The story in Issue 79 of Hub is another that plays with format. SBIR Proposal by Richard K Lyon takes the well used guise of a letter from one organisation to another. There is quite a lot of back story early on that I think would be unlikely to form part of the content of such a letter. The central idea is entertaining and suits the letter format, but it might have been more effective to have had an exchange of letters. I found myself skipping a couple of paragraphs. It’s a neat idea that could have been executed better.
OK, I’m steadily catching up.
We’re on to Issue 78 of Hub, only five issues behind now. The story is Gravestones by Mari Ness and it’s a real treat. I’m really interested in structure and the impact it has on a story. The same tale structured in different ways can be so different. I like to see something new. Gravestones is a short, anecdotal story, given a lift by a staccato structure. The graveyard is given a discordant, creepy feel in a deft manner and the ending was hilarious. I laughed out loud.
I’ll be looking out for more of Mari Ness’s work.
I’ve heard on the grapevine that Hub is the semi-pro place to get published these days, at least in the UK.
The story in Issue 77 is Hidden Underneath by Malin Larsson. This is an anecdotal tale of a cabbie who is hard to like with an enchanting ending. I’d decided that I didn’t like the story – the writing was competent but not remarkable and the POV character sees the world in stereotypes. I was put off by the negative, cynical narrator. However, the ending is so lovely and memorable that I’m sure it’ll stay with me for longer than many other stories.
I’m catching up a little bit. Then on to Crossed Genres and Issue 9 of Pantechnicon.
Montgolfier Winter by Alisdair Stuart is quite a bit longer than the recent fiction in Hub has been. The start is a little ropey, there are some clunky sentences and a couple of typos. I’m being picky – Hub has set itself high standards. However, the writing becomes more assured after a while and what follows is good. The story question is essentially – what else is there on this planet and what is the mad professor chasing after. The suspense is built up well and the reveal is handled excellently. The characters are a little two-dimensional but no more so than most plot-driven commercial fiction.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that I’d like to know more of the backstory. How did the characters come to be where they were? How is it that a church could buy a planet?
The fiction in Issue 75 is not so much a story as a sketch. A Little Mystery by Len Bains is a short, well written exploration of what it would be like if you knew everyone’s secrets. It’s a great idea and the author alludes to some devastating consequences. I’d really like to see it expanded, to have the story unfolded as it happens. I guess that’s why this piece is the way it is, otherwise it might just have to be a novel.
Is it stealing to expand on someone else’s short story?
Well, this isn’t quite turning out to be the ‘daily writing exercise to get me motivated to work on my novel’ or ‘small writing thing I can do every day so that job hunting doesn’t take over completely’ activity that I imagined when I started. Still, I’m not one to give up just because something doesn’t turn out the way I thought it would.
I’m quite behind on reviews of Hub – and they seem to have got back to their weekly schedule – so I’ll try to catch up this week.
Issue 74 has a new design. It’s ok. It’s clean and simple and doesn’t detract from the content, all of which are very good things.
The story is The Astronomer of Baghdad by Matt Keefe. It’s a tale of cursed mummies, fabulous treasure and greedy men. I liked the formal, archaic style of the writing that supported the setting of the story. Something I find jarring, which really disturbs my ability to suspend my disbelief and commit to the world of the story, is a contemporary tone, idiom, or contemporary attitudes or behaviours on the part of the characters in an historical setting. This story nicely avoided that. I liked it.
I’m running behind again (pesky life) and Hub aren’t, so there will be a several reviews posted over the next few days.
Issue 73‘s story is Behind Glass by Simon Strantzas.
It’s a fairly conventional horror story and is well executed. There’s a claustrophobic atmosphere of isolation and disconnection that is compelling from the start. The environment is hostile and the protagonist’s eventual demise comes as a relief. Worth a read.
Ok, so this was actually released on 5th January and I’m running a bit behind. A quick glance at the Hub website reassures me that they are too.
The first issue of the year is always the flash fiction issue and thus has more than one story. Issue 72 has four stories of varying lengths; they define flash fiction quite broadly I think.
Quartermaster, Steve Cooper. This is about 500 words and I think the best story in the issue. The quartermaster is about to do something and we find out why. It’s deftly handled and left me feeling quite disturbed. 500 words is not a lot of space and no word is wasted. We know a lot about the world, about the protagonist, and about the terrible decision he has to make.
Day Trippers, Ellen J Allen. Locals save tourists from supenatural being in the moors. This didn’t work for me. There was a lot of dialogue, most of which was used to give the backstory, and usually that’s a good thing but in this case, it was stilted. There wasn’t much tension and the whole feel seemed to be one of resignation. At around 1500 words, it seemed too long to count as flash fiction.
The Girl in the Rose-Tinted Glasses and the Man in the Mirrorshades, DJ Muir. Not keen on the title. I usually don’t offer an opinion on titles because it’s something I find really hard to get right. I do think this title is too long. The story was a bit strange. It was well written and at 900 words, short enough to feel like flash fiction. But I didn’t really know what it was about. At the end, I got the impression it was an allegory for the turning of the wheel, the changing of the seasons. Or it might have been about two assassins and their perpetually reincarnating target.
The Harvest of the Machines, RJ Smith. This is the longest story at nearly 1700 words and is post-apocalyptic sf. Mostly I liked this. The narrative is quite compelling and the story is revealed at a nice pace. The tone is reflective and normally I wouldn’t enjoy that, but there is a lot behind this story and this style of telling it gets it done in few words. Told as action – as if the reader lives it with the narrator – then there’s enough here to make a novel. I hated the ending. It felt weaselly and changed the whole slant of the story.
Hub Magazine has a new website and it looks great.
Issue 71’s story is The Watchers at the Window by Marie Faye Prior. It’s good. The initial hook seems a litte weak but she so effectively creates a character completely ill at ease in his surroundings that it doesn’t matter. The sense of stress, grime and fluid reality is well conveyed. I liked the ending. It was kind of sweet, in a twisted way.
Latest short story fix – Hub #70.
I like Hub – it’s delivered weekly as a pdf via email and contains one story (SF, fantasy or horror) and a couple of reviews. It’s a tasty snack that can easily be consumed in between the less interesting things that I ‘should’ be doing.
The story in #70 is Under Offer by Gary McMahon. It’s wonderfully macabre and a fine example of showing, not telling. Hop on over and have a disturbing 5-minute read.