Friday, October 29, 2010

Tangent Online Reviews IGMS #19

Full Article

Money shot:

I’m impressed with this publication.  I’ve reviewed several others, both print and online.  Many have left me feeling they’re mining a poor vein, one long since played out.  Perhaps their editors should buy subscriptions to Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, to see how it’s done.


--Scott M. Roberts

Assistant Ed to Ed

Monday, October 25, 2010

Right Before Your Very Eyes- Matthew Rotundo

Writing fiction is a kind of magic act. We employ our own kinds of linguistic sleight of hand to accomplish wonders on the page. right-before-your-very-eyes small Sometimes, though, vanishing an elephant seems like chump change compared to crafting a story. Case in point: "Right Before Your Very Eyes."

It started with my online writing group. We have an annual Halloween story contest, competing for fun and motivation. Each participant gives another a story seed. It can be an image, an idea, a character--just about anything, really. From this, you're supposed to write a story with some kind of Halloween element.

My story seed involved a magician who could perform real magic, and an assistant who was none too pleased about being actually sawn in half, etc.

Now, I confess that magic acts hold a certain fascination for me. Even so, inspiration for this story was a long time coming. The Illusionist and The Prestige had been in theaters recently, and I wasn't sure I could bring anything fresh to such well-trodden ground.

For whatever reason, I found myself interested in the magician's assistant. You know, of course, that they're usually young, beautiful, scantily clad women. Many people don't seem to realize, though, that there is a reason for this. Misdirection and distraction are, after all, the magician's stock in trade, and the lovely assistant draws the attention of at least half the audience.

It's a thankless job, when you think about it. Demeaning, even. An idea for a role reversal occurred to me: what if the assistant was the one pulling the strings? What if she was actually in charge of the act?

That was enough to get the ball rolling. I banged out the first 500 words . . . and ran into a brick wall.

I realized I didn't like those 500 words. I wasn't even sure I liked the story. It bored me, quite frankly. It felt less like a fun challenge and more like homework. I began to wonder if it was even worth pursuing.

Understand, this is very unlike me. I've had doubts about stories I've written, of course--but once I start something, I usually finish it. So for me to get 500 words in and then think of abandoning it--something had to be seriously off-kilter.

It occurred to me that I had the wrong opening for the story. That wouldn't exactly be unprecedented. So I scrapped those 500 words and started over.

The going wasn't much easier the second time around. Although the opening was better, the middle section of the story was a bit murky to me--if by "murky," you mean "total mystery." Then I got an idea I simultaneously loved and balked at. It was outrageous. It was horrifying. It came out of nowhere. But it seemed to fit, so I went with it. I wound up with one of the most disturbing scenes I've ever written. It literally nauseated me. I can't remember ever having such a reaction to my own work before. I took that as a good sign.

I finished the story and submitted it to the contest. Lo and behold, it finished in third place, garnering much more praise than any of my previous entries. I'm convinced it was the shocker in act two that put the story over the top. Without it, I doubt the story would have been anywhere near as successful. (If you've read "Right Before Your Very Eyes," you know the scene I mean.)

But I wasn't done with it yet.

I sent it to Edmund. He wrote back, saying that he loved the piece . . . right up to the last few pages, which left him a little puzzled.

Naturally. I'd already struggled with the opening and the second act. Seemed only fitting that the ending needed some extra work, too. So I rewrote it again and shipped it back to Edmund. The result appears in issue 19 of Intergalactic Medicine Show.

Like magic, right?

Yeah. Not so much. "Right Before Your Very Eyes" kicked and screamed all the way through the process. Some stories are like that.

And now, for my next trick, watch me vanish this elephant . . .

--Matthew Rotundo

Monday, October 18, 2010

Deathsmith, by Pete Aldin

I’d like to claim that the idea for Deathsmith came to me after hours of reflecting on Jim Collins’ Hedgehog Concept. For those who don’t know (and who’ll trust my paraphrasing ability) the deathsmith small main point of said Concept is: the hedgehog has one thing he (or she) is really good at and sticks to – curling up into a ball and poking out his (or her) quills in defense. The wiley fox on the other hand goes from skill to skill, from strategy to strategy, but will never overcome the hedgehog’s one real trick. I’d like to say Deathsmith is about a guy who’s a one-trick-pony (or hedgehog) … and milks that one trick for all it’s worth.

I’d like to claim I always intended it to be a parable about the human longing for roots, for community, for loving and being loved with an open heart.

I’d like to claim it’s a story I intentionally crafted about a fellow who should’ve heeded the old adage: ‘Beware strangers bearing gifts’ … especially when those strangers are spirit beings, or young girls.

None of those things is true.

In actual fact, the story started with the title.

The word ‘Deathsmith’ popped into my head while I was daydreaming one day. I sat down the next day and wrote most of Draft 1 in a single sitting, then finished it the next. No outline. No idea of where it was headed until it was done. The dialog and plot materialized entirely out of the interplay between the characters and their emerging backstories.

Three drafts later, little had changed but for some polishing (notably the culling of an over-abundance of adverbs, such as ‘notably). I submitted to IGMS and to my delight got that positive response all writers long for … along with a healthy reality check from editor Edmund Schubert!

Edmund expertly pointed out the major flaw produced by my lack of outline writing, and pushed me to dig deeper. And I’m grateful. Extremely grateful. Deathsmith is a far better story for his input, as is my writing generally. (Damn, another adverb!).

Thanks for reading, and to all the crew at IGMS for the fabulous spec fiction venue they’ve created!

--Pete Aldin

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Schadenfreude, Michelle Scott

Franz Kafka’s short story A Hunger Artist has always fascinated schadenfreud small me. Back in college, when I read it for the first time, it was Kafka’s surreal depiction of a man in a cage who publicly starves himself to death that haunted me. Recently, however, when I assigned the same story to my own college students, I was struck by something that made the story evocative in an entirely new way. Re-reading this story as a middle-aged woman instead of a young coed, it occurred to me that the unnamed hunger artist, who was once heralded as a master of his art form, had outlived his phenomenon and was left with only two options: move on to something else or commit suicide.

In Schadenfreude, the main character, Chad, is a pain comic. Like Kakfa’s hero, his body is his tool and he uses it with great effect. But when the story opens, it is clear that Chad’s body is breaking down and his best days are probably behind him. He, of course, is desperate to make sure that doesn’t happen. After all, it’s a pain comic’s mantra that, “you’re only as good as your last show.”

But while Kafka’s hunger artist had to endure the ignominious ending of his career alone, I simply couldn’t be that cruel. Because of this, Connie Lingus made her entrance. Like other, real-world, redheaded comediennes such as Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett, Constance Gestler is a woman of passion and strength, and she comes out of retirement in order to rescue Chad and give him something to hang on to. Whether or not the aging comedians can compete with the raw appetites of a far younger audience remains to be seen, of course. But while two pain comedians may not be funnier than one, they are certainly not lonelier.

--Michelle Scott

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Express to Paris by Dragon First Class—Tom Crosshill

For a while before I wrote "Express to Paris by Dragon First Class", dragon small I'd wanted to try depicting an entire lifetime in a piece of flash fiction. This desire wasn't specific enough to generate a story, though. The particular structure I had in mind required a singular character with a singular desire that could carry over a lifetime, informing every stage of the character's life.

Such a character -- Jima -- finally came to me one evening while my flight taxied to the runway at LaGuardia. I'd been reading about pilots and their peculiar seniority rules, and I looked out the porthole and saw the pale shapes of jetliners slumbering in the gloom. I wondered immediately what it would be like if 737s had unions.

The step to dragons followed naturally. Better yet -- dragons working side by side with 737s, and forced aside by them eventually. I hoped this setup would not only have poignancy in and of itself, but would also resonate with readers who have spent any length of time working in our increasingly mechanized world.
In the end, though, I wrote this story because I fell in love with Jima and her dream. I'm still rooting for her.

--Tom Crosshil

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show - new issue live

The new issue is live and ready for your consumption, featuring all the goodies listed in our last blog entry.

"But wait!" cried the editor in his best traveling Medicine Show call-voice, "There's more."

All of the things I listed below are fairly typical of what you'd find in an issue of IGMS. To round out the celebration, we also have an extra audio story, Mary Robinette Kowal's reading of Tom Crosshill's flash story "Express To Paris by Dragon First Class." That audio is free to all, whether you have a subscription (yet) or not. And if you need a bigger sample of IGMS, we've also made the entirety of issue 11, our first issue under the current format, free until the end of the year. Issue 11 has an OSC story and audio-production, as well as Peter S. Beagle's "Vanishing" as the cover story and several other stories, one of which was an Honorable Mention in Gardner Dozois's latest Year's Best anthology, and another of which won the WSFA's 2009 award for Best Short Story of the Year. Lots of great stuff, free for everyone's reading pleasure.

So step right up and see the show. Invite a friend or two and we'll make a party of it.

Edmund R. Schubert
Editor, Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show