed thrill of adventure. The adventure of trying to be normal.

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Kudos #1: Intriguing start

Details: The premise seems riveting: some kind of mystical or mythic figure, famous for his unparalleled mastery of disguise, is today spending his first day in the real world, completely unobscured. This is just a feast of curiosities. Why is he normally disguised? What’s a “stealthic?” Why is he out of disguise today? Why wouldn’t some actual disguise be better? I’ve got to keep reading so I can learn more.

WTF #1: Missing past perfect

Analysis: There have been a couple of minor occurrences already, but this time it tweaked me hard enough to stop. On top of that, I’ve also noted a couple of run-ins with galloping “I” disease, which is understandable, given that we have a 1st-person protagonist who does not have a companion of any kind to engage with. So he gets stuck in his own head a bit too deeply and falls victim to a few bouts of self-preoccupation. Fortunately, they’re justified within the story, and they don’t last for long, so I’ve been mostly able to read past them. I only mention it now because it was a contributing factor to noticing the missing past perfect.

Kudos #2: Wonderful turn of phrase.

Details: The hero has been walking through the city, still nervous about the fact that he is undisguised. Then he runs into the city guard who has been hunting him. It’s too late to run and pointless to fight, so he tries to bluff his way through, trusting/hoping that he will not be recognized. The moment builds, and then: Suddenly, nothing happened. I love the simplicity of that thought. It says everything, and in a way that made me feel the relief of the moment.

I should also note that there is an infectious good cheer to this scene, and I’m enjoying it thoroughly.

WTF #2: Missing past perfect

Analysis: This has happened two or three times since the last one, where reference is made to the deeper past without benefit of past perfect. In an instant I recalled the abandoned warehouse, and my attempt at the ghostly life, which came to such an abrupt halt just last week. That should read “had come.” As usual, these can feel like trifling issues when taken in isolation, as they are here. But these temporal miscues are rendered much more prominent when you encounter them in situ, amid the vast sea of simple past tenses that one encounters in a regular past-tense story.

Kudos #3: Deft handling of a difficult situation

Details: The protagonist is relating his tale in the first person, but he is struggling with having undertaken a new persona, trying to distance himself from who he usually is. The reason for all this is not yet clear, but the execution of it is quite engaging. I get a real sense of the dichotomy he faces – the lure of old personality habits trying to reassert themselves and his joyful freedom in the present as he resists all that.

Note: I continue to pass the occasional missing comma and such, but I’m far too engrossed—or maybe the word is “charmed”—by the story to give them a passing glance.

WTF #3: Missing past perfect

 

Analysis: Dagnabbit! I was enjoying this! But I’m tripping too frequently over the miscues of tense to continue ignoring them. Since I saw her temple badge, I reflected that ‘Lashi’ probably had some miraculous power… But he’s referring to having seen that badge earlier in the day, so it should be “Since I’d seen…” These are relatively harmless gaffes on their own, but stumbling over them with unwelcome frequency eventually dragged my attention away from the story. And when I noticed that I was grumbling to myself about it, I realized that, engaged or not, my immersion had been broken.

Note: I’m too enchanted with the story to stop now, so even though I’ve hit the 3rd WTF, I will be reading more tonight. And there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give it a try 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.