Can you help @Strange_Musings fund an anthology?

Alternate Hilarities
Alternate Hilarities

I’m pleased to report that I’ve had a third short story accepted for publication. New York publisher Strange Musings Press will be printing Amending Diabolical Acronym Misuse. However, it will only go ahead if enough people contribute.

To this end, a Kickstarter campaign has been set up to raise $1,100 by Tuesday 25 March. You can donate at several levels from $1 to $150, each of which buys you increasing levels of acknowledgement, privilege, and general bragging rights.

I wouldn’t ask you to do something that I’m not prepared to do myself, so I’ve donated $22 under my legal name Gavin Cruickshank. That amount includes $10 overseas postage for a copy of the book, due out on Thursday 1 May. You can see my contribution on the backers’ page.

I would be most grateful if you could give whatever you can, and the editor Giovanni Valentino will be delighted. Don’t forget to share this blog post on WordPress and/or your preferred social networks.

If this comes off, I’ll have been published in the UK, Australia, and the US. Canada, I have my eye on you.

A ______ of Links.

I originally posted this on 17 February. However, it never posted to Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. Here’s what you missed.

What is the collective noun for hyperlinks? If there isn’t already one, may I suggest the term clique, a play on click? It’ll be a quick entry today, with four links I’d like to share with you. I’ve ranked them, starting with what I believe to be most interesting and useful first. If you have any further suggestions, place them in the comments. Here is my clique. blog

I use this site quite a lot, and there are always articles discussing the use, abuse, and disuse, of our language. It’s updated most days, and offers something for even the casual linguist to think about.

Eight Offbeat Literary Genres

Further to my Tabletpunk, suggestion a couple of weeks ago, this Buzzfeed article lists some genres you might have heard about, like the Penny Dreadful, and some that are new to me, including Wuxia.

Gender-neutral pronouns in English

In the Mandarin language, there isn’t much to distinguish between the pronouns he, she, him, and her. But English is the opposite, with very few ways to hide the gender of a person. This in-depth article explores the problem and possible solutions. You might have to close an advert to read this article.

How to blog

The chances are that you already know this, but there is something here for those who have always used blogging software off-the-shelf, as it were, without any tinkering. It focusses particularly on WordPress, which I found a comfortable duvet after nine years with the scratchy blanket of LiveJournal. You have my author friend Wendy Jones to thank for this.

nning. Pushing The End to The Begi

I met a woman last week who reads books in a particular manner. She’ll read the last few pages first, decide if she likes the way it ends, and if so, she’ll then start reading from page one. She added that this method allows her to know if there’s going to be a satisfactory ending before investing time in the main story.

I do accept her argument as logically sound, but there are books where the ending makes very little sense unless you’ve ingested the main text. I’m thinking of an epic novel, such as Moby Dick. Reading the conclusion without knowing the tensions between Captain Ahab and his crew, detailed in the rest of the story, you won’t fully understand why their voyage ended the way it did.

If you ever do tackle Moby Dick, incidentally, you can quite safely skip Herman Melville’s obsessive personal polemics about the whale.

Another problem with this system is that some books paint a picture rather than tell a story. Consider Breakfast at Tiffany’s; the novella, not the film, although the woman in question uses the same method with DVDs. Truman Capote explores the complex relationship between the narrator and Holly Golightly in such a rich manner that there is as much to be gained from the description as the plot.

I do enjoy including some historical context in my entries. Read the prologue of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet and those 14 lines give away the plot before any of the other actors say a word. Audiences expected to be given the precis at the beginning.

By the 20th century, the position was completely reversed. Agatha Christie understood this when she wrote The Mousetrap, at the end of which she specifically asks the audience to keep the secret. These days, there is still an expectation that endings will be kept under wraps, or clearly marked Spoiler Alertwith the odd exception such as Star Wars or The Sixth Sense, where it seems fair game to give it away. But there are also websites you can consult if you want the full plot.

I’ve created a poll to gauge how many WordPress users agree with my feelings on the matter. If necessary, do expand on your answer in the comments.


Nothing marks out a generation more than the slang it uses.

If we concentrate on right now, February 2014, you’ll hear people say they’ve, “taken a selfie,” or say, “because,” followed by a single word rather than an explanation. Back fifteen years, and it wasn’t unusual to, “tape that programme,” or answer the phone with, “WASSU-U-UP?”

So when writing a piece that’s going to hang around for a while, most notably a novel, it’s a good idea to decide whether you want to incorporate the slang of the day to make it a period piece, or create a more timeless tale by using more generic terms.

If you want a photo taken properly, do it your selfie.

I recently wrote a story where a major plot element is a pager. This immediately sets it in the 1980s, and I felt safe using the term data bank to describe the device’s storage, rather than the more modern memory. I tried not to overload the piece with dated words, but I did allow myself a yuppie, as the pager’s owner described himself.

But while the eighties is over and we know what it was like, writing a story set in the future is different. One day, selfie and because _____ will be as embarrassing as fab and groovy. For my first novel, where the action takes place in the 2500s, I used, for instance, sound system rather than iPod or even MP3 player. I decided not to try predicting the future term, and write something a little more bland, as would distract from what I was trying to say.

There is an elegant solution to this problem, and those of you who write steampunk know what I’m talking about. This genre imagines modern or relatively recent technology as people in the 19th century might have seen it. There are many literary examples of this, but an accessible non-literary one is the TV series Warehouse 13.

Which leads me to wonder if there’ll be a genre of the future where writers of the 2110s envision their everyday gadgets as we in the 2010s might have viewed them. This decade’s most popular invention is probably the touchscreen computer. So, a hundred years in advance, I’m going to label this predicted genre as tabletpunk.

I’d like to be around to see the look on some geek’s face when they unearth this entry.