Tuesday, December 14, 2010

12 Days of the Ethereal Gazette Issue 12 - Day 3

“The Cure” by Carol Sullivan

The Table of Contents lists the author of this story as “Carl Sullivan”. You’d think that Nicky would take more care to make sure Carol’s name was spelled correctly since he seems to count her as a friend.

In this story, Jim and Ellen (no last name) have a daughter named Beth who suddenly collapses one day at home. She is rushed to the hospital, where Jim and Ellen are told that she has an aneurism “at a weak spot in an artery feeding blood to the brain”. A doctor gives them a choice: their souls for their daughter’s life. What will they decide?

Problems abound. There’s a difference between making stuff up and getting stuff wrong. This story gets stuff wrong. A ruptured aneurism in a major artery usually leads to death very quickly (a former co-worker of my sister’s recently died from such an aneurism). Later on, the doctor tries to guilt the parents by saying, “It could be that this darn artery blockage has been growing for some time.” Um, no. An aneurism isn’t caused by a blockage; it’s a weak spot in the wall of the blood vessel. If you’re going to write about medical stuff, you need to get it right.

Also, the time line in the story is screwy. In the beginning, we flash back to “the day before”, but when the flashback catches up to the beginning action, it is just later the same day.

There are also a lot of basic mechanical writing mistakes. Commas and semi-colons are used interchangeably. The author needs to learn what constitutes a proper dialogue tag; hint: these are not proper tags - laughed, smirked, whimpered, chuffed, and grinned. In addition, to improper tags, the author also goes out of the way to avoid using “said”, a classic amateur mistake, which leads to a melodramatic tone to all of the dialogue.

The story has the germ of a good idea. It is just poorly executed.

Grade: D+

“The Sacrifice” by Laura Via

In this story, a supernatural creature of some type – maybe water nymph or mermaid or some other creature that can breath water and air – comes to the aid of some trees in a forest by luring her best friend to his death. It has something to do with man destroying the trees and needing to be stopped, and the trees (I think?) requiring a “selfless” sacrifice to a weird “wind made flesh” shadow/snake. I’m not sure what was supposed to happen after the sacrifice; it was pretty confusing.

This story has the typical beginning writing flaws which I think I’ll just start abbreviating as punctuation issues (PI) and dialogue tag abuse (DTA). The POV in the beginning is a distant third person omniscient – the author is narrating the story – which isn’t necessarily bad, and it reads rather like literary fiction.  However, when the characters show up, this tone, this distance, continues. The reader never feels the immediacy of what is happening, so much of the impact is lost.

Grade: D

“The Midnight Diner” by Nicky Pacione

Oh good Lord, where to start? How about with the 4500 or so words of backstory at the beginning of this 11,000 word “opus”. I think Nicky considers this character development; I consider it an info dump.

The Reverend Lazarus Blackwood is a biker and bike shop owner who listens to heavy metal and can beat up someone “weighing two-hundred pounds and standing at five foot ten.” He has a ’67 Mustang with a cassette player (WTF?) and he likes to drive it really fast – 60 mph! – down the highway with the music cranked. His church is non-denominational. The congregation includes “bikers, metal heads, loners, recluses, truckers, punk rockers, and Gothic types.” They even do heavy metal versions of the hymns.

The Rev has “a young wife, Maria, who looked like a beautiful biker pin-up”. She “didn't look like the typical Ministers' wife – often wore black denim and leather, but never wore anything revealing as other bikers' ladies would”, and “when she walked into nightclubs and roadhouses, people thought she was a groupie for a local thrash metal act.” Then the wife’s name changes to Elizabeth and we find out she is a writer (!) who uses a typewriter (computer?) to write her stories.

So the Rev takes the money from the bike shop, buys this diner with a history of poltergeist activity, and remodels it. It gets the nickname The Midnight Diner. Unfortunately for business it was built “on a long desolate stretch of highway on the outskirts of Hanover Park, Illinois.” There’s some more history of the diner – blah, blah, blah – and finally at the end of this 4500 words, Laz hires a waiter.

The POV switches to the waiter and voila!, we have a semblance of a plot. Halfway through the story.

But first a little more backstory.

The waiter’s name is John Andrews. He started working at the diner when he was 16, and he’s now 29. Apparently, he makes so much money as a waiter at a diner in the middle of nowhere that it “allows [him] to invest in a second apartment building in Hanover Park, Illinois”. He is still living with his sister in one of the apartments in the building.

Now, plot!

So John is in the diner one night with the cook, some guy who turns water into wine (!), and a few Goth kids. A girl who works as a waitress at the diner comes in, even though it’s her night off, and plays a CD made by a heavy metal (of course) band that she knows. She’s not a very smart girl because she says it’s “a song about a siren, I don't know where they got their subject matter from.” Anyway, the song summons a bunch of centuries-old (!!) ghosts, who congregate outside the diner and kill the one kid who tries to leave.

OMG, what to do?

First there’s some ranting and raving. Oh no, the horror! Hand-wringing. More discussion.

Then John thinks to call Rev Laz. The Rev shows up and this first thing he does is take the CD out of the player. So the CD has been playing  THIS ENTIRE TIME. No one in the diner thought to press “stop”! Good grief, these characters are so stupid, they deserve to get killed by the ghosts.

The Rev goes back out and chants something in Aramaic. However, the “ancient spirits were not responsive to it.”  The Rev continues to chant.

Inside the cook is bitten by a poisonous snake but the venom doesn’t affect him. One of the Goth girls sees a “figure in a red Victorian gown and a severed head under her arm.” She freaks out!

And the story ends.

That’s it, folks. It ends there. We never find out if Rev Laz defeats the ghost, what’s up with the snake or who the figure in red is. 4500 words about the Rev, and he is on-screen for only a few sentences in the main part of the story. I almost wonder if Nicky made a huge mistake and forgot to paste the rest of the story into the PDF.

I suppose I don’t need to add that this story contains Nicky’s usual abuses of grammar, dialogue tags, and other rules of writing.

Grade: D- (it does have a plot; that’s all that saves it from an F).


Keth Cavanugh said...

I'm surprised that there was a plot for Nick's rubble.

Shocked, truly shocked.

Jenny said...

Yes, as stupid as it was, a plot did exist.

Nickolaus Pacione said...

Fuck off. Did you harass someone for a pdf copy of the magazine? I guess you really didn't want people owning it. Other people who read The Midnight Diner loved it. So I guess you like to plagiarize this one.

Jenny said...

Nicky, since I thought your story was crappy, why in the hell would I want to plagiarize it? You could never even *pay* me enough money to claim that pile of shite was my writing.

Lewis said...

Thanks, Crumpet, now we know exactly how many copies of issue 12 you've sold if the only way Jenny could have gotten a hold of one is to have been given a copy of the pdf version you give contributors.

The Kid said...

I think it's a little unfair that everyone is ganging up on Pacione. He published one of my stories once and he did give me a contributor's copy as promised. The thing that confuses me the most is that everyone on here seems pretty intelligent. I just feel that maybe some of us should be above badgering a misfortunate creature like Nicky. By the way Jenny, I really enjoy your reviews and think that they are very funny. When are you going to review the short stories in Ethereal Gazette #11?

Jenny said...

Hi, Kid. Now that Nano is finished, I'll get back to reading anthologies and posting reviews. I think I need to post the last five reviews for EG12 before I start into another anthology.