The Uncanny Valley: Tales from a Lost Town, by Gregory Miller (3:46)

IOD-UncannyValleyToday we see that inconsistent punctuation can be just as jarring as inaccurate punctuation.

What I gleaned about the stories: If you deviate from the path of righteousness even slightly, the evil will get you; if you remain on the path it will still get you.

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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: Overuse of italics

Analysis: The prologue is – save for a short quote – set entirely in italics. While italics are great for emphasis or setting out a short section (such as a single paragraph author’s/editor’s introduction) they are harder on the eye. By the end of the fourth paragraph I noticed my saccades.

Fully aware I was reading rather than experiencing, I moved on.

WTF #2: Inconsistent typesetting

Analysis: The first three paragraphs of the first story contain two instances of an ellipsis used to show trailing off followed by a linked interjection by the narrator. The third paragraph concludes with an ellipsis, then the fourth paragraph opens with an interjection about the preceding sentence. As the first two had created a pattern, I wasn’t expecting the interjection so it took me a moment to link it back to the previous paragraph.

After seeking a rhetorical reason for the change, but not finding one, I moved on.

Kudo #1: Interesting framing

Analysis: Each story is presented as an entry in a competition for short stories capturing the spirit of a town. However – unlike many collections where each story turns out to be part of a large whole – the prologue reveals that some people have found a connection but then leaves it to the reader to make their own decision on what that is.

As a reader who likes putting pieces together and testing theories – but doesn’t like being rail-roaded – this hint that the texts could be considered more than one way intrigued me.

WTF #3: Inconsistent ellipses

Analysis: Ellipses work best when used more sparsely in fiction than pauses and incomplete thoughts occur in real life; so, the author’s high – yet non-invasive – use of them was noticeable. However, a little way into the second story I encountered “Who dares?” As this is an incomplete expression of “Who dares to {VERB PHRASE}?”, the previous use of ellipses had programmed me to expect one here as well.

Aware that the absence wasn’t – in and of itself – unacceptable causal punctuation, but also that I was considering how the text was presented rather than experiencing the story, 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.

Into Autumn, by Larry Landgraf (2:40)
We, The Watched, by Adam Bender (5:14)

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.