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Turkey City Lexicon

4
Glen Engel-CoxPerson was signed in when posted
10-02-2002
11:31 AM ET (US)
You have to be careful in your use of these terms, however--with great power comes great responsibility. I got roundly lambasted on Usenet about eight years ago for using them as a reference on a critique of the first chapter of Lois McMaster Bujold's MEMORY. I still defend my critique, but had I to do it again, I wouldn't have used the lexicon shortcuts to point out the flaws in her work but instead would have taken the time to explain WHY these problems have been incorporated into the lexicon.
3
Eli the BeardedPerson was signed in when posted
10-01-2002
02:26 PM ET (US)
I like the name "squid on the mantelpiece", but the kraken is an octopus,
not a squid.
2
Stefan JonesPerson was signed in when posted
09-30-2002
03:29 PM ET (US)
This list has been bopping around for a while. Very insightful and sober advice. Also great fun to read.
1
MeriadocPerson was signed in when posted
09-30-2002
01:51 PM ET (US)
These are good. I like "Squid on the Mantelpiece" in particular - this is something I've noticed and that's irritated me in stories, but I hadn't realized that anyone else had noticed it.

Something that doesn't seem to be on the list, but that also irritates me - perhaps nobody else has noticed it. That's the tendency, in novels (it never occurs in short fiction), for the story to run out of steam about halfway through, after which the characters sit around for a long time twiddling their thumbs waiting for the rest of the plot to show up, which finally happens in the last few chapters.

This might be a function of word-spinning, in which the author is trying to bulk up to a predetermined word count, but I think more often it's a result of the author having run out of inspiration and continuing to write anyway. Mark Twain said, in an essay, that he usually ran out of inspiration about halfway through a novel, so he would put it aside and come back a couple years later, by which time the wells of inspiration would have filled up. I expect the average commercial SF author doesn't think s/he can afford that kind of time, but the results can be sad.

This phenomenon isn't to be confused with something else perhaps only I have noticed: what I call "Poul Anderson Hurry-Up Disease," in which the author realizes that the end of the book (i.e. predetermined word count) is coming up, and frantically stuffs the rest of the plot into the remaining few pages. In that case, there's no loss of steam earlier on; and in the loss-of-steam story there's no frantic quality to the resurgence of the plot later.

And Hurry-Up Disease in turn isn't to be confused with the much better-known R.L. Fanthorpe Flazz-Gazz Heat-Ray syndrome, in which the author realizes that the end of the book is coming up, and cuts the story off with absurd abruptness.

I would be delighted to learn that these things I've described are actually well-known to workshops, and have names. But since they're more common to novels than short fiction, they might not have come up much there.
Edited 09-30-2002 01:52 PM

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