With both Apex Magazine’s and Shimmer’s recent news, I’ve been thinking about the State of the Thing; and that Thing of course being specfic publishing in the Near Now.*
The field of weird and wonderful fiction has changed a lot since I started subscribing to ‘zines. There was that slow-burn month or quarter of excitement as you wondered what tales might arrive through your letterbox, and what characters you might meet. Some were glossy works with smooth layouts, others stapled together and photocopied. Each and every one was a delight. Some of the authors became familiar, and you’d track them across different publications. They felt like friends, even if you’d never met them. Other names you might never hear of again, but their stories stayed with you. It was harder to meet fellow weirdworlders back then; you formed scriptorial packs, secretive cabals; you lent well-thumbed booklets to those who understood.
Confirmed. There are two Ravens in my neck of the woods.
Previous sightings have these much maligned birds along the edges of Ceredigion – notably where there are also wildlife reserves (Natur Cymru). I’d been seeing this pair around all winter, and, well, because they’re large and black and our resident crow-family The Gang of Three are also large and black I’d hesitated to call it. Also: I don’t live in the middle of a wildlife reserve, but traditional Welsh farmland (lowland).
But today I was rewarded with a direct overhead sighting, with the Gang of Three attempting to drive them away (it’s nesting season, so competition is fierce).
They’re bigger than you imagine, and look like Kings in their own sky.
Sound effects and environmental noise in fiction. Growing up watching MTV cartoons and reruns of series like the above, I’m a sucker for a well-placed sound effect. Thud, Thunk, Thwap (lots of Th-s’). I know that it’s generally regarded as a sign of juvenilia, but it’s fun.
It also breaks up the-
Ouch, sorry about that-narrative. This is a good and a bad thing. In military fiction you can try to emulate Jason Bourne-style action scenes. To my shame I haven’t read any wuxia novels, and I wonder if sound effects scatter them like grammatical landmines.
Sound effects lend themselves to pulpy works – but shouldn’t be restricted to them, right? Noise, static, crescendos or murmurs are a part of the arsenal of any creative writer – just as much as character development and emotional tells are.
“What appears to be the problem?” says the clinical psychologist.
“One day I heard a voice say Thud, and that was about it….”
Grammar is something to be played with. Comix in particular has its whole history dedicated to exploring onomatopoeia.
Buy what about when it comes to environmental noises? Avalanches, gun-shots, or smartphones? The northern hemisphere is filled with the sound of blips, beeps, trrings, tinkles, vurr-vurrs (that’s a vibrating something, obvs). I guess we have to ask whether the sounds are important, and what counts as important to any scene – longform, visual, or short. But it’s still fun to play with those questions.
Onto a small pet peeve of mine, which would be the depiction of automated voices. It’s a personal frustration because it entirely relates to the many, many different ways I have tried to depict it in the past, and how I am constantly searching for a good, uh, ‘audio-narrative’??
“I can’t do that Dave,” says Hal, declaring itself to be a character with speechifying agency.
‘I can’t do that Dave’ Professor David Bowman hears, removing agency, turning Hal into an implacable environmental force.
Some times and in some novels I err on using italics for all automated noise…a kind of nudge and a wink to the reader that everything in that style sounds different. Like interjecting a different typeface for a newspaper or academic report in the middle of a scene. One of the mysterious, telepathic things about writing is that it’s not just a lexical art, right? Take a look at some modern poetry. It can almost be a graphical art sometimes. At other times I give agency to everything that, uh, speaks. Which raises the important question of cultural/outsider depiction…what about mute characters (whether human or not)? What about non-human-intelligible characters (animals, supernaturals, more-than-human)?