Happy summer, everyone!
Well, it's getting warm, the nights are short and the days are long must be time for summer. Which means it's time for another apocrypha. But before we get on to the stories, here's a little something we've wanted to talk about:
There comes a time in every writer's life, which happens at the most unexpected moments and yet seems also unavoidable, that initial hesitancy with the written word and one's own personal muse dissipates into nothingness, leaving a space behind in which the writer realizes he or she is possibly, maybe a decent scribe with something worthy of being said. At such times, which happen eventually to most writers who put their minds to the task, what comes next is a barrage of the greatest number of adjectives, clichés, extraneous phrases and repetition which eventually begin to cause the images and characters and plotlines to sink under the oppressive weight of verbiage, a heaviness that is truly too much for any reader to have to slog through. This is a sophisticated form of bad writing, and the co-editor of this particular magazine who is your friend as well as your critic confesses to having a period in her recent life in which this was a failing of her own scribblings. She likes to believe that she has gone beyond that level but now, having done so, finds that it stands out like red ink, the kind that truly catches one's attention like no other, and is wholly, verily, supremely, boring.
Asleep yet? You should be. That's a piece of junk for a paragraph. Here's the short version: While we love each and every word which comes across our virtual transom, not every one is as pretty as the next. What we've seen a lot of lately is "over-writing." That is, saying what you want to say in 100 words rather than 10. Telling the reader what's going on instead of showing it -- and in the process strangling a lot of interesting ideas with too many words. Writers have rules regarding use of description, and although there are some forms of writing which benefit from a little floral decoration, keep in mind that most of the time less is always more. Clichés never have a place. If you're using a cliché, that's lazy writing. If you're using more than one adjective at a time, really really really consider whether that extra one is necessary. Paint your picture using something other than a lot of extraneous words. In this way, you can cross that bridge from telling about a scene to showing it. Showing is where you want to be. Here is an example:

Jack's red-rimmed, bleary brown eyes proved he'd had another long, sleepless night of drinking. He forced a shaky, too-pale hand into his crumpled, unwashed jeans and imagined the scene in his head of what his mean old landlady would say if he had to ask her once more for his spare key. His fingers closed securely and tightly around a too-familiar knot of metal and he rested his sweaty, tired head against the cold doorjamb. Keys meant he was home which was the best place of all.
That's bad. Yeah, it probably passes muster with spellchecks and maybe even with grammar, and it's in character (although that particular description is a pretty cliched character by now), but it tells us a lot without showing very much, and the description is way, way over the top. Plus, a writer who restates the obvious: "imagined the scene in his head" isn't paying attention. As if you imagine the scene in your boot? And if you close your fingers, "securely" and "tightly" won't tell us anything more about it. A better (though not perfect) sequence would go like this:
It had been a long night. Jack paused before his front door, blinking hard. Focus, he insisted. Focus. Keys. His hand shoved into his jeans pocket. If they weren't there, the landlady was going to give him hell. Again. And she'd be right. Fingers closed over the familiar knot of metal. It made a jangle that hurt his head. The cool of the doorjamb was soothing. He was home.
What isn't said in that sequence is left for the reader to understand. And in a shorter space, in a tighter style that shows what's going on rather than tells it, the reader is given a clearer picture of what is going on. The paragraph also has one other benefit: In the fragmented, choppy style it uses, it seems to mimic Jack's thought process. While that isn't necessary for every story, many of the pieces we receive fail to go deep and make us feel as if we're in the character's head. Once that head's consciousness is altered by, say, a lot of drinking a halting, choppy style like this gives the reader information that isn't specifically stated on the page. It's worth keeping in mind. 
As always, K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple, Stupid. That's a rule worth swallowing whole.
But now, on to this issue! New, sweet-smelling fiction ripe for the picking, plus some exciting interviews and a brand new contest with Emmy-submission tapes up for prizes! Look for the next issue to come out in early September, so enjoy what's here and always feel free to write us. We may sound cranky sometimes, but it's just the heat.

Love,




 

From: Ann Mathis 
To: apocrypha@podengo.com 
Sent: Friday, February 15, 2002 9:44 PM Subject: Dream, Reality, or Both - by Python

I was dismayed that you apparently received only negative responses from other readers about this story. I had quite a different reaction to it. This was one of the earliest slash stories I'd ever read. Before then, I didn't know 'slash' fiction even existed, much less that ANYONE would ever entertain the idea of Jack or Lennie or Mike being bisexual. But - this story by Python is SO believable to me. Jack McCoy is a highly sexual and sensual person; I can easily imagine people of both sexes being attracted to him, and his responding to that attraction. Plus, Python's writing is so damn good, and so damn erotic, I was quite spellbound. BTW, I'm a long-married het woman. I want to say to Python - WELL DONE, give us MORE ! 

Ann


From: Farishta Dinshaw 
To: apocrypha@podengo.com 
Sent: Monday, February 18, 2002 2:30 AM 

I give you credit for standing up to your right to post fiction/non-fiction that you as editors deem fit (as long as it is within the boundaries of human rights). One of the inherent qualities of freedom is the freedom not to be part of it if you find it unpalatable. I chose not to read the slash story when I saw the icon, not because I am against homosexuality per se but because I am squeamish about graphic sex. However, I must admit that I find it a sad loss of innocence that a thirteen year old would have the knowledge, the experience and the inclination to write about sex (heterosexual or homosexual). 

Farishta

Editors' commentary: We thought about that, too, but since we do not know this individual we need to understand that there are precocious individuals, and that just because one can write about a subject does not mean one has personally experienced it or even witnessed it. Imagination frees us to write what we see in our heads, and there is no reason to assume it was seen, heard or experienced anywhere else. Our guess: This writer is also a fervent slash reader elsewhere, too.



From: STCHNNOCRN
To: apocrypha@podengo.com 
Sent: Monday, February 18, 2002 2:09 AM 
Subject: Second Chance 

Oh, my! I loved it! You should forward this to a certain idiot producer who killed her off in the first place, LOL! You made my day! Lorry 


From: Katharine Bigott 
To: apocrypha@podengo.com 
Sent: Saturday, March 02, 2002 2:33 AM Subject: Second Chance 

Very Clever! But ya know, I think at the end, it really should have been Claire or something. She should have gotten into the witness protection program. LOL, that wouldn't be very good...I just miss Claire. But your story was wonderful!


From: Katharine Bigott 
To: apocrypha@podengo.com 
Sent: Saturday, March 02, 2002 2:08 AM Subject: Cold Light of Dawn 

Oh! I like it. It's a great short story that conveys a much larger point. A little unlike Claire though, what are the chances of her getting drunk with Logan?

~Katharine


From: jill d. doll 
To: <apocrypha@podengo.com> 
Sent: Monday, March 04, 2002 6:18 PM 

love the idea of jack mccoy meeting up with jordan in boston!! what an idea!! and i would love to read more - i am sure they could meet up again somehow - jack's trying someone in boston and she needs to be called as the medical examiner...could work out i think!!

great job!!


From: Vicki Underhill 
To: apocrypha@podengo.com 
Sent: Sunday, March 10, 2002 8:54 PM 
Subject: The Beginning 

Great story! What a wonderful, and believable, back story to the whole "Jack and Claire" epic. I've often wondered if they knew each other before hand considering they did work in the same office. This was a fantastic contribution!

Cat (aka V)



From: DeltaPagan
To: apocrypha@podengo.com 
Sent: Monday, March 11, 2002 2:00 AM 
Subject: Night Portrait I by S.E. Olson 

Provacative and Subtle, I enjoyed this piece very much. 


 

From: AKW 
To: <apocrypha@podengo.com> 
Sent: Wednesday, March 27, 2002 7:36 PM 
Subject: Editor's Note from Spring Issue: Slash Controversy 

What if the writer of the deleted slash story had been 11? Or even 8? Will you accept sexually explicit material (hetero OR gay) from any age writer as long as it's "well-written"?

And why accept such material from writers who are supposed to be too young to legally access explicit stories on your own Web site? Sure, accepting their stories may be legal and constitutionally protected, but is it the right thing to do?

THAT is the issue your readers would like to see addressed. Instead, you practically accused some of them of homophobia, which was irrelevant and totally unfair.

Perplexed,
Amy

The Editors reply:

First issue: How Young Is Too Young To Write?
First answer: No age. If a writer can pass our standards, we are not interested in how old or young he or she is. Age is irrelevant when it comes to creative endeavors. We discriminate against: bad writing, sloppy writing, writing of a particularly sadistic and/or irredeemable nature. That is, for example, no gratuitous rape. So far, we've had 100 percent of the first two, and zero percent of the second two in our rejection pile.

Second issue: Well, Man, That's F-ed Up. That Kid's F-ed Up To Write Sex Fic.
Second answer: We disagree. Implicit in such outrage is that the youth of the author plus the subject of his or her writing equals some kind of personal experience. Since the vast majority of our stories are about murders and shootings, we're going to go so far as to say that we're not publishing the writings of murderers and criminals. If that sounds facile, so is the issue raised. Imagination does not equal experience.

Third issue: So, Fine, Your Site's Got Sex Fic. You Oughta Keep Kids Out. There's A Law.
Third answer: We heartily disagree that a "Only Enter This Site If You're 18 or Older" link at the entrance to apocrypha will stop anyone from coming in who is determined. We assert that the content of our site is far removed from flashes of nudie photos: There is a conscious level of maturity required to get to our stories (most of which are not beyond PG-13 on any level) and then make anything out of the images described therein. Again, if there's a young person with that kind of interest, time and imagination to get into these stories, then they're ready for them. If they're not, while we do not wash our hands of any responsibility, we do next assert that it is up to their parents to have a firmer grip on what they're doing on that thar infernal machine.

First (implied) issue: Well, Man, That's F-ed Up. That Kid's Really F-ed Up To Write Homosexual/Slash/Gay Sex Fic.
First (non-implied) answer: Yes, we admit we brought the homosexual, hidden element of the letter-writer's implication to the forefront of our initial discussion and it may have seemed like a diversionary tactic, but we believe that this is what motivated the person to write. Not that the author was young. Not that it was a sex fic. But that it was a slash sex fic. The only objections we have ever gotten to stories on the basis of their content have been when we run slash fic. Readers who decide to be shocked in slash fic make more of an effort to find reasons we should remove stories than when we run hetero fic. Homosexual fiction raises more hackles: It is "dirtier" somehow; those who read or write it must be "damaged" in some way. We disagree. It is as much a legitimate expression of creativity as it would be if the story had been about heterosexual sex. We are unaware, and uninterested in, the author's sexual tendencies, but if he or she happened to be gay and yes, 13 is not too young to know this about yourself why should it be up to us to declare that the expression of their sexuality on paper was invalid? We do not support censorship. We support guidelines.



From: HLLorelei
To: <apocrypha@podengo.com>
Sent: Thursday, June 06, 2002 8:35 PM
Subject: Spring editorial 2002

I agree that is appalling that a 13 year old has the knowledge discussed in your editorial; however, it is not at all surprising. I teach 5th grade and what my students know is years ahead of me. I had crushes on stars and occasionally played dolls.(My barbie was perpetually pregnant). This year most of my girls had "the hots for" the construction workers redoing our school, one came to school with a hicky as large as a silver dollar --- and was proud of it, and two missed school the last day because they had stayed out to late the night before. I am scheduled to teach 6th grade in 2002-2003 and my biggest hope is that I don't have to deal with a teenage pregnancy or labor. My boys "came on" to any girl that appealed to them. And we won't even get into their knowledge of drugs.

Children -- yes!!!! Innocent -- NO (8 or 9 is about the end of innocence). 

Look at the cartoons they watch.  Or even the regular shows that are SUPPOSED to be aimed at families/ teenagers/children.  Or the next time you are in Target, Walmart/K-Mart or any other store that sells clothes for children 3 to 15 look at the clothes they have for girls. or the Make-up.  Look at who their idols are; look at the ads for children. 

I hope this doesn't sound contradictory, but just because they have the knowledge does not mean they are ready to deal with it emotionally. Or that they have the maturity.   Street-Smart is an old way to describe it. 

My own daughter's birth mother was 14 when she gave birth. A child with a child.

What I find surprising -- to the point almost of envy -- is the talent many of these children have. I am on several lists  with teenage writers and their stories are very well written. They know their characters and develop them well. (Even when put into a different universe -- which is what slash is 
[as well as all of our stories] ).  And they don't write short stories, either; some are very long. In many ways they are actully better than some of the older writers because they tend not to tell the endings but to finish it out as strong as they started. 

We don't need to censor their work on their age. Instead, let them explore their craft and guide them toward what is deemed "acceptable" at apocrypha. Or point them to sites where slash is allowed.

Lorelei