Stellar Cloud, by Charity Bradford (3:59)

IOD-StellarCloudToday we see that once a reader has lost trust in the author they are much more likely to stumble over a simple issue.

What I gleaned about the stories: Following the great disaster, humanity was forced to leave the colour blue on Earth when they fled.

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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 lose immersion, I stop reading that story and move on to the next one. As usual, I stop reading after the third WTF.

WTF #1: Punctuation crash

Analysis: A paragraph into the first story I encountered “Sir, yes Sir!”. The sir following yes should be separated with a comma. Also, as sir here is a general title rather than a specific one, it shouldn’t be capitalised; as it was, part of me expected it to be followed by a name, Sir X. One of these issues later in the story might not have stood out, but having two issues at the start of the story was enough to trip me.

WTF #2: Implausible lack of knowledge

Analysis: The second story is set following some disaster, and opens with children going into a virtual reality suite. The suite projects (I assume) a sunny field. The first thing the protagonist notices is the floor being covered in flexible green spears, followed by an orange glow coming from a source too bright to look at. Both descriptions suggest an extreme unfamiliarity with being outside, but I assumed this was due to some unmentioned loss of huge sections of records or such.

However, the description continued with The black gave way to a new color that he didn’t have a name for, but something about it made him feel happy.

My immediate thought was, how could a child never have seen the colour blue. This was made worse by the use of both green and orange in the prior description, so it couldn’t be a general unfamiliarity with colour.

My next thought was that the sky wasn’t blue, but some other colour. However, I couldn’t think of any colours that a human could see and yet have no reference for. Further, the sky looks blue on a sunny day due to the effect of atmosphere on sunlight, so most (if not all) planets with an orange sun, photochemistry that makes the chlorophyll in plants green, and atmospheres suitable for humans will have skies that look blue on a sunny day.

Realising I both had drifted from the story into considering issues of science, and more importantly had no trustworthy mental image of the scene, I moved on.

Kudo #1: Interesting details

Analysis: The virtual reality suite from the second story is called a Sony Mesmeriser. The use of a 21st century brand name rather than a generic or pseudo-tech label gave me a greater sense of dystopia; the people are trapped in a small metal box after a disaster, but private enterprise hasn’t been replaced by mutual support.

WTF #3: Capitalisation of proper names

Analysis: The third story opens with an introduction that describes a planet as earth-like.

As the first WTF had primed me to see capitalisation issues, and the second had introduced the idea that things might not be described in perfect clarity, I noticed the lack of a capital letter and was then struck with the thought that the lower case might be intentional; that it didn’t mean the planet was like Earth, it meant the planet was made of something similar to soil.

I almost immediately dismissed this as unlikely, but the issue had already brought me to a halt and raised a (admittedly slight) confusion. So 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.

The Stolen Guardian, by R.A. Meenan (4:49)
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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.