Editor’s Choice Award September 2023, Short Story

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.

All That Remains by Kell Shaw

I’m intrigued by this glimpse of a world, and I love the challenge the author’s note sets: to critique a short story that’s based on a novel. As soon as I saw that, I knew I had to try it.

The first thing I will note is that if the story is going to be submitted for publication, it needs careful proofreading and a close line edit. There are quite a few revision artifacts and some missing words and phrases. But that’s not a dealbreaker for critiquing the draft.

In terms of structure, I think the story might actually be condensed and tightened without confusing the reader. Yes, it could be shorter, and yes, it can still make sense.

The opening is nice and strong. The undead girl, the music on endless repeat, the protagonist doing his best to cope with the situation.

Tamlyn’s ruminations as he leaves Lukie pretty much duplicate his conversation with Cage. I think we can dispense with them in the earlier scene. That will leave room for us to see how and where he picks up the monster hunter and why (and how) it’s taking the form of a hookup rather than a more neutral form of meeting. That will take us to the motel, and the small contretemps at registration.

Do we need two motels? Can they be combined? We can still get the worldbuilding elements, the written languages and the history, but in a more compact form. Then the story can move on to the point of the exercise, which is Tamlyn’s attempt to get Lukie’s photo. That’s where it really matters whether Lukie is still the person he knew, and where we need to know about vestiges and about the price Tamlyn will pay if he becomes her guardian.

I would like to understand more clearly why this is happening now, if she’s been undead since high school, and Tamlyn is now middle-aged. Why not years ago? What’s happened in between? What brings Tamlyn and Lukie to this breaking point?

I’m guessing these questions are answered in the novel, but the story needs a bit more of the backstory in order to stand on its own. That will make it even clearer why he decides to go all in for her, and strengthen the emotional impact of both the opening and closing scenes.

Best of luck with the story, and happy revising!

–Judith Tarr

Leave a Reply