The Editors’ Choices are chosen from the submissions from the previous month that show the most potential or otherwise earn the admiration of our Resident Editors. Submissions in four categories — science fiction chapters, fantasy chapters, horror, and short stories — receive a detailed review, meant to be educational for others as well as the author. This month’s reviews are written by Resident Editors Leah Bobet, Jeanne Cavelos, and Judith Tarr. The last four months of Editors’ Choices and their editorial reviews are archived on the workshop.
SSlam by Noel Gonzales
One of the things I like most about about writing workshops is the opportunity to see a variety of work at all stages from first draft to just about ready for prime time. I particularly love first drafts, because they provide so much insight into the individual writer’s process. There is no wrong way to write a first draft. However the words get onto the page, whatever shape they take, that’s the right way for that particular writer.
This submission has a great energy. I like the way it starts right off with the big event, as seen through the narrow focus of a first-person protagonist’s day job. The characters are quickly and clearly sketched; I get a sense of who they all are, how they talk, how they react to the unthinkable.
The protagonist comes through even at this early stage. I don’t know their name yet, or their gender, or their history, but I’m invested enough to stay with them. They’re more than just a pair of eyes. They’re an active part of the narrative, and their actions and reactions help it move along.
I would, in further revisions, like to see the synopsized portions written out. I do that in first draft, too—quick sketch to get to the next part that’s demanding to be written. The final section of the chapter needs to be a fully realized scene, like what comes before. Let us experience it directly, as it happens, in real time.
I have one question about the actual content: Would meteorologists have to guess about radiation? Isn’t there some way to measure it, that authorities would have access to?
Way back in the Sixties, my dad was part of the Civil Defense force. He had a geiger counter and would go out regularly to check radiation levels around the area. The technology would have been considerably updated, but surely there’s something like it in use around the country. I can recall news reports about aftereffects of the Fukushima disaster, for example, with data from various locations, though I don’t recall which agencies were doing the recording.
Overall, this is a good start. I’m sure the prose will sort itself out in line edits, smoothing awkward or repetitive phrasing and reducing the number of viewpoint tags (I noticed, I saw, I looked, I thought, I felt). It’s not anything I’d worry about at this stage. The plot and characters are taking shape nicely; I’ll be interested to see where they go from here.
— Judith Tarr