Shorter Work

by wjw on June 14, 2007

The mail brought my copy of Locus, which I seem to get later than anyone I know. (Do they mail them in alphabetical order, I wonder?) This issue contains no less than two favorable reviews of my story in Alien Crimes, a new anthology available from the SFBC. My advice is to buy it before the SFBC is canceled, along with its editor.

I also received my contributor’s copy of The New Space Opera, with my story “Send Them Flowers.” This story got a favorable review in the last-Locus-but-one, which referred to the story as a “jape.” When I workshopped the story last year, the adjective most used was “romp.”

I am often happy to write romps, or even japes, but that wasn’t what I intended with this story. Nothing funny actually occurs in the narrative. There are no jokes. There is a suicide attempt, some crime in which the narrator is implicated, serial infidelity, some (offstage) deaths, and a rather sordid bordello scene. I intended a rueful semi-tragedy, with blackly amusing asides.

I have clearly miscalculated with this story, but how?

Please read it and let me know.

Anonymous June 20, 2007 at 3:57 am

Mary T. here.

I tried to find the Locus review of “Send Them Flowers,” but haven’t yet. So I’m not sure why the reviewer used the word “jape.” To me, the piece was a wickedly clever story, full of biting wit throughout, with flashes of wild dark comedy.

I admired the originality the probability travel premise, and I loved the user-used relationship between the too-trusting protagonist and his homme fatal friend. The ending really worked for me, too.

It’s late and I still can’t find that issue of Locus, but I’m curious now. I _thought_ I knew what a jape was —

David W Goldman June 20, 2007 at 7:46 am

Your dastardly marketing scheme has forced me to obtain The New Space Opera. So far, having read your story and the introduction, no regrets here.

I intended a rueful semi-tragedy, with blackly amusing asides.

I think I’d have to go with memorable, rueful romp. (“Romp: (1) play roughly and energetically, … (3) [informal] engage in sexual activity”)

Rather slight to be a tragedy. I’m not sure about semi-tragedy — but certainly not much tragic happens to the narrator.

Oh — and everything Mary said, too.

In any case, certainly not a jape. (“a practical joke”)

Kelly July 1, 2007 at 6:07 pm

Whoever described this story as a romp or a jape just wasn’t paying attention.

Okay, it starts out that way — at first it looks like it’s going to be a cheerful story, because two guys running a tramp freighter around the universe, bucking the authorities. There’s inherent humour and buddy-buddy cheer in the idea of a guy ending up best friends with the man who blew up his marriage.

And if you’re not paying attention, the stuff about the dive bars & prostitutes sounds fun. Ditto the reefs of chemicals and Mount Cyanide. Even the women in balloon suits is amusing until you actually think about what that means.

You start off with hope and end with your character back in the same place, except now he’s in despair. His world view has totally changed. What started off appealing, traipsing around the universe free as a bird, is now a huge trap. That’s a tragedy.

I think you succeeded.

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