Apologies for almost completely ignoring my blog last week — I was a little busy with the life stuff. Also, I just got back from FogCon, which was a pretty nice time. I met a lot of very nice people and even occasionally opened my mouth to speak to them, from time to time. (Damn you, social anxiety. Damn you to hell.)
I also now have even more books to add to my To-Read pile. I think I may have a problem.
A bit of writing news before I possibly attempt to take a nap. (I am not much of a nap-taker, but I’m hugely unprepared to get back to night shift tonight, and if I can get any extra sleep, my brain is going to be much better for it come three in the morning.) The second half of my story, “Such Lovely Teeth, Such Big Teeth” is now available at Strange Horizons. I’m very pleased to see it there — I’m pretty happy with the way this story turned out.
This has been a pretty good couple of months for me, writing-wise. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything else currently on deck to announce . . . but hopefully that will change soon. In fact, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go check my writing email and obsessively tap the refresh button a few times before taking that nap.
13 thoughts on “I’m BAAAACK!”
Congrats on your story!
Congratulations on your story, and I hope it gets the accolades it deserves. Also, modern, horror-themed fairy tale retellings are one of my favourite… subgenres? Sub-subgenres? So thank you for that. However, now you’ve given me the urge to check out Grimm again and see if I find it more interesting after the first episode, and I’ll obviously be blaming you if it isn’t. 😛
Thank you. But as to the other matter . . . that just doesn’t seem very fair. At all. Actually, I didn’t give the show another chance after the first episode, either, but I have friends who swear by Grimm. If it doesn’t work for you, and you blame me, then I’ll just blame them. I’m pretty sure that’s how the world’s supposed to work, right?
Yes, yes, that sounds very reasonable. Throw in a blamey insult from me! Assuming I don’t like Grimm, of course.
Even though I’ve only read two of your stories so far, it’s difficult for me to believe that you haven’t already racked up numerous publications. You’re clearly very, very talented. Like the best writers, your writing reads as if it’s effortless for you (which I know it isn’t, of course). But you write with great poise and confidence. You’ve clearly found your voice.
Having said all that, I didn’t love this particular story. I loved the writing, and I thought the first part was exceptional. I admit, the hunter and his blog kind of threw me for a loop, and Reagan doesn’t always act or talk like a kid her age, which seems to happen in nearly every story involving young children. But the first half has a great sense of ambiguity. We can read the story literally or we can read it as a metaphor. Personally, I read the first half as a metaphor (and thus my dislike for the hunter and his blog, since he doesn’t fit in to that interpretation). We’ve got a young girl who’s been assaulted/molested by a man (who, in my mind’s eye, has quite a hairy chest and arms). She develops the wolf thing as a coping mechanism; it’s the only way her young mind can really make sense of what happened to her. She recognizes similar predatory traits in the neighbor. When other kids move away, her mind assumes they’ve been attacked and eaten, instead of something normal like their parents re-locating or getting divorced or something. You also handled the puberty thing exceptionally well, and once again did a clever job of tying it into the transformation/wolf theme. Part one was excellent in every way.
Unfortunately, part two comes along and all ambiguity is thrown out of the window (or, in this case, in the window, since everything starts going downhill shortly after Reagan climbs in through the window upstairs). What was an intelligent, clever, ambiguous, metaphorical, and multi-layered story in part one devolves into something that feels like it belongs in a silly supernatural show that would air on SyFy or The CW. Instead of a story that leaves itself open to interpretation, we’ve got a girl literally dislodging her jaw and swallowing a boy whole while exchanging wise-beyond-her-years dialogue in the same kind of cliched hero-villain showdown that serves as a climax in half of the (bad) shows on television.
Maybe it’s all a matter of personal preference (others seem to like the second half, or they’re too nice to say otherwise), but I feel the story would’ve been much, much stronger had it maintained that sense of ambiguity throughout. Reagan could still save the day and keep Eric from being molested/attacked/eaten, but without ever devolving into silliness. (The hunter and his ridiculous blog would have to be omitted from the story entirely. Besides, even in this version, his character is the weakest part of the story.) To maintain that sense of ambiguity and write a story that works as an allegory would be harder to pull off, but you demonstrated in part one that you’re talented enough to do so. That’s why I was so disappointed in the second half because it felt lazy and trite. You took the easy way out.
Carlie’s said before that she hates that “Is this real or is the main character crazy,” trope before, though. I was surprised that it was apparently being used in Part 1. (Oh, although I thought the hunter might just be a vigilante who targeted pedophiles.) So I kind of expected it to be cleared up in Part 2. When it comes to stories that use that trope, most of them do end up clearing up that ambiguity at the end anyway. Honestly, I’m more inclined to feel it’s lazy when they just leave it ambiguous, depending on the film and how big a part the “Is this real?” thing played in it.
Also, even if it was made clear that yes, werewolves are real in this universe, the story still works perfectly fine as a metaphor. Like how werewolves were a puberty metaphor in Ginger Snaps, which this somewhat reminded me of. Or how vampires are sexual metaphors.
If asked which half I preferred, I would have to go with 1, but I thought the second half was good too, and I liked the visual of Regan opening her jaw wider and wider to swallow a boy whole.
I do generally hate that trope, although I think it bothers me more in movies than it does in short stories for some reason. Or maybe it just bothers me less when other people do it, but when I try it out, I AM A GOD. Seriously, I hope to approach all my artistic endeavors with this level of egomaniacal certainty.
I do tend to like my magic literal in the end. I’m a literal sort of person, and I’m almost always going to find the magic/supernatural stuff more interesting. But I can actually be okay with ambiguity too, and stories that are more open to interpretation — what I really don’t tend to like are ‘am I going crazy’ stories that end in the answer ‘Yes, you are.’ I’m sure there are exceptions to that, but it’s rare. At best, I tend to find these endings boring and/or predictable. At worst, I find it a cheat, and if I think a story is a cheat, there’s really no coming back from that.
I don’t have any particular regrets about my ending — I like it, and I feel like it’s the right conclusion for this story — but I know that it won’t be for everyone, just like pretty much everything else I ever write for the rest of my life. There are always people some (or all) of my stuff is not going to work for, and that’s fine. I’m still happy you guys both read it and am grateful for some of the nice things you both said about my writing in general, even if the story in particular did or didn’t work for you. Hopefully, the next one will.
(Assuming I ever finish anything new. The last thing I finished was a flash fiction — which I never write — and ambiguous as all hell. So, who even knows what I’m doing anymore?)
I like the ending scene a lot. I think that was my favourite bit from Part 2. There’s something very striking about that visual of them finishing their extremely weird day by silently munching on cake and watching the bad wolf’s house burn to the ground. And it feels very right for children, somehow.
I admit, I am kind of a fan of the whole “Am-I-Going-Crazy?” stories, especially if they’re done well and provide plenty of clues that seem obvious in hindsight. But this particular story was never heading in that direction, not even in the first half. I never asked myself if Reagan was crazy. That isn’t what I mean by ambiguity. I just liked that you could read the story as a modern re-telling of a fairy tale or you could look deeper and see something more realistic and more frightening. It was like two stories at once, which only an expert writer could pull off, and Carlie pulled it off in the part one before abandoning it in part two.
I’ve seen movies and shows and read books where a young protagonist is convinced the next-door neighbor is a vampire or a werewolf or some other supernatural being. And although the story might tilt the audience in a certain direction, some doubt usually remains in the end. That’s kind of how I viewed this story. If Reagan was thirty-five years old and thought the guy was a werewolf, well, then I might think she was crazy. But she’s a kid, and kids view the world as a much more magical place and believe in things that adults typically don’t believe in. That doesn’t mean they’re crazy.
Carlie, I have no doubt that one day I will be able to walk into a bookstore and see your books on a bookshelf. (Hopefully bookstores will still exist in the future, otherwise kill me now.) And I can point to your books and be like, “I knew her before she was famous! I used to visit her blog every week! I even read her first published story!” And I will buy your books and admire the writing, but I question whether I’ll always love the stories themselves. Not because they’re not good, but because you and I have different tastes. If given the same scenario, more often than not, you’re probably going to take the story in a direction I would rather it not go; whereas I will take the story in a direction you would rather it not go. I’ve realized that just by reading your reviews of movies. You’ll love or praise an aspect of a movie that I don’t like, while criticizing something that I thought worked really well. We admire different aspects of storytelling and we approach them with different hopes and expectations. But none of that really matters. Even if some of your stories are not “for me,” per se, you’re too good of a writer for me to find something in all of them to admire, even if it’s nothing more than the syntax.
I absolutely know what you mean. There are a lot of writers whose talents I can respect but who often don’t take the work in a place I want it to go, or whose stories just aren’t “for me” in some way. That’s just how it goes, so I’m certainly not offended, especially now that you’ve basically promised to buy my future books whether you like them or not. You’ll have to come to a book signing sometime, and I’ll write something like, ‘Dear Macabre, you may not like where this goes, but hey, you stuck with me anyway. Thanks for being awesome. Oh, and it’s good that bookstores are still around, right, cause dude. That WOULD have sucked.”
(I’ll write really small.)
Thank you very much for your story. I’ve enjoyed it a lot. Although I must admit that the end was a bit too optimistic for my liking I liked the story, characters and general retake of the fairy tale. I am looking forward to read more of your stories. 🙂
Thanks for reading!