One of the polarizing subjects in the writing community is the question of whether or not to edit in the first draft. The first group believes editing in the first draft helps get the draft to a “good enough” state, which allows the writer to move on to the next section without worrying the previous part was trash and the whole draft is inherently flawed. The second group believes editing in the first draft is Sisyphean in nature since most final works are significantly different from the first draft. After the first draft is complete, entire scenes, chapters, characters are cut and left behind, and any time the author invested in perfecting those sections of the work is, in a way, wasted.
I have seen a first draft referred to as an “exploration,” which I feel captures the nature of drafting a story: it’s a journey into other worlds, other people’s lives. What will you find? What characters will you meet? You might start with a clear idea, but things become fluid and change. As I write, I discover new characters, new plots, and new relationships, and sometimes there are quite a few surprises along the way.
The last two reading recs have been shorter stuff, so I thought I’d change it up a bit with Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw.
Now, to preface this: I loved dragons as a kid. Devoured everything to do with dragons. (This was how I ran across Dragon’s Egg, coincidentally.) But I got a bit burnt out on dragons as an adult: when you’ve read 100 dragon stories, you’ve read them all. So it goes.
Then a couple years ago I ran across mention of Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw, and I was baffled by its description: a Victorian novel in the style of Anthony Trollope, set in a world populated by dragons. Yes, this is (as many others have described it) Pride and Prejudice with dragons.1 Even though I had left behind my years of incessant consumption of all things dragon related, I could not resist this unique story.
In my previous post about Isabella Rossellini and Green Porno, I mentioned reproductive biology as something I have always found fascinating. I want to return to this subject by talking about the Creatures game series.
Released in 1996 by Mindscape, Creatures was one of the first artificial life simulation games. Centered around a little creature called a Norn,1 the user guided their ward through its life cycle until its inevitable death. Along the way, the Norn would explore the world, learn vocabulary, and breed with other Norns. The complexity of the game’s inner workings was amazing for the time: the Norns were controlled by an advanced AI program, influenced by digital chemicals in their bodies, and the game had an entire genome built in, so offspring resulting from breeding were not just simply determined or randomized, but specifically generated from the parents’ “digital DNA.”
Last week, I made an offer on reddit’s /r/selfpublish, calling for submissions of self-published Kindle short stories from which I could pick up to 5 to review. A part of my criteria for the stories I chose was fewer than 5 reviews on Amazon. As you might know, reviews and recommendations are important for getting your work noticed. Not many people want to gamble their money on something with very few reviews. And no reviews? Forget about it. I wanted to offer other authors the chance to get one of those initial reviews.
A bit about my process: I read what each author submitted, then used’s Amazon’s Look Inside to preview the first page or two of the story. Based on my interests and what I read, I tried to pick the stories that I thought I would most like. I read the stories in the order I purchased them, highlighting and taking notes within the Kindle text as I went. After I finished reading, I wrote my initial impression and some more substantial notes before moving on to the next story.
Finally, I wrote my reviews over the course of a couple days, taking my time to balance and polish each. I wanted to highlight positive aspects as I found them, but I also wanted to be honest.
So, without further ado, here are the five Kindle short stories I chose, and a summary of my reviews.
This is the final review in a week-long review series featuring Kindle short stories from authors from reddit’s /r/selfpublish.
The longest of all the stories chosen, T. K.’s “Township 7: Life continues, even as society changes.” [sic] is an exploration of global climate change and transhumanism as depicted through a report penned by an anthropomorphic purple dinosaur. Yes, the main character is an anthropomorphic purple dinosaur named Rex. Since this could be a decisive factor for potential readers, I emphasize this upfront because—at this time of this review—the book’s description and other reviews don’t mention this.
Rex is one of many Critters, a new form of mankind appearing after great advances in cybernetics make their existence possible. They are humans transplanted into an exoskeleton that morphs to match their inner “second self.” This half of the plot is very reminiscent of furries and what that group might look like with the technology to make fursuits a real extension, or replacement, for a human body.