The Critiques

The rough draft of "The Mystery" was accidentally posted to the List in March of 1997. The comments which resulted inflicted permanent writer-damage on the defenseless author. Hey, but critiquing is critiquing eh? Anyway, it ought to be a hilarious read for anybody not directly within the line of fire; possibly even educational. Read "The Mystery" | Comment


Date: Tue, 4 Mar 1997 21:10:35 -0500

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From: Kaas Baichtal <KBaichtal@AOL.COM>
Subject: Re: WORK: That having been said....

Oh no! I didn't realize that wasn't replying directly to her. I am so sorry everybody! ack! <hide face>


Date: Wed, 5 Mar 1997 11:52:40 EST
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From: Lynda M Tatad <lyndatatad@JUNO.COM>
Subject: Re: WORK: That having been said....

On Tue, 4 Mar 1997 21:10:35 -0500 Kaas Baichtal <KBaichtal@AOL.COM> writes:

>Oh no! I didn't realize that wasn't replying directly to her. I am so sorry
>everybody! ack! <hide face>

Hi Kaas!

No apology needed on my part. :-)

I was very pleasantly surprised to see your short story "The Mystery" on the list! Thanks for the mistake, this might be fun to actually see a workshop story being worked on!! I've only read the first parts of the story and like the humor already. :-) (how can a gen have had a donation taken without knowing it? Was he asleep? I'll have to read and see!)

I recently signed up to another listserv with another of my favorite worlds, Abode (or the World of Two Moons as the Pinis oroginally called it in Elfquest). This listserv is just fan written fiction & poetry based in this universe Wendy & Richard Pini created, and also comments and critiques on that fiction. Some of it is beginner work, some of it is very well crafted. It's nice to get a short story in the Sime~Gen world in this way!

:-)

Lynda

-Later

Just finished the story. I like the idea of a rogue channel helping Jogn to become a GN-2. It was very enjoyable for me to read. I'm very curious as to Jacqueline's reaction, too!


Subj: Re: WORK: That having been said....
Date: 97-03-05 20:06:54 EST
From: NineTiger@aol.com (M Petrino)
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Just finished your story Kaas (The Mystery).

I would like to pass on to you an exercise a great teacher passed along to me, and one which I practice religiously.

Before I say anything, I would like you to ask yourself:

What do YOU most like about your story? What do YOU feel you have learned/accomplished by writing this story?

In a critiquing situation, this very wise person explained to me, we tend to get hung up on what is wrong rather than what is right. You should know best what has gone right for you with this story, and that information can enlighten us all, if you are willing to share it.

This is not a simple exercise. It requires focus. That focus, properly cultivated, can help sustain you when you need to put extra effort into improving a story.

Now my 2 cents:

I liked the story because I can really relate to the bad day this person had. I found it hard to relate to Jogn directly because I did not know why he was such a lay about as regards working (you did not tell me enough).

I liked how you handled dialogue. The flow and pace seemed natural to me.

I laughed in several places out loud. I have one question:

Army Green or Baby Diarrhea Green? ;)

The only grammatical point that I can say bothered me is this:

My Passive Voice alarm went off.

That's all I can contribute. As a critiquer, I am really only interested in the storytelling aspects, not the technical parts of the beast, for my input. Technique comes with time, and practice. Input from others (far more qualified than me) may help to enlighten you further on the nuts n bolts of writing.

Hope this helps spur you on.

Peace,

Marianne G. Petrino-Schaad ninetiger@aol.com


Date: Wed, 5 Mar 1997 19:41:21 +0000
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From: "James D. Macdonald" <jmacdon4@MOOSE.NCIA.NET>
Subject: Re: WORK: OUTLINE

> -- [ From: Jacqueline Lichtenberg * EMC.Ver #3.0 ] --
>
>
>
> Jim, you want to read this short story and pick a topic out of it for the
> Workshop?
>

Absolutely, Jacqueline. Please horse me up on how these things usually work here. Will everyone have read the story?

Jim


Subj: WORK: "The Mystery"
Date: 97-03-05 21:45:27 EST
From: MLCVamp@AOL.COM (Margaret Carter)
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I loved this story! (Glad it "accidentally" got into the list.) I thought it was really funny. Isn't this kind of protag -- the poor schmo at the mercy of external circumstances -- allowed in humor, although he would be a totally unsuitable "hero" for "serious" fiction?

What does Jacqueline say about this now that the entire story is available?

Maybe the "conflict" is his mystification about how he lost his selyn -- if so, he does take action to solve his own problem (i.e. finding out what happened) and at the conclusion his resolution to the conflict is that he now knows what happened and does not suffer from uncertainty, fear he's going crazy, etc.

Margaret


Date: Wed, 5 Mar 1997 21:44:04 +0000 Reply-To: jmacdon4@moose.ncia.net
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From: "James D. Macdonald" <jmacdon4@MOOSE.NCIA.NET>
Subject: Re: WORK: That having been said....

I'll have some comments shortly.

Best,

Jim


Date: Wed, 5 Mar 1997 22:10:21 -0500
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From: Kaas Baichtal <KBaichtal@AOL.COM>
Subject: WORK: "The Mystery"

In a message dated 97-03-05 21:45:27 EST, somebody writes:

<< Glad it "accidentally" got into the list. >>

I want to make it perfectly clear that this was NOT supposed to be posted publicly. Somebody emailed me a request for it, with this list as the REPLY-TO address and I didn't catch that.

As I understand it, the rule is no stories should be posted to the list at all.

--Kaas


Date: Wed, 5 Mar 1997 22:12:24 -0500
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From: Colleen Bellairs <CBTREKS@AOL.COM>
Subject: Re: WORK: That having been said....

In a message dated 97-03-05 20:06:54 EST, NineTiger@aol.com (M Petrino) writes:

<< I laughed in several places out loud. I have one question: Army Green or Baby Diarrhea Green? ;) >>

Baptist-Church-Basement Green, of course! <g>

(I don't usually read the WORK thread, but I'm glad I stumbled onto this story - thanks for posting, even if it was by accident.)

Colleen


Date: Thu, 6 Mar 1997 10:12:48 -0500
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From: Margaret Carter <MLCVamp@AOL.COM>
Subject: Re: student essays (documentation)

[large section irrelevant to "The Mystery" cut here - SecretPens]

(I apologize for the quotes around "accidentally." I was only trying to be facetious -- gotta stop that! -- not implying a disingenuous intent. I LOVE the story.)

Margaret


Date: Thu, 6 Mar 1997 16:35:16 -0500
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From: Kaas Baichtal <KBaichtal@AOL.COM>
Subject: WORK: (Fwd) Comments on "The Mystery"

Thought I'd forward this to the list so everybody can learn from my mistake

--Kaas

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In a message dated 97-03-06 14:27:20 EST, jmacdon4@moose.ncia.net (James D. Macdonald) writes:

Comments on "The Mystery":

Technical: If I were writing this, I'd lose all of the doubled punctuation marks, the ?! and ??? and such. Just one per sentence, please. I'd also lose most, if not all, of the exclamation points. The first paragraph is in second person -- "you got used to people sliding past you...." The second paragraph flips to third person: "That's why he didn't realize..." Perhaps it would be better to change that first paragraph to third person as well: "... he got used to people siding past him, especially when he was lucky enough to end up by the door." Had he wound up by the door? Was this the first time it had ever happened to him? Why is this lucky?

Misspelling:

"unoptomistic" should be "unoptimistic," or, perhaps a better choice, "pessimistic."
"...entourage en tow" should be "entourage in tow."
"recordkeeping" should be "record keeping."

Run-on sentence:

"Jogn wondered if they had an abnormal number of accidental kills within these particular walls, what with all the Simes gone hyperconscious to avoid seeing them and all the Gens struck with sudden pain and fear because they either closed their eyes and immediately tripped and fell, or kept their eyes open and had to see the paint. "

Stylistic:

Alliteration:

"...his frantic mind fumbled..."
"...in desperate disbelief..."
"He walked directionlessly down the darkened sidewalk, with bits of broken peanut shell stuck to his face..."

Said-bookisms and Tom Swifties:

"he exclaimed, in surprise."
"exclaimed Jogn, peevishly."
"he cried."
"she demanded hotly."
"he cried desperately."
"he exclaimed, flabbergasted."
"Jogn repeated weakly."
"bellowed the cop..."
"said the Sime tiredly."
"said Jogn desperately."
"said Tetje drily..."
"exclaimed Mel."
"chimed in Danye..."
"he exclaimed out loud, wonderingly."
"asked Mel lewdly..."
"snickered Mel."
"asked Jogn, impatiently."
"cried Jogn, aghast."
"broke in Kip, amazed."
"moaned Jogn." (Side note: how does one go about moaning an exclamation?)
"leered Mel."
"Jogn said lamely."
"Jogn explained."
"said the Sime gently..."

Cliches:

"...watched his life flash before his eyes."
"...the bottom line was..."
"...his reputation had preceded him..."

Description:

Basically, it isn't there. We have no idea what the train looks like (other than that it's crowded). We don't know what the Center looks like, what the police station looks like other than that one corridor and one office is painted green. Even there, the line "painted with green paint" is clumsy. We don't know what Danye looks like, what the Sotted Sow looks like (other than that it's dim). We need word-pictures for all the people and places.

Unclear antecedent:

"The Sime studied the selyn-holo on his ID card, then his nager."

The pronoun "his" refers to Jogn, yet the Sime is the last person mentioned. This might read better as "The Sime studied the selyn-holo on Jogn's ID card..."

"...copied the information onto the form..." What form? Where did it come from? Introduce and describe the form.

"...stared listlessly at the form he must have memorized long before." As opposed to which other form?

Out-of-character actions:

"He could almost feel sorry for the guy." This is Jogn thinking about Tetje. Is this in character for Jogn?

Show, don't tell:

"...despite the fact his reputation had preceded him and she'd given him a stern warning."
"...the freewheeling life of the unemployed GN-3..."
"...another Gen neighborhood but a much worse one."

Author Interference:

"Sadly, he was not to be so lucky."
"...who actually meant tabloids."
"...the obnoxious Mel."

Expository lump:

"'You know, that rogue channel disguised as a Sime prostitute, who said that she'd take your donation for five times what the Center would,' explained Danye helpfully."

Plot:

Our main character, Jogn, starts out broke and out of selyn, and winds up broke and out of selyn. He's in precisely the same situation at the end of the story as he would have been had he said "Screw it!" and turned over in bed without going anywhere. To follow the whole thing:

Jogn takes a train to the Center where he discovers his selyn is gone. He goes to the police, who are unable to help him. He takes a train home to find his girlfriend has thrown him out. He winds up back in the police station. He takes a train to his favorite bar. There, he discovers that he has a lot of money. From some people there he learns the explanation of the missing selyn. It's trivial -- he was rolled by a prostitute. Within minutes he's robbed of his money and goes back to the police. They are unable to help him. He's delivered to the poorhouse. End of story. This requires that Jogn take three different trains without noticing that he's suddenly rich. Maybe he bought lunch and maybe he didn't -- but we do know that he's been on those trains. In fact, the wad of cash plays no part in the story. Boteeka could just as well have given Jogn nothing, and the plot would not have changed.

The story about Jogn becoming a GN-2 also plays no part in the plot. Boteeka may have lied, Mel may have lied about what Boteeka said, and in any case Jogn is still a GN-3 when he's dropped off by the cops. Perhaps being a GN-2 will change his life. But we don't see it. This return at the end of the episode to the status quo antes is typical of TV series shows, and of series books such as the Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, Nancy Drew, and a lot of the Star Trek material. No one is allowed to change or grow, or have a memory of what happened before, since the reader or viewer may come to the series in any order. Working with original characters in a limited story, however, Jogn should learn something about himself and grow, as should Tetje. If Mel and Boteeka and all the rest can change and grow, so much the better.

We have major characters introduced late in the story -- Mel, Danye, and Boteeka. Boteeka is entirely off stage. Mel's "sidekicks" are mentioned, but never described. Even Jogn's mother has one reference fairly late.

In general, every named character should be on-stage by the end of the first third of a story.

We should know that Jogn started his day at the bar, rather than at home, and we should know it early on. Otherwise the missing day makes no sense until Danye fills us in. This isn't playing fair with the reader.

The poorhouse doesn't show up until within four paragraphs of the end of the story. Was going to the poorhouse Jogn's main fear? Wasn't that the reason he was involved in an abusive relationship with his "girlfriend-of-the-month"? She's never given a name, or a description, incidentally, and while she powers Jogn's search for money in the beginning, less than half-way through the story that motivation is removed. Later, when we realize that Jogn has been hanging out in bars and consorting with prostitutes, we might wonder why she didn't throw him out a lot earlier. Other things I found myself wondering about:

Why does Officer Tetje say to Jogn "You have a lot of friends...."? It took Jogn 45 gruelling minutes to think of six Simes, and the only Gens we've met are his girlfriend (in the act of throwing a bowling ball at his head) and the "obnoxious" Mel and his "sidekicks." Why does this need to be a Sime-Gen story at all? Could all this be set in any modern-day city, with only minor changes to the language and none to the plot? Anyway, those are my first impressions.

Best, Jim


Date: Thu, 6 Mar 1997 14:00:53 -0800
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From: Robyn King-Nitschke <rking@REDBRICK.COM>
Subject: Re: WORK: (Fwd) Comments on "The Mystery"

Hi all,

I have a question after reading John's comments on Kaas' story:

John lists a whole bunch of "said-bookisms," one right after the other.

Now, I can see how these would (and do, in many stories) get annoying if overused. But my question is: are you not supposed to use them at all, or just not overuse them or use them in such a manner that they get in the way and become annoying?

For example, I see a big difference between, say,

"Sorry," Mary whispered.

and

"Unhand him!" Joe ejaculated hotly.

I have read through some of my stories after encountering this rule, and while I admit that I now see that I have overused them to some extent (more in the manner of the first example above--I mostly grew out of the second example somewhere in my teens :)), I submit that "said, said, said" can get pretty boring after awhile. Whenever possible, I try to have the character do something rather than use a "said-bookism," like:

"Sorry." Mary looked away.

But then, how are we supposed to know she's whispering? Would it be better to say:

"Sorry." Mary looked away, her voice barely audible.

Also, on the subject of the burly detective, I likewise don't see why an occasional "the channel" or "the Sime" or "the Gen" might not be a cardinal sin. Again, I see a big difference between

"Okay, let's try it," the Sime said, his laterals quivering.

and

"Okay, let's try it," said the willowy, red-headed channel.

See what I'm saying? Is it a manner of degree and restraint, or is it a hard-and-fast rule? I can't recall seeing very many works of fiction, good or bad, that don't employ these devices to some degree--I'll even wager (though I don't have them with me at the moment) that I would find some of them in Jacqueline's and Jean's work.

Thanks for the clarification,

--Robyn (I'm working on my story--I am looking forward (seriously) to having it picked apart by professionals! :) )


Subj: WORK: "The Mystery"
Date: 97-03-06 22:39:34 EST
From: jean1@JUNO.COM (Jean Lorrah)
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Jim hit the weaknesses of this piece on the nose, though he left the most serious problem for last. I would put it first: the story is not only not S~G, it's not even SF. It could center on the missing _anything_ that is supposed to be sold or pawned to pay the rent.

The next most important flaw is that hung hero--the circular structure that brings him right back where he started, no lessons learned.

Let's look at something else, though: this is a comedy. Didn't anyone else notice? It's funny. Maybe the humor is a bit clumsy at times (Jogn Smiht?), but overall it's meant to make us laugh. And in comedy--especially the kind of situation comedy which, whether we consider it good or not, entertains millions of people every evening on TV--coming full circle and ending up where you began is a standard plot. Heroes of the most popular comedies are perpetual losers just like Jogn.

Unfortunately, that also does not fit into the S~G universe, whose message is hope and achievement against all odds. S~G is not post-modern or ironic. Hence the story rings false when set in this universe.

Given that the story is comic, I don't mind the Tom Swifties and other bits of humor at all--I assume that they are a reflection of Jogn's extremely mundane point of view. But my suggestion would be to transform the story into a mundane universe. When you do that, Kaas, I think you will see its weaknesses more clearly.

Good luck! Jean


Subj: Work: "Mystery" Comments
Date: 97-03-07 01:29:54 EST
From: ronnieb@ONRAMP.NET (Ronnie Bob Whitaker)
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Thursday, 6 March 1997, Dear Kaas, It was far too late on Tuesday when I received your short story to read it, so I didn't get to read it until Wednesday Night and then I always like to "sleep" on a story to see if my subconscious has anything to "say" about the story. Thus my response and comments were delayed until today.

In keeping with the spirit of "nonprofessional" critics, I will give the good qualities first. (Professional critics don't bother with "social" niceties, but they have far less time to do their jobs than I do.)

I found that a lot of the subjects brought up in this story caused me to think about lots of different aspects of the SimeGen Universe I've never really considered before. That HAS to be good. Examples, Sime and Gen police working together to solve problems with crime in any city. The aspect of being paid for "donating" as the ONLY source of income, which would essentially be very similar to the way many people view welfare today, gen ghettos of various "classes" in different parts of the city, the expectation of someone who is essentially little more than a vagrant thinking the police would beable to "do something" within a timeframe that might be helpful, and a Sime or Channel posing as a prostitute to get unprogrammed and unaccounted for selyn.

I don't see any reason why any of the above situations might be accounted for in various ways at particular times within the SimeGen Universe, and thinking about them certainly pleased my fantasy chords.

Now to the real "grit" of the matter:

I really can't see that this writing is a story, yet. It feels to me more like a "day in the life" kind of writing which might fit perfectly well into a personal diary which might at some future time have meaning to the person who experienced these incidents.

Jogn starts the day and finds he has a mystery of "lost" selyn and because of that is on the brink of financial ruin, and the story ends with Jogn having DONE nothing, BEEN nothing, FELT little, and CHANGED even less, so has in effect LEARNED nothing. Good "day in the life" kind of writing, not very good SF/F short story material. (Or even mystery for that matter.)

The mystery actually changes from "lost" selyn to "lost" time and is then cleared up by some drinking buddies with no real effort or searching or agonizing or detective work by either Jogn or the police. Thus the "mystery" is solved by outside characters with no clues given to the readers that would allow them to figure it out for themselves. Thus it is not a mystery story at all.

(At this point, I have to admit that I was trying to figure out how some unscrupulous Sime or Channel was able to "slip" away with Jogn's selyn on public transport, even using alternate "fifth" points of contact. But when the mystery changed to "lost" time, I could easily see how the selyn was "lost" to a channel who was also a hypnotist or a mesmerist who could cover some of the tracks, but also by then, I was not quite as interested in the "mystery" at all, since I hadn't really gotten to know Jogn by then.)

I also felt somewhat cheated because later Jogn blamed the Sime Center for forcing his donation to be on the 1st of the month, yet when he went into the Center on the 2nd of the month, they didn't say anything at all to him about his tardiness. Then when Jogn went to the police station to report the "theft" of his selyn, he certainly had to fill out some forms and surely some of them would include the date which would have been verified and/or questioned by the officer reviewing the forms so he could learn at least by then he had really lost a day. So I felt a bit cheated later to find that was what happened and yet Jogn didn't know earlier.

The crime at first was described as "pickpocketed" which immediately sends one to thinking of a wallet or valuable material in a pocket being stolen, but selyn is inherent within the Gen himself, and so the crime should more accurately be described as robbed, or mugged, or burglarized, or something along those lines. I just can't see a Gen carrying selyn around in a pocket.

Somehow, it also seems to me that the Sime Center would be more interested in knowing about the "theft" of selyn than the police. If the channel at the center were more interested in what seemed to be a contradiction of a low field gen coming in to give selyn, he might be tempted to investigate further rather than just turn him away with nothing else said. After all, there might be a renegade Sime or a dishonest Channel at work that this Gen had been victimized by. Especially if this Gen had been a regular donor for quite some time as it appears from the story. Of course, the channel could have been just overworked and passed it by.

The fact that Jogn was totally dependent on his selyn donation for his livelihood, while not an impossible feat, doesn't really allow the character to connect with me. No work ethic, no work, getting paid for nothing, Gen Welfare, lazy bum, good-for-nothing, all enter my mind, but hero (even reluctant hero) haven't hit me yet, so I'm already beginning to lose interest in Jogn's problems at this point.

Green paint! Yuck! I immediately went back to many experiences with Army Olive Drab to light pea green which seemed to be the only color available for painting the insides of Army buildings. Yet the talk of "accidental" kills has to be the overworked imagination of a modern Tecton Gen or the rumored fears of one at the beginnings of Unity. (However, selyn-holo on an ID card speaks of a very advanced state of the art.)

The police comment about "legitimate" channels being overworked and possibly making a mistake leaves the door open for "illegitimate" channels and if that were a possibility, it seems the Sime Officer would press Jogn to see if he remembered being approached by one of these "crooks" as another method Jogn could be without selyn.

I wonder how what appeal Jogn has that allows him to live with a different girlfriend every month and what character flaws grates so strongly that they kick him out every month. (And it can't just be for the money, because he does NORMALLY get a regular dose of that) Plus, if he has a different roommate for each month, why is he suddenly surprised when this one kicks him out too? (Snide comment, perhaps it is because he never bothered to learn the name of his "roommate" since he never bothered to tell us in his "diary.")

I couldn't quite figure out how a low-field gen could be charged with "disruption of the ambient."

Then a second gruelling session with the police station after hearing that his rent was due "yesterday" and he still hasn't connected with the fact that he has lost a day? Must have REALLY been mesmerized.

Somehow, I just don't get the mental picture that most hookers, hobos and juvenile delinquents feel that "someone like a cop" has any real sympathy for them. In fact, I feel that most would strongly disagree with that statement, and I doubt the Tecton changed that.

FINALLY, Officer Tetje confronts Jogn with the fact that all of the day's events have taken place on the 2nd and not the 1st and Jogn finally learns that he has lost a day as well as his selyn.

If Jogn COULD start the day over or even his life over again, what would he do? What would he do differently? I have no idea and that is probably because Jogn has no idea either.

Cheap beer and dark beer halls make for strange bedfellows, now we really discover that Jogn not only doesn't work, but that he spends most of the time in a bar with beer buddies. It's a little late in the story to learn that about the main character, but I guess that does take care of what Jogn does when he's not donating and sleeping with the latest girl of the month.

What? Now we find that Jogn is a rich man after all? Then he does too. (After all, he'd never had occasion to look in his money safekeeping place before, since he rode several trains, probably ate somewhere and didn't bother checking it before telling his girlfriend he didn't have any money. And the police didn't even bother with the normal search procedures since he really didn't get arrested and charged with a crime, just "written" up.

This sets my mind to wondering about the "underground" Channel posing as a prostitute. What did Jogn have that attracted him to her? (Besides his GN-3 level of selyn which couldn't possibly satisfy a Channel in need, as a matter of fact, the Channel would have had to take the donation into her secondary system and not her primary, so it couldn't be for her own use.) Where was the Companion assigned to the Channel if the Channel were in need? If the Tecton were so strick and the Channel had overaugmented, would it really be "worth" five times the going price to get replacement selyn to account for the discrepancy at the risk of being possibly discovered? Did she enjoy mesmerizing practice on Gens? Was she Post and needed additional sexual satisfaction and heard about Jogn's womanizing capabilities? Was she disgusted with the restrictions on Channels and wanted to try her own methods to improve the Selyn production, even if it was somewhat risky? At least here is a character in the story who really has a purpose, a goal, an effect and acts, and we never even get to meet her except through the expository lump from some Beer Buddies of Jogn's. This is the REAL mystery in this story to me. One which my fantasy mind spent hours dwelling on and thinking of and rejecting various scenarios, while expanding on others.

Unless the Modern Techton has really changed men a lot, I doubt that he would ever think of the place where he carries his money as a "purse." That's something that women use to hide everything but the kitchen sink in.

If he got paid "five times" the going rate and yet only had "three times" as much as he ever had, he must have managed to save some money during some of the other months when he was donating regularly, and thus wouldn't be "utterly" dependent on his donation for his entire life.

"Did I lose a day?" Here in the Bar? I thought he had already well established the fact that he had lost a day at the end of his last police visit? Why is he still wondering that now?

How could the Gen Beer Buddies know that Boteeka was a "rogue" channel? If they did, why didn't they report it to the authorities for their own appropriate rewards. How can admittedly dull Gens who cannot even feel their own selyn movement out of their own body tell the difference between a Channel and a renSime? Might not a real Sime prostitute tell a high field Gen that she was a channel to make that Gen more relaxed when she actually took direct transfer instead of a donation. (Most Gens with no fear would survive transfer with a normal Sime, but this is prohibited in the Tecton which makes that scenario a lot more likely than a Channel "posing" as a Sime prostitute. After all, a Sime might "need" a direct transfer and be willing to pay for it, but a Channel would only be after the sex, since a regular GN-3 couldn't satisfy her "need.") I also investigated that realm for a while.

If the Channel approached Jogn just before his donation and he takes a couple of beers to "mellow" out before donating, how could he be "pretty drunk" after all so early in the morning. Some good copy editor needs to make sure that all of these people's stories match the facts and don't confuse the reader with things that don't make sense. Of course, the author is the one who actually "lives" this story and is the only one who "really" knows what happens, but the technical inconsistencies should be eliminated.

I also can't figure out why a Distect channel would be trolling for loose Gens, and how a regularly donating Gen could be considered "loose" and then why that same channel would then try to cover her tracks by hypnotizing or mesmerizing the Gen or did Jogn do this to himself because he felt some kind of shame or disloyalty. (Nah? After all, he's living on his selyn anyway, how much lower could he go?)

Wouldn't the Sime Center be MOST interested in a GN-3 who showed no real potential for further training in the Tecton eyes suddenly after a month without donating show up as a GN-2? I don't think the Center records will be that messed up. This will certainly raise questions and accusations of contact with illegal sources. Might he just as well be banned from the center as "tainted" by the illegal Distect influence? Doesn't Jogn have a reason to fear that since it will mean he might have to stay in the poor house the rest of his life or (heaven forbid!) actually look for work?

Then Jogn loses his "riches" to an actual mugging. Easy come, easy go, I guess. By this time, we know without a doubt that Jogn is just floating away on the winds of fate and won't do very much more than "whine" to the police for any injustice he feels. If he is just now realizing that his life is out of control, where has his brain been living the last few years with a different roommate every month and living from month to month on a selyn stipend? And (like man) he had everything under control THEN?

Doesn't sound to me as if Tetje really believes that Boteeka was a rogue channel either or his "Really?" would have been more believable. Perhaps he had a reason to allow the gen this belief since he knows how Sime prostitutes operate and if Gens start getting afraid, there will be a lot more "accidental" deaths than those prutid green halls would account for.

I have trouble with the use of "poorhouse" as well, since to me that indicates a place of more permanent dwelling that people drive themselves into, particularly if they try to keep up with the Joneses which a Smiht might be tempted to do. More temporary locations for temporary residents down on their luck might be like the current "Y", homeless shelters, halfway houses, help centers, etc.

And why would things actually be better for Jogn if he was earning GN-2. Could he then possibly support vagrant girlfriends of the month in his own flat? So far as I know from this story, the only goals in life Jogn has are 1) to donate monthly to get his money to support him, 2) enjoy sexual liaison with a female roommate for a duration not to exceed one month, and 3) drink beer regularly. With more money, what will he add to make his life more pleasant?

I am not a professional writer and I do not pretend to be. I am not a professional editor and I do not pretend to be.

As an avid reader of sf/f for many years, I know what I like and what I don't and have seen a wide variety of writing styles within the field. It always "looks" a lot easier to do than it is, but practice and guidance will help.

When you expose your soft underbelly to the vicious claws of critics, then you can feel lucky that you survived the gutting. I feel that each author thinks of their own work as a personal effort (or their baby) and the natural instincts is to defend the work against all of those vicious attacks by uncaring critics. Please try to understand that the comments are not meant as an attack on you personally, but as an honest evaluation of what I read. (Realizing that each reader also reads a different story.) I'm sure that the critiques that you receive from people like Jim Macdonald and Jacqueline Lictenberg or even Anne Pinzow will be a lot better to change your story into one which would be commercially viable, while my comments can only tell you what I think is missing based on my own experience of reading other stories which have been released commercially. I did enjoy the story, but not for the reasons I should have (only for the possibilities it opened up for me to look at various areas of the SimeGen universe from a different perspective) but I wouldn't recommend this story in its current form to a reader as something which would help them understand the SG universe better. As a matter of fact, as it stands now, there is nothing particular about this story which requires it be set in the SG universe, it could be just another day in the life of just another unlucky soul from Greece to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

Having Fun in the Sime~Gen Universe, Ronnie Bob


Date: Fri, 7 Mar 1997 04:18:57 -0500

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From: Kaas Baichtal <KBaichtal@AOL.COM>
Subject: WORK: "The Mystery" intentions

"The Mystery" was originally part of a collection of Sime~Gen folklore I have been working on. These stories are a mixture of B'rer Rabbit type stuff and some outrageously improbably tall tales. They are all extremely short, 1-2 pages max. I pulled "The Mystery" out of the collection because it begged for embellishment, and had potential of a different sort as well.

I had two intentions in writing it as it stands. 1) I wanted to tell the silly story on its surface, and 2) on a more serious level, I wanted to acknowledge and transmit a gut feeling for an underclass that is only hinted at in the S~G stories I've read.

What I wanted was to retain the cartoonish outrageousness and fast pace of the tall tales, but to present a good enough picture of the class of folks Jogn Smiht belongs to, to provoke thought.

So I guess if you take the more complimentary parts of what Jean and Ronnie Bob said, that would be what I was aiming for.

Whether I succeeded is an entirely different issue. Since only one person fingered each intention, it would seem I was relatively unsuccessful.

--Kaas


Date: Fri, 7 Mar 1997 06:56:03 EST
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From: Jean Lorrah <jean1@JUNO.COM>
Subject: Re: WORK: (Fwd) Comments on "The Mystery"

Robyn writes about "bookisms,"

"I'll even wager (though I don't have them with me at the moment) that I would find some of them in Jacqueline's and Jean's work."

I have real problems with this prohibition. I have never seen any problem with "Mary whispered," and personally find "Mary looked away, her voice barely audible" to say something else entirely. If all I mean is that she whispered, I resent it when an editor insists on another repetition of "said," or else forces me to make a big deal out of what ought to be only a soft voice.

I also think it is ridiculous not to be allowed to substitute "responded" for "replied" once in a while, as we are not allowed to use adverbs or any synonym for "said" other than "replied" or "answered." Where did this nonsense come from?

This prohibition is an example of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Because some writers overused adverbs and grabbed a thesaurus to find 200 different says to say "said," now _all_ authors are prohibited from _ever_ using an adverb to describe how something was said, or using any term for "said" other than "replied" or "answered."

The result? Ridiculous descriptions of body language and facial expressions in order to convey the necessary information. Editors would do much better to allow characters to shout, whisper, speak softly, or even sob--not all the time, but when they are _actually doing those things_. But as things stand, the author is not allowed to inform the reader of it except in circumlocutions.

Sorry--I don't write, "'What an interesting curved doorway,' Tom said archly," and I get sick of editors acting as if that's what I were doing if I write, "'Look out!' Tom shouted."

Jean


Date: Fri, 7 Mar 1997 09:54:08 -0500
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From: M Petrino <NineTiger@AOL.COM>
Subject: Re: WORK: "The Mystery" intentions

Kaas you were successful. You made people think. The rest is wallpaper :)

M.G. Petrino


Date: Fri, 7 Mar 1997 09:54:03 -0500
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From: M Petrino <NineTiger@AOL.COM>
Subject: Re: WORK: "The Mystery"

I think the hero of "The Mystery" did at least consider that he needed to get a life.

M.G. Petrino


Subj: Re: WORK: Comments on "The Mystery"
Date: 97-03-07 11:33:18 EST From: jmacdon4@moose.ncia.net (James D. Macdonald)
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For a classic example of a story about a lazy ne'er-do-well who has some missing time from his life, and never does get an honest job, you don't need to look farther than Rip Van Winkle.

"Rip" is very short and, if you want to get all taxonomic, isn't really a story at all. It's a "sketch," which more-or-less means that the author's narration is the chief point of interest -- how the story is told, rather than what happens, is the important part.

A sketch will generally have very little, if any, direct dialog, substituting long descriptive passages in their place. The main character, the speaking character, will in fact be the author -- in the case of "Rip Van Winkle," that's Dietrich Knickerbocker, a fictional creation of Washington Irving. The Knickerbocker persona is a pompous, but sympathetic, Dutch historian; an old man with an interest in the legends of the Hudson valley.

As an exercise, you might try re-typing "Rip Van Winkle" to get into your fingers how Irving put the sketch together, right on a word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence level. Like I said, "Rip" is short, and it shouldn't take long to do.

> Now, I can see how these would (and do, in many stories) get
> annoying if overused. But my question is: are you not supposed
> to use them at all, or just not overuse them or use them in
> such a manner that they get in the way and become annoying?
>
> For example, I see a big difference between, say,
>
> "Sorry," Mary whispered.
>
> and
>
> "Unhand him!" Joe ejaculated hotly.

I use 'em all the time myself. The trick is to avoid overusing them. If you find that you're using 'said' only once in a page of dialog, you're probably over-using said-bookisms. If you find 'whispered' only once on a page of dialog, when it's necessary to the plot that the line be whispered, then you probably aren't.

The Tom Swifties can be meant humorously like the classic jokes: "My headache is gone," said Tom absentmindedly. "Cut that out!" said Tom sharply. "I love hotdogs," Tom said with relish.

What you want to avoid are the Tom Swifties of the early Tom Swift novels (and a lot of other published books, I admit), which called attention to _how_ a thing was said rather than _what_ was said. How a thing is said should come mostly from the scene, the line itself, and what we know of the characters who are delivering the lines. If we know that the boss, Joe, is a blustering, angry person, that he hates Angelica but doesn't dare fire her because she's the only one who understands the accounting system, and he's just found that Angelica hasn't made coffee in the office. It's the end of a tense day, and Joe is worried that he's lost (through his own fault) a major account. He's a big guy, muscular once (played college football) but he's let himself go and has a pretty good belly on him now.

We don't need an adverb to tell us how to read:

"Get out of here and find something you can do right," Joe said.

Best, Jim


Date: Fri, 7 Mar 1997 08:46:11 -0800
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From: Robyn King-Nitschke <rking@REDBRICK.COM>
Subject: Re: WORK: (Fwd) Comments on "The Mystery"

Jean writes:

<a lot of good stuff about the silliness of a total prohibition on anything but "said">

Thank you, Jean! This is exactly the point I was trying to make, and hearing it from you really makes me feel better. :)

I mean, after all, why are there all these cool words in the language if we can't use them? :)

--Robyn


Date: Fri, 7 Mar 1997 11:20:30 -1758
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From: Leigh Kimmel <kimmel@SIU.EDU>
Subject: Re: WORK: (Fwd) Comments on "The Mystery"

>This prohibition is an example of throwing the baby out with the
>bathwater. Because some writers overused adverbs and grabbed a thesaurus
>to find 200 different says to say "said," now _all_ authors are
>prohibited from _ever_ using an adverb to describe how something was
>said, or using any term for "said" other than "replied" or "answered."
>

Unfortunately this is a very common human reaction -- to issue a blanket prohibition because it's easier that way and takes less thinking to apply. I've seen dozens of times where someone did something stupid and the response was to take away everything (someone's abusing welfare -- let's dismantle the whole social safety net) instead of trying to figure out how to distinguish between proper and abusive use. And the general attitude seems to be "that person spoiled it for everyone, and it is perfectly normal and reasonable for the authorities to respond with a blanket prohibition."

Leigh Kimmel


Subj: Re: Work: "Mystery" Comments
Date: 97-03-07 14:05:33 EST
From: kimmel@SIU.EDU (Leigh Kimmel)
Sender: SIMEGEN-L@SIU.EDU (SIMEGEN-L Discussion List)
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To: SIMEGEN-L@SIU.EDU (Multiple recipients of list SIMEGEN-L)

>The fact that Jogn was totally dependent on his selyn donation for his
>livelihood, while not an impossible feat, doesn't really allow the character
>to connect with me. No work ethic, no work, getting paid for nothing, Gen
>Welfare, lazy bum, good-for-nothing, all enter my mind, but hero (even
>reluctant hero) haven't hit me yet, so I'm already beginning to lose
>interest in Jogn's problems at this point.

I found it interesting that you seem to regard the money someone receives for a monthly selyn donation as being the moral equivalent of a welfare payment. Unlike the welfare recipient who just receives a handout for nothing, he is exchanging something useful (and even _vital_) that he produced for that money. Of course his body does produce the selyn automatically, without any effort, sacrifice or discipline on his part.

I suspect that there's a connection with the "what is valid work that makes one a contributing member of society?" thread.

Leigh Kimmel


Subj: Re: Work: "Mystery" Comments
Date: 97-03-07 20:35:10 EST
From: ronnieb@ONRAMP.NET (Ronnie Bob Whitaker)
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To: SIMEGEN-L@SIU.EDU (Multiple recipients of list SIMEGEN-L)

Friday, 7 March 1997,

RBW Original Comments:

>>The fact that Jogn was totally dependent on his selyn donation for his
>>livelihood, while not an impossible feat, doesn't really allow the character
>>to connect with me. No work ethic, no work, getting paid for nothing, Gen
>>Welfare, lazy bum, good-for-nothing, all enter my mind, but hero (even
>>reluctant hero) haven't hit me yet, so I'm already beginning to lose
>>interest in Jogn's problems at this point. >>

Leigh Comments:

>I found it interesting that you seem to regard the money someone receives
>for a monthly selyn donation as being the moral equivalent of a welfare
>payment. Unlike the welfare recipient who just receives a handout for
>nothing, he is exchanging something useful (and even _vital_) that he
>produced for that money. Of course his body does produce the selyn
>automatically, without any effort, sacrifice or discipline on his part.
>
>I suspect that there's a connection with the "what is valid work that makes
>one a contributing member of society?" thread.

RBW Additional Response: While I do agree that the selyn is a vital part of the functioning of the Sime~Gen Universe to the health of the Tecton System, even Jogn noted that he didn't "feel" the selyn flow and couldn't tell whether he actually had any or not, he was totally dependent on the senses of Simes to presence of this "vital" element needed by Simes, but produced by Gens with no effort on their own part and no knowledge of whether they even have it or have contributed it for the most part. (Companions and higher level donors are excluded from this broad brush.) Since this is the way JL set it up, this is the way the S~G Universe is. What if there were one chance in a thousand that no matter how careful you were or how careful the channel was, something would happen to cause the Gen to die or be seriously injured? What if it were one in a hundred? One in Ten? This would lend danger to the prospect and provide a completely different aspect to the Gens who chose to be general donors for the money in spite of the risks. I actually picture the concept of getting money for selyn to be very similar to getting money for blood donations. In each case, the substance is vitally needed by others and the body as a normal function will reproduce the depleted element. (Another example which places S~G close to the vampire type of story.) With blood donation, there is a small amount of discomfort and it is readily visible that you are indeed losing something which is a part of your body and it will require a bit of care to recover from that donation so that you don't faint from overexertion too soon. With selyn donation, there isn't even any hint at all that you as a general gen donor are contributing anything at all from your own body, and certainly no indication when it is more or less and no effort is needed to recover. So from the donor perspective it is almost like getting "something" for "nothing." In fact, as far as the gen is concerned, the Tecton could really be making up everything as one big conspiracy and actually taking far more from each donor than they tell and the gen donors would never know. It is difficult in our own society to actually live off of blood donation, but might not be if it were required that all donors receive the same payment for the quantity and quality of the blood they donated with required time frames between donations, but that would increase the costs of our own medical system which is already overpriced. So we have volunteer blood donors and any one can receive the benefit of this blood. In the Tecton system, only Simes can receive the benefit of the Selyn and thus it is only fair that the Gens be paid a fair value for their "contribution." So while I could have compared donation effort, which takes very little time, to giving blood for money, it seemed closer in this particular concept to welfare, social security, or unemployment insurance, since Jogn depended on that and that alone for his means of living. While there are always those who manage to "live" on the efforts of others while seeming to contribute nothing on their own part, ranging from playboy millionaires who inherited their wealth and jet around the world to eat a lunch, down to the homeless individual depending on the generosity of passers-by who drop coins in their outheld cups; the ones on the lower end of the spectrum generally have to spend long hours in even scraping together enough money to live. (Sometimes more effort than a person with a full time job. Sometimes it is their choice, sometimes not.) Before the latest welfare reforms, welfare recipients made little more effort than picking up their monthly check to actually receive that portion of their income, which in many cases is their sole income. Also, unfortunately, some elderly citizens depend entirely on and have as their sole income, their social security. Unemployment insurance (that's what Texas calls it anyway) is only a temporary stop gap for use by people who are between jobs to keep them from being completely devastated and out of shelter and food. Thus I connected Jogn's regular donation more closely with them than with actually "doing something" to provide the money he received. In alternate universes where there might be danger or chances involved or slight pain or something else, then other comparisons might be more valid. And certainly the S~G universe (which at first seems to be heavily weighted in favor of the Simes, turns out in reality to be heavily weighted in favor of the Gens, but the Channels have managed to hide this through the Modern Tecton era long enough for them to find their real talent in navigating through the hyper-ways in space travel) tends to show that gens "make no effort" to produce this vital substance needed by simes.

My major comment about Jogn's situation was that he depended entirely on his selyn donation for his sole source of income. To me that puts him very much in the same situation as a welfare recipient or Social Security recipient and should one of the checks get fouled up by the bureaucracy, then they are in dire straits.

As to the connection with the "what is valid work that makes one a contributing member of society?" thread. Perhaps so, but I seriously doubt that Jogn even thinks of himself as a "contributing" member of society. It's not like he is using his donations to supplement his income until he can become an established artist, or using them to further his education to get a better job. He's just existing in a comfortable rut (many with a job do this as well, so that's not intended as a disparaging remark) of beer, girlfriend of the month, and donation. While he might be perfectly satisfied with this lifestyle, it is hard for me to identify with that type of satisfaction (perhaps because I was bombarded with the work effort and was drafted into the Army and sent into a war zone where I had to learn to survive through efforts I and others would make). That doesn't necessarilly make it wrong, just hard for me to identify with.

I especially want more out of a "hero." So it is even harder for me to think of Jogn as a "hero." (Which might not have been the intention anyway.)

When Kaas further related that it was intended as "stories" like the tall tales from Brer Rabbit, etc. And Jean identified the story as a half hour TV situation comedy firmly written with tongue in cheek, then I realized exactly how few of those I actually watch. (3rd Rock and Homeboys from Outer Space are the only ones I record to watch later.) I can "sort of" see how the episode might fit that category, but Jogn still feels more like a supporting actor in the story and not the main character. Guess I just expect too much. After all, Brer Rabbit successfully conned himself out of a bad situation by talking his captor into throwing him back into the briar patch.

So while I did get a feel for thinking about situations within the S~G universe which might be more "underground" than mainstream, and enjoyed the playing around I did with them, the "story" just seemed to have too many contradictions, loose threads, and lack of point. (I still haven't figured out the point that was intended.) Even the tall tales usually wound up with some kind of moral application that the story teller was trying to "teach" the audience. "Kiss a frog and you might get a prince," "Your prince will find you if you just leave a glass slipper at the ball," or "Don't trade your cow for magic beans unless you feel like tangling with a giant."

Having Fun in the Sime~Gen Universe, Ronnie Bob


Subj: Re: WORK: "The Mystery"
Date: 97-03-07 14:45:06 EST
From: MLCVamp@AOL.COM (Margaret Carter)
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Although, having read the criticisms of other readers, I have to agree about
most of the flaws of this story, I didn't notice them during my quick
read-through. I was carried along by the humor, which I found lively and
appealing.

BTW, I like the attempt to portray the "underclass" of Sime-Gen culture. The
novels set in the period after Unity give the impression that, while plenty
of agonizing social and emotional problems afflict the characters, materially
they are living in a sort of Utopia. It is more believable that "the poor we
always have with us," or at least will continue to have them for the
foreseeable future (along with common criminals and smooth con artists -- I'd
really love to read about Oliver Teague sometime -- couldn't one of his
stories be posted to the web?).

Margaret


Date: Sun, 9 Mar 1997 16:21:46 -0500
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From: Jacqueline Lichtenberg <zeor@UCS.NET>
Subject: WORK:posting stories to the list

-- [ From: Jacqueline Lichtenberg * EMC.Ver #3.0 ] --

WorkListers:

I want to thank Kaas for her apology on the error of posting the story instead of emailing it privately. Kaas you are more than forgiven - you've entertained everyone and that's worth something!

I have another reason for experimenting with the don't-post-stories-to-the- whole-WORKlist rule. And that rule is just an experiment - this List is new and we're searching for workable rules, not imposing them.

I just heard of a problem on another email writers' workshop.

Some workshoppers on a Listserve MIGHT be minors - they could be lurking - or signed on and off in a jiffy and we'd never know they were there - or they might sign on and download the archive.

Think about that - your story if you post it through the Listserve computer is archived and available to anyone who can send email!

Now, what you and I might not blink an eye over some MOTHER somewhere might see her ten year old reading and FREAK.

We can't guarantee the age of anyone who's emailing on here just by emailing with them - but if the person thinks and sounds like an adult, I think it's reasonable to suppose they are.

There is a lot in the S~G Universe that we want to explore that's not for children. Most of what's on the websites is pretty tame stuff and would bore a ten-year-old before they got to the "good stuff" - but those are websites, and that's different from a writing workshop. Recipients of an email List are passive. Website browsers are active.

Jean and I are adamantly opposed to censorship in any form for any reason. (and we both have a bit of impatience with parents who expect other people to do their parenting for them by censoring what their children have access to). However, S~G is adult material (despite the fact that 12 and 14 year olds seem to fall into this fandom and love these novels.)

One of the reasons I think S~G has been hampered in its development in the commercial marketplace is that it started as a Doubleday series - and that had to be squeaky clean for mid-America Highschool Library subscriptions. Dbdy sold their books on 1 year subscriptions to libraries and so all the books in the Dbdy sf line had to be UNIFORM. Conforming to that hacked huge swaths of the essential background of S~G out of those novels and focused on the "topside" of the post-unity society - never really exploring the underbelly of it as Kaas and some others here want to do.

To me, it's a UNIVERSE and has all these sides and more.

I want our authors free to write like adults for adults - but I see no reason to throw this material in the face of minors whose parents might not consider them ready for it. And even without sex, some of it is very potent stuff.

That may NOT be a consideration we're legally required to observe, but I don't see any reason to be insensitive about it.

If the workshoppers can make progress on their writing without posting the stories via the Listserve computer, then so much the better.

But note how much bandwidth has been taken up with comments on specific characters and elements specific to this story - instead of the principles of writing. People who know the principles have been applying them to the story and coming to conclusions - which they post to the WORK topic. That's not the kind of commentary I want to see on this Workshop (you can get that anywhere - and I was trying for something a little different.)

What happens when you're presented with a specific story is that you look at it as a problem to be solved. You solve it - and post your solution - like answering essay questions on tests. But your solution is, it seems to me, of no practical value to any other author. The only thing of interest is the process by which you came to that solution. The new writer doesn't want to know your solution - they want to solve problems themselves. Getting the right answer isn't want workshopping stories is about - at least not for me.

For the most part, if you don't know how you arrived at that conclusion, your comments won't be useful to the author - won't do anything to UNLOCK their personal ART.

Another reason I wanted to try the not-to-the-list policy for a while was that I noticed how many of our workshoppers didn't seem able to factor a given story into things specific to that story that make it different from all other stories - and things that are general to all stories and make this story LIKE other stories.

I wanted to focus tightly on the GENERAL for a while before going back to the specific - to help people develop an eye for these layers within a story's structure. That "eye" is essential to explaining how you arrive at your solutions to the problem of the story being workshopped. It's also essential to learning to do for your own stories what the workshoppers are doing for you. When you've got a contract to fulfill you don't have time to write a story "wrong" - workshop it - collect opinions - and fiddle around - and rewrite it. Learning this "eye" trick is what lets you go directly to semi-final draft and no fumbles.

Once I'm sure we've achieved that "eye" trick, then we can start working on applying the general principles to specific stories and see if the commentary comes out "showing your work" - as in writing out all the steps in the solution to an algebra problem. I think it's possible to learn a level of commentary that's more helpful to a writer than we've seen in connection with Kaas's story. Maybe I'm wrong about that - but I think it's worth a try. What have we got to lose?

Is there anyone on here who agrees about that?

Live Long and Prosper,

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


Date: Wed, 12 Mar 1997 01:33:58 -0500
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From: Kaas Baichtal <KBaichtal@AOL.COM>
Subject: WORK: "The Mystery"

Thank you to everybody who took the time to comment on "The Mystery". It was very educational. I will be sure to take everything that was said into consideration, should I make another attempt at writing.

--Kaas


Subj: Re: "The Mystery"
Date: 97-03-27 17:00:46 EST
From: 102763.1453@compuserve.com (Joanne Schechter)
To: KBaichtal@aol.com (INTERNET:KBaichtal@aol.com)

Thank you, Kaas....

I found the story most entertaining!

Peace, Joanne


Date: Thu, 27 Mar 1997 07:47:17 -0800
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From: Mary Mendum <mlmendum@UCDAVIS.EDU>
Subject: belated comments on THE MYSTERY
In-Reply-To: <199703252028.PAA21641@j51.com>

Folks,

I've been spending the last two weeks or so househunting in Santa Rosa, which is just behind Manhattan and San Francisco as one of the most expensive places to live in the country. I got the best apartment available in my price range, but that wasn't enough to get me out of the "student slums" around the Santa Rosa Junior College.

I could have done much better with a few hundred more per month--about the amount even a casual general class donor would make.

Which is where Kaas's short piece about the eternally confused donor comes in. I've been rereading the comments on it as I sort my email for permanant storage, and it looks like Jean was the only person who really caught on to what Kaas was doing. (At least I think it was Jean's post--I haven't quite finished my morning caffine.)

Jogn's drawback as a "real" character in a full-length short story (if you'll forgive the term) is that he's an eternal loser who doesn't grow, change, or learn anything in the course of the sketch. As person after person pointed out, he ends the story exactly where he began it, pennyless and living from donation to donation on hope, beer, and the generosity of the girlfriend of the month.

Not good, if you want to build a real plot around him--but perfect for a comic sketch. Comedy deals with stock characters who are instantly recognizable to the audience, and thus require no development "on stage". Think of Punch and Judy shows, or the stereotypes embodied in the beautiful blonde bimbo and the cynical, wisecracking detective.

The objections to Kaas's characterization of Jogn seem to have happened because no one recognized him as a stock character in the S/G universe. However, he's an eminantly believable one, particularly in the generations shortly after Unity, when some junct attitudes survived in only slightly altered forms.

Jogn is a Sime stereotype, derived (like most stereotypes) from one group's desire to look down on someone else who seems threatening or superior.

The post-Unity Tecton was faced with an immediate, crushing Gen shortage. The Pen system had effectively collapsed in many areas, and the situation was only going to get worse as the semi-juncts claimed their one kill per year. Out-Territory Gens could take up some of the slack, but that left the potential for devastating local shortages when transportation failed.

Faced with this, most formerly junct communities (or at least the successful ones) would go to some lengths to provide incentives for their Gen children to remain in town as donors, instead of moving out-Territory. This would certainly extend to a high enough donation payment to make sure that each donor had food, shelter, and clothing.

Of course, those former juncts wouldn't be able to overcome their prejudices easily, and many would still act on the assumption that Gen are hardly more than animals. Gens who stayed would find their career prospects very limited, and would be hard pressed to make ends meet even with a generous donation payment.

However, the former juncts and their Sime children would only see that the Gens can survive without working, while they can't. That's threatening, and the human response to that sort of social threat is to "prove" that the other person isn't "really" superior because of some real or imagined flaw. That flaw then becomes the justification for discrimination--"The paper says one third of black men between the ages of 15 and 30 are in jail, and a huge percentage of the rest are unemployed. Therefore, all black men are bums and criminals, which absolves me of my responsiblity to seriously consider job applications from black men."

So Jogn would be a very popular stock character for post-Unity comics, instantly recognizable to any shiltpron parlor audience. Since the whole point of the character is that he's NEVER going to get his act together, is in fact incapable of doing so (and thus inferior), it becomes safe to laugh at him, even if he is able to live as well without a job as the junct field hand can with one.

Hope this hasn't rambled itself into incomprehensibility.

Mary Lou


Subj: Work: THE MYSTERY
Date: 97-03-27 17:15:13 EST
From: a21711f@MSUMUSIK.MURSUKY.EDU (Jean Lorrah)
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Reply-to: SIMEGEN-L@SIU.EDU (SIMEGEN-L Discussion List)
To: SIMEGEN-L@SIU.EDU (Multiple recipients of list SIMEGEN-L)

Bravo Mary Lou! An excellent analysis of Jogn as a stock comic character.

Jean


Subj: Re: Work: THE MYSTERY
Date: 97-03-27 22:02:37 EST
From: MLCVamp@aol.com (Margaret Carter)
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Reply-to: SIMEGEN-L@SIU.EDU (SIMEGEN-L Discussion List)
To: SIMEGEN-L@SIU.EDU (Multiple recipients of list SIMEGEN-L)

I enjoyed Mary Lou's analysis of the story very much. I thought it worked well as a comedy myself, but I would never have been able to articulate WHY so clearly. And the serious subtext within it is esp. interesting.

Margaret


Subj: Re: belated comments on THE MYSTERY
Date: 97-03-28 13:18:18 EST
From: zeor@ucs.net (Jacqueline Lichtenberg)
To: mlmendum@ucdavis.edu (Mary Lou Mendum), KBaichtal@aol.com (KBaichtal@aol.com)
-- [ From: Jacqueline Lichtenberg * EMC.Ver #3.0 ] --

Mary Lou and Kaas - I think Mary Lou has nailed this one. Excellent insight .

For drama find the point in this character's life where this PATTERN OF BEHAVIOR changes - where his yearning for change meets with an opportunity for change that he/she siezes or runs from - that's the DRAMATIC STORY point . The dramatic story happens at the ONE SINGLE MOST CRUCIAL POINT OF CHANGE in a character's life. Each person born has one of those (if they live long enough). The thing about TV that ruins young folks' sense of "art" is that every week the same character(s) experience things that should change their lives - and don't.

Comedy happens during the long haul between changes where we just try to cope. See Lucille Ball.

Action happens where we chase our lives down the highway.

LL&P JL


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