Only a single light was on when Anne and Ed entered.
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The man at the viewer sucked out his face with a faint squelch and, with no acknowledgment of either Anne or Ed, began to pack up as quickly as possible. Anne had overdressed for her first day, obviously. Ed was night supervisor, but he was wearing blue-and-green overalls. The guy at the viewer was in head-to-toe sweats. His sallow eyes were exhausted 3. What most writers and readers consider style a recognizable way with words is not what the algorithm considers style. It was developed to analyze average sentence length, variance in paragraph length, verbs per words, and dozens of other statistics and patterns that my story would have to follow.
There was discovery. Then there was building the telescopes, carrying the mercury to the translunar observatories, constructing the antigravity bases, the discs within discs of whirling silver the size of cities to capture the light. The sallow man Anne was replacing misted the inside of the viewer with antiseptic spray and gently rubbed the screen down with a paper towel. Nodding curtly to each of them in turn, he half-jogged out the door.
They were apparently not to be introduced. The archives have a hundred million hours cross-referenced. Your job is to keep looking to find something so we can justify keeping the lights on here. The glow from the viewer that no one was looking into unnerved Anne. The Other world, 1, light-years away, was flowing brightly 4 and glamorously 5 into the machine, unobserved, while Ed gave what must be his boilerplate orientation speech.
I wrote a rough draft, based on the rules and guidelines, and dropped it into the interface. The first thing SciFiQ told me was that I used too few adverbs. Absurdly, good science fiction has a lot of adverbs. It was adverbs per words. So they had to be sprinkled throughout. Help me out. Keep the lights on here to keep an eye on there. When people with money, people who matter, think of the Other, they think of aliens who have been dead for 1, years.
Everybody knows. If they were ever going to find their way to us, they probably already would have.
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And sad is a hard sell. You will no doubt be struck by the reality of a planet so similar to ours, so distant from ours, and you will think deep thoughts about the loneliness of the cosmos. You may come to think even about the fate of a universe that is probably one of many universes, exemplified only by the fact that the universe that we happen to reside in happens to have created observers. They have already been written down by people who are 10, times more perspicacious than you and I and still managed to die in comprehensive obscurity.
The algorithm also told me what percentage of text should be dialog and how much of that dialog should come from female characters. This is where things get embarrassing.
Turns out that, based on the stories I chose, only Which is a crazily low number. Female writers historically write 40 to 50 percent of their dialog for female characters, male writers about 20 percent; so even by the shitty standards of male writers and history, this is appalling. It meant I had to make Anne shy and scholarly, and I had to make all the men around her bloviating assholes. So tonight you have fewer than four hours to look at Othertribespeople on a ring of the lesser Chekhovs. Nobody knows much about them.
They might have some new medicine. Anything that might have salable value, report. The female dialog thing is still bugging me. If I had chosen a different 50 stories, or even changed one of the 50 stories, there would be a different outcome. I need to start reading better science fiction. The mania for the Other had gripped the world, and every school devoted a class a week to its study. Universities all over the world had Other departments. Biologists handled the various pockets of life discovered in the rest of the universe, slimes mutating fiercely but drably on dozens of freezing or burning hells.
senjouin-kikishiro.com/images/kodijen/2553.php The Other was its own field. The similarity had come as an existential shock to the earth. They had animals that were not that unlike the remaining animals on Earth. And they had the Others, who lived in cities, with streets, or in villages, or in tribes, just like us. The Others wore clothes. They fell in love. They wrote books. They kept time.
They had laws. The anthropic principle was considered proven. The universe could only exist under conditions in which ourselves and the Others were there to witness it. Those were the days when children, like Anne when she was a kid, wore pajamas with patterns of glublefrings gamboling among the tzitziglug trees, and everybody called it The Yonder. But all novelty eventually wears off. The natural market for the shock of recognition is perishingly small. Consider using the following words: vast, gigantic, strange, radiance, mystery, brilliance, fantastic, and spooky.
Alone in the vast 8 dark room, Anne wiped down the viewer again, just to be sure. She understood why there had been so many conspiracies in the days after discovery. It was like the machine fabricated the planet. Anne placed her face inside. The sucking in of the face curtains sealed her. She was hovering over a planet on the other side of the galaxy, 20 feet over a small group of Othertribespeople at night, fishing.
The quality of the screen was so impeccable that the sense of her own body dissolved, and she was a floating dot. There was no comparison to watching a tape; this was live, or rather it was live 1, years ago. The tribe grouped tightly around a mountain stream. The males held torches up to the water, where a flurry of small fishes roiled on or under the surface, and a female Other poised, a spear in her hand, waiting for a gallack.
They were huge, the gallacks, nearly the size of an Other. A single fish could feed a group of tribespeople for a month of desert season. My number of literary words was apparently too high, so I had to go through the story replacing words like scarlet with words like red. Anne wanted to look a bit more closely. She reached down and her screen went blank.
She had zoomed too far. She pulled up with a clenched fist and an elbow curl, and she was among the clouds above the mountains.
When they sit down at the desk, anything can happen: They lose themselves in the dark on purpose, and follow the light of strangeness and surprise. The latter approach can sound odd, even shamanistic. What do novelists mean when they say things like my character showed me the way? But my conversation with Andre Dubus III, whose new book Dirty Love is out this week, addressed the challenges and joys of writing without pre-determination. We discussed what it means to write into the unknown, how to do it, and why writers should. Dirty Love contains four linked novellas about love and betrayal in a coastal town.
He talked to me by phone from his house north of Boston. There were a lot of heavy hitters in there offering truly wise and helpful advice. Everybody gets one. And I really believe—this is just from years of daily writing—that good fiction comes from the same place as our dreams.
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I think it leads to contrived work, frankly, no matter how beautifully written it might be. You can hear the false note in this kind of writing. This was my main problem when I was just starting out: I was trying to say something.
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