New Project: The Craft Crucible

It is sometimes annoying to talk to me about things I like.  I can’t help it, but when I like a thing, I think about it, and when I think about it, I start to take it apart, and the next thing you know I’m full of, “Oooh, look at these shiny pieces, and how they fit together and those pieces aren’t as great and if we put it back together without them, or upgraded them to better pieces, do you see how much more awesome the thing could be?”  Some people, all they hear are the bits about the pieces that don’t work because, frankly, those are often the most interesting bits of the thing.  If I don’t like it, I’m not going to bother taking the time to think about it, or pull it apart.  I’ll quit the show or put down the book.  (I’m look at you, Dr. Who)

Then you run into situations where we’re all giddy about something, like, say, Game of Thrones.  That book is brilliant.  You don’t have to like it, taste and enjoyment are not direct correlates with quality of craft, but if you want to argue that the book is anything short of fantastically well written you aren’t paying attention.  And talking about the ways it goes about being that good is something I can do for hours upon hours.  And once we’ve done that, we can start pulling apart why A Feast for Crows was so bad.  Which, if you’re me, is pleasantly cathartic in a way you need if you’re going to keep reading the series.  I started doing just this (talking up why the first book was fantastic and the fourth was major weak sauce) with a friend who, after a few minutes gave me a very endearing blank stare and said, “I’m not a writer.  I don’t notice these things.”

I’m pretty sure I’m a write because I notice these things, but that’s tangential to the topic at hand which is this: I want to pull apart good, pretty things and point all the pieces and do the, “The direwolves are taking on the characteristics of their owners and since you know that as a reader he can tell you things about the wolves and you learn things about the owner except you’re doing it with a wolf instead of a kid and that’s awesome,” squee.  And I want company, so I’m going to do it here.  Which is where you come in.

I want you to play along.

I’m thinking I’ll do one short story a week, and put up the entry on Wednesdays.  The schedule for what stories we do will be announced a few weeks ahead of time.  And while I get final say on what stories we do because that’s the the whole point of being a benevolent dictator, I want nominations from other people.

I know there are writers who are interested in playing along, but this isn’t an exercise just for writers.  It’s an exercise for readers.  Never feel helpless in the face of “That’s didn’t work so well” again!  Also, dude, it’s a chance to squee about awesome stuff to read with other people.  It’s like a convention except free, and with fewer crowds.

Here’s what you need to do: Comment on this post to tell me you’re in, because that will make me happy and this whole thing is about making me happy happiness.  Then, if you have ideas, nominate stories you’d like to talk about.  Do make them ones people can get for free online, please.

We’ll keep doing this until I get bored or busy.

The first one is going to be Kij Johnson’s Spar.

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6 thoughts on “New Project: The Craft Crucible

  1. I don’t know if I was the particular friend who gave you the blank stare you’re remembering, but I think I have been gradually getting ever so slightly better at noticing signs of writerly craft, if only because I know so many writers. It’s never going to happen with a Song of Ice and Fire book, though, because I’m already way too invested in that world to notice anything more than “huh, people sure are saying that phrase a lot” or “wow, that was a weird way to start a sex scene, especially if it wasn’t intended to be creepy”. (Maybe if I reread them, but when is that going to happen.)

    Really, excessive engagement is what stops me from being even slightly analytic about writing, which is sad, because I’m sure part of what’s causing said engagement is good writing. For example, I’m able to notice things about how The Lies of Locke Lamora is using timing to its advantage and using some of the same tricks that the more sentimental episodes of Futurama have used because, while it’s a fun book, I’m not super invested in it. But the most I can notice about an N. K. Jemisin book are things that make me think we share fandoms– I’m too busy being drawn in by the writing to examine the writing.

    Anyway, I will make an attempt to read the stories you link, but I’m not promising anything. I’ll at least read your posts, though with a bit of skimming if I haven’t read the story yet but still think I might.

  2. Yeah, I’m in. Should I put your blog in general on my RSS or are you going to make this a separate (separately follow-able) thing? I’ll re-read Spar this weekend. I’ll also poke around for some other story suggestions. Off the top of my head, I think it would be fun to discuss Peter Watts The Things and a lesser known story in the last issue of Bourbon Penn 7, called Consumer Testing by John Greenwood. I’m fascinated by the voice in this one, but can’t quite figure out what makes it work, hence my fascination. Here’s the link to that one: http://www.bourbonpenn.com/issue/07/consumer-testing-by-john-greenwood.php

    • Oooh, good suggestions.

      You should, of course, add my whole blog to your RSS feed, because you want to read every single word I put out there 😉 But there is now a Craft Crucible category, so you could just follow that if you prefer.

  3. Somehow I missed this post when it was first posted! The commentary on Spar was the first I read of this, and it’s brilliant, and I love this idea. So much <3!

    I second The Things. Also, I love Comes The Huntsman, by Rachael Acks.

    • We’re definitely going to do The Things, but I’m going to put it off for a bit. I don’t want to turn this into the “Analyzing low/fuzzy-consent content stories from Clarkesworld,” feature.

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