Just in time for Cristmas: The Turkey City Lexicon and Formatting for begginers!

21 12 2009

So here is something helpful that I use to keep track of my submissions. I keep a word file on my desktop and in this ‘submission’ file I have a master list of every market and  submitted story. As I get rejections I mark them down and then put in my next submission. I was surprised today as I added submissions to Shimmer and Weird Tales, that I now have eighteen pending submissions. Some are to the rare outlets that allow simultaneous submissions, and are thus the same story, but most are rotating my catalog. I am telling you this to encourage you in your own writing/rejection process. I fully expect to cycle through several times before I make a sale; that is the nature of the beast and it shouldn’t get you down. I know that I have good work in my catalog and my rejections are getting closer to acceptances. The key is finding the right outlet at the right time. Sometimes a story is good enough, but not the right story for the issue the editor is working on. They could keep your story for a future issue, but that creates all kinds of chaos and you really should keep shopping your work. Now on to the fun stuff!

The Turkey City Lexicon is a much storied and continually evolving list of all the tropes of sci fi. It has an interesting history that begins in an Austin science fiction workshop and the link I have provided contains a more thorough history which I hope you will read. The point of this expanded lexicon is to list the tropes of science fiction. In the simplest terms a trope is a theme, or motif, or approach to structure that occur again and again in a medium over time. This reduces these themes’, motifs’, and structural approaches’ impact in many cases to the level of cliche’. Here is an example from the lexicon:

  • “Burly Detective” Syndrome

This useful term is taken from SF’s cousin-genre, the detective-pulp. The hack writers of the Mike Shayne series showed an odd reluctance to use Shayne’s proper name, preferring such euphemisms as “the burly detective” or “the red-headed sleuth.” This syndrome arises from a wrong-headed conviction that the same word should not be used twice in close succession. This is only true of particularly strong and visible words, such as “vertiginous.” Better to re-use a simple tag or phrase than to contrive cumbersome methods of avoiding it.

There are literally hundreds of these in the lexicon. Here is another one:

  • False Interiorization

A cheap labor-saving technique in which the author, too lazy to describe the surroundings, afflicts the viewpoint-character with a blindfold, an attack of space-sickness, the urge to play marathon whist-games in the smoking-room, etc.

I have gone through the lexicon many times during the last few years and I never fail to find a few of them in everything I write. The problem with this is that there is no problem. You will never escape every trope completely. In some ways the very nature of a genre is the persistence of themes and approaches that by definition are tropes.

Augusto Monterrosso’s famous short story that reads in its entirety:

“When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.”

Falls afoul of so many of the tropes in the T.C.L. that you would by that yardstick conclude that Monterrosso was a total hack. It doesn’t work like that! Good writing will take the weight of a an over used trope. That is really what the lexicon is: a list of bad writing cliches and simple failures of exposition. Read it and you can avoid pitfalls, but don’t become a slave to it.

So I’m opting out of discussion of formatting until I can rope together some better examples… plus it just seem boring when I have better things to talk about. Tomorrow.

That is the science of Fiction:

Wednesday: Experience in the every day, or when aliens land, it will be in somebody’s backyard.

But Tomorrow: My interview with Apex Books editor Maggie Jamison!! You must read this. She answers questions that every writer should be answering, including what to feed your brainslug.



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