Division: A Collection of Science Fiction Fairytales by Lee S Haw (9:13)

IOD-DivisionToday we see that readers make almost immediate judgements, so the smallest confusion can fatally damage their trust in the description.

What I gleaned about the stories: People facing fairy tale dilemmas in the modern day don’t react like naïve farm boys and noble princesses

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Note: This is a short story collection, so the rules are slightly different from standard Immerse or Die: instead of reading on every time I loose immersion, I stop reading that story and move on to the next one. As usual, I stop reading after the third WTF.

Kudo #1: Good balance of fairy tale and modern.

Analysis: The collection opens with ‘Once upon a time I got sick’. Starting the almost clichéd phrase and then breaking the usual pattern by setting it in the first person not the third, immediately drew together the formal tropes of fairy tales with the modern flexibility of science-fiction.

This sense of the stories being both archetypal morality story and speculative exploration continued throughout.

WTF #1: Inconsistent tone

Analysis: On the first page the narrator calls food ‘edibles’ and has the tone of a fairy tale, but – after a section break – starts discussing ‘homo sapiens’ and ‘chronic recurrent multifocal osteomyelitis’. This contradicted the image of the narrator I had built from the first section. While it is not impossible that a character’s voice would vary, the change from folksy to technical was jarring enough to change my focus from story to author’s word choice.

Having surfaced I moved on.

WTF #2: Action and dialogue from multiple actors in a single paragraph

Analysis: A few pages in I encountered: ‘[Sara] put them on correctly, and Nurse Rawling came up behind her. “Morning, Sara” she sang out.’ Because there wasn’t a paragraph break (and the apposition is after the dialogue), I began to parse it as being spoken by Sara, so encountering ‘Sara’ caused me to assume Nurse Rawling’s name was Sara and then immediately question the oddity of them having the same name.

While untangling the sentences wasn’t difficult, once I’d reread it, it did both cause me to pause and re-read, and made me less confident that the subsequent action and dialogue would be clearly described.

Having lost faith in the description, I moved on. Anticipating this issue made me more sensitive to later issues. I forgave a number of occurrences in the next story where multiple actors in a single paragraph was not actively confusing.

WTF #3: Odd preposition use

Analysis: A few pages into the third story I encountered : ‘She insists this ‘workplace culture’ thing is important to work’. While this construction would be correct in the respect of a person valuing something (she insists this ‘workplace culture’ thing is important to Amy) the sense here is of something being necessary to achieve a good working environment, so I would expect the proposition ‘for’. Which meant I parsed the construction as performing a direct action (she insists this ‘workplace culture’ thing is important to work the machinery in the basement) and was caught unaware when the sentence ended.

With a third niggle in under ten minutes, I pulled the plug.

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.

Snapdragon: And Six More Stories with Bite by Jack Kardiac (4:21)
Law of the Wolf, by S. A. Hunt (5:46)

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.