In early 2013, the Sword & Laser book club and podcast announced that they were taking submissions for a short story anthology. On the group’s Goodreads forums, a discussion began about what could be done with all the entries which wouldn't make the cut. This community blog, where authors could submit their writing and have it read and critiqued by their peers, was suggested as a solution for at least some those stories. The site is intended to be an opportunity for developing artists to hone their skills and network with other writers and readers. The primary focus is on the genres of science fiction and fantasy and their various subcategories.
on Jan. 30, 2014 :
For the longest time, I felt I couldn't give the collection more than a 3/5, since there is no 3.5 stars available. After a great deal of thought, I decided the effort involved deserved more credit.
The stories in this anthology are hit or miss. While a few need a bit more work, some of these absolutely deserve to be read.
Each story is unique, many working from old concepts, and a few introducing new ideas. It's not my place to say any of these ideas are wrong, but I feel it's my job to point out where the authors failed to do them justice.
Keep in mind that I am an editor, and I judge more heavily on execution than content. I will attempt to keep my reviews and considerably harsh critiques as vague as I can to not give away the stories.
I'm seeing a lot of comma hate in these, and while many choose to not use commas where unnecessary, most (save for two) of you are missing commas that are grammatically necessary... Regardless of writing style.
Be critical, and have others help when you proofread. The thing about being a writer is that your mind will correct errors before you ever see them, and there's something you'll miss every time.
A Shift in the World (Heather Baver)
It's adjective heavy, which is good and bad. Some are excellent descriptors, some could have been done better, some are unnecessary (as they made it more complicated to read). It's always fun to see how people can be inspired with such powerful symbolism, however, a story can lose its magic and become homogeneous when unintentional repetitive words interrupt flow, and seemingly little distinction between the different personalities of people/things/circumstances is drawn. The intentional repetitions direct the reader, and the reader appreciates that enough care was taken in keeping them consistent.
You need to refine your flavor and what you feel is your purpose as a writer. I recognized a similar ambiance that many older (80s/90s) books in my collection have; that in combination with the use of italics is a way of presenting that many writers don't utilize, and could potentially be very unique and identifiable throughout your work. In short, the whispers were fantastic.
The underlying setting seems rather inconsistent with the story. It is biased to develop an idea of something without first experiencing it in its entirety, however, the story progressed in such a way that I was satisfactorily expecting some major personal tragedy, and felt what I was given was superficial and didn't match up to the intensity and anxiety of the beginning.
On another note... Have you done poetry? The way your writing intrigues the reader is very much in the vein of poetry, but becomes overwhelming and heavy in stories.
The Survivor (Henry Jakubs)
Going over it, I saw where it could be refined, but the rough spots were not aggressive enough to take from the story. Comparing it to all of the others in the anthology, it's clear how different the writing style is, and that some of your sentences are, as you know, are ridiculously long, but it didn't pose a problem as I read it. The mishaps that I noticed, and even the mishaps that I anticipated, just faded from my mind as I continued reading.
Only a handful of authors in this anthology integrated poetic statements that simply inspire awe, and the several in here stood out. The overall pace was a smooth acceleration from the desolation into the combat (which was exciting), and ultimately reads like how a film would watch, which is what I think is the most amazing thing about this. So many authors simply can't achieve depth, and here's someone who wields words so well that they fade from the page and become more.
The Pet Salesman (Cory Martinson)
Dude, you misplaced a comma. Six indents down, [Ted leaned back with a newspaper], you know what you did. (There's also a missed quotation later on.) I was confused for a bit because I thought when a young man called out, it may have been their son, not the guy at the door. It is entirely possible that it was just me (in which case, ignore me), but if you find that others are experiencing the same issue, consider rephrasing it. (I don't think it's a real problem though... it's not like the confusion lasted for more than a little conversation.) And that's it.
The story itself is a combination of delightfully corny and feels, and is a casual read. It's solid in its simplicity, and I find that rather impressive. Good start, good finish (a complete finish, while many of the stories demand continuation), it's clean, it's an interesting contemplation of the future. Consider it a success.
Crossed (Denise Winters)
There are more minor issues like some of the phrasing could have been compounded, mispellings, and mishap'd punctuation, but the narration is the primary issue. It switches from third to first person, but the accented language isn't consistent with either perspective.
The character's background seeps into the narration, which is a fine concept, and can be amazing if you can pull it off; however, once you sort out consistency issues, consider using Italics to represent Hannah's thoughts. When you go over you next drafts, be sure to vary the punctuation, and words enough to display emotion, or it will read as monotone.
I did like the ending. This kind of thing has been done so many times that I was worried your version was going to be lacking (and on a deeper note, I don't understand why she was chosen, but perhaps there doesn't need to be an explanation for that), but I'm glad that you stuck with the traditional, clever, insidious nature of the situation.
Prophecy? No, Thank You (Sean Sandulak)
It reminded me a lot of like Henry Jakubs. Except for one thing: COMMAS. There is a lack of commas, and while it's consistent (most of the time), you missed a few necessary commas. You also had a mishap with the italics.
There are lulls where the descriptions seem a bit step-by- step; streamline anything that's not necessary.
When I first started reading, I was worried it was going to be an over-done DnD campaign, but the truth is that this was the only completely humorous story in the anthology, and you did an excellent job. I was talking to people while I read all of them, and this was good enough that I was relaying the jokes to them instead of trying to gouge my eye out whenever there was a missing comma. I think you did a good job of differentiating the characters, but I would like to see you push it and go even snarkier.
The Heaven gate (Jon Jefferson)
Like many of the authors, you're missing commas. It would have read better if you varied the sentence structure and vocabulary a bit more. Take the time to make the characters a little more human.
It was superficial for the topic. The concept is timeless because it is so controversial, and so profound, and a great deal is expected from anyone trying to measure up to it, to do it justice. You went the profound route with a darker character, all you have to do is give it all a little more soul.
AD EYES (Gord McLeod)
The issues were minor--some punctuation and the like.
I read it very politically (and I don't think there is another way to read it). The fantastic thing about stories like this is that there is so much to think about, but the problem is that there is such a limited audience. You can walk knowing that, do the best you can, and still watch it fail. If this is an accurate reflection of your writing style, remember that you're writing for a purpose, and keep doing it even if it's only catching the eye of a few critical thinkers. Your next challenge is to go out into the world and find that small hub that reaches your audience.
A New World (Lou Gagliardi)
You have quite a few wrong words and inconsistencies. It reads as if you were writing within your head instead of for readers, and what bothered me most as a reader was how Luke knew something was wrong off the bat, but completely came to terms with it in his mind.
It seems you started to get the hang of writing your characters towards the end, which is kind of a bummer, because you ended a bit early. Write a variety of stories, then try this one again--from scratch. After you've completely re-written it, you'll see how much you've learned and you'll be much more satisfied with the result.
Nothing Special (Sophie Anderson)
You have a variety of errors, but they only occurred once or twice: minor spelling errors, a few missing commas, a misused semi-colon, a format error where two different dialogues were in the same paragraph...
You seem in between phases of skills, but if you push a little bit more, you'll figure it out, and it'll be gold.
The concept is interesting, and it's obvious that you've had a great enough passion to do some research for yourself (which many of the best authors do). I felt the internal monologue was excellent, and there was nothing too frivolous that took away from the pacing and content of the writing. I'm interested to see what might happen after this; however, I don't want to encourage you to push yourself if you feel this is complete.
The Dragon, Nitusomin (D. Bryant)
When you proofread, make sure the way you've written it is the way you want it read. At times, authors will use stops as a literal pauses in speech, as opposed to the mechanical use of ending a complete sentence (which is sound as it reflects speech patterns); however, I can't tell if you did this on purpose or not, so you're going to have to go back and decide for yourself.
You could take it further when you go back to this world. The imagery and stoic drama will be that much more magnificent if you utilize the opportunity to take the rhetoric to eleven. It's just a skosh away. I greatly enjoyed the narration as it is, and think you have a lot of potential with this character and his story. It's a unique take on something so familiar.
(review of free book)
on Jan. 24, 2014 :
Great anthology! Keeps your attention; I really liked the chapter called, "The Survivor" by Jacob Lawrence (Writing as Henry Jakubs) - can't wait to see what else he has to offer!
(review of free book)
Lee Ann Lawrence
on Jan. 23, 2014 :
Good read. I have not enjoyed an anthology for quite some time so it was nice to see a group of new, young writers coming together in this book. I really enjoyed "The Survivor" and would like to read a sequel, I want to know what else will be going on in 36009's world.
(review of free book)