Tomorrow is the first meeting of the sf/fantasy short fiction class I've mentioned a couple of times. If anybody reading this is one of the students, then here's a bit of a sneak preview.
Part of my approach in teaching this class is formed by a question Terry Bisson asked us (I think I've mentioned this, too) on the first day of Clarion West 1996. "How can you expect to write this stuff if you don't read it?"
To that end, we're going to learn about writing science fiction and fantasy short stories, to begin with anyway, by reading a bunch of 'em. I'm going to ask the students to read Strange Horizons and SCI FICTION weekly, as well as distribute the copies of F&SF, Asimov's, Analog, Realms of Fantasy and Weird Tales that the editors and publishers of those magazines have so generously provided for the class.
And on the first night, stealing another trick from Terry, I'm going to get a feeling for how well read in the genre the folks in the class are by reading some of the following openings to them to see who can identify what. How many stories can you identify by title and author from these lines? (Order--and inclusion for that matter--determined by arbitrary whim.) (I know some of 'em are dead easy.)
"Fashion, nothing but fashion. Virus X having in the medical zodiac its course half i-run, the physician (I refuse to say 'doctor' and, indeed, am tempted to use the more correct “apothecary”)--the physician, I say, tells me I have Virus Y."
"Two pieces of yesterday were in Captain Davidson's mind when he woke, and he lay looking at them in the darkness for awhile."
"Here is a story about a man who had too much power, and a man who took too much, but don't worry; I'm not going political on you."
"It is a Sunday morning in summer and a small brown chimpanzee named Rachel sits on the living room floor of a remote ranch house on the edge of the Painted Desert."
"It is three thousand light years from the Vatican."
"I owe the discovery of Uqbar to the conjunction of a mirror and an encyclopedia."
"The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green."
"It was the time of the Sun Dance and the Big Tractor Pull."
"The strange stars of the World of Newhon glinted thickly above the black-roofed city of Lankhmar, where swords clink almost as often as coins."
"I used to go the thrift stores with my friends."
"And came down to Paris: Where we raced along the Rue de Médicis with Bo and Lou and Muse inside the fence, Kelly and me outside, making faces through the bars, making noise, making the Luxembourg Gardens roar at two in the morning, then climbed out, and down to the square in front of St. Sulpice where Bo tried to knock me into the fountain."
"Steena of the Spaceways--that sounds just like a corny title for one of the Stellar-Vedo spreads."
"Were the tower to be laid down across the plain of Shinar, it would be two days' journey to walk from one end to the other."
"He awoke--and wanted Mars."
"Whatever your gravity is when you get to the door, remember--the enemy’s gate is down."
"I put the shotgun in an Adidas bag and padded it out with four pairs of tennis socks, not my style at all, but that was what I was aiming for: If they think you’re crude, go technical; if they think you’re technical, go crude. I’m a very technical boy."
"With a clamor of bells that set the swallows soaring, the Festival of Summer came to the city Omelas, bright-towered by the sea."
"Dr. Strauss says I shud rite down what I think and evrey thing that happins to me from now on."
"Everybody else got off the train at Hell, but I figured, it's a free country."
"He doesn’t know which one of us I am these days, but they know one truth."
"I was driving with my brother, the preacher, and my nephew, the preacher's son, on I-65 just north of Bowling Green when we got a flat."
"I saw Archibald Murray's obituary in the Tribune the other day."
"Somehow the idea was brought up by Mom that perhaps the whole family would enjoy a fishing trip."
"If you only see Dry Bone: one meager man, with arms and leg thin so like matches stick, and what a way the man face just a-hang down till it favour jackass when him sick!"
"Are you familiar with the scent of extinguished birthday candles?"