Putting together an anthology of short stories is not as easy as one might think. Yes, we could accept any old story that came our way, but why would we do that? Our reputation (what little we have) is at risk, and while we may have lost all shame, we still have pride! (ahem)
Regardless, in a series of blog posts this month, I aim to reveal some editorial insights while doing mini-reviews for each story in the upcoming SFFWorld.com’s shared-world anthology: Welcome to Pacific City. I’ll take each story we chose for the anthology and break it down. I’ll have to be vague. I don’t want to give away the stories or their punchlines, but what I hope you’ll get out of my mini-analyses is the following:
It’s all subjective.
It really is. I, nor the other two readers/editors for this project, cannot say, with any honest veracity, exactly why one story shines over another. A story just appeals or it doesn’t. Sorry, I won’t be giving away the secret to a good story.
However, on the flip side, there are obvious reasons why a story does not work: poor writing, redundant writing, confusing writing, crappy plot, no plot, no characterization, over-characterized, etc., etc.
You get the picture.
In other words, once you master the basics of fiction writing (what are those?), what makes your story shine is, well, your story.
With these mini-reviews, I’ll peal back the curtains and show our thought processes. What attracted us to a particular story? What elements appealed? What didn’t? Let’s get into it!
Park Life by Igor Ljubuncic
This story drops us into a familiar, frustrating city scene: mid-morning traffic with some dude trying to force-clean windshields. It’s a tricky beginning. Written from the windshield jocky’s perspective, the story risks losing an unsympathetic reader (who likes those people who foist their services upon you?).
But the author includes sensory details that drew me in; and not only that, the author presented those details in an authentic and amusing way. This kept my interest; enough so that I got into the story. When our main character, presumably a homeless man trying to earn a few bucks on the mean streets of Pacific City, is presented with a problem, I’m in. I want to see how he’ll resolve that problem (helping a little old lady).
It’s not easy for an author to take a mundane chore and turn it into a superhero story but Igor Ljubuncic succeeds. And when the arch-enemy emerges, you can’t help but cheer on our hero and laugh at his antics.
All our readers/editors had similar reactions to this story: not so sure about the beginning, but loved the story in the end. This goes against the adage of opening with a stunner; with something that grabs the reader and doesn’t let go. This story doesn’t do that, but I’d say it does something better: it engages your senses and turns a daily chore into an adventure.
Who doesn’t like that?
There are Doors by Jennifer Rachel Baumer
With the #metoo movement heavy in the air, I’m hesitant to tackle this story. Not because of the subject matter, but rather because some might think we picked this story just because of the subject matter.
But this story was likely written long before current events. I first read it sometime in mid-2017 and I’m sure the author ruminated on this topic long before that. Our patriarchal society, with all its faults, is nothing new.
There are Doors is a story about boundaries, physical and mental. It starts with our heroine, Wendy, entering an asylum for the criminally insane. The author takes her time letting us get to know Wendy and why she’s there. And, more importantly, why she let’s herself be there.
It’s easy to rush through a story, especially if there’s a lot of action. But this story asks the reader to slow down, to contemplate, to really see the horror of our complacency. Why do we stand by? Allowing men in power to use that power for personal gain or satisfaction?
Our heroine doesn’t stand by. But as we all know, there are consequences for doing that.
All our readers for this story didn’t mention this is their initial review. In all honesty, we focused on the editing. How the story needed a good copy edit. We simply didn’t mention the actual subject of the story. But we all said accept it.
Sometimes a story touches on subjects that are too hard to talk about. We can’t even talk around or about a story. But I think that just means we have to keep reading and writing our stories until we can.
And until we can change it.
That’s it for today. Look for more to come next week.
By the way, we’re running a Kickstarter campaign (check it out here). We’ve surpassed our original goal, but we could do better! Please support our writers with a generous backing; you too can be immortalized in digital print.
Until next time,
N. E. White