Friday, August 7, 2015

Ask Unca Mike


Science fiction and fantasy writers are a group are extraordinarily generous with advice to new writers. A moment's thought, however, reveals that this is just encouraging talented young people to occupy the publishing niches and win the awards that would otherwise go to to us Old Hands. Ask Unca Mike is an attempt to rectify this deplorable situation.

The following are Classic Unca Mike questions. Starting next Friday, I'll be answering new questions. Feel free to ask your own.

Book critic

garfieldgirlce1 writes: I ‘m 24 and finaly figured out what I want to do for the rest of my life. The thing is I haven’t the slightest idea how you become one. Do you know how someone becomes a book critic? That’s what I want to be. So any advice would be greatly apreciated. Thanx.

The usual method is to fail as a novelist.


Juaki Revuelta writes: Do you think revisions (I mean to brainly chew the ideas and style on and on and on...) really enhance the quality of a story? Wouldn't it be better to let the message as fresh as it was born?

Quite right. You don't imagine that any of the modern masters wasted their time on revisions do you? They just let it pour out of their heads. Take a look at the opening of Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants," for example:

The hills across the valley of Ebro were long and white. On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun. Close against the side of the station there was the warm shadow of the building and a curtain, made of strings of bamboo beads, hung across the open door into the bar, to keep out flies. Better pick up some bread and milk today. I think we're almost out of butter. The American and the girl with him sat at a table in the shade, outside the building. It was very hot and the express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes. It stopped at this junction for two hours and went on to Madrid. Scott Fitzgerald is a prat.

See how spontaneous that reads? Go thou and do likewise.


Sehr writes: some good starting point ideas for short stories. How to introduce the setting and describe the atmosphere well...Thanks!

All the writing books agree that you should "Begin at the beginning." And given the purpose of this column - to so burden you with useless advice that you never do get published - those are words that can scarcely be improved upon. For introducing the setting, you simply say something like, "Setting,. I'd like you to meet the reader. Reader, setting." And as for describing atmosphere, I recommend you be straightforward. On Earth, it's nitrogen (78.90%), oxygen (20.95%), and small amounts of argon, carbon dioxide and other gases, with some dust and water vapor, depending on local conditions.


Hetty writes: Yo, let's say you were to give propz to your favorite short story writer? Who would it be?

I probably shouldn't mention his name because his stories really suck. But, oh man, what a nice guy!

If you have a question for Unca Mike you can post it below. Or write to AskUncaMike ("at" sign) I'll respond tho those I have the best answers for.

Ask Unca Mike will run here on Fridays.


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