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Web Fiction Sketch Comedy

By revfitz, author of Existential Terror and Breakfast

Jun 24, 2017: Denham’s Dentrifice is totally anachronistic and overly silly. The constant irreverent humor is either a product of stubborn integrity or of a particularly productive form of madness. If these things sounded more like a warning to you than odd praise, turn back now! There is nothing here for you. If, however, the idea of Monty Python’s Flying Circus put to pen and prose sounds appealing, god’s speed, you just found your new home.

Denham’s Dentrifice is written by Phineas Clockword, and honestly the title and the author’s name should tell you everything you need to know about the sense of humor in store for you. The website is not a single serial or concept (outside of the very silly humor shared throughout), but instead is a collection of short stories. As of this writing I have read “Goatlegs”, “The Intermediates”, “The Blooms of Perennial Wisdom”, and “Of Wood, Voodooand Llama”. For the purpose of this review I will be focusing on Phineas Clockword’s prose and writing style instead of any one story.

Phineas Clockword’s writing style often flirts with purple prose. This is done entirely tongue-in-check, however, and the effect is often comical. The styling is often reminiscent of late nineteenth century literature, and, depending on the story, can be either very tight and minimalist, or extraordinarily verbose and meandering. It is hard to get grounded when reading these short stories, as the writing can be very anachronistic and can feel confusing. The author does not allow for any kind of footing on the readers part until a punchline is delivered, which I found to be immensely clever. The punchlines then become revelatory, the reader not only gets the satisfaction of a completed joke, but they also gain a sense of clarity about the story that feels earned. Making “the twist” in his stories,(where the reader’s expectations are turned on their heads) the punchline is a strategy that is well executed and it is one that I admire.

Not every joke lands, and though my opinion on what I have read is mostly positive I do have some criticisms. The style of writing can be too confusing at times, and sometimes the style does more than flirt with purple prose. Though most of the time I found the nineteenth century like musings to be pleasant, it does act as an occasional stop gap and reader flow was sometimes hard to obtain. Updating is sporadic, with nothing posted this month as of this writing. This is a small objection as it only annoys me because I find myself thirsty for more, but it is still worth noting.

Though I know better, it is very hard for me to imagine these short stories written on anything other than an old Underwood typewriter next to a rubber duck that is somehow NECESSARY to the process. Phineas Clockwood has worked very hard to create a sense of silliness that is as witty as it is obligatory. This sort of things vibes very well for me, but I can easily see it being off putting to others. I do not suggest binge reading Denham’s Dentrifice (that might actually be bad for one’s sanity) but the site is perfect for a quick stop a day.

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Idiosyncratic & delightful

By Fiona Gregory, editor

Jan 1, 2015: The line in the blurb "This is Fantasy, as you know it, but yet unfamiliar, and fantasy stranger still than that" is a pretty accurate description of the contents of Fabled Hearts. The stories take place in a shared world, actually a series of worlds, and range in length from a few pages to multiple chapters. My impression of these worlds is that magic is the very essence of their composition, the way atoms are of ours. The inhabitants, humanoid to varying degrees or not at all, vary in power but it seems at least some familiarity with magic comes as naturally as breathing. The stories are also described as ranging "from silly to serious"; in general the mood is playful and whimsical, with quips of light humour, and a few tense moments.

My first impression was it has some charm but mainly on a childish level. There are a significant number of grammar mistakes/typo’s which contribute to an amateurish effect. But there was something there. I then tried a couple of the later, longer pieces and my patience was rewarded. There is a lot I like about these stories. The writing structure could flow better, but the stories have a freshness and originality that seems to just bubble up naturally. I run into passages like this:

"The water sprites dancing on the froth were not nearly as solemn, laughing little figures, they stole away pebbles and other things that broke from the cliff, tossing them amongst themselves. They spent every day like this, never remembering the previous day."

..and get this lovely shiver of awe. While the general outline of the stories may reflect familiar tropes, the details decidedly inform you that you are in an unknown universe.

All in all, it is a bit amateurish (though improving), but there’s something special and intriguing here. It’s a fun and wondrous world to visit a couple times a week, and believe me, you’ll never guess what you will encounter next.

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Editor’s First Impression

By Palladian, editor, author of Super

May 11, 2013: Even though I’ve read the four chapters currently available for this story, I still feel I should call it a first impression, since it doesn’t feel like the story’s quite gotten off the ground yet. The idea behind this collection of short stories is that they’re all supposed to be about Helitheren, a new fantasy world that two young authors have come up with. I can see that the two seem enthusiastic about their writing, and their world.

With that said, I really haven’t seen much yet that seems to be truly new. Stories with dragons, brave and foolish warriors and hunters, magicians that can give death and life, have all been written about many times before. Although I’d like to, I haven’t yet seen anything that these authors could consider something they truly came up with – for example, a new race of people that they imagined, a different way of working with the forces of the world that isn’t magic, etc. What I’ve read so far just seems like a different mix of a lot of other fantasy novels I’ve read. In the future, I’d really like these two authors to dig deep from an imaginary standpoint and find a way to mark this world as truly a creation of their own minds, rather than an amalgam or extension of what they liked from other fantasy stories.

Another thing I’d like to see the authors focus on is characterization. Three protagonists have been introduced in the four stories currently written, but I haven’t been able to really connect with any of them. The one I was able to identify with the most, the hunter, had a lot of the details and information that can help a reader bond with a character – a view of his life from his eyes, showing where he was strong and weak, an idea of what he values. His dialog with the creature in the story, however, sounded so unlike what a person would say (in particular, what this person might say), I was just sort of thrown out of the story. I’d love to see more work done on this in the future, especially for the necromancer, who seems interesting but is a particularly opaque character, even though more has been written about him than anyone else so far.

In addition, although much of the language usage is good, I think both of these authors would benefit from working with an editor due to the tense, dialog punctuation, and incorrect usage errors I spotted. At any rate, it’s actually a good way to grow a lot as a writer in a very short time, so I definitely recommend it.

This might be a the sort of story that die-hard fantasy fans would like, but I can’t find as much to recommend it as I’d like. I’d love to see these two authors put some more work into their worldbuilding, fleshing out their characters, and these stories, and I’d be most interested in seeing what they’d come up with as a result.

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