A Goldfish Mastermind Named Benedict Cumberbatch & the League of Domesticated Assassins: And Other Unexpected Tales, by Mark R Morris Jr (1:11)

Today we see that distractions compound exponentially.

What I gleaned about the stories: Being on the safe side of a sealed airlock but not being able to stay there can be annoying.

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.

WTF #1: Occluded titles

Analysis: The titles of the stories are the same size as the body text with a line height of two and the colour set to pale grey. On a white background.

Given that the collection opened with the titular story, my first exposure was thus a multi-line combination of straining to read the text and jolting at the transition between lines. This was distracting enough in itself, but it also made me hyper-aware that the book didn’t conform to the usual conventions for ebook formatting. This in turn raised the spectres of either the author deliberately choosing distracting formatting or the setting and proof-reading process being flawed.

Noting that the body text seemed in a more readable style, I moved on.

WTF #2: Double echo

Analysis: The second story opens with a description of a man about to face a problem on the other side of an airlock. Two of the three sentences in the second paragraph start with the He verbed pattern. So, when the third paragraph opened with that same pattern, was also three sentences long, and also had the He verbed thing going on in its third sentence, my attention ping-ponged between the distractions of two distinct patterns. Maybe even three.

After realising I’d shunted aside my mental image in favour of pondering how I might edit the echo out, I realized my immersion had broken, so I moved on.

WTF #3: Split subject

Analysis: The third story opens with: Dave hit play and the video popped up to cover half his screen. I started well, with a clear image of Dave not just pressing but hitting play. The and teased me with finding out what sort of decisive moment this was: would he, for example, fall off his chair in physical comedy? Would he gesture at the defendant in a criminal drama? Instead, the sentence changed subjects without warning, creating a momentary jolt as I shifted from Dave doing to something else doing.

Also, and joins clauses of equal weight or simultaneous occurrence. While the cause-effect line was trivially easy to sustain, there was no guidance on which bit was more important: was the implied forcefulness of hitting the key? Was the coverage of half the screen the focus of the sentence? How were the two interconnected in a way that overrode the usual use of then or a separate sentence?

My faith in the author’s delicacy of prose challenged, 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.

Like Life Itself: Ten Short Stories, by BP Broome (4:07)
The Final Formula, by Becca Andre (26:19)

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.