Uncle Einar isn’t a short story. Not really. It’s a poem and a faerie tale wrapped into one. In it, a winged man – Uncle Einar – bemoans the fact he can no longer fly at night. A brush with a high-tension wire has taken away his sonar. Grounded, he marries and raises a family, and it’s his children who break through his funk. Posing as their kite, he can fly in broad daylight and not be concerned about fearful human eyes falling upon him.
Clearly Ray Bradbury didn’t intend for “Einar” to be taken as realism – more like “Magical Realism”, the brand of fiction later popularized by Latin authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The story doesn’t convey a plot so much as it does a notion – the notion that flying men exist and magic is a concrete thing. Still, there are tangible, relatable feelings at work here, too. Einar’s depression is the same one every man feels after he’s taken a wife and procreated. He wonders if his best days are behind him and if he’ll ever be vital and free again like he was.
With a few pages – and with an economy and precision of language – Bradbury sketches a world that isn’t real, but feels like it could be.
I read Uncle Einar in the collection The October Country.
I’ve been struggling lately, and I need mentoring. I’m a writer so I don’t have to seek guidance from a live human if I don’t want to. I can look to the past. If I need help, I can read.
Ray Bradbury has always been an inspiration to me. His writing – at its best – is deeply human and poetically simple. But his catalog is deep and I don’t want to read it all. I therefore took the scientific approach: I Googled “Best Bradbury Stories”. Here, culled from a few sources, is the list of short works I settled upon:
The Small Assassin
And the Rock Cried Out
The Fox and the Forest
Somewhere a Band is Playing
Frost and Fire
There Will Come Soft Rains (from The Martian Chronicles)
The Fog Horn
I Sing the Body Electric
A Sound of Thunder
The Golden Apples of the Sun
The Whole Town’s Sleeping
Via this list – arrived at by strangers – Ray Bradbury will speak to me from the other side. Given the generous advice on craft he offered while he was alive, I expect he won’t mind the imposition.
The Small Assassin has an absurd premise – a newborn conspires to murder its parents. It’s a hard sell, but Ray pulls it off by not leaning overhard on the gimmick. A less skilled writer would’ve showcased the infant slithering around the darkened home laying its traps. Bradbury does none of that. Instead, he writes about what matters – the fear and paranoia of the new mother; her certainty that her son is her enemy. Eventually, that fear spreads like a virus to the father and even to the couple’s doctor. The story does exactly what it’s designed to do – it imbues the mundane with otherworldly horror.
This was a good place to start.
I read The Small Assassin in the collection The October Country.
I own both of Austin Kleon’s books – Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work. Both are slim little volumes chock full of wisdom. Follow the link below for a clean, helpful summation of “Show” from Mr. Kleon himself.
We in America pride ourselves on freedom of the press, but every day I see, and so do you, this kind of dishonesty and distortion not only in this area but in reporting—about guys like me, for instance, which is of minor importance except to me; but also in reporting world news. How can a free people make decisions without facts? If the press reports world news as they report about me, we’re in trouble.
If you don’t know Jeff Buckley’s music, go and buy a copy of Grace. I can say that without reservation. You will like it. If you do know Jeff’s music – or you’re a writer or musician or artist – you should watch this BBC doc about his life.
Follow the link below for a great read from the always reliable, Polygon.
I worked in video games for a number of years – first as an artist and then as a writer. I must say I’m impressed with the content of Mr. Campbell’s post. This section in particular…
But this only tells part of the story. BioWare has made games in the past that lack the emotional wallop of Inquisition. Technological potential is only rarely realized in game design, most particularly in the area of creating convincing narrative worlds. No, this game’s chief triumph is its writing. The fact that the writing stays good, right through this massive game, is an achievement in itself.
The party members only have so many lines that they can deliver, and many of them can only be delivered once certain story and gameplay triggers have been sprung.
Each line costs money, and each must serve its function in moving the story forward and in creating a bond between the player and the character. Each must also be unique to that character, not merely in terms of the words being spoken, or even the way they are spoken. They must be unique in such a way that a player with only a moderate level of investment could read a line and know which character said which line.
I’m about ten hours into “Inquisition” myself and I agree with the writer’s assessment. Check out his whole piece…