So this I Love You, Mother sci-fi cap hinges on a commercial technology that lets us move our consciousness into a surrogate android or another person who is about to expire. Hijinks ensue when the big-shot MC is accidentally transported into an old dying lady as she departs this mortal coil instead of into the healthy synthetic being awaiting him at some business conference. The title refers to the woman's son who's tricked into helping this misplaced identity return to its rightful housing.
Imagine, if you will, the impact this technology would have on our society and culture, on our species. On warfare. Prostitution. Crime. Death. To mention a few. On politics! They could stick Joe Biden in a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. Identity theft. You can't just drop something like this into our collective without any additional world building. So even though it's well enough written and maybe funny in Drop Dead Diva's corporeal mix-up way, it's off to the Porthole.
In fairness to this and other VCs, I might be losing my ability to suspend disbelief. Even stuff scientists and experts like that pea-brain Fauci expect me to believe, I am no longer able to. Or even care about. In other words, maybe it's not you; maybe it's me. Still no.
I'm in a bad mood today. I think it might be because no one smiles anymore. Or, if they do, who would know? So bear with me.
This Not Quite Dead cap (about a séance gone awry) strikes me as the sort of ghost story you'd hear told around a campfire at a Tim Horton's summer camp for underprivileged inner-city youth. Guessing the VC here is young, or a beginning writer. If so, keep at it. Numerous mistakes (e.g., She started to wonder she was and how she got there.) seem the result of carelessness more than ignorance. You'll learn to manage pacing and exposition, how too much explaining actually makes your story not just less interesting but less believable. You'll learn about the benefits of showing versus telling, and then, and only then, vice versa. You'll learn to eschew lengthy, back-and-forth dialog which you will generally recognize as being in the weakest point of view: fly-on-the-wall; objective. You'll learn not to have your POV character waking up in your opening. If I've hurt your feelings, which I hope I have not, you'll learn not to sub here again until your skin is weathered and thick. But maybe not even then. Because, while you have become a much better writer, we gatekeepers here will still be assholes. But if you are a mature writer at the peak of your literary prowess, then maybe take up guitar or kickboxing or table tennis or something. Your genius lies elsewhere.
[After consulting numerous Youtube videos, Rocks folds each of the 30 odd pages into a different, very high difficulty paper airplane, and fires them at the open Porthole. Some escape. Some bounce. Some just fall short.]
[Carol sits at DePlancher's desk. She rolls a pretty good joint, flips her hair, bats her eyes sexily, pulls a heel from her shoe and gives it a little air and a squeeze, and then she shoves the heel back into the shoe. She licks the edge of the joint, securing the seam. She taps at the edges of the pages of the capital laid out on DePlancher's desktop. She shelves the joint on her lower lip, and she thumbnails a Swan Vesta, and she introduces fire to the tip of her joint. She inhales. She looks over at rockefeller wherever he's settled. Let just say she sees him levitating mid-Floor, above the colored tiles that light up when you step on them?]
Plohr's After the Essay cap held my interest for surprisingly many words given that nothing really happens, or that the small events that do happen and characters that are introduced seem disconnected, irrelevant to any overarching plot, should there have been one, which there wasn't. Really, not knowing what it was about is what kept me reading this vague, increasingly dreamlike sequence of events and images, none of which are resolved or explained. Oddly, the more surreal it becomes, the less detached and more emotionally engaged the first person narrator seems to become. A mystery that remains a mystery. Unforgettable in a way, though not necessarily a good way, like a beginner's story I read on the forums years ago about a man who, believing it to be evil, breaks off his own middle finger, that I wouldn't mind forgetting.
From a craft standpoint I'd call it competent careless. Smooth and descriptive, but with minor tense snafus, missing or excessive words and lazy grammar.
A blanket of ice particles covered everything, the wind a frigid thief steal your heat.
For such a wide street I had almost never seen any vehicles driving on it, only pedestrians. So... only pedestrians driving on it then? (Suggest cut "driving.")
There was a bus shelter near the intersection and there was [sic were] a number of people crammed into it, presumably trying to keep warm. "and there was" could better and more concisely be replaced with "with."
(Her real name was Amanda; I was never able to figure out why people called her that, but that's how she was always introduced, and thus the moniker stuck.) Confusing aside. He couldn't figure out why people called Amanda by her real name? Or how this "moniker" stuck? Of course it ties to embedding narrative, but not tightly enough.
And so on...
So I'm going to push it out the Porthole (and wipe the glass). Yes, that is where it belongs. An ethereal place for an ethereal story. It will be happy there.
This said and done, the work is deserving of a careful rewrite. Clean the prose. Don't use further and farther interchangeably. A dozen or two revisionary passes over as many days, a touch less telling of emotion with more narrative glue and foreshadowing for dimwitted readers like yours truly, and it could become something truly unforgettable.
[Carol gathers up the capital she'd been examining, she crushes it to her chest, rises, scuttles over to the Porthole, and uses her teeth to open the window's clasp. She gets the fucker open and she leans her cheekbone into it, getting it open wide. She unloads the current capital out the hole and into the deluge. The capital whirls and slides and careens and spirals through the torrential roller-coaster that roils beyond the window. Carol steps away from the window]
Jesus fuck. That one did not want to leave.
[Carol stumbles back to DePlancher's desk, sits, leans into the desktop]
That capital made little sense. Awesome that folks have chosen us, TQR, to unload their crap, hoping to make some scratch. High on their list, we be. But yeah, no, Jones's Jeannie and the Detective just got Portholed. And, wondering, when do we get to start talking about what's going on or is that like totally off limits. Like, you know, I really like cherry garcia. Sorry if that that was too wild.
Last week I ran across these guys, sexyfantasticmagazine.com/a, whose guidelines request only the first 500 or so words of your submission. They'll ask for the rest if they're interested, otherwise they won't reply at all. So, of course, I immediately sent something. Because how great is that? No form reject slip to bring me down after I've forgotten about them, no annoying Submittable type interface, and no fussing with William Shunn's retarded document format. Just cut, paste, click, and forget. The kindest and most civilized submissions guidelines I've seen in over 20 years as a writer and a gatekeeper.
So when this 8000+ word robot detective cap landed on my little litter-filled lift-top desk down on TQR's Floor here, I just read the first 500 or so words. And wasn't impressed. Seemed kinda meh. No mistakes or anything, but no interesting ideas or factoids or specifics or anything either. So if our guidelines here were like Sexy Fantastic's, that would've been it. But they aren't. Here we must read almost every fucking word of almost every fucking story almost anyone sends us, which, because of our renown and popularity in the online literary community, is sometimes as many as several in one week.
But then, much to my surprise, I got into it. Found it droll in an understated way. Almost sexy. Like, until the end, I was sure the MC had something going on with his weirdly domesticated seven foot tall robot partner. Also, technically it's pretty flawless. Not particularly grammatically challenging prose, but still unusually correct and seemingly well edited. All I saw were a couple misplaced periods here,
. “The contractor insists he built
. “Don’t touch anything,” I said
and the word "sure" missing here,
He or she wanted to make the death was sensationalized
My biggest problem was that it's a mystery, a whodunit and howdayduit piece, and I have enough problems entertaining my limited mental facilities without reading more. Like Duckman's son, Ajax, said, "My head is full." Still, I know enough people who enjoy sudoku puzzles and this complicated plotsy genre, that even though I never figured any of it out even after it was revealed, it might not be the crafter's fault. So I'm sending it up for younger, fresher, brighter minds to devour.
[Rocks pokes is malformed head up through the ceiling tiles. "Here bull bull bull. Here fish fish fish. I know you're both crazy busy with life and other venues. But check this out."]
Back in 2015, in order to satisfy the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Supreme Court of Canada directed changes to sections of the Criminal Code prohibiting medical assistance in dying, giving rise to a bunch of new MAID legislation. Like most legislation, it's widely interpretable. But generally, if you can get two assessor MDs to warrant that you are very near death's door and intolerably suffering, correctly fill out the proper form and find two corroborating witnesses, after successfully submitting said paperwork and waiting the ten requisite are-you-really-really-sure days, you will be given the option of having a doctor whack you in the comfort of your own home or of being given a DIY kit, assumedly with with instructions. I couldn't find out what this kit includes, or how long it's good for. Happily, I've probably still got a decade or three, and was only looking into this by way of morbid curiosity and planning ahead (not being a fan of natural causes). But because this MAID exit strikes me as no more efficacious, dignified or convenient than a few sleeping pills and/or opioids on a cold night in the woods (or a tree and a belt on a warm one), I'll likely not bother. Also, in-home suicides, even assisted, must be reported when your estate goes to sell the domicile, which could hurt the price.
All of which has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with this Cursed Remains cap I just couldn't get into. Technically it's not terrible, mostly just clunky pluperfect tense issues and the odd inaccurate word, as in, "She has been waiting alone sans the inanimate entities and the birds and the few prowling beasts," when these entities and animals are very much present, indeed all that's there. The description waxes turgid. Non sequiturs, a potent sauce, seem slathered too generously. Also, it's nonsensically formatted with two or three blank lines between short, indented paragraphs. Okay, maybe semi-terrible... and so what the MC is waiting for or why she's killed a couple trusting guys with a silenced pistol (that struck me as something of an anachronism), sadly, I'll never know. It's one of those pieces I wouldn't mind seeing a synopsis for but can't muster the resources to slog through another 7000 words to, maybe, find out.
[Rocks rolls and ties the pages like a Sunday Chicago Trib, winds up, and, with all his might, hurls it a healthy six feet into the void beyond the Porthole.]
Still feels vacant down here sans Deplancher. Sans anyone at the moment. "Hellooooooooooooooooooo! Hello?"
Guanch is one of those pieces in which everything seems symbolic, wants to become a proper noun. So much so that I found myself wondering more what it all was supposed to mean and less about was happening. I seem to recall slaver pirates invading some idealistic aboriginal setting. There's a branding. A sex scene that's literary enough not to be erotic. The limited 3rd, quasi-omniscient POV toggles between the pirates and the aboriginal couple without getting confusing even though the narrator's is the only and, by far, the dominant voice.
If all I'd had was the first 500 words, I'd've probably asked to see the rest. It struck me as an intelligent work by a competent wordsmith. But then... I dunno... instead of music with chords and keys and melodies and harmonies, it started to drone. Or maybe I was just too mired in metaphor to care about reality. Also, quite possibly, I'm just too stupid to hang on long and hard enough to this type of work. Pretty sure it had an unhappy ending, which is a plus. But not enough for me to send it up to the Terminal's bluer lakes, greener pastures and keener readers.
Geez I'm tossing a lot of capital out the Porthole. How long till whales are beached with their tummies full of soggy foolscap and germy face masks?
Dear VC, Electric Literature emails me two or three stories a week now in the hopes I'll donate to whatever their cause is. I used to read many, even most, of them, which is why I haven't unsubscribed. But since Covid and wokeness and BLM and Facebook's "fact" policing and Google's search biases (all of which glom together somehow in my worldview) I haven't finished a single one of their picks, none of which I'm pretty sure had anything on yours. Still, no. But an appreciative no. Respect.
When my boys were little, the only TV shows I censored were WWF wrestling and the Saturday morning G.I. Joe cartoons. The former struck me as sadism for the stupid and the latter imperialism for the idiotic. So, needless to say, my thematic biases against this Onslaught cap, even if it had been competently penned and edited rather than chock full of mispunctuated speech tags and incorrect and missing words, would have compelled me to spread it on the Floor, urinate and (if Carol would just turn her head) possibly defecate on it so as to impart to its too many pages enough weight and substance that the trebuchet we keep always at the ready here might sling the soggy mass as deep into the Porthole as possible.
I apologize to the VC for the harshness of this appraisal. It's probably not that bad. Perhaps were I not a lesbian trapped in a man's body, this story of good-old-boy machismo and war would not have rankled so. I did enjoy Hacksaw Ridge. Perhaps it will appease you to know I didn't actually read all of it; in fact, only the first page or so, and then your vomit inspiring epilogue:
"Duty, honour, country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what your [sic ?] ought to be, what you can be, and what you will be...." - Douglas MacArthur
I can't even guess at MacArthur's missing word (or why he'd use Canadian spelling). Was it "penis"? "car"? "IQ"?
Let me leave you with an epilogue of my own:
"The only war worth entertaining is revolution." - Me
Again, sorry for the rant. We are mostly assholes here, so this is not a good place for the thin of skin to sub. An editorial scrape and it might find a home in some more patriotic, jingoistic, militaristic venue, like this one: www.ausa.org/publications/army-magazine
What's with the half dozen subs this week? Are you literary hopefuls unaware that we're banned on Grinder and Duotrope for our often unkind and always indiscreet reviews? How do you even find us? You know if you send angry emails in response to our insensitive rejections, we publish those too? You know TQR only published one, maybe two, of your actual total quality stories last year. If that. Our gauntlet is brutal. To catch, at the very least, four different editors in various stages of mental decline in a positive frame of mind (especially today) strikes me as nearly as improbable as your having been conceived, where regardless how good a swimmer you might have been, just to have gotten in the race at all was probabilistically just barely shy of impossible. Anyway, here you are. And here we all are. Huzzah!
Which brings me to this Old Wounds yarn. Read it a few days ago and still remember the gist, which bodes well. Hardly skimmed at all, too, even though I knew from the get-go how it'd pan out. A couple grade-A asshole cops get their comeuppance for having bullied the wrong kid as youngsters. Dumb to the last, too. Like, "We sure enjoyed picking on you back in high school ya little pussy. Haw haw. Hmm, that bullet shoulda kilt ya there. Gee, you sure have sharp teeth now. You file em down or what? Haw haw." So, okay, fun. Even satisfying in YA fiction's promissory way. But, and please if you ever join the sharply incisored undead in their search for blood don't look me up because I really am sorry to say this despite it appearing from your CV that you are a seriously accomplished and thick-skinned writer... no. Not right for us. Doomey would've said it better, I think. Maybe even sent the piece up for further abuse. But you got me. Shit luck of the draw is all. Thanks for the read, though. I don't think I've said that nearly enough: Thanks for the read. Actually, never to my recollection.
So, after putting the kibosh on Xmas, Ontario's going to again socioeconomically gut-shoot itself another 28 days by shuttering all "non-essential" businesses such as restaurants and health clubs, but not, of course, its own Beer Stores and LCBOs, by banning public gatherings of more than some fixed small number of people residing in the same household (unless one lives alone, in which case one may affiliate oneself with another needy household), and with stringent mask-wearing mandates and hand-sanitizing protocols still in effect everywhere people inhale or pick their noses. It almost seems to me as if being treated like mentally diminished children by our politicians and their minions has turned us into mentally diminished children. For example, I was just now standing outside a colleague's office, maybe ten feet away, holding my homemade face shield in my hand, ready to save lives, when I heard a timid, "Excuse me." A bemuzzled young woman heading down from the CEO's office needed to pass and there was less than the requisite six feet in which to do so. Despite both of us having completed and signed a printed form this morning, as we all must each and every morning, and the receptionist having verbally confirmed our not having answered in the affirmative any of the form's almost never-read Covid-detecting questions as she must do for everyone every day before said signed and dated form can be sent to Human Resources for further confirmation, because I was not breathing through a cloth, even ephemeral potential proximity posed, for this young woman, an unacceptable level of risk. So I moved aside a little that she, too stupid to just hold her breath a moment, could pass in safety. There's a big round sticker out in the middle of the floor in the reception area around which "Stand Here" is written. Inside it is depicted the soles of a pair of feet with their toes pointing toward the receptionist, just to remove any possible confusion.
To cut short and summarize this burgeoning polemic, I now wonder if I'm too stupid or jaded or captious or something to be vetting submissions here, or anywhere, anymore. I read Kranendonk's sardonically titled cap about a "perfect family" yesterday, mostly without skimming. Technically nothing bothered me (or really stood out either) save perhaps the occasional mildly cringe-inducing cliche like souls being filled, demons from the past being chased, or someone's standing for what feels like an eternity. The names, Yukon and Dakota, confused a little. Can you guess which is the brother and which the sister? Numerous chapters and POV shifts along with lengthy italicized sections made it harder to follow. The father, whose name I forget, is a serial killer fond of disemboweling young women. He and/or the estranged siblings' mother are in a nursing or retirement home of some sort, as I recall, where the brother is at last able to hunt his father down and, in exquisitely satisfying poetic justice, disembowel him on the off chance he was curious as to how it felt.
No. But not bad. Probably find ink elsewhere. The bar isn't just high here. It's a little hard to see. That's the problem. Well... that and the shitty pay, but which is still better than most venues today.
[Rocks opens the Porthole, which appears to have been oiled, squares the cap's pages and sets it gently into the deluge.]
"Hey Bull, you know how a lot of places make you give them credit if your story is republished elsewhere? We should make the ones we pass on give us credit as well. E.g., The Perfect Family was almost sent up for further review at TQRStories except some dimwitted editor hiding behind an avatar couldn't follow or appreciate it."