Thursday, August 11, 2011
More than Plot and Character: The Story-Telling Secrets of Narrative Voice
Special Feature by Richard A. Lovett
Lovett discusses the danger of taking the "show, don't tell" dictum too seriously. "Telling" is what constitutes a lot of narrative voice and style. I do find it odd that he worries some SF readers are afraid of/opposed to the very concept of "style" in writing. I'm not sure if he is underestimating SF readership or I'm overestimating them. Anyway, with several examples, most useful of which is a before-and-after bit of editing from a story Lovett collaborated on, he shows how sentence length, and variety among sentence lengths can be used to achieve various different voices. A very specific advice article, refreshing in that most narrative voice advice is vague to the point of being useless. By being extremely specific, Lovett gives everyone some useful advice, and limits himself to a scope achievable in a magazine article.
Special Feature by James Gunn
Not worth reading. I'm not sure how, but this article took me 45 minutes to read. I just couldn't stay focussed on it. Gunn comes across as more curmudgeonly and old-fashioned than I'd have expected. I think his take-away point, that we should all expect that some future outcomes will be unpredictable, is a good one. As is his advice to writers to look at technological advances in terms of what unintended negative side effects they cause, rather than the more predictable benefits. But these are both sort of things we've heard before, and that a lot of people know, and Gunn doesn't add much besides a lot of words.
Alternate View Column by John G. Cramer
Simple reportage on a paper stating that no black holes have thus far been found at CERN in the LHC, a short review of the physics of why we might expect black hole to form, and paraphrasing the paper's discussion of what this means (that if gravity behaves in extra dimensions than the other 3 forces do, and thus the minimum black hole size is lowered, it must be greater than at least certain numbers). Pretty much straight reportage with a bit of background.
Division of Labor
Thoughtful as usual. Schmidt gives us the history of the term "multitasking", its rise in popularity and possible origins in the "MultiFinder" application for early Mac computers. The whole editorial seems to be brought on by recent studies contradicting earlier ones and psychologists making sweeping, unfounded statements (as psychologists are wont to do) about Multitasking Is Bad, mmkay. This a reverse from it being the best thing ever in the 90s. Schmidt argues that the question we should be researching are "when, how, and for whom does multitasking work?" A couple engaging autobiographical anecdotes and he ends by pointing out that everyone is different, so we should beware employers and pushy parents coming to demand multitasking if it is better understood and cycles back into popularity. SF story idea, check. Thoughtful, but not his most thoughtful.
Book Reviews by Don Sakers
The reviews this month are all anthologies. Of this I approve, since I prefer short fiction to novels. But the page-and-a-half introduction to the reviews confuses and annoys me. First, Sakers explains the merits of the short story. Fine, I guess, since he admits he is preaching to the choir, and he is introducing a bunch of short story collections. Then he gives us a history of SF anthologies as a publishing form, which is vaguely interesting, but overlong and not actually relevant (I thought I was done with the fact articles). Finally, he closes by defining a 'novelette' as a "long short story". Thanks Don. The readers of Analog, with 2 NOVELETTES IN THIS VERY ISSUE weren't clear on that term. And besides pissing me off with unnecessary condescension, I don't think you need to know the difference between a novelette and a short story in order to appreciate either one of them.
Nebula Awards Showcase 2011 ed. by Kevin J. Anderson: Sakers explains what the Nebulas are, and that this anthology contains short stories nominated for these mysterious "Nebula Awards."
Dark Futures: Tales of SF Dystopia ed. Jason Sizemore: Sakers doesn't seem to like dystopias, but "enough variety here to keep the various dystopias from becoming too oppressive." Not a helpful review at all, but I guess this is either positive, or damning with faint praise. I'd be better able to tell if Sakers weren't mostly talking about dystopian stories in general.
Welcome to the Greenhouse: New Science Fiction on Climate Change ed. Gordon van Gelder: Most of the "review" on this book is a discussion of how it's okay if you don't believe in climate change. Very little about the actual book, aside from it being about climate change. Sakers does give a recommendation to the anthology, but it almost gets lost in all the talking around how he doesn't believe in climate change. I know Analog's readership tends to the conservative, but I didn't realize you had to spend most of a book review on whether or not you believe in climate change. I'd have bought this anthology on Gordon van Gelder's editorship alone (F&SF being his main project), and Sakers doesn't do much to enhance or diminish what I get from the title page of this book.
By Other Means ed. Mike McPhail: Finally a real review, a positive recommendation with enough detail to know I probably won't be interested.
Golden Reflections ed. Joan Spicci Saberhagen & Robert E. Vardeman: Theme anthology in honor of Fred Saberhagen, a good history of how this anthology came about, what inspired it, and the contents. A positive review I probably agree with.
Jar Jar Binks Must Die ... and Other Observations about Science Fiction Movies by Daniel M. Kimmal: I really liked having a themed review article, too bad Sakers couldn't stick with the theme and reviewed a collection of essays about movies. A positive review.
A good concept for a review column that ended up profoundly unhelpful and actively annoyed me to read.