Penny Arcade vs. Bad Fiction

Yeah. Unfortunately.

  • No need for “to say”, you could simply write “A voice was heard,” even if it is passive voice.
  • “Of” is capitalized, technically “the” shouldn’t be either, but the first “the” can be, right?
  • “Who dares disturb” is itself a cliche
  • Eh, it’s slight and most people tolerate it, but it shouldn’t be something like Immortal Bitches of Space? Otherwise, immortal can modify space, right? And who has ever heard of needing to describe space as immortal to make it special? Yeah, I’m being picky, but that’s the whole point of all this. After all there is a difference between a Dark Elf Tower and a Dark Tower of Elves.
  • If you have a sentence that reads, “‘I am Grimm Shado,’ said Grimm Shado,” you hardly need a “his” to modify triple wand claws, do you?
  • Extend is usually as a transitive verb, but here it either has no object or the object is misplaced, unlike Gordon Cameron’s examples, where the verb comes before the object and helps make more smoother reading.
  • Since hyphens are used to avoid ambiguity, I think we need one in triple wand claw. Is it a claw that happens to be a wand or a wand that happens to have claws on it? Do we have three claws on one wand or three wands on one claw? Or is it three claws, each with a wand or three wands, each with a claw?
  • There’s no description of what the voice is before he introduces himself as Grimm Shado and I’m sure we can all guess what he looks like, giving the action of extending his triple wand claws is a tremendously bad way to set up his appearance for reader understanding, since we don’t even have a point of reference for what the rest of his looks like or whether he has three arms or is made up of different weapons entirely.
  • Grimm Shado appears to be in the Crypt of Immortal Space Bitches, but is not, himself an Immortal Space Bitch, since he is a he.
  • After admonishing the other character for disturbing his rest, he says he is here to take it to the limit, in a line that implies he has specifically come to the crypt to do so, instead of being there all along and reacting to a disturbance.
  • “Take it to the limit” is such a casual phrase, I’m seems like it would fit much better than “I am.”
  • Maybe I don’t get the reference, but take WHAT to the limit? What is “it” referring to, here? Anyone know the original reference?

-Kitsune, cackling

I hear macrame is relaxing. Maybe you should give that a try. It will probably help you get out all that agression that Jack Thompson is talking about.

Man, that was a fresh zinger.

Good picks.

  • Eh, it’s slight and most people tolerate it, but it shouldn’t be something like Immortal Bitches of Space? Otherwise, immortal can modify space, right? And who has ever heard of needing to describe space as immortal to make it special? Yeah, I’m being picky, but that’s the whole point of all this. After all there is a difference between a Dark Elf Tower and a Dark Tower of Elves.

It’s okay for a noun to act as a modifier, such as “bulletin board.” We don’t call it a “board of/for bulletins.”

Edit: Or “weiner dog.” Or “video game.”

  • If you have a sentence that reads, “‘I am Grimm Shado,’ said Grimm Shado,” you hardly need a “his” to modify triple wand claws, do you?
  • Extend is usually as a transitive verb, but here it either has no object or the object is misplaced, unlike Gordon Cameron’s examples, where the verb comes before the object and helps make more smoother reading.

Correct on both counts. Extend can be used instransitively, too; however, in that case, the tense needs to agree. I’m sure there’s at least one other way the clause could be fixed other than the ways you and I mentioned.

  • Since hyphens are used to avoid ambiguity, I think we need one in triple wand claw. Is it a claw that happens to be a wand or a wand that happens to have claws on it? Do we have three claws on one wand or three wands on one claw? Or is it three claws, each with a wand or three wands, each with a claw?

Heh. I remember pausing when I read that the first time to have to re-parse it. Once I’d re-parsed it, however, I’d forgotten that I’d had to do so. :)

  • There’s no description of what the voice is before he introduces himself as Grimm Shado and I’m sure we can all guess what he looks like, giving the action of extending his triple wand claws is a tremendously bad way to set up his appearance for reader understanding, since we don’t even have a point of reference for what the rest of his looks like or whether he has three arms or is made up of different weapons entirely.

That could be an artifact of the quoted text being in the middle of the passage.

  • Grimm Shado appears to be in the Crypt of Immortal Space Bitches, but is not, himself an Immortal Space Bitch, since he is a he.

hahahaha! :)

I guessed that Grimm Shado was trespassing.

  • After admonishing the other character for disturbing his rest, he says he is here to take it to the limit, in a line that implies he has specifically come to the crypt to do so, instead of being there all along and reacting to a disturbance.
  • “Take it to the limit” is such a casual phrase, I’m seems like it would fit much better than “I am.”
  • Maybe I don’t get the reference, but take WHAT to the limit? What is “it” referring to, here? Anyone know the original reference?

“Take it to the limit” is a song by The Eagles. see Track 8

-Kitsune, cackling

The more flaws we find, the funnier it gets. Brilliant stuff.

Yes, but in this part I’m nitpicking Immortal Space, an adjective noun combo, not Space Bitches. I’m saying it’s ambiguous again, are they the Bitches of Immortal Space and if so, how can space be immortal, or are they, the more likely Immortal Bitches of Space? You see what I mean? So that’s why the example with Dark Elf Tower and Dark Tower of Elves, one can be a home for dark elves, or be a dark tower that houses elves, or both at the same the time, and the other can only be a dark tower for the regular elves.

It’s also unlikely that Grimm Shado’s lack of description comes from being in the middle of the passage, though it could also be more bad writing. A voice was heard to say implies the hearer doesn’t know who the voice is or see them. I’m certainly not one of those people who requires everyone to be described, as that in itself can be bad writing, but giving no context of where the triple wand claws came out of is rather sloppy, no? The only way it wouldn’t be is we had prior common knowledge, i.e. no one really questions what you mean when you say a ghost floated out of a grave, though it would be surprising to hear a squirrel did so.

This is a great deal of fun, especially since bashing fantasy writing is a special sport of mine I quite enjoy. I like razing people who on one hand praise a fantasy novel, then completely condemn some other genre piece, or can go take the good and the bad in equal measures, but cannot do so to other niches they don’t enjoy.

-Kitsune

Well, maybe claws can’t extend by themselves – I would have to ask a cat about that – but I still say the tense thing isn’t a problem. “He walked down the avenue, his cape trailing behind him” reads perfectly fine to me. Maybe a cape can trail and a claw can’t extend, but what’s tense got to do with it?

I love the sense of chittering Lovecraftian horror in this description. And the fact that it was typed on an ‘elite’ typewriter. I picture it vibrating with mechanical horror as the unearthly letters of the text were slowly picked out, one finger at a time.

But! No exploration of the anals of bad literature is complete without this.

Yes, but in this part I’m nitpicking Immortal Space, an adjective noun combo, not Space Bitches.

I see what you’re saying. I think “Immortal Space Bitches” works because, well, whoever heard of Space being Mortal? I imagine that there would be context filling in the gaps, if there were a Space for Immortals perhaps (but given the general quality of L. H. Franzibald’s other works, I wouldn’t put any money on it).

Now that you mention it, it is ambiguous.

This is a great deal of fun, especially since bashing fantasy writing is a special sport of mine I quite enjoy. I like razing people who on one hand praise a fantasy novel, then completely condemn some other genre piece, or can go take the good and the bad in equal measures, but cannot do so to other niches they don’t enjoy.

:)

Maybe a cape can trail and a claw can’t extend, but what’s tense got to do with it?

I figure that if Gloomy Dark says this as his claws extend, then the preposition’s implied, and the verb needs to agree. Put the preposition back in there, and you see what I mean: “‘Blah blah,’ he said, as his claws extending.”

With Kitsune’s interpretation, “extending” can work, but only if some information is added.

But either way, it needs to change.

Edit: I realize that my “implied preposition” might be changing the meaning of the sentence, so I’m willing to concede the point.

Heehee, “anals.”

I figure that if Gloomy Dark says this as his claws extend, then the preposition’s implied, and the verb needs to agree. Put the preposition back in there, and you see what I mean: “‘Blah blah,’ he said, as his claws extending.”

You could do the same thing with the Henry James sentence I quoted. I know you already decided James is incorrect, but I still feel that

“‘You frighten me a little, but I think I’m right,’ said Ralph, persisting in cheer.”

and its ilk read perfectly fine. I’d be surprised if I’m the only one who feels that way. I’m not trying to be obtuse here. I feel something is off with the trick of simply inserting a preposition; I suspect there is some grammatical subtlety that is being missed here. I apologize for contuining to refer back to “ear” and “feel” as my guides, but that is all I have to work with. IMO either there is some sense in which it is grammatical, or it is a case of an “incorrect” construction so well established that it becomes as good as correct.

What specifically confused me about your later comment to Kitsune is this:

Extend can be used instransitively, too; however, in that case, the tense needs to agree.

I don’t see the question of “extend” being or not being a transitive verb, as related to the question of tense. I thought Kitsune was simply saying that claws normally can’t extend by themselves… something or someone would have to extend its claws. Perhaps I misunderstood him as well.

edit edit: Also, if you can add an “as” to the sentence, why can’t you also add a “were”? “As his claws were extending.”

Ok hang on, now I’m confusing myself even more. I want to lay out the James and the Grim Shado sentences again. I’m not sure the same thing is going on here.

a) “Blah blah said Grim Shado, his claws extending.”

b) “‘You frighten me a little, but I think I’m right,’ said Ralph, persisting in cheer.”

In the case of Ralph you could put a “who was” before “persisting.” You can’t do that with Grim Shado… Sentence A has two subjects (Grim, and the claws) whereas Sentence B has only one subject (Ralph is doing both the talking, and the persisting). Is this what you mean by the transitivity of the verb affecting the tense?

You could turn it around and have it be: “Blah blah said Grim Shadow, extending his claws.” Now Grim is the one doing both the saying and the extending, and the construction is identical to the Ralph sentence.

edit edit: But even if claws can’t extend, noses can twitch. If I instead go: “Blah blah said Grim Shado, his nose twitching” we have still got two separate subjects in the same sentence but it doesn’t read to me as wrong at all. I feel like I’ve read constructions like that a thousand times in perfectly reputable, well written books. I wish I had more to rely on than “ear” but it just doesn’t feel wrong…

Also, my point was if extend is transitive, you need to extend something, you need to have an object. In this case, perhaps, the triple wand claws, “extending his triple wand claws”. If that’s not what he is extending, an object that describes the manner of extension, “triple wand claws extending past the table” though that’s still not much better. I think it’s mostly bad because it twists normal syntax by putting the normal object before the verb to sound “higher” and ends up “lower.”

A similar way is used poorly in Japanese when the negative form of a verb is given the sometimes higher more literary and archaic speech, simply expressed by adding a “na” after the positive form of the verb and not ending with a casual “n”; or when the expression for must is separated into two words separated by a particle, which sounds ear-flaying when you do it the wrong way or at the wrong time. I know you’re probably not familiar with either one, but its just an example to show that this thing happens in fantasy literature across cultures.

In the Henry James example, persist can be taken either way, it can be intransitive, without an object and Ralph can just persist and that would be fine. But it takes an indirect object and that’s fine too, he persists in something. But do you like this as much, “‘You frighten me a little, but I think I’m right,’ said Ralph, his cheer persisting.”

It’s just an example of the faux high language lots of fantasy novel writers incorrectly and woefully scatter across their sentences like potpourri. Observe two from this little genre hack I’ve been reading on the train lately:

“Lluka’s warning clashed discordantly with Balar’s assurances, but Balar was the brother who looked uncomfortable.”

“Llesho suddenly found himself in common cause with Lluka [who lives up on the second floor]–the two of them glared in unison at their brother.”

I mean, sheesh.

-Kitsune

But do you like this as much, “‘You frighten me a little, but I think I’m right,’ said Ralph, his cheer persisting.”

It’s less elegant but it does not read to me as incorrect, certainly not for any sense of tense as Rimbo is arguing. I think a mood could be a subject in a sentence. “His anger welled up within him,” for instance.

And I know that a simple taboo on mixing “ed” and “ing” in the same sentence is definitely not the whole story. Here are three sentences I picked out by Oscar Wilde at random:

“You went to the Opera?” asked Hallward, speaking very slowly, and with a strained touch of pain in his voice.

“I don’t know what you mean, Basil,” he exclaimed, turning round.

“The husbands of very beautiful women belong to the criminal classes,” said Lord Henry, sipping his wine.

I mean, to my eye these are totally uncontroversial, run of the mill sentences. Yet I don’t see the essential difference between them and what Grim Shado’s claw is doing – apart from the thought that maybe a claw shouldn’t be able to extend by itself. I know that Grim and his claw are two subjects not one; but I don’t see how that alters the equation materially. And to take that last Lord Henry sentence, if I replaced the last clause (“sipping his wine”) with “his nose twitching” or “his demeanor darkening” (IOW with a clause using a second subject) it would still read as correct to me.

Seriously, I’m not trying to be difficult. If there is some trick I’m missing, I apologize. But I just am not seeing a problem with tense-mixing here.

Well, I don’t catch the problem with tense-mixing either, since my quibble is entirely based on transitive vs. intransitive verbs, but perhaps it is a case of being sensitive to different things. After all, in my native language you’d have to be linguistically retarded to confuse transitive and intransitive use, it is so easy to keep straight, so I naturally hone in on that. On the other hand, you can have eight different verbs, all with different tenses, with very few words between them in Japanese and it sounds just fine, so I’m not exactly the best person to even register an opinion on how natural it sounds. I bet my own writing is littered with those kinds of tense errors.

-Kitsune

I don’t think that intentionally poor writing can ever compete with unintentionally poor writing. There’s an almost magical quality about the truly awful.

The Lyttle Lytton contest has started to acknowledge this fact – it now has separate categories for original and “found” entries. (Lyttle Lytton is a much more concise, and funnier, version of the Bulwer-Lytton contest for bad novel opening lines)

  1. There’s no tense-mixing with the claws extending–“extending” in this case is a participle, which means it acts like an adjective. “Extended” would work as well–it’s the past participle.

  2. “Extend” has both transitive and intransitive meanings.

And that’s the grammar-nerd lesson of the day.

That’s great! I think ‘worst opening line’ competitions are often pretty sucky, those minimawful ones are awesome.

As to Atlanta, in its favour, it’s pretty funny. And the fact it was accepted for motherfucking publication makes up for it being a deliberate pisstake.