The Mansion by Joe Valdama


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Post April 18, 2005, 11:01:00 PM

The Mansion by Joe Valdama

I'm a sucker for horror so I jumped on this story. However, and at the risk of coming off as too harsh, by the time I finished I found myself wondering, with all the cliched writing, if it was an entry in one of those tongue-in-cheek writing contests and that maybe this was a put on. I'm going to assume that's not the case, and rather than give an overall impression I'd rather just cite a handful of specifics in no particular order that I found troubling and that I present humbly as what I hope will be taken as constructive feedback.<br><br>(1) I think horror works best when embedded in a framework of normalcy. Stephen King did it so well in his early stories. This story had no "normal" setting, so none of that Freudian uncanny could go to work. I think this particular issue is a function of the short story medium and the fact that Joe jumped right to the action, which is what we're all told to do.<br><br>(2) While a house might be abandoned, these days property rarely is. The narrator had no problem trespassing on what must've been pretty ritzy real estate--beachfront property. I would think there'd be a fence as well--perhaps there was, but it was not mentioned.<br><br>(3) For me, the profusion of cliched writing undermined any tension that should've been brewing. Way too much of the ending was telegraphed as well to maintain any tension.<br><br>(4) Prophetic dream sequences are hackneyed and difficult to pull off convincingly; this one was too literal and telegraphed way too much. I think something less concrete might work better.<br><br>(5) When the "I-guy" saw the dashing young man with the "manly chest" and evidenced attraction, I thought, interesting, the first homoerotic story I've encountered at Aphelion. So when the "I-guy" was revealed as an "I-gal" it was a bit jarring. Maybe I'm off-base but I think it's the writer's responsibility to establish the character early on, including the gender (or sex). If I missed clues to the character's sex, then I'm wrong here. But, if I'm not, masking the sex of the character should be reserved for stories where doing so is relevant to the story. I didn't get that sense here. Or maybe I'm being crypto-sexist and expecting the stereotyped signifiers of a woman to be communicated to me. I wonder if anyone else felt the way I did when Amber gave her name.<br><br>(6) I must comment on one egregious and hilarious typo. When Amber is overtaken by a fit of modesty and covers her gentiles, I laughed, which is a rarity for me while reading. Being a Jew who married a gentile I'm particularly sensitive to this issue (I sometimes wish I'd simply married genitals--none of that extraneous conversation and compromise). <br><br>(7) While I certainly have no problem with stories that pay homage to classic (or other) writers, I felt the ending here was too cutesy, a little too heavy-handed. <br><br>(8) Not enough characterization for Amber. We know she's a drifter, we know she finds trouble, but that's not enough. <br><br>That's a lot of points and I'm aware I'm addressing an established writer here. I'm thinking this story was maybe a draft or two shy of being ready for submission. And I'm curious what other readers thought of the story. <br><br>Dan E.
Last edited by unforgibbon on April 19, 2005, 11:45:09 AM, edited 1 time in total.

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Post April 22, 2005, 07:41:05 PM

Re: The Mansion by Joe Valdama

I believe I read a story by this author called Subway Seductress. The Mansion, in my opinion, is much better. I like a story that makes me think, and this one did. I understand how the eternal youth was achieved. I'm not sure I understand the references to raw foods at the end. But I don't mind that type of confusion. <br><br>I like the sentence structure and the way Mr. Valdama describes things. I had no problem with the setting. Like Dan, I enjoy real settings, but I think Mr. Valdama's setting fit his story well. The only problem here was that I thought there was a little too much description at times. For example, Mr. Valdama did a good job of putting me in the storm, but I felt like I was still hearing about it from within. The same was true about the house. <br><br>I would have liked to know the gender of the main character sooner in the story. I don't like picturing a guy and then have to adust to seeing a gal.<br><br>Overall, a really good story. I personally would nock of about a page and a half of the description and give the main character a gender identity sooner. I'm excited to see the next.<br><br>Joshua Scribner<br> <br><br>
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Post April 24, 2005, 01:41:06 PM

Re: The Mansion by Joe Valdama

I believe I read a story by this author called Subway Seductress. The Mansion, in my opinion, is much better. I like a story that makes me think, and this one did. I understand how the eternal youth was achieved. I'm not sure I understand the references to raw foods at the end....

<br>Not just raw foods, raw SEA foods. You gotta read some Lovecraft, or at least look up a description of Lovecraft's uberbeastie Old God, Cthulhu. Also look up Batrachian in the dictionary (hint: it isn't an Armenian name).<br><br>Robert M.
You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.

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Post April 27, 2005, 04:46:14 PM

Re: The Mansion by Joe Valdama

I'm not sure I understand the references to raw foods at the end.
<br>Let's just say she's in for an awful surprise when little Johnny comes due...<br><br>As for comments in general, I agree with everything Dan said. I don't mind cliché, especially if it's a homage to gothic or noir, but if not done properly, the writing comes off as having no soul.<br><br>I think there's potential here for a good story. It will need a lot of rework.<br>
"Even the straight arrow needs a crooked bow."
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