Turning a Phrase

“At the absolute summit of accomplishment the insects chewing from within at the most extravagant sandalwood may be heard, if the nights are quiet enough.”

Kay, Guy Gavriel. Under Heaven (p. 53). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


Welcome back to my continuing series of lazy, er, uh, I mean innovative THREE-CHAPTER REVIEWS, where I read the beginning of various works and give my impression of whether or not the beginning works and, consequently, whether or not to keep going. {Note: for an explanation of the philosophy of all this, see HERE}.

I will be comparing the first three chapters of three different Dark Fantasy novels: Eyes of the Grave (EotG), by Chelsea Callahan, King of Shards by Matthew Kressel; and Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay.


The Literati and the Science Fiction Ghetto

I’m reading King of Shards (Book One of the Worldmender Trilogy), by Matthew Kressel, now. If this saga ends anywhere near as good as it has begun, I will have found my new favorite 21st century spec fic author. But, more on that later…

For now, I’ll leave you with a quote, from Mr. Kessel, about how the literature establishment looks down on speculative fiction:

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The ‘First Paragraph Test’

When critiquing or beta-reading, my “first paragraph test” runs at about a 80% to 95% positivity rate. It goes like this: 80-95% of the time, the start of the story I’m reading would be better if the first paragraph were deleted entirely and the story started with the second.

For published works? It clocks in at about a 50/50 clip. I’ve found this is also is true when editing my own works…especially short stories that I think I’ve ‘finished’.

I haven’t had the chance to fully think through why this is—but, once I noticed it, there was no denying it.

What Makes A Thriller A Thriller?

What makes a “Thriller” a Thriller, besides Michael Jackson?

Some time ago, I had a long discussion with the most prolific consumer of both fantasy and horror books (and movies) that I know, my oldest son, about just what makes “horror” horror? Or, what makes a “thriller” a thriller, and not “suspense”? And so forth.

For example, what was “Alien”? What was “Aliens”? The same? If so, why do they feel so different?

Afterwards, I decided that I needed, for own sanity, to come up with a topology. Here’s what I developed:

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21st Century Jerks

Webster-Merriam defines “jerk” (the personality-type) as:
a) an annoyingly stupid or foolish person (eg, “was acting like a jerk”), or
b) an unlikable person, esp. one who is cruel, rude, or small-minded

But, look at the second definition. It is based on a social norm (“unlikable”). So, if, in the first place, the group norm is that of being cruel, rude, or small-minded, then what?

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