After the talk at UT Austin, I spent Saturday at the Turkey City science fiction writers' workshop at Bruce Sterling's place. Turkey City is a venerable science fiction workshop that has spawned many good writers and a lexicon of science fiction critical terms that is the de facto standard for understanding what works and what doesn't in a work of science fiction:
Squid on the Mantelpiece
Chekhov said that if there are dueling pistols over the mantelpiece in the first act, they should be fired in the third. In other words, a plot element should be deployed in a timely fashion and with proper dramatic emphasis. However, in SF plotting the MacGuffins are often so overwhelming that they cause conventional plot structures to collapse. It's hard to properly dramatize, say, the domestic effects of Dad's bank overdraft when a giant writhing kraken is levelling the city. This mismatch between the conventional dramatic proprieties and SF's extreme, grotesque, or visionary thematics is known as the "squid on the mantelpiece."
Card Tricks in the Dark
Elaborately contrived plot which arrives at (a) the punchline of a private joke no reader will get or (b) the display of some bit of learned trivia relevant only to the author. This stunt may be intensely ingenious, and very gratifying to the author, but it serves no visible fictional purpose. (Attr. Tim Powers)
I had the cold from hell all weekend and I'm jetlagged, but I wanted to get some links up before I hit the sack. Until tomorrow!
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