Courtley’s Weird, Vol 1 by Christopher Courtley (6:28)

IOD-CourtleysWeirdToday we discover that a low-level of consistent issues increases the chance a reader will be thrown by something they might otherwise continue past without real incident.

What I gleaned about the stories: There are many obscure types of fairies and magical beings, but most of them don’t actually feature in this book.

Find this book on Smashwords.

WTF #1: Unconverted Double Hyphens

Analysis: When submitting a manuscript to a publisher it is still reasonably common to type em-dashes as a double hyphen instead of using the dash itself. Unfortunately, while other manuscript conventions had been replaced by the correct characters and typefaces (smart quotes, italics, &c.) or had not been present at all, the double hyphens remained.

After the niggling itch of a few scattered in the middle of lines, I encountered one that had broken across two lines. Because punctuation doesn’t break across lines, my mind automatically parsed it as two separate items: a line ending in a hyphen and a line starting with a hyphen. This false duplication left me with the odd feeling of having read the same word twice, which automatically made me jump back to re-read the last section to ensure I hadn’t skipped a line.

Having stumbled to a halt, my unconscious pointed out that, in addition to the rather annoying double hyphen, the spacings around the double hyphens were not consistent: sometimes a space either side, sometimes no spaces, and sometimes only before or after. By this time I had lost the thread of the sentence for a second time, so moved on.

WTF #2: Missing punctuation

Analysis: Having already given a WTF for double hyphens, I tried to ignore the issue in the second piece; and was succeeding until I hit “Do you think that Mary–”.

The absence of a question mark at the end derailed me: I tried to work out how to complete the sentence in a way that wasn’t a question.

I quickly dismissed the idea it was deliberate, but my mind had shifted from reading-for-enjoyment to proof-reading, resurrecting the typesetting issues I had passed over. This return to the previous WTF left me firmly outside the story.

WTF #3: Convoluted and Archaic List of Characters and Events

Analysis: The next piece was high fantasy, and opened with an ork surveying the dead bodies of his tribe. He lists off the dead and his memories of them in a style similar to the opening of a Norse Saga:

…Gone were his people, the only family he had ever known, his entire way of life—all gone. Here lay the blackened remains of Gorab, his mentor, once a proud warrior but now merely a smoking husk. There by the largest of all the huts was the shattered body of Gash Morgash himself, the chieftain of their tribe. And beside him was Sceetha, the shaman, her spells having proved useless in the end. And here also was Drakath, his sire, who had never been much of a father to him; Drakath, the brutal and cruel, who had first taught him to hate—yet now how he wished he could hear those foul curses and feel those blows of bitter rage across his hide once more…!

I made it to the end of the first paragraph (slightly under a full page of lineages and such), before I lost the thread of names and connections. When the second paragraph started on the protagonist’s childhood in the same style, I couldn’t face more and pulled the plug.

As a reader of Norse Sagas, I did not find it a terrible recreation of the “There was a man named Ketill, nick-named the Large, who was the same Ketill who was the son of Gerlief. Gerlief was the daughter of Egil Stormcrow, who…” introductions. However, the introductions to sagas are not straight recitations of backstory: they place the protagonist within the network of family histories and interactions that were at the heart of Norse societies; the listeners cared deeply about the status of each of their ancestors.

The same cannot be said of modern audiences: we like our characters to have a history, but we do not judge their character based on the relationship between their grandfather’s second wife’s cousin with our mother’s foster-father’s brother.

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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.