Bewildering Stories

Clyde Andrews writes about...

The Challenge 186 response

Dear Kevin,

Your letter published in issue 187 made me rather upset to say the least. And not only for its content but for the sheer rudeness in which it was written.

I am not saying that I can’t take criticism, far from it. I, like most, have had my fair share. But what I am saying is that it could have been handled far, far better, and in such a manner that did not require the editor to add his comments to give your complaint substance and meaning.

I am well aware that the story “Spacesuit Blues” (btw, get the title right if you are going to criticise) had no definable ending, other than to give the readers a question: Rogers thinks that he has won, but what’s in store for him when he’s “unfrozen”?

Yes the story was an experiment, an amusement on my part. Bewildering Stories is fantastic for letting writers expand themselves in this way. I am also well aware of the formula of writing you so kindly used as ammunition against me. I wanted to try something. Perhaps I failed, perhaps I succeeded. But at least I had a go.

Also, I think there is nothing wrong with a first person “whiner” story as you put it. That is, unless it is used as a platform for the author’s own agenda. Rogers is just unhappy with his life. Therefore his mental state reflects this. I wanted the story to be a beginning. There is no agenda there.

It was written that the story revealed the shortcomings of hard science fiction. Jon Pertwee is one of my favourite Dr. Who personalities, and he would say: “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow” as a joke, simply because he could not stand all the techno-babble he was often asked to say. And that’s how it is with “Spacesuit Blues”: a parody as in a Red Dwarf type of approach. Even though Rogers is not a likeable character, the readers can laugh at his predicament as it is so self-inflicted, like Rimmer of Red Dwarf. BTW I didn’t realise all stories had to have internal conflict.

I am glad to hear suggestions, but I feel that no one ought to be blamed — or even appear to be blamed — for writing a story. To help, as Don Webb does, is a far better thing to do than to hinder.

And if you think that this letter is ending rather quickly... it is!

Clyde Andrews

Copyright © 2006 by Clyde Andrews

Okay, Clyde, you’ve given us all a forceful reminder that e-mail and Internet communications in general require that we cultivate the art of writing not as a pastime but out of sheer necessity.

Technology has thrust us back into the 18th century, when letter-writing flourished and the telephone was still in the future. As in that day, we have to make sure that our words represent not only what we think but how we feel. Is it any wonder that Bewildering Stories has been enjoying a boom in poetry for many months now? Not only poets but prose writers and their readers can learn from it.

Clyde, I still have no idea what Kevin meant by a “first-person whine”; I gave it the only interpretation I could think of. Nor do I have any idea how he really felt about your story. And that, as you’ve said, can be a big problem. As an editor, I have to extend apologies of my own to both you and Kevin: I wish I’d caught those ambiguities and asked him to clarify them. I should know: many a time I’ve written something I thought was perfectly innocent only to find somebody’s goat in my lap by return mail.

As it is, we’ve been having an interesting kind of “Critics’ Corner” discussion that sheds some light on the purpose and methods of writing. Kevin is invited to reply, but after that, Bewildering Stories will consider the subject closed. We can still talk about the stories, of course; that’s what we’re here for. And in doing so we must always keep in mind the people who wrote them as well as those to whom we write.

Don

Copyright © 2006 by Don Webb

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