the Little Red Reviewer

The lost art of letter writing

Posted on: February 11, 2016

the title of this post is a lie.

Letter writing is not a lost art. It happens all the time.

I hated writing letters as a child. I hated writing Thank You notes for birthday gifts, I hated writing out holiday cards.  I didn’t like addressing envelopes, I didn’t like pretty stationary.

Luckily, I grew out of that.  Way out.  These days I voluntarily write letters,  purchase fun cards and stationary,  go to Postcard expos, and I even enjoy addressing envelopes!  Did any of you hear on the radio the other day that the Post Office had good profits last year?  well, me and my letter writing friends go through a lot of postage.

It probably shouldn’t surprise me that I’ve come to really enjoy epilostery, epistoler, stories told through letter writing.  Characters writing letters back and forth? that sounds so cheesy! so old fashioned!!  but somehow,  I find this method of telling a story so much more effective than a bunch of characters wandering around doing things together. It’s strange, how the limits of letter writing flip themselves inside out to something infinite when used to tell a story.   Think about it – when you write a letter you only have so much space on the page.  It limits your space, so it limits what you can say (unless you want to send a 10 page letter, which is totally OK), so you have to prioritize what you want to say, and details may get left out. Letters also contain far less internal monologue, more inside jokes, the opportunity to add a doodle, misspelled words that may be crossed out, and handwriting that changes sizes or may be difficult to read.  Handwriting is a personal and non-verbal communication method all by itself.

 

So, anyway, I like those kinds of stories, and was lucky enough to run into three fantastic ones recently. Unfortunately, some of these aren’t available for public consumption yet, but they will be soon!

Restless in R’yleh, by Oliver Buckram

Drabblecast, August 2015

People who are having bad dreams write into a newspaper shrink, and get less than helpful answers. Cthulhu himself is eventually convinced to seek psychotherapy.    The story is categorized as comedy horror, and yup, that’s what it is.  I was laughing my head off, but probably shouldn’t have been.

I listened to the audio podcast of this short story, and it was amazing. Complete with a full cast, music, and sound effects, the product value of the podcast was just incredible. So yeah, you can read the story and be entertained, but I think you’ll get so much more out of it if you listen to the audio version.

Much thanks to David Steffen‘s podcast short fiction article at SFSignal for bringing this short story to my attention.

 

So that’s the one that everyone can read/listen to, right now. These next two, you’ll have to wait a few weeks for.

 

I can’t wait until April, because that’s when the new Clockwork Phoenix anthology will be available. If you’ve never picked up one of these anthologies,  you really need to. I could happily  blab about this series forever.  And I probably will, in April.  Anyways, In this newest installment is a story called “The Book of May”, by C.S.E. Cooney and Carlos Hernandez. It’s two people, a guy and a girl, writing letters back and forth.  The letters are one way for the two of them to escape the depressing realities of their every day life.  Best friends, they can write ridiculous things to each other, and it serves as a secret language.  Their letters are so very intimate.  I felt like I was prying into their private life, like I was spying on them, reading letters over their shoulders.  At the second sentence, I knew I would love this story because Morgan says something about wanting to be a tree in her next life. I say that all the time. I have no idea if I’m joking, because I have no reason to be serious about it. Morgan has every reason to be serious.  So that was my instant connection with Morgan. At the second sentence, I knew I would cry at the end, and why wait? So I started crying at the second sentence.  Because #AllTheFeels

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I sometimes describe things, erm, oddly.   I get some mixed signals in my brain – certain sounds have color and sometimes taste, and vibrations get all mixed up with all sorts of other things, and everything is tactile.  Lots of happy mixed signals in my brain is a sign to me that I really enjoy something.

“The Book of May” made me feel like I was every instrument in a symphony, and they were all being played at the same time.

trust me, that’s some damn high praise.

 

You’ll have to wait till April to read “The Book of May”, but you’ll be able to read “Screaming Without A Mouth” in the March issue of Apex Magazine.

“Screaming Without A Mouth” by Travis Heerman is you guessed it, an epistolary story. But there’s no letters here!  Going ultra-modern, Heerman tells his story through a series of text message conversations.   the messages have a time-stamp, just like on your phone, so you can see how long someone has to wait for a response.  There is this super cool negative space thing happening – the time in between the messages. Is the person waiting nervously for a response? are they freaking out?  Was the other person just super busy or watching TV and didn’t look at their phone? Did the see the message and purposely aren’t responding?  It was so weird reading this story, there is practically no characterization (and i’m a sucker for characterization), but  . .   but!  Heerman builds what’s happening in such a compelling way.  Did I mention this is a ghost story?  Look for it in March, at Apex Magazine, you can thank me then.

 

so, yeah. Letter writing. Not a lost art at all.  Just one we too often forget about.

3 Responses to "The lost art of letter writing"

Can I admit that I found ANOTHER card to you that I sealed and addressed but somehow didn’t mail? No idea how long it has been sitting on my kitchen table and no idea what it says. Can’t decide if I should send it or just write you a new letter.

And yeah, Travis’s story is so compelling. Can’t wait for people to read it!😀

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you should totally mail it! i can be a surprise!

hope it’s ok that I talked about Travis’s story before the issue dropped? Husband is sick of me talking about it, because I seriously would NOT shut up about it for like the last week.

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[…] evocative arpeggios, it’s “The Book of May” by C.S.E. Cooney and Carlos Hernandez. I already wrote a bit about this story back in February.  How can I have such a huge smile on my face while reading this […]

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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