Page99: a re-post

by stephenpalmersf

I stumbled across an old message about Page99 today, so went back to the original set of remarks about my novels. Below are all the comments, not just my favourites (as posted a couple of years ago). For me this still makes fascinating reading, especially about the issue of names – unpronounceable and otherwise – in SF and fantasy.
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Over the last few months I’ve had page 99 of three of my novels up at Page99 – Urbis Morpheos, Muezzinland and Hallucinating. The results have been interesting. Below I’ve edited out the comments where people actually said something (most were “no comment”). The thing that struck me most was how many people couldn’t cope with SF and fantasy names. In my case this felt particularly weird for Muezzinland, where all the names follow real African cultural norms.

Urbis Morpheos:

lost me with the words.
Although I’m intrigued, nothing brings me out of a story like unpronounceable names. If I have to stop to figure it out, I loose [sic] the thread.
really interesting!
For dialogue you can just use “she said” or “Psolilai said.” The sentence should be full of active verbs.
Colour me intrigued – would go back to the beginning and get context for all the words before making a final decision.
I am turning this page because the word ‘dirigible’ appears in it. Unless the word appears in every page of the book, I will not buy it.
Reads as if both characters and sentences were shaken out of another story and cobbled back together to make this story.
I don’t thing [sic] I could pronounce any of the names right if I tried…
I like the opening line. It has intriguing elements, but the names keep me at a distance – excessively complex sci-fi names make it feel too much like a club. It would be more accessible with more accessible (or even just quirkier) names.
I’m not keen on the present tense. The excerpt is hard to follow, although at the end of the page my interest rose.
The story didn’t catch me.

Hallucinating:

lost me
An inconsistent tone. He might be chilled to the bone, but the nonchalant tone of the first 3 paragraphs don’t let me believe it.
No interest in Sci–Fi, but this caught my attention nonetheless.
Personal preference, but I can’t abide present tense.
Its’ own World is just fascinating. i’d like to read another page.
Not sure about the names, but I want to read further just to find out what he does once discovered.
Mmm. Between the clunky names and odd narrative position, I’m not feeling this so much.
Swings from past tense to present tense. Might be better written in 3rd person omniscient. Doesn’t read well.
Seems okay… Not much to say, but I’m no writer.

Muezzinland:

looks like some kind of fantasy. don’t ream em [sic]
I’m curious to know more about the virtual people
I don’t like this genre, but the writing flowed well.
The writing is pretty nice! Except good god but those names are clunky.
Yes not too bad at all, though not my favourite genre it has a nice “feel” to it
The names are impossible pronounce.
Excellent landscape description, very real.
The names with no vowels at the front are hard to pronounce in my head… Gmoulaye, Mnada. Is that necessary to the story? Needs rewriting. Stilted dialogue.
Funny-name overload. Even with a 98-page run-up, this is still an awful lot of made-up words crammed onto one page. Other than that, the writing seems good enough, but (as with much sci-fi) the urge to include as many foreign or alien names as possible in a short space is off-putting.
sounds interesting
I hate fantasy
Kind of a toss up. Want to know more, but I don’t think I would waste my time.
I didn’t even finish this page. It lost me halfway through.
Why do fantasy novels have hard–to–read names? Tolkien gave us a glossary, but “Gandolph” [sic] and Strider were memorable and easy names. Here, the plot – taking over the world –– isn’t enough to make me care about this particular world. Maybe if I’d been hooked from page one….
Nicely told tail [sic] and interesting names. I was a little lost, but that was because it was the middle of the book.

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