Robots Vs. Fake Robots: And Other One Act Plays, by David Largman Murray (7:18)

IOD-FakeRobotsToday we see that a story doesn’t have to be conventional to hold a reader’s interest; but it does have to be clear.

What I gleaned about the stories: Many people are brittle and shallow, even when they aren’t people.

Find this book on Amazon.

Note: This was in the short story section on Amazon, but is actually a collection of short plays. As the author is marketing it as a short-story collection, it seemed fair to test it as if it were one.

Note 2: The short-story collection 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: Poorly punctuated aside

Analysis: Several pages into the first piece, I encountered Humans, or Peetles, as they will henceforth be referred to as, often dress up as Robots in order to make their sex more exciting and less depressing. Because or Peetles was followed by commas, my unconscious treated it as a complete aside; so parsed the sentence as Humans [alternatively Peetles] as they will henceforth be referred to as… Almost immediately, I realised the writer meant Humans would henceforth be referred to as Peetles; however, the confusion had already brought me to a halt so I moved on.

WTF #2: Line break through a word

Analysis: Toward the bottom of the first page of the second piece, I hit:

…O my, and those c

ascading balloons!…

As ‘c’ takes several different sounds in English, without even a vowel to assist, I had no idea how to parse it; and the instant it took to move to the next line was enough to make my unconscious view ascading as a new word.

A breath later, the two pieces slotted together, but by then I was already aware I was unravelling text rather than experiencing a story.

Kudo #1: Interesting voice

Analysis: Each of the characters, and the stories I read, had an engaging and distinct feel, so I quickly viewed the pieces as dialogue-heavy prose rather than something that needed to be performed to make sense.

WTF #3: Odd capitalisation

Analysis: Several pages into the third piece I encountered 8.99 At Longs. The combination of no full stop and a capital A made my unconscious parsing bifurcate: was the item purchased from Longs for 8.99, i.e. 8.99 at Longs, or was At Longs the name of the shop?

One is more likely than the other, but – especially when reading speculative fiction – I am used to words and phrases being re-purposed, so am primed to seek meaning in capitalisation and other methods of making a word stand out.

Without context, I decided the former was probably correct; however, I had already moved into an analytical rather than experiential mindset, so 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.

Broken World, by Kate L. Mary (14:30)
Strawman Made Steel, by Brett Adams (15:57)

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.