Cosmic Critiques – How&Why ten science fiction stories work

(except this book doesn’t)

Cosmic Critiques is the first “how to write” book I had real, recognizable problems with. Go no further, I do not repeat do not recommend this book to people wanting to learn the craft of writing.

However, this book is a gem if you’re a literary historian; the included stories were all written when science fiction was undergoing a major transition from authors schooled in literature to authors schooled in technology.

My first problem was that none of the stories worked (my opinion). They were all droll, trite, rather meaningless, uneventful, unengaging, and blow-offs. Some, if I remember correctly, were praised in their day.

That brings us to problem 2; these stories are very much of their time (1950s-1980s). Wells, Verne, Burroughs, and Baum’s stories endure because the stories are about people doing things and the human condition endures. Stories written in the 1950s-1980s tended to be about people dealing with technology doing things and any story with technology as its focus can’t t endure (except, as noted, with historians, anthropologists, any and all folk interested in time periods, not literature).

Specific to Cosmic Critiques, the earlier included stories signaled the move from interesting character driven stories to temporally interesting gadget stories. The United States had become the technology giant of the world and popular culture – which science fiction is a part of – followed suit.

 
The most interesting part of the book (to me) Is contained in a paragraph of Isaac Asimov’s introduction:

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Can I be honest about your writing? (Part 7 – Avoid Open Onions)

No one gets to change your work but you

Part 1 – Oh, the Vanity of it all! of this multi-post arc dealt with some folks I knew who vanity published their books back when we called vanity publishers “vanity publishers”.
Part 2 – Vanity/Self-Publishing provided an overview of Vanity and Self publishing.
Part 3 – What Camp Are You In? identified four reasons people consider self-publishing.
Part 4 – Pray thee, Joseph, 4 Y do these books suck? delved into editing that doesn’t help a book.
Part 5 – Could you provide examples of suckness? shared some examples of improving sucky writing (my own).
Part 6 – Opinions are not Facts dealt with extracting actionable information from test audiences.

An important part of improving one’s writing is knowing whose suggestions to pay attention to. Notice, not what suggestions, but whose suggestions. Some people don’t have opinions – they’re not making suggestions – they’re opening onions – their goal is to make you cry, to make you suffer.
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Can I be honest about your writing? (Part 5 – Could you provide examples of suckness?)

Tell the same story better

Part 1 – Oh, the Vanity of it all! of this multi-post arc dealt with some folks I knew who vanity published their books back when we called vanity publishers “vanity publishers”.
Part 2 – Vanity/Self-Publishing provided an overview of Vanity and Self publishing.
Part 3 – What Camp Are You In? identified four reasons people consider self-publishing.
Part 4 – Pray thee, Joseph, 4 Y do these books suck? delved into editing that doesn’t help a book.

Can I provide specific examples from other authors, no. I may think a given author’s writing sucks or an individual piece of writing sucks and I still respect the fact that they’re putting something out, that they got off the couch.

General examples, sure:
Continue reading “Can I be honest about your writing? (Part 5 – Could you provide examples of suckness?)”

Writers Groups – Critiquing Methods – Ruled to Death

Beware the Sayer of the Law

This is the last installment of a thread covering critiquing methods I’ve encountered in my writing career. This post is a catch-all for any workshop/critiquing group that hands you a list of rules you have to follow. I highlight three distinct types I’ve encountered.

Review
Finding a critique group that’s good for you is based on one question:

What is your goal/reason for being in a critique group?

 
My goal is simple and direct; improve my storytelling and storycrafting/increase my skill levels/learn my craft.

Rules
Any time or place a group of people get together for a single purpose, rules will apply. The best rules are those shaped by consensus and accepted democratically. They may be spoken, unspoken, written, tacked on a wall, handed out, understood, …
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Writers Groups – Critiquing Methods – Forced Positives/False Positives

Does it count if I say “I love the font you used!”?

This is the fourth installment of a thread covering critiquing methods I’ve encountered in my writing career. This post discusses a critiquing method wherein participants have to say something nice about a submission before they can critique it.

Review
Finding a critique group that’s good for you is based on one question:

What is your goal/reason for being in a critique group?

 
My goal is simple and direct; improve my storytelling and storycrafting/increase my skill levels/learn my craft.

You have to say something nice
These critique groups vary from “You have to say something nice first” to “You can only say nice things”. This format falls under a larger format I call “Ruled to Death”. The You have to say something nice format occurs so often I’m giving it its own post.

First thing; if a critique group has this rule in place, it’s probably a reaction to harsh and perhaps abusive activity. Get out while you can!
Continue reading “Writers Groups – Critiquing Methods – Forced Positives/False Positives”