Star Crash: A Space Anthology by Vera Loy (2:13)

iod-starclashToday we see that if you tell a reader something they have already assumed, it can deflate tension.

What I gleaned about the stories: The human race is like other races, only meaner.

Find this book on Amazon.

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.

Note 2: The book is formatted with both indents at the start of paragraphs and white-space between them. As this first niggled me on the author’s note rather than a story, I decided to grant the benefit of the doubt.

WTF #1: Formatting concerns

Analysis: The table of contents, which came after the author’s note, displayed with the title centred but each list item displayed several em’s to the right of centre (I didn’t measure, but suspect this is equal to the indent on a paragraph). I immediately wondered whether the rest of the book suffered from similar patches of odd alignment.

As I’d already given the benefit of the doubt on paragraphs having indents and spacing between, I moved on.

WTF #2: Bathetic structure

Analysis: The first story takes place toward the end of a war between humans and aliens. A page in, I hit: They attack our ships, flaunt our laws and ambush those personnel sent to maintain peace, at every opportunity. Something about this threw me off but I wasn’t sure what. After a moment, I realised that the issue was the placement of at every opportunity. The mind is used to building images as the sentence is parsed, so makes assumptions from what has already been read. In this case, I’d already assumed the aliens would be fighting whenever they could rather than usually leaving humans unmolested, so being told they did these things at every opportunity felt like deja vu; which dropped the tension of the opening.

After realising the clause probably wouldn’t have had the same sense of flatness had the sub-clause come first, I moved on.

Kudo #1: Interesting premise

Analysis: Many science-fiction stories have humanity as the victim of powerful invaders or different but equal other races, so the idea of the aliens forming a last-ditch resistance to human aggression is unusual enough I intend to return to the collection again to see how the stories develop.

WTF #3: Lack of parallel structure

Analysis: Two paragraphs into the next story, I encountered: Why couldn’t she be like that? Someone who had adventures, someone who could fight, who could whip the ass of anyone who dared to challenge her with one hand tied behind her back. With the first two clauses of the explanation starting with someone my mind was primed to expect complete clauses, so the lack of someone at the start of the third created the unconscious niggle that I’d missed a word. Which made me want to check.

The meaning was clear enough, but anything that halts me in the second paragraph gets full weight, 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.

Awakening, by Katherine Wynter (9:45)
The Tilt, by M.A. Robbins (17:04)

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.