A Sip of Fear, by Brian Rush (12:05)

IOD-SipOfFearToday we see that when authors manufacture a convenient deduction, the result may feel convenient and manufactured.

What I gleaned about the story: Gordon is charged with protecting Seattle from the heeby-jeebies and now he’s got word that a heebier jeeby than usual is on the way. I’m betting they’ll fight.

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WTF #1: Unbelievable story point

Analysis: Using magic, our protagonist has just captured a werewolf. Then we get: In less than a minute, the big, shaggy dog had become a big, shaggy man with tangled, shoulder-length brown hair and a bushy, ragged beard. Clothes came and went with the transition, unlike in the movies. I’ve never understood that, but hey — I’m not a werewolf.

To my sensibility, that’s just too big a gulp to swallow with not even so much as a hand-wave to wash it down. If he can shrug off the creation/destruction of clothing as nothing more than a minor oddity that needs no further explanation, then he’s wired so differently from me that there’s little potential benefit to spending further time in his head. Inanimate matter just appears or disappears as part of a biological transformation? If they can do that, then presumably they can morph back into a human who is not only fully clothed, but one who is also heavily armed. Or even carrying a nuclear submarine. I can’t just set this aside.

WTF #2: Confused metaphor

Analysis: The relative intelligence of werewolves is summarized with: Werewolves aren’t the sharpest blades in the knife. Blades in the knife? The more common version of this saying – sharpest knife in the drawer – makes sense.  Drawers have many knives, and they will be of differing keenness. “Sharpest blade in the Swiss Army knife” would also make sense, since those kinds of knives are known for having multiple blades. It wouldn’t scan very well, but at least it would make sense. But “sharpest blades in the knife?” Unless otherwise specified, a knife only has one blade. It can’t have some sharp ones and some dull ones. And this conflicted imagery yanked me out of the story to grumble.

WTF #3: Unbelievable deduction

Analysis: Our hero has heard rumors of a mythical beast and wants to know if the creature is real or not. His brilliant girlfriend, with multiple academic degrees, calls up a map of reported sightings. She immediately dismisses some inconveniently oddball outliers, and then decides that the remaining blips on the map show a clear pattern of someone travelling around Europe, and then across the United States. She concludes, with certainty, that this mythical figure is therefore real.

But only half a page earlier, they’d been talking about all the bogey-man talk around this creature, and how common it was for people to say they’d seen him when they were just scared and overreacting to shadows and such. So based on that, the data map should have been LITTERED with false sightings. Not just one or two in conveniently remote parts of the globe. Did it never occur to this multi-degreed genius that the sightings may have been caused by somebody intentionally masquerading as the rumored spook?

So I ended up annoyed for four reasons: 1) the unrealistically clean data she started with, 2) her presumptive dismissal of “outliers,” 3) her absolute confidence that her process contained no mistakes, and 4) her inability to even consider other explanations for the data trail she found. She cannot be both a brilliant scientist AND ultra-confident about a hasty deduction.

Granted, I’m probably much more sensitive to data logic than many readers, but this felt strained in enough different dimensions that it jerked me entirely out of the story.

Foul is Fair, by Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins (4:54)
Somewhere to Turn: stories by Linda Courtland (27:53)

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 uniquely unqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.