Let's Test Boris' Theory

>> Monday, April 20, 2009

After telling about my unconventional episode with rejection letters and the like, Boris bounced up in a helpful manner and told me I might want to try post some of them on the net where I could get feedback.

(Beautiful artwork for one of my published short stories by Victory)

Interestingly enough, I'd had that idea. I joined gather.com with exactly that idea myself some two years ago or so as part of a "first chapters" contest (where I was pretty much ignored entirely). For more than a year, I was a devoted Gather addict, adding stories and thoughts and ramblings and commenting on others... just to be pretty much ignored, especially my fiction.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Except I still think it's good. And, when many people I admire read it, they say they like it. But it has never stirred a lot of interest. I'm not sure Gather was a good home for it. While I was there, it went from looking at writing and stuff to pretty much focusing on fluff and games and griping. Which is why I'm rarely there any more.

But, was it the audience or the work. I'm game to test the theory. So, let's check it out.

I'm posting links to a number of stories I currently already have posted various places on the net. Do comment if you read it and tell me what you think (including expressing disgust - if I can't take criticism, I have no business doing anything more with it than stuffing it into a drawer).

I would love to find out people want to read it and would. Almost all of these are short stories. Note that many are science fiction or fantasy, particularly sword and sorcery fantasy which can get pretty violent.

These three have already been published in a magazine, the now defunct Plot (in the first three issues):

The Code of the Jenri

And then some I have posted on Gather (which haven't been published)

A Cold Wind on a Hill (my first poem)
Backseat Driver
Captain of the Guard

Then I have the Tarot Queen stories (the ones I learned tarot for - more forthcoming)
King of Swords
King of Wands
The Hanged Man

And the first chapter of my novel I'm trying to market
Curse of the Jenri

So, if any of you are willing to read them, I welcome your feedback or at least acknowledgment you did so. And Boris will be proved right.


  • flit

    HEY! I didn't ignore you on gather!

  • Stephanie B

    No you didn't. We didn't ignore each other. But you can't say many were giving it the chance you were.

  • flit

    that's for sure.... I miss pre-Hawthorne gather

  • Roy

    Now see, I never saw your fiction on Gather because all I ever saw from you were articles on scientific subjects to set the record straight for the mouth breathers and knuckle-draggers. I finally followed a link you left to your website and discovered the other stuff!

    And yeah, I think most of us from the older Gather crowd miss the pre-Hawthorne days badly. I can't find anything any more!

  • Boris Legradic

    I just printed out all of your stories - I'll read them this evening, you'll have some feedback soon!

  • Patricia Rockwell

    You gave me some great feedback on my novel, so I will try to do the same for you. My concern is that my experience reading science fiction and fantasy is virtually non-existent. Which of the stories you list would be best for a neophyte to this genre?

  • Stephanie B

    I try to make all of my stories accessible to the nonscientific; however, some are better than others.

    Windrider or Masks would be my suggestion. A Cold Wind on the Hill (poetry) has nothing to do with Science Fiction or Fantasy

  • Boris Legradic

    Hey Stephanie, I've finished reviewing "Curse of the Jenri", but I am afraid I fell back into evil editor-mode, and now it's too long to post as a comment, especially since I interspersed comments into your text. Can I send it to you as an email, or do you want me to post it somewhere? You can send me an email-address at boris.legradic@(parantheses against evil spambots, please remove)gmail.com, if you don't want to post it in public. Cheers, Boris

  • Stephanie B

    Thanks for sending your comments, Boris, I really appreciate them. More than if you'd filled out a rejection letter for me!

    You're a good reviewer.

  • Bob Johnson

    Thanks for the links, I will take a look. I love your fiction.

  • Patricia Rockwell

    I read "Masks." The writing is beautiful. You create a wonderful sense of movement. It's as if the words are like lyrics to a song and they build and build as the girls dance.

    My suggestions are few. I will tell you that I was a bit confused at the beginning. At first, I thought the man was in a shop looking at masks. Maybe you can give more hints who he is and where he is earlier on.

    Then, I finally figured out that girls were wearing masks and dancing for men that choose them for mates. When you say, "He stopped and reached to pick up his bride," I am not clear which one picks. At first, I thought he picked the girl in the plain mask. I cannot tell the girls apart; I guess I should pay more attention to their eye color. The sentence "The tribe and couples disappeared until only the three remained: the prince, his bride, and the unchosen maid" confuses me because I can't tell which one he chose. If he is so intrigued by the girl in the plain mask, why does he pick the other? I know at the end, the unchosen girl explains his choice to him, but I need to feel why he chooses the one he does--even if only superficially from his point of view.

    Just some thoughts.

  • Stephanie B

    Patricia, thank you.

    You're the first to mention that in the beginning and there's no reason I couldn't fix that.

    You're not the first to mention that people forgot the eye color. Hmm. I'm probably so attuned with purple I gave it more emphasis than I should have.


  • Stephanie B

    (Or rather thought it had more emphasis than it did.)

  • Boris Legradic

    Sooo, I finally found some time to comment on one of your short stories. I hope to do all of them eventually (for a certain, unknown but probably quite big value of eventually) - but here are my thoughts about Back Seat Driver.

    Overall, I liked it - but there are a few rough edges left:

    First of all, your story deviates a bit from the Way Computers Work. Now I realise that it is a science fiction story, but since you call them computers, I must base my mental image of them on the computers I know. So when you write

    Rachel put down her brief. "Seems to me as though you're trying to make a human personality think like a computer. I wouldn't think there'd be much point in that. Try taking out the programming. Just let the personality to the thinking."
    "That's ridiculous! If there's no programming, how would a personality know how to get things done?"
    "The same way a baby does it, trial and error, learning as you go. Trust me, Stephen, there isn't an automated system in the world nearly as complicated as the human body. An intelligent personality with data from the computer's information library to draw on and no sleep requirements can figure out any computer you give it in no time."
    I sit up and think: "Stephen's right. A rude bastard, but right. The personality on the computer will need some kind of runtime environment, or else the computer won't need to know what to do with the data." But later on Stephen gets Rachel's personality running by loading the naked data into the computer. I find this implausible, so it jars me out of the story. You should provide some kind of rationale on why this would work in your story.

    A bit later we have the sentence " Stephen’s reply will never be known for... which I think is a poor choice, because of the sudden introduction of a narrator that has been absent so far, and does not appear again.

    I found the dialog a bit stilted in some places. I realise that this is a singularily unhelpful comment, but I have no idea how to write better dialogue or why I found it stilted. Maybe it's just me, anyway.

    But here is a passage that I really, really liked: Just at the end, where Rachel explains to Stephen why she put up with him, even though he was such a jerk. I found that very realistic, and it really brought over her feeling of love to him.

    So there you have my critique, I hope it helped!

  • Stephanie B

    You're probably right about the dialog. It's gone through some incarnations and, since I'm not terribly fond of Stephen, could probably use some additional work.

    On the AI, programming, however, I'm not sure I agree with you. When I was working with AI, the thing I learned was less was more and it doesn't strike me as implausible that, if one could duplicate the setup of a human brain, they would do better with less direction rather than more. But the methodology of "duplicating" the setup of a brain - without the resident neural density - is almost undoubtedly ridiculous.

    However, I'm not apologizing. Speculative fiction, even some science fiction, involves playing what if, even if the steps to getting between here and there are not clear. That's what I wanted to do as well as highlight the challenges it would really be to interact with a "computer" that thought like a person and the fact that creating true "artificial intelligence" might not be all that appealing for the AI involved.

    Thanks for reading Boris.

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