July 2nd, 2004

Clarion, Day 27

This morning's stories included a story with rough werewolf sex, and another that focussed on eating human brains.

Gordon van Gelder as a critic is *tough*. Pulls no punches. This is a good thing. I've heard a lot of stories praised that I'm pretty sure aren't publishable, and I think it does us good to hear, "An editor would stop reading this story before page three, and here's why."

It's really tough to find a balance between supportive crits and brutally honest crits. If your crit is too brutal, the writer may inhibited from writing more, which means they will never improve. But if it isn't honest, they will learn the wrong things, and will never improve either. It's just tough to crit effectively. But I'm glad Gordon is here.

Gordon is emphatic on the necessity of grounding your story EARLY. In the first lines. Sff, he rightly points out, has this problem more than other genres. It can be set anywhere, and you have to tell the reader where and when you are, and soon, or they will be frustrated, and when they do find out, later on, be forced to re-orient themselves, rethink what they've just read, and may be so irritated that they'll stop reading. Needless to say (should be needless to say), you also have to *interest* the tired editor in the first few lines, introduce your main characters, and start up your main action.

Gordon points to Kate Wilhelm as a writer who did these things especially well. But, he says, everybody can't imitate her, or the editor will say, "Hey, this guy's just imitating Kate Wilhelm."

He notes that accuracy in detail and setting are critical for detective fiction, important for dramatic fiction, less important for comedy.

--

Reading at the Archive Bookshop last night, by Andy Duncan. Large chunks of his story from Nalo Hopkinson's anthology, Mojo: Conjure Stories, "Daddy Mention and the Monday Skull." Very cool story, and Andy read it very well. The accent helps. We all got our official group portrait taken (I look like an unstable dangerous loner, or maybe a lich, as always), and awards/scholarships were handed out.

Temp: 80.8. Humidity: 50%. Fan: on. Shirt: off.
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