WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

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WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby amoskalik » Tue May 17, 2016 10:15 am

I envision this thread as a place to discuss the stories in this fabulous anthology from a reader's perspective (which is an admonishment to myself to turn off that blasted editor in my brain for once).

Spoilers are allowed. If you haven't read the stories yet and wish to with fresh eyes, you've been forewarned.

Just to get things rolling, I'll throw out this question (feel free to go off topic or suggest your own):
Who was your favorite character and why?
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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby amoskalik » Tue May 17, 2016 2:56 pm

OK, I'll start now that I'm home and can reference the book.

(Spoiler notice!)

While there are many memorable characters to choose from, the one that stood out for me was Keani in A Glamour in Black. First, this was one of those rare short stories that dragged a tear out of me. Typically that takes a novel length work. I really felt her need to know who she was, how lost she had become. Her character touches on the theme we all must deal with, how much of who we are is just a mask we show the rest of the world. Where does this mask leave off and our true selves begin? Keani's parasite makes this question exceptionally stark for her. She literally becomes whatever those around her want her to be.

Then comes the masterful twist at the end, which provides the chilling answer. Keani has her parasite cut out and... she is the parasite. She went on a quest to refind her preparasite self and as Gertrude Stein put "There was no there there."

This echoes some of the recent finding in science. Our thoughts and emotions are, to some degree at least, controlled by our gut fauna. So as humans where do our minds begin and our bacteria leave off? Maybe we are not individuals as we believe with free will and unique personalities at all, but rather just bacterial humunculi.
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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby preston » Tue May 17, 2016 6:22 pm

I haven't finished reading the volume yet, so I'm not going to get into the stories. But I wanted to give some impressions. The first thing that struck me are the awesome titles. "Images Across a Shattered Sea" "Swords Like Lightning, Hooves Like Thunder" "The Sun Falls Apart" "Jack of Souls." These are the kind of titles that make me want to read the story. My favorite title in the volume is "The Broad Sky Was Mine, and the Road." By the title alone, I knew the story was going to be intriguing. Titles might not be crucial to winning, but a good title never hurts, and this volume is chock full of them.

The second major impression was the lengths of the stories. They are so short! Not one of the winning stories was much over 25 pages, and most of them are considerably shorter. The longest was "Swords like Lightning: Hooves Like Thunder," and even that wasn't really very long. A great story, BTW, but more on that later! Two stories to go. It's a ripping good volume so far. Not one dud in the bunch.

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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby MattDovey » Wed May 18, 2016 1:07 am

I think you'd be surprised by how long the stories are--they look less in the anthology than they do in standard manuscript format. Kate will have her actual number, but IIRC I think hers is about 12-14k, near the upper limit. Mine's just over 9k, and is technically a novelette, not a short. RM Graves' Freebot, by comparison, is down under 3k. They cover the range :)

Agreed on the titles, as well. I think more or less the first thing I said to everyone back on the bus from the gala--the first chance I'd had to actually talk to everyone again after the GP announcement--was "I wish I'd picked a better title now". There's some stunningly poetic titles, and mine works, but is kinda workmanlike still.

It is a seriously ace collection though, isn't it? I know I'm biased, but normally there's one or two in any given volume I don't really enjoy. I love all of them in this one, though.
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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby Randy Hulshizer » Wed May 18, 2016 4:06 am

Regarding story length, here are the calculated story lengths for the past four volumes:

Image

Note: These numbers reflect the final, published word counts in the anthology, not the submitted manuscripts.
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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby amoskalik » Wed May 18, 2016 4:40 am

MattDovey wrote: There's some stunningly poetic titles, and mine works, but is kinda workmanlike still.

Actually, I think Squalor & Sympathy is a perfect title. A title should do two things, inform the reader before they read the story what to expect and after they've read it encapsulate what the story was about. Before I read the story, your title immediately invoked another title, Pride and Prejudice, which accurately nails down the setting. The word Squalor tells me this won't be a story about landed gentry however.

After the story is read, the words Squalor and Sympathy take on new meaning and capture both the main concept of the story and the theme.
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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby KD Julicher » Wed May 18, 2016 6:42 am

My story clocked in at 14,900 words, FYI.

I totally agree about the titles. Pick something evocative, something that has some rhythm to it. Easier said than done! I am terrible at titles. "Swords" worked on the "pick a random line from your story that has some oomph to it" principle. (I also love that it clearly stakes out my genre. I'm the only swords-and-horses fantasy in the volume and my title proudly proclaims it).
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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby MattDovey » Thu May 19, 2016 3:29 am

Huh, wouldja look at that. Stats don't lie (only interpretations); we really are shorter.

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Title: Pride & Prejudice (and Sense & Sensibility) were absolutely the pattern I was going for, so at least that bit worked out. And it was meant to give emphasis to Sympathy, and hint that it would work out as important as Squalor as a bit of foreshadowing, although personally I tend to have forgotten a title by about three paragraphs in. And it does sum up the story, and should remind you of what it's about when you discuss it after... just that, in comparison to the other titles in the volume, it's lacking a certain poetry, y'know?

Fun fact: it was going to be Squalor & Empathy, because that seemed a more fitting name for the magic, until it was pointed out to me that Empathy wasn't a word until the 20th Century. Which I was secretly glad of because I prefer the alliteration of Squalor & Sympathy anyway :)
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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby OldDarth » Thu May 19, 2016 9:56 am

MattDovey wrote:Fun fact: it was going to be Squalor & Empathy, because that seemed a more fitting name for the magic, until it was pointed out to me that Empathy wasn't a word until the 20th Century. Which I was secretly glad of because I prefer the alliteration of Squalor & Sympathy anyway :)


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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby amoskalik » Thu May 19, 2016 10:29 am

OldDarth wrote:Serendipity!


There's a word that I thought was twentieth century, but was actually coined in 1754. Who knew?

Hmmm.

Serendipitous Squalor for a Sympathetic Soul

How's that for alliteration?
Yeah, I don't like it much either wotf017
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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby s_c_baker » Mon May 23, 2016 5:51 am

MattDovey wrote:Fun fact: it was going to be Squalor & Empathy, because that seemed a more fitting name for the magic, until it was pointed out to me that Empathy wasn't a word until the 20th Century. Which I was secretly glad of because I prefer the alliteration of Squalor & Sympathy anyway :)

Really? But... but... sympathetic magic is a thing! I thought you were playing with that. I'm glad that critiquer set you straight. wotf004

Joni said that Dave really liked my title and mentioned it when he called to tell her it was a finalist. So a good title really is important! Although it has to be a good title that matches the story, too.

"The broad sky was mine, and the road" is my favourite title in the batch, too.
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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby amoskalik » Mon May 23, 2016 10:15 am

s_c_baker wrote:
"The broad sky was mine, and the road" is my favourite title in the batch, too.


It does capture the unique voice of the piece.
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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby Ember » Thu Jun 09, 2016 7:10 am

I think every now and again I'll come back to this thread and talk about a different story that I particularly liked.

First up, Golden Pen winner - Squalor and Sympathy. I *adored* the magic system, especially the clever way it is exploited in the industrial revolution. I thought the slight confusion/mystery of the cold bowls of water was a wonderful hook, and when the system was explained, provided such an "Oh, snap!" moment for me.

One of my favourite period dramas is North and South, and this absolutely recalls the brilliance of the mini-series with the cotton factory setting and themes of revolution. Matt, in one of your many discussions of the subject, I think I saw that you were asked/are considering turning it into a novel? Is that right? If so, how are you planning to approach it, keep the same story beats but flesh it out, or have keep it as is as a beginning chapter of a longer story?
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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby amoskalik » Thu Jun 09, 2016 7:33 am

Ember wrote:I think every now and again I'll come back to this thread and talk about a different story that I particularly liked.

First up, Golden Pen winner - Squalor and Sympathy. I *adored* the magic system, especially the clever way it is exploited in the industrial revolution. I thought the slight confusion/mystery of the cold bowls of water was a wonderful hook, and when the system was explained, provided such an "Oh, snap!" moment for me.

One of my favourite period dramas is North and South, and this absolutely recalls the brilliance of the mini-series with the cotton factory setting and themes of revolution. Matt, in one of your many discussions of the subject, I think I saw that you were asked/are considering turning it into a novel? Is that right? If so, how are you planning to approach it, keep the same story beats but flesh it out, or have keep it as is as a beginning chapter of a longer story?


I thought the marriage of the concept (the magic system) and the theme (exploitation of workers) was particularly brilliant because it took all the real reasons and dynamics behind worker oppression and made them that much more immediate and easy to understand while simultaneously amplifying the horror of it.
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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby MattDovey » Fri Jun 10, 2016 2:25 am

Thank you both very much wotf007

The whole magic-system/political-system/exploitation metaphor was subconscious--I just thought the magic system was cool, and it was only when I'd gone through and revised a couple of times I realised how much it had all grown out of my left-wing politics.

Novel... a couple of people have said how much they'd love to read a full-length work set in the world, paramount amongst those Kevin J Anderson, who, y'know, knows this stuff. It's certainly an idea I'm toying with. But I confess I have absolutely no idea as to how I'd go about it.

I suspect I'd have to do a lot more than just pad this out to ten times the length, which means a new plot, although it may well start out in the same place, and maybe even end in a similar place, but it would have to take a different route to get there. But I think the way I'd prefer to do it would be to show larger parts of the world, rather than focusing on this one locale, and use more POV characters.

An earlier draft had mention of the trains running on Squalor; parents were deliberately separated from their children, who were left unattended and unsheltered, so that the parents' desire to get back to them and care for them is what drove the train. I think a character there--a parent concerned for their child--would be another interesting angle to take, someone more practical than Anna and less idealistic.

And I've got ideas about India, and the mystics you see lining the streets even now; the idea that Squalor is a truly holy gift (hinted at in S&S, but could be played up much more) and ascetics proving their holiness by going without food, and relying only on what their bodies provide internally--and even going without water and air, and maintaining their focus and concentration in the face of the dehydration and asphyxiation. Perhaps the Empire would be trying to push the industrial applications there, which would give a nice industrial/religious conflict. Sally White's husband was mentioned as being over there, so we could follow him.

How I'd tie those three together into one plot, though, and have them all in one place for a climactic scene... I have no idea. I either need a single plot that worked with all that, or an alternative structure that interweaved three separate stories, which might be a bit brave (and unsellable) as a debut novel.

In short: idk wotf017
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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby amoskalik » Fri Jun 10, 2016 4:56 am

MattDovey wrote:And I've got ideas about India, and the mystics you see lining the streets even now; the idea that Squalor is a truly holy gift (hinted at in S&S, but could be played up much more) and ascetics proving their holiness by going without food, and relying only on what their bodies provide internally--and even going without water and air, and maintaining their focus and concentration in the face of the dehydration and asphyxiation. Perhaps the Empire would be trying to push the industrial applications there, which would give a nice industrial/religious conflict. Sally White's husband was mentioned as being over there, so we could follow him.


It would be fun to explore how Buddhism's concept of suffering relates to your concept of Squalor. Would mindfulness techniques enhance or eliminate the power of Squalor, or perhaps transform it into something else? You definitely have a lot to play with, so a novel or even a series of them would not be a stretch.
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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby storysinger » Sat Jun 11, 2016 4:39 am

The way S&S ended leads me to believe you've put Anna in a position to change the world.
Just a thought.
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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby MattDovey » Sun Jun 12, 2016 11:33 am

storysinger wrote:The way S&S ended leads me to believe you've put Anna in a position to change the world.
Just a thought.


I am a believer that a short story only shows a snippet of life, and you should leave a gap for people's imaginations to continue on. I've got no idea what she's up to next, though wotf001
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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby MattDovey » Tue Aug 02, 2016 2:05 am

Here's something cool wotf013

I sold Squalor & Sympathy as a reprint to PodCastle (yay free money) and it's gone up today as episode 427, available for free, forever :) go listen! PodCastle 427: Squalor and Sympathy | PodCastle
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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby LaurieG » Tue Aug 02, 2016 5:54 am

MattDovey wrote:Here's something cool wotf013

I sold Squalor & Sympathy as a reprint to PodCastle (yay free money) and it's gone up today as episode 427, available for free, forever :) go listen! PodCastle 427: Squalor and Sympathy | PodCastle



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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby storysinger » Tue Aug 02, 2016 9:31 am

Awesome wotf010 .
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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby amoskalik » Tue Aug 02, 2016 11:14 am

Congrats. It must be cool to be in a new format.
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Re: WOTF 32 Anthology Book Club

Postby MattDovey » Tue Aug 02, 2016 11:47 am

amoskalik wrote:Congrats. It must be cool to be in a new format.


Oh so cool. I listen to a lot of audio fiction as well (one hour commute in the car, yay) so it's something I've always hoped for. And having listened to it on my drive home, I can confirm that it is a wonderful reading with a proper Lancashire accent, as it should be wotf007
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