Viridian System Sampler: Eight Short Stories, by Jemima Pett (5:55)

iod-viridiansystemToday we see that the speech patterns of non-native speakers should either be close enough to normal not to be noticed, or noticeable enough to immediately let the reader know the speech will be odd.

What I gleaned about the stories: You can find some wonderful things in a library, especially if you’re an asteroid miner.

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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: Distracting punctuation choice

Analysis: Few paragraphs into the introduction, I encountered: Sometimes it’s a sub-genre mash-up, which often means absolutely nothing to me until I look them up… there is a very useful list of sub-genres on Wikipedia, and it extends my knowledge of the wonderful world of writing by venturing into these sub-genres and mixing them up (a mash-up). Ellipses traditionally signify trailing off or missing words, so hitting one at what appeared to be the end of a complete sentence niggled at me: why had the author highlighted a break here? What was it supposed to mean?

After a moment of consideration, the only possibility that came to mind was that the ellipsis was intended to link the following aside about Wikipedia more closely than a full stop would. However, that is usually done with either a semi-colon, a dash, or brackets; so each time it isn’t niggles at me.

With the spectre of further punctuation oddities catching my eye rising before me, I moved on.

WTF #2: Uncanny valley in dialogue

Analysis: A little way into the first story, I hit “…Because the second variation of the rumour insists that one of them is well-known to you. A veteran of the Fremanoid System also.” The speaker is an alien, so I’d forgive odd usage; however, something about this phrasing niggled at me. A moment later, I realised it wasn’t unusual enough. Had it been noticeably mangled English, my mind would instinctively infer a non-native speaker. Conversely, had it been casual English, my mind wouldn’t have thought anything of it. However, this fell part way between: my mind instinctively thought English speaker, then tripped over the slightly off rhythm.

After flicking back for a moment to confirm it wasn’t a wider issue of stilted writing, I moved on.

WTF #3: Pseudo-non-sequitur

Analysis: Slightly under a page into the third story I found: Suit material was tough, but the picks were chipping away rock. Unsure why, I found myself discomforted. After considering a moment, I realised the issue was the lack of a stated reason for the ‘however’: the suit material was tough but the picks {were designed for} chipping away rock. Consciously, the missing words didn’t stand out immediately, but their absence unsettled my unconscious flow enough to push me out for a third (and final) time.

Kudo #1: Engaging world and characters

Analysis: While I stumbled out three times, I didn’t lose my desire to read more. So, this will go in the pile of books to return to when I don’t care about a few moments of surfacing.

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.

Mage Slave, by R.K. Thorne (3:50)
Fools' Apocalypse, by Anderson Atlas (4:56)

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.