Would Poe Approve?

Would Poe Approve?

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. `’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door – Only this, and nothing more.’ Even as I thrilled at the exquisite juxtaposition of browsing and reading Poe’s gothic masterwork on my Nook’s ‘lectronic paper display, I thought I sensed a certain sinister susurration behind the dusty glass of my battle-scarred bookcase, a distinct and exaggerated looming quality to the weighty stack of books near my reading chair. . . Do they know, I wonder? These dusty tomes Poe spoke of yonder, That I’ve carted by the carton, shipped and carried by the score, These weighty tomes of wooden marrow, that I’ve borne by the barrow, Their words, themselves, a sparrow could convey unto my door. `With this device,’ I marveled, `delivered to my waiting door – Only words, and nothing...
Spammy Story: Weird Tales Loser

Spammy Story: Weird Tales Loser

Weird Tales magazine recently hosted a spiffy flash fiction contest. The challenge: write a piece of fewer than 500 words based on a SPAM email. Well, gosh. I have a host of collected SPAM to choose from — some of them artful in their painful obfuscation and stilted Engrish — so choosing was half the battle. My [losing] entry is below. It’s worth noting the first paragraph is entirely the introduction to an actual junk email that hit my in-box. It’s also worth noting that this piece is altogether science-fictiony, and thus arguably not the best entry for a Weird Tales contest, but you go where the muse takes you… Return-Path: Ǥ§Þ¤°¤@terra.et Received: from ¤§mtp2.mail.isp (42.host.terra.et 1) From: Xenophile Ǥ§Þ¤°¤³°Ò@terra.et Message-ID: 12f7417fab.17fab12f74@terra.et Date: Tue, 29 Jul 2008 04:35:02 GMT X-Mailer: Webmail Subject: Mutual Understanding/ Benefit Greetings and Compliments. I strongly regret any inconvenience the receipt of this message may cause you, bearing in mind the nature of its content coming from an individual without referral or prior correspondence, but please read and assimilate its content and objectively consider if we can work together. I am the secretary of communications for the peoples of  Ǥ§Þ¤°¤, which you will assuredly know as extra-solar planet GJ 436c in your (Terran) constellation Leo, located 32.66676 light years from your sun. Please call me Phil. I should like to intimate you with certain facts that I believe would be of interest to you. My delegation represents the totality of the peoples of Ǥ§Þ¤°¤ currently en route to your coordinates. I communicate with the authority of the director of our trade delegation to your peoples....

The Grand Experiment is Begun

I have moved my writing nook — at the risk of expending nearly all my some-assembly-required-fu — to the north of the house, where, fueled by the electric treacle fingers of the aurora borealis, I hope to reach altogether new heights of participular danglage and general wordsmithery. You have been...
Town Meeting Day

Town Meeting Day

And now for something completely different. Of late I’ve been writing an increasing amount about fiction on these pages. This is the first time in a very long while that I’ve offered up any of my own. Town Meeting Day — the first Tuesday in March — is an institution in Vermont, and throughout much of New England. It’s notable for being a hands-on, participatory style of democracy. In this story, the citizens of one small town in Vermont have their hands full… Town Meeting Day “I object!” “Mr. Dunhill, this isn’t a trial. You may not object. Not that I can make heads or tails of what you’re objecting to.” “I object to this venue!” “Gabe, this is a town meeting, not a court room. These are your neighbors, they’re not a jury. Now kindly sit down and stop being an ass.” Harvey Tuttle — large-animal veterinarian of Cold Hollow, Vermont, and just forty-five minutes ago elected moderator of Town Meeting — eyeballed Dunhill from his seat at the raised table at the north end of village hall. This morning he’d helped to set up the old wooden platform that came out just once a year, special for Town Meeting day. Old Ben Isham, the senior village selectman, had specifically asked for Harvey’s assistance in raising the dais. Harvey was, of course, happy to help. But in the intervening hours — and especially in the last few minutes — he’d begun to suspect the old wooden platform wasn’t all that had been set-up this morning. Harvey could think of a dozen things he might rather be doing just...

What Makes Me Stop Reading

James Alan Gardner at SF Novelists offers a nifty list of boneheaded things writers do that force him to just put the book down and walk away. I find I have a lot in common with his point of view: … a boring book doesn’t make me mad; my interest just dwindles until I never pick up the book again. On the other hand, there are some books I’ve been reading along with pleasure, when suddenly, sometimes at an exact word, I stop and say, “No farther.” I’m not the sort of person who hurls books across the room, but I’m definitely the sort to remember and hold a grudge. How can a story that’s going along well plunge so abruptly down the tubes? I’ve only ever once actually hurled a book across the room. That one occasion was the result of one of the items on James’ list: A diabolus ex machina is the same as a deus ex machina but with a devil instead of a god. I use it for those times that an author artificially pours crap on some character’s head, just to make a situation more dire. I accept that characters always have to face obstacles; characters usually have to suffer; characters sometimes go through gut-wrenching ordeals. But I hate it when the pain happens arbitrarily. Nothing turns me off faster than the author trying to squeeze out more pathos by piling up flukes of bad luck. In my case, the book I was reading (and I admit this somewhat sheepishly) was The Witching Hour by Anne Rice, and the author had just heaped...

*Good* Advice For Would-be Bloggers

This week I gathered some of the conflated and oft conflicting advice for would-be bloggers in my inaptly titled post, Ur Doin’ It Wrong!. To my surprise and delight, Teresa Nielsen Hayden dropped by to dispense some good advice. To wit: As far as I can tell, the weblog rules that matter are: 1. Have good content. If you’re good when you stick to a specialized subject, then write about that. If you’re good at a broader range of subjects, that’s fine too. 2. Update frequently. Monday morning is the most important time to have a new entry up. 3. Don’t publish lackluster articles just to have something new. Frequent posting makes people who are already reading you more likely to come back, but dull, slack, hackneyed, or error-ridden articles make readers go away and not come back at all. Bad writing can do a lot of damage fast. 4. Use clear, simple, declarative titles on your articles. That’s all your RSS subscribers will see. If they can’t tell what the article is about, they’re much less likely to click through and read the whole thing. 5. Make yourself easy to find and link to. A name and an email address are good too. You don’t have to use your full legal name, but you should give people a way to get in touch with you. 6. Go ahead and optimize your site for search engines, but please understand that there’s only so much it can do. Good content is far more important. 7. Cherish your good commenters. When one of them says something smart, promote it to the...
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