Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Strange Horizons Is Sick Of Your Cliched, Crap Stories

Description: A wastebasket, overflowing with crumpled up pieces of paper and trash.
Strange Horizon is a online speculative fiction magazine that has released free, curated content and 51 issues a year for fifteen years. They've published a LOT of fiction... and read many, many more submissions. Of course, when you see so many, you start to notice certain ideas, trends, and plot devices that occur over and over... in Strange Horizon's case, they've seen so many they've compiled a list called called "Stories We've Seen Too Often". Here are some examples:

  1. Weird things happen, but it turns out they're not real.
    1. In the end, it turns out it was all a dream.
    2. In the end, it turns out it was all in virtual reality.
    3. In the end, it turns out the protagonist is insane.
    4. In the end, it turns out the protagonist is writing a novel and the events we've seen are part of the novel.
  2. An AI gets loose on the Net, but the author doesn't have a clear concept of what it means for software to be "loose on the Net." (For example, the computer it was on may not be connected to the Net.)
They're up to 51 different types of stories, with several sub-types. And lest your consider your story that follows something on that list (or like some people I know, you thinking that list is actually a challenge):

We often receive stories that match items on this list but that have cover letters saying "This matches something on your list, but I've done something new and unique and different with it." Such stories almost always turn out to be very similar to other stories we've seen. If your story is a close match to one or more items on this list (especially if it's a close enough match that you feel the need to include a cover-letter disclaimer), you may want to consult some friends who are well-read in the genre before deciding that it's probably different from what we see all the time. (And by the way, we often don't read cover letters until after we've read the story.) One more thing: We know it's tempting to look at this list as a challenge. Please don't. In particular, please don't send us stories that intentionally incorporate one or more of these items.
The whole list is instructive, illuminating and also kind of awesome. Read the whole thing.

1 comment:

Bibliotropic said...

Fascinating. And amusing. I admit that I've written stories that fit things on this list, but at the same time, I don't pretend they were spectacularly original stories to begin with. I just had an idea and thought I could do something fun with it. I write those ones mostly for me, or to explore a particular thing, rather than as an attempt to go, "HAY GAIZ, I totally wrote this awesome unique thing you should read."

Some of these things so give me ideas, though. "Creative person meets a muse (either one of the nine classical Muses or a more individual muse) and interacts with them, usually by keeping them captive." Wouldn't it be more fun for the muse to take someone captive, to take over their life and punish the creative person for not being good enough to channel inspiration properly? (Or is that just my own twisted idea of fun? :p

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