8 Short Stories, by Floyd Looney (1:30)

IOD score cardToday we see that shifting between temporal tenses is fraught with peril and must be done with care.

What I gleaned about the stories: Rapid interstellar travel is the most emotionally stimulating yet tedious thing in existence.

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Note 1: 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 ebook hadn’t been formatted with new sections starting on new pages, which resulted in both an odd scrolling experience and a ToC link that sent me to the end of a story rather than the start of the next one; however, I decided not to score a WTF for these.

WTF #1: Timeline confusion

Analysis: The first paragraph of the first story was: Nobody had ever dreamed anything so fantastic. No science fiction writer had ever dared to open their minds to this possibility. It happened nevertheless.

As expressing current action in the past tense is an exceedingly common style and the tense shifted from past pluperfect to past perfect in the last sentence, I parsed the third sentence as being the recent past, i.e. the unforeseen event happened just before the story started or at most shortly before. This created an expectation that the story would be about characters coping with something they hadn’t expected. So, when the thing that had happened nevertheless was revealed as the discovery of an interstellar travel that had allowed humanity to spread across the stars to the point anyone could have their own planet, I suffered the nasty mental lurch one can get from taking the wrong turn while travelling; it might still be a valid route, but one has to pause to reassess.

Story-nav reset, I moved on.

WTF #2: Banal description

Analysis: The second story opens with one character demanding that another confirm something, which hooked me with a slight desire to know what was so important. The next paragraph started with “Give it just a few more moments” the elder explorer replied, but already the darkness was being pierced by pinprick-sized lights and they grew more brilliant as the universe resolved around them. It was space….

Pinpricks of light and the universe resolving had already created an image of the void between the stars, so being told it was space felt unnecessary. In addition, the second sentence is a bland declarative, so felt more like the narrative from a science program aimed at laypersons than a description of what the previous paragraph suggested was an emotionally charged event. Together, these deflated the tension from the first paragraph.

I moved on.

WTF #3: Formatting issues

Analysis: The third story displayed with (by eye) four black lines between each paragraph; the impression this gave was made worse by the opening page being mostly single-sentence paragraphs. Quite apart from the immediate impact on my reading experience, this difference in formatting from the previous two stories combined with the flow issue that I’d given a pass to earlier raised the spectre of continued random changes in format and other niggles.

Faith that the reading experience would be smooth disrupted (along with my immersion) 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 Eagle's Flight, by Daniel E. Olesen (26:57)
Clutch: Book One of The Wrecked Earth, by CEL Welsh (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.