Friday, May 2, 2014

What I Think About When I Think About Lucy Corin's "100 Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses."

I've been reading 100 Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses, by Lucy Corin, a book that is an actual book.  While I'm usually opposed to actual real books made of paper because this isn't 1853, I make exceptions if it's the only way to read a book that I really want to read.

"Real" books should only be "real" books if there's a reason for them to be in physical form.  The two books I bought as get well presents for myself are both real books (the other one is "S" by JJ Abrams) and both seem to have a reason for being real.

In 100 Apocalypses, for example, Lucy Corin relies on the physical layout of the page to help tell some of the stories.  There are bits in the margins of some stories, a layout that works really well.  (One story tells the main story in the big part of the page but along the margin tells what seems to be an alternate version of the story, a gimmick I liked.)  And the story I got to most recently (I'm about halfway through all the apocalypses) is called "Vision Test Card."

The story starts out with small -- VERY small -- print, just as a vision test would.  It's so small that while I could (just barely) read it on the page, with a lot of work, I ended up cheating (?) and taking a picture of the page with my phone to enlarge the words:

And as I did that, I thought how weird it was that this book, which the author adamantly was determined should remain in physical format for me (again, something I usually dislike: telling me how I have to experience your work rubs me the wrong way, unless it's for a purpose) this book had been converted back into electronic form for me to read it.

The gimmick itself, the small words growing larger, works well in the story and as a reading device, making you work for the story and focusing you on the act of reading as well as the story itself, while also giving you a feel for how the man across the aisle might feel: "he couldn't tell from watching her fingers what she was writing," and we almost can't tell, either.

I call it a gimmick, because it is, but that seems too pejorative. A gimmick is a style device that doesn't work.  When it does, it is more properly termed a device.  So Lucy Corin's devices work in the service of her stories and because of that, the small type, concurrent stories, and even the physical nature of the book itself enhance, rather than detract from, the experience of reading the book.

(Also, it's an excellent book that spec fic lovers should read.  If you want a sample of the stories, McSweeney's ran excerpts weekly and has them up on its site; click this link to go there.  Lucy Corin's writing has influenced mine significantly, as you'll see if you check out any of her stories.)


Check out my own stories at lit, a place for stories, where I not only publish some of my own work but I will pay you for your writing!  Click here to go to the site


  1. I don't know; I think a gimmick is a gimmick whether it works or not. In fact, I think it may only be a gimmick if it does work... Yes, after reading half a dozen definitions from various sources, a gimmick is something that works. Only one of the definitions used the word "intended," so I would have to say, in general, a failed gimmick is not actually a gimmick at all.

    Not that that was the point of your post, but that's where my brain got stuck.

  2. It is a catchy word: Gimmick. Fun to say. But Wikipedia backs my definition:

    In marketing language, a gimmick is a unique or quirky special feature that makes something "stand out" from its contemporaries. However, the special feature is typically thought to be of little relevance or use. Thus, a gimmick is a special feature for the sake of having a special feature.

  3. You'd think by now I'd know to look and see if Sweetie was signed in.

  4. I fell out of love with ebooks in a major way. I still buy and read them, but they aren't real books. After the apocalypse everyone will wish they had paper books!

    And food. People will want food too.

  5. I think you're the first person to make the trip backwards in time.

    I hate real books. Really, hate is the emotion I feel towards them.