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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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Too good for a slush pile!

By Fiona Gregory, editor

Jan 22, 2017: The Slush Pile is a collection of about 35 short stories, most science fiction or futuristic, with a fair sprinkling of horror, urban fantasy, and real life. It’s not always clear which of these a story is going to be when you start reading it, so I recommend you pick randomly from the table of contents rather than "Browse by Genre" to avoid spoilers!

These are the best kind of short stories, because they drop you right into an interesting scene or conversation, giving you enough information to paint a vivid picture of whatever it may be – life on a space station, a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a young girl entering a haunted house on a dare – while clues as to the true nature of the setting and the characters keep unrfolding as you read, until often the light comes on in a blast at the end. Addictive and enthralling tales!

The latest additions to the site are comics rather than stories, but just click on Table of Contents to see the story list.

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This Bridge Will Hold

By Patrick Rochefort, member

Sep 17, 2016: The Bridge tells the science-fiction tale of a generational ship, split by a disaster centuries ago. In the aftermath of the disaster, civilization(s) aboard the split ship have decayed, knowledge lost, and bright hope for the future all but extinguished.

When the ship begins to unexpectedly repair itself again, and reunites the two halves of the ship after centuries apart, conflicts erupt, and two brilliant minds, one from each side of the ship, must come together to save what may be the last of the human race.

The Good: The generational ship trope has been used well here, with a novel presentation of having multiple societies emerge. Shades of Snowpiercer here, in this story. The prose is interesting and the characterization solid, if painted by a broad brush at times. The elements of science fiction that are incorporated over time are interesting and refreshingly told.

The Bad: Dialogue is frequently too long and stilted, coming off as ‘literary’ instead of trying to reflect realistic dialogue. Early antagonists in the story come across as one-dimensional.

The Ugly: Occasional spelling errors are noted, and formatting issues come up on the site. Some links don’t work, or work intermittently(?!).

Overall, I’m up to part 20, and I think this is a solid and interesting story so far, and I’ll probably come back to finish it when it is complete.

I think this will make for a tight, light science-fiction read, once complete.

2.5 stars

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