Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks


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Post October 18, 2005, 08:50:17 PM

Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks

I thought that this story had a good premise and that the author spent a fair amount of time building the world in his mind before the story began (and that's a good thing).<br><br>However, telling versus showing and, I thought, an unrealistic conclusion kept me from really getting into it.<br><br>Many a Mare story starts with people walking up & uncontrollably regurgitating their life's story to Max, so telling instead of showing happens a lot in the Mare. Max seems used to it, but I never will be. <br><br>I'd much rather see a short intro without the infodumps, then physically move the story to the recollection so I can see the relevant parts happen in real-time. Max & the storyteller can easily interject and serve as a segue to the next narrative bit. Here, however, the story never leaves the bar, so the places referred to are never described with any concrete details. Without that description (preferably using all the senses), the setting is not real to the reader. Mortz has only a passing description, much like the description of his evil deed.<br><br>A person I don't know much about, ready to do in another for something I can only guess at... this doesn't grip me. These then are unbelievable characters, and that's bad in my book.<br><br>Next, the conclusion was unrealistic to me. If Gratz spent 40 years of his life driven to find and kill this man (and there's no way that he couldn't have doubted his goal at some point--and he still pressed on), why would a few paragraphs from Max spin him around that fast. Who can turn their emotions off like that? Not me.<br><br>Furthermore, even if one does swallow the ending, not much actually happens in this story. Characters we don't know with any depth meet because of something we don't know clearly, then one of them decides not to do anything about it and the other leaves. <br><br>I'd like to say this was a story about a man deciding not to commit murder, but that's not really the focus as I saw it. Now, if he deliberated, struggled internally, and then because of something he learned as a character during the course of the tale caused him to grow and then not kill Mortz--that would be a whole different ballgame. I'd pay to read that. This may have been the intent of this one, but it just didn't come through for me.<br><br>I wish I could put a better spin on it, but that's the way I saw it.<br><br>Nate
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Post October 19, 2005, 03:26:27 PM

Re: Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks

.

Many a Mare story starts with people walking up & uncontrollably regurgitating their life's story to Max, so telling instead of showing happens a lot in the Mare. Max seems used to it, but I never will be.
<br><br>Nate,<br><br>Somehow, I always thought that this was the basic premise of the Spaceport Bar and Grille venue. This kind of setting provides backdrop for whatever little vignette that the Author wants to offer. As a bar, it also provides at least a semblance of verisimilitude when one or more of the characters needs to info-dump, in the form of the story they have to tell. I mean, telling the guy on the next stool or behind the bar your tale may be a bit trite, but at least it's a common plot device that doesn't detract from the value of the story. It's a lot easier to swallow than stopping one of three wedding guests (apparently at random) and engaging him in a long, drawn-out exposition of your woes.<br><br>You can even pull a shaggy dog out of your hat using this setting.<br><br><br>" There I was, girly, surrounded by redskins (greenskins/scaleybuggers, etc.) and down to my last shot. I was out of provisions and only had one swallow left in my canteen."<br><br>"What happened next?" the young professional had completely forgotten her earlier ire that this smelly old transient on the next stool had presumed she would be interested in anything he had to say.<br><br>"Why, honey-child, I was kilt, of course!"<br><br><br>This format is one of the very best for the short-short or even the quick-and-dirty detail, dilemma, denouement stories that there is. And one of the surprising aspects of this format is that it also works if you want to do a little world building up to about the novella range. It's kind of a do-anything-you-want template which lends itself to the story and only interferes as much as the author wants it to. <br><br>Some of these stories are intricately woven into the fabric of the Mare Inebrium while others could have taken place in any bar any where in any continuum.<br><br>I've written five of these things and I've done it several different ways. Dan has set this thing up with more than enough world building that you could do a whole series of stories that don't introduce any new characters at all. Or. . .Max & Trxie & Blanche & The Reever could be nothing more in your story than furniture. <br><br>So yes, Nate, the venue is a little hokey and a bit overdone, but it is a vast playground with lots of neat toys to fiddle around with. I think Mr. Marks did a very good job, structurally. I don't recall having any trouble following either the characters or the significance of the tale. His whole point seemed more focused on how very different reality is from the historical record. It seemed to be more a testament to the motivations of those we consider to be heroes rather than having any kind of true message. <br><br>For a short story, that's enough. Usually, when you try to bite off more than the story can chew, your readers will choke on it. There's a reason why The Canterbury Tales never made it as a comic book. Although I do think that if you're going to give your characters suggestive names like Riegar Mortz (rigor mortis?) , you should continue the trend throughout the story. Our protagonist should have been Aven Jurr, or maybe Vigil Lantee. I think you get the point.<br><br><br>So as a big fan of the Mare, I welcome this story to the fold. It is a worthy addition.<br><br><br>Bill
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Post October 21, 2005, 08:24:52 PM

Re: Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks

So yes, Nate, the venue is a little hokey and a bit overdone, but it is a vast playground with lots of neat toys to fiddle around with. I think Mr. Marks did a very good job, structurally. I don't recall having any trouble following either the characters or the significance of the tale. His whole point seemed more focused on how very different reality is from the historical record. It seemed to be more a testament to the motivations of those we consider to be heroes rather than having any kind of true message.

For a short story, that's enough. Usually, when you try to bite off more than the story can chew, your readers will choke on it. There's a reason why The Canterbury Tales never made it as a comic book.

Bill
<br>Forgive me if I misunderstand, but it sounds like your contention is, to paraphrase, "it's just a Mare story, so it's good enough."<br><br>I don't wish to be combative, but if that's the case, we'll never agree on anything. I am a firm believer in "Anything worth doing is worth doing well." There may well be 50 Mare stories that use this same device to infodump rather than tell a full story with rich settings, character development, and a well-crafted plot. If so, I'd say that there were 50 Mare stories that could have been told better.<br><br>My own Mare story is a prime "bad" example:<br>http://www.aphelion-webzine.com/shorts/2004/08/JAD.htm<br><br>Pro writer Elizabeth Bear did a very thorough job of illustrating the numerous things wrong with it in the Aug '04 lettercol--especially that it wasn't really a story. It lacked a strong conflict and plot that developed the character, and instead followed him as he walked through his Hell, relying on a surprise ending to round it out. I was exceptionally proud of it, so the truly painful thing was that Ms. Bear was absolutely right in everything she said, and I've done everything I could to never be so wrong again.<br><br>Professionalism, a strong setting described with all the senses, engaging characters who develop over the course of a story, a credible plot with conflict, and believable dialog--every story needs these things.<br><br>I can't fathom settling for less than that.<br><br><br>Now, if I've missed the gist of your post, I apologize. I'm not trying to start a flame war or anything, and I have nothing against the Mare or any of the many writers who have written stories that take place there. A shared universe such as the Mare is a rare and wonderful thing for writers to adapt and grow by writing in it. Dan should be forever commended for his time and world-building efforts, philanthropically opened up for anyone to use. <br><br>My point here was that a story worth telling is worth telling well.<br><br>Nate<br><br>Addendum<br>Upon reflection, I did think of a story type that doesn't fit: flash fiction. While I'd like to think someone could be skilled enough to fit all that in and still be less than 1,000 words, I've never seen one--including my own. Flash is all about setting a mood and/or situation and then surprising the reader with a conclusion that changes the meaning of the story to that point.
Last edited by kailhofer on October 22, 2005, 10:10:46 AM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post October 23, 2005, 12:43:31 PM

Re: Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks

Let me preface my remarks by saying that I know little of the Mare Inebrium project (I do, however, think it's a wonderful idea and echo Nate in commending Dan for making such a thing available--I'd like to think Dan has or will receive some "official" recognition for what he and the Aphelion crew have done for writing in general). But I do not have any problem with the bar serving as a backdrop for some drifter to drift in and share a story. It's the manner in which the story is told that makes the difference.<br><br>So, for the most part I agree with Nate in that this piece didn't quite rock the way it could have. All tell and no show and an implausible end. The key problem is that we are offered an epic in the space of a few words. Bringing it to life is a tough task for any writer.<br><br>And, a guy spent his entire life conquering whole worlds out of revenge and then quits on the strength of a single (rather obvious) observation on the part of a bartender. I can't buy that. Besides, if Gratz no longer sees a reason to chase Mortz, isn't that essentially the same as having killed Mortz? No more raison d'etre. <br><br>On the plus side, I thought the piece basically well written and liked the potential for the character of Gratz. Would love to read Gratz's whole story.<br><br>Dan E.<br><br>
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Post October 24, 2005, 02:10:55 AM

Re: Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks

Forgive me if I misunderstand, but it sounds like your contention is, to paraphrase, "it's just a Mare story, so it's good enough."


<br>Well Nate, in that case, Ego Te Absolvo, because I think you did misunderstand my point.  For which I should apologize.  I should have written it better.  <br><br>What I was trying to say is that stories can suffer from too much content as well as too little.  We all use plot devices as.  .  .well.  .  . devices which move the story forward without the necessity of recreating the wheel.  Enter the Dragon was a short story, just under three thousand words.  It's just a little more brief than your own Just Another Day At The Office and if there is ever going to be a place for stories that are less than the novella range, certain limitations will have to be observed.<br><br>The point I was trying for, was that there are different styles of stories and that they offer the writer opportunities to do different things.  Sometimes it is enough to illustrate only one point, only one really significant aspect of Life, the Universe, and Everything with the story.  Not every tale needs to make us laugh, cry, ponder and dream of what might have been.  And this is a good thing.  I have finished books which leave me reeling with a cacophony of emotional turmoil, and frankly, if they all did that I think my head would explode.  But then I read a lot. To me, if the author is going for a chuckle, and the chuckle happens, then the story is a success.<br><br>Some stories aren't meant to be life-altering events.  The writer has something to say and the story is an entertaining, pleasant format in which to present it.  I rather liked JADATO (sounds like a hybrid martial art form, doesn't it?) and thought you did a fine job at portraying your unique idea, that the civil-servant attitude is ubiquitous and exists even in Hell.  The fun thing about your story was that it took the concept of the general ineptitude of the system to its logical conclusion.  Some of the individuals (souls, presumably) actually managed to escape what should have been their eternal damnation through a little ingenuity and a fair dinkum of luck.  And your protagonist, the penultimate civil servant, could have escaped Hell, too.  .  .only he was more concerned about how he would cover up the 'problem' than anything else.  He thought only about the system and not about the true purpose of the enterprise.  And when this happens concerning Hell, the lesson is priceless.  <br><br>As for your conception that I was trying to say that a story doesn't need multi-sensual descriptive elements, strong settings, believable characters/dialog and a credible plot.  .  .well, of course they do.  I'm not as sure about the absolute need for conflict in every story, but that's another discussion.  <br><br>Our base discussion seems to be about the desirability and utility of the 'belly up to the bar and tell your tale' plot device as used in the short story venue.  I still contend that this method of info dumping is completely viable, sensible even, and has a very definite place in the genre if done well.<br><br>Upon rereading my previous post I don't see anywhere where I said the writer doesn't have to do a good job in the format.  <br> <br>"Despite its best effort, the damp December wind whipping through the dimly-lit alley couldn't quite disperse the rank odor of old garbage and older urine.  But it was rapidly clearing the coppery scent of the fresh blood on the asphalt and the acrid tang of gunsmoke."  <br><br>We're not writing for aliens, Nate.  We don't have to describe how the climate is affected in the northern hemisphere by the axial tilt of the planet or how the Julian calendar came to be.  There is no need to go into the chemical make-up of gunpowder or the function on chemoreceptive nerve plexi in mammals for this line to evoke both a visceral and a cerebral response from our readers.  We needn't launch into a treatise on how humans congregate into cities and the evolution of urban blight to set a scene using common referents.  We simply use the plot device of a shared cultural experience, and keep going with the story. <br><br>
Addendum
Upon reflection, I did think of a story type that doesn't fit: flash fiction. While I'd like to think someone could be skilled enough to fit all that in and still be less than 1,000 words, I've never seen one--including my own. Flash is all about setting a mood and/or situation and then surprising the reader with a conclusion that changes the meaning of the story to that point.
<br><br>Actually, Nate, I think there may be one.  <br><br>There is an old joke about a guy in a bar who convinces another customer that there is a weird air current effect in the building that will allow someone to jump out the window and be swept back in without harm.  To prove his point he demonstrates the effect.  Of course, the somewhat inebriated other guy tries it and falls to his death.  Screaming.<br><br>The bartender turns to the first customer and says:  "You sure are one mean drunk, Superman."<br><br>This story is flash, it is even science fiction and while Max would never allow it, it could even be a Mare story.  If you were the true originator of this story, and if it hadn't already made the rounds, it would be a perfectly acceptable addition to the fold.<br><br>Sir, I refute you thusly.  (Only without the kick to the shin!)<br><br>Bill
Last edited by Bill_Wolfe on October 24, 2005, 02:32:37 AM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post October 24, 2005, 09:19:46 AM

Re: Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks

... oh, and "Riegar Mortz" wasn't intended as a play on "rigor mortis" - it was just an evil sounding name I picked out of assorted body cavities. Sorry 'bout that.
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Post October 24, 2005, 11:14:24 AM

Re: Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks

Don't feed Bob straight lines... Do I have to put up a sign?<br><br>Dan<br>
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Post October 24, 2005, 09:51:08 PM

Re: Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks

The point I was trying for, was that there are different styles of stories and that they offer the writer opportunities to do different things. Sometimes it is enough to illustrate only one point, only one really significant aspect of Life, the Universe, and Everything with the story. Not every tale needs to make us laugh, cry, ponder and dream of what might have been. And this is a good thing. I have finished books which leave me reeling with a cacophony of emotional turmoil, and frankly, if they all did that I think my head would explode. But then I read a lot. To me, if the author is going for a chuckle, and the chuckle happens, then the story is a success.
<br>I get more than ten minutes for rebuttal, right? :)<br><br>Your point may not be the only one missed, so let me try again.<br><br>If I compare ETD to your own The Customer is Always Right there is a basic, but I feel an important, difference in the structure of the story. In TCIAR, Tse-Pesh and Max chat for a bit, then the story leaves the setting and then tells the real story, in real time. We Rrraal/Tchak and what happens to him in his "human" story (funny to say that about a Dracula vs. the Wolf Man story). In ETD, the jump is never made into full story mode. Instead, we just get the outline--Mortz killed and Gratz conquered to get at Mortz. This is not the same thing as showing Gratz persuing Mortz, showing Mortz's immoral acts, and how it wore on Gratz, changing him as he chased.<br><br>
Some stories aren't meant to be life-altering events.
<br>As you said to Jaimie, the best stories are about people. I agree with that wholeheartedly. I would argue that all events involving people are life altering, because you can never be the same person you were yesterday. Gratz's love was, presumably, killed in a particularly unpleasant and unjust way, and Gratz yowed to spend the rest of his life getting revenge. This is about as life-altering as it gets, and these life-altering actions are central to this plot. However, in this story, it takes only 35 words: “And Riegar Mortz and his gang of thieves found Yanari one day, and stole many things from her. Money. Valuables. Innocence. Eventually they took her life.”<br> Gratz’s eyes narrowed. “That’s the day my mission began.”<br><br>
Our base discussion seems to be about the desirability and utility of the 'belly up to the bar and tell your tale' plot device as used in the short story venue. I still contend that this method of info dumping is completely viable, sensible even, and has a very definite place in the genre if done well.

Upon rereading my previous post I don't see anywhere where I said the writer doesn't have to do a good job in the format.
<br>Actually, I think the crux of the discussion may be what constitutes a story, but I'm not getting into that. As for doing a good job, I quite agree. My contention here is that to make this a human story that the audience relates to, it needed to drop out of overview mode and get personal. There is nothing wrong with starting out by chatting with Max. However, I do say there's something wrong with never stopping the chat and telling the real, human story underlying the character's motivations or what happens to him or her next.<br><br>
We're not writing for aliens, Nate. We don't have to describe how the climate is affected in the northern hemisphere by the axial tilt of the planet or how the Julian calendar came to be. There is no need to go into the chemical make-up of gunpowder or the function on chemoreceptive nerve plexi in mammals for this line to evoke both a visceral and a cerebral response from our readers. We needn't launch into a treatise on how humans congregate into cities and the evolution of urban blight to set a scene using common referents. We simply use the plot device of a shared cultural experience, and keep going with the story.
<br>This may not be a kick to the shin, but it figuratively sounds like dirt meant for my eye. Using all the senses to describe the world in concrete detail doesn't mean describing any of these things, and I think you know that. >:(<br><br>As for the Superman flash story, I think you misunderstood me. I didn't mean flash can't be told in less than 1000 words. Writers are paid to do that all the time. Alien Skin paid me to do that once. I meant I haven't seen a flash story that put all the elements into it--professionalism, a strong setting described with all the senses, engaging characters who develop over the course of a story, a credible plot with a conflict that's resolved because of something the characters learned on the way, and believable dialog. That's too much to fit.<br><br>If it happens in any way that connected to the Mare, it's a Mare story, and now is in that subgenre, no matter what. However, that doesn't mean there wasn't room for improvement in this or any other Mare story. I hope you'll allow that just because it's a Mare tale doesn't mean it's all beautiful. <br><br>No, Bill, the story doesn't have to move mountains and split the atom whilst whistling the Star-Spangled Banner. The final benchmark of any story must be whether or not it moves the reader, either with enjoyment or other deep emotion. You seem to have really liked this one. I thought it was ok, but I would have enjoyed something that portrayed human events and emotions as if they were happening at the moment more, and in a nutshell, I think that's all I was saying.<br><br>Nate
Last edited by kailhofer on October 24, 2005, 09:52:32 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post October 24, 2005, 10:03:21 PM

Re: Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks

Seriously, picking or creating relevant dramatic foci may have added background to the story, but I feared it would turn away many readers who would consider it 'fluff'.

I do appreciate the feedback. Please, I would love to have your input on future stories that I write here, should they be accepted.
<br>I grill all stories with even heat (that I have time to read) with "my wide pan", as Kate Thornton put it, and will try my best for you. You can always send me a private message on the board here when it comes out as a reminder.<br><br>Regarding what is "fluff" and what is the meat of the matter, I am curious. If you had to state what this story was about in a single sentence, what would that be? Deep down at a gut level, what really were you trying to say in this one?<br><br>Nate
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Post October 26, 2005, 06:06:17 PM

Re: Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks

I was trying to explain to someone very close to me what I'd do for her.

BHM
<br><br><br>Now THAT'S what I call intriguing .  .  .is this the 'single sentence to describe what the story was about?<br><br>I hope you aren't saying that you would build her a statue because all your successes in life were an attempt to find her and kill her.   .    .<br><br>
Last edited by Bill_Wolfe on October 26, 2005, 06:07:04 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post October 26, 2005, 06:55:23 PM

Re: Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks

My feeling is that he hasn't reached that point in the relationship yet.<br><br>har<br><br>har<br>

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Post October 26, 2005, 08:38:04 PM

Re: Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks

I know nothing about Mare Inebrium, but from what I read I can see that it's a good setting. <br> <br>This story could have taken place in any bar, in any time period, and in any culture. <br><br>To hate someone for forty years isn't new, and to hunt him down for forty years is also an old theme.<br><br>I think a setting such as Mare Inebrium deserves better then re-hashed drama.<br><br>
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Post October 26, 2005, 11:51:53 PM

Re: Enter The Dragon by B. H. Marks

You know this will be an interesting read when the length of the comments exceeds the length of the story.<br><br>Let me state that the world is neither black nor white, but a sort of diluted indigo with streaks of sea green and spots of hot pink. Any suggestions provided by us critics are opinions. Stating whether one view is more valid than the other is probably futile, albeit oftentimes amusing.<br><br>Here are my observations. (Disclaimer: The views expressed in this commentary are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Aphelion Webzine, its editors, or.. ah, f*** it):<br><br>1. I liked this story. I also liked the one that Nate’s own story he referred to as an example. Is there more telling than showing? Yes, but it’s done skillfully. It’s amazing what a skilled writer can do just using the language.<br><br>2. I read a broad range of stories and books. I also like poetry. So I’m more amendable to different styles and formats. In fact, I’ve always believed that’s a strength of literature, that’s it’s so malleable. I tire of the formulaic, although many a writer makes his or her living by following formulae.<br><br>3. You need to understand your audience. What works for a literary audience may not work for a science fiction audience. In the writing process, that’s one of the biggest mistakes a writer makes. He or she does not understand who he or she is writing for and how to do so. In the end, it’s about communication.<br><br>4. I believe there are no rules to writing, but there are some strong guidelines you should follow 99.5% of the time. Knowing how to tweak these guidelines differentiates a hack from a genius. Unless you’re a technical writer, there is an art to the craft. Some writers view it more craft, others view it more art. Again, it’s a matter of style and preference.<br><br>5. I liked the concept to the ending of this story, although I believe it could have been better executed. Max is a bit too direct with his message. He should have guided Joachim through the logical conclusion. Remember what happened to Thulsa Doom when he tried that same stunt on Conan?<br><br>Thulsa Doom: My child, you have come to me my son. For who now is your father if it is not me? I am the well spring, from which you flow. When I am gone, you will have never been. What would your world be, without me? My son. <br><br>Conan: *THWACK*<br><br>[evil sorcerer’s head rolls down yon temple steps to the Scientolo-- er, mindless worshippers below]
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