Science Fantasy Short Stories Volume 1 by D T Yarbrough (9:02)

IOD-SFShortsVolume1Today we discover that odd emotional responses require proper foreshadowing to keep the reader from assuming a lack of depth.

What I gleaned about the stories: Doctors and other people they meet discuss immensely significant events as if they were utterly normal but are troubled by basic social interaction.

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Note: The first two things I noticed when I opened the book were that the author’s name was listed on the title page as DTYarbrough with no spaces (which didn’t match the spaced D T Yarbrough on the cover) and that the paragraphs were both indented and separated by a clear line. As I hadn’t really started the book at that point I didn’t charge a WTF, but the odd typography did put me on guard.

WTF #1: Bathetic dialogue

Analysis: I hit the couplet: “He’s done it again, Brittany,” he said. “Dr Bruce Bennett won the Nobel Prizes for physics and medicine this time.” Followed by: “He does it every year,” said Brittany.

Immediately, I thought Bennett won multiple Nobel Prizes every year, which seemed so unlikely that I expected the rest of the discussion to be an emotionally charged discussion about corruption; instead it was a flat theorising about whether other people might be able to do the same with a large lab behind them.

Still skating the surface, I made it to the suggestion of asking Bennett what his secret was. Only to discover that Brittany was against forcing her way in if Bennett refused to see them because they would go to prison if they got caught and anyway, Bennett had a crush on her.

Already struggling with an odd emotional range, the idea that someone having a crush on you was worse than going to prison was one deviation too far. I moved from considering what Bennett’s secret might be to wondering whether the characters were deliberately being blasé, and went back looking for evidence.

WTF #2:Narration spliced with introspection

Analysis: The story opened with what I think was a princess with magical race-shifting powers struggling with whether or not to become an orc. The emotion was strong enough that my confusion over what exactly she could do or why it mattered didn’t push me out. Then suddenly, with the appearance of three wolves, I found myself in a ballad: the princess threw a fish; the wolves ran; she ran for a sword; with a single bound a wolf was on her; a single blow laid it at her feet.

The double disjunction of not only moving from lack of context to no nuance but also from angst to distant description, bounced me out. My unconscious discomfort at the introspection caught up with me before I had changed gear, and I span out.

WTF #3: Shifting speech attribution

Analysis: The story opened with speech tagged ‘said Lindsay’. The reply was: “Call me, Richard,” said Dr Armstrong. And this was followed by: “Call me Lindsay,” said Miss Weston.

My mind expected Lindsay to be repeating the offer, and then I hit this Miss Weston. A beat later, I realised Lindsay was Miss Weston, but by then it was too late. I had already gone back to the first line to see if I had misread or omitted part of her name.

Even when I caught up, my focus was on the phrasing and not the story. I could see the balance of formal name>call me first name, followed by reciprocation; but using changing from Lindsay’s first name to formal name in the third paragraph just to add the echo felt forced enough I expected the remainder of the story would be similarly over-convoluted. Considering active irritation a greater sign immersion was gone than confusion, I exited.

Untimed, by Andy Gavin (40:00)
The Brightest Light, by Scott J Robinson (11:59)

About the author

Dave Higgins has worked in law and IT for both public and private sector organisations. When not pursuing these hobbies, he writes poetry and speculative fiction. He was born in Wiltshire, England. Raised by a librarian, he started reading shortly after birth and has not stopped since. He currently lives in Bristol with his wife, Nicola, his cats, Jasper and Una, and many shelves of books.