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Original and Witty

By Fiona Gregory, editor

May 31, 2014: Is this the most original idea for a detective story ever? Once you get over the huge leap of disbelief, you have quite a ride awaiting you.

"Khrushchev replaced the receiver. ‘That’s it. Our first job. There’s been a murder down on the sea front.’ Stalin’s moustache reluctantly made space for a thin, menacing grin."

As you might expect, there’s some wit to be made of the situation. Gems such as Stalin watching modern American TV:

"For a while he settled on a channel where z-list celebrities have to survive in a jungle environment. One was challenged to eat animal parts, to win more animal parts. Stalin chuckled, ‘Ha, Kangeroo anus, and they thought I was fucking cruel.’ Enjoying this until its conclusion, Stalin turned to the History Channel. ‘I’ll give this lot another chance today, but if it’s all Hitler again then they can forget it.’"

You’ll never see these late Soviet leaders the same way. Chubby Khrushchev comes off as a bit of a buffoon, and these former comrades do have some post-mortem issues with each other, but manage to work together for the sake of a job they have no idea how they’ve come back to life to do. And then Khrushchev begins to get it . . . .

OK, the ending may have lost me a bit. It peaks with a dramatic confrontation between the different world views of these two dead dictators, but the detective story part of the plot sort of dissolves. This is one of those whimsical stories in that perplexing space between nonsensical and sincere; magic realism? Hosted on a plain blogspot blog, so navigation is a bit awkward. It may not grab everyone, but I say anything this original and cool is worth at least checking out. And if you don’t feel like you can laugh about Stalin, or relate to Khrushchev, or you really can’t see that either of them would deign to be private investigators in modern LA under any circumstances; bear with it, it is going somewhere with that. Read, Komrades!

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Quick Review: Peculiar Memories

By Wildbow, author of Ward

Oct 9, 2013: Peculiar Memories is a series of shorts, posted on what appears to be a once a month schedule. He shares his experiences as a daydreamer, in a setting that appears to blur fantasy and reality, with strange happenings here and there. Meeting strangers that are a little too strange.

The imagery is evocative, but presentation proves the biggest barrier to entry. The site is bright, with a white background and light-ish gray text, and every entry falls into the same pattern of six to ten thick, dense paragraphs of 200-800 words.

Author Jason Macias tagged the story as postmodern, and I can see the elements of stream of consciousness and liberal interpretations of reality. The tag, then, is definitely accurate, but the nature of the rambling writing couples with the dense paragraphs and the gray text on white to make it hard to read. My eyes couldn’t consistently run from sentence to sentence, and it was harder still to find my place in the midst of a paragraph if I happened to get distracted or lost.

Standalone sentences ranged from the overly dry to the imaginative, and most of the entries seemed fairly inventive in terms of what was happening. The entries I didn’t like were the ones that were wholly focused on the author, reading more like someone’s experiences in psychedelics (psychically experiencing ‘oneness’ with the internet, for example).

I found it a bit of a slog, but I suspect it could improve by leaps and bounds if it focused a little more on more relatable experiences and took just one or two steps to make it readable, such as by breaking up the paragraphs and paragraph length.

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Quirky (un)true story

By G.S. Williams, author of No Man An Island

Sep 29, 2011: I strangely kind of love "False Memoir" right now.

There needs to be some editing done. On occasion, the tense shifts from first person past to first person present, and there’s the occasional dropped word or typo. These things are easy to fix.

But the narrative voice of the main character, Katherine, is funny and well-paced, even as she’s trying to gather information about Jack O’Lies, a reporter whose wife was murdered by a serial killer.

(I have to confess, the first time I read the name "Jack O’Lies" I wondered if it was a villain’s name, like the Joker,—come on, Jack O’ Lantern?—but no, that’s just his strange, possibly Irish, surname.)

So far it seems like a well-written character piece and crime drama with some intrigue. But what made me love it today (and we’ll see if that continues) is the asides—Katherine comes across as funny, noting absurd observations in her tone alongside the details. But on top of that, there are links to other websites scattered throughout the text to add subtext, background and depth—as if the story is actually part of the larger world.

For example, when she wants to make a point about how there are few daily newspapers, let alone crime-beat reporters, she doesn’t link to a real article about how the Internet has caused a decline in paper sales. No, she links to the Onion, and an article about how the decline in paper sales has been partially stalled because kidnappers like to buy the newspaper for pictures with victims to prove that the date is accurate and the victim is still alive. It’s absurd and silly, and yet also dark. And I think that link shows the kind of sense of humour and tone the author herself has, and that says a lot about where this story might be going.

Dark, funny, clever, and a little twisted.

So far, so good.

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