The Style of Elements

by Jetse de Vries


[Editor’s Note: Click on the triptych below to view it at full size. To view a PDF with links, click on this file —Jetse_de_Vries-The_Style_of_Elements-Triptych.]

Microsoft Word - Jetse_de_Vries-The_Style_of_Elements-Triptych.d

Jetse de Vries—@shineanthology—is a technical specialist for a propulsion company by day, and a science fiction reader, editor and writer by night. He’s also an avid bicyclist, total solar eclipse chaser, beer/wine/single malt aficionado, metalhead and intelligent optimist. So far, his stories have appeared in SF publications like Clarkesworld Magazine, Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds and Rudy Rucker’s Flurb. This is his first—and hopefully not last—foray in the literary world.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “The Style of Elements”?

    Most of it is in the origin.

    As a kid, I fell in love with reading. But I was torn. My favorite teacher made me appreciate Dutch literature (I’m from The Netherlands). But my father read science fiction, and gladly let me read the books he finished.

    So, from my early youth onwards, I’ve always been torn between literature and science fiction. I prefer the best of both worlds, but am still looking for the ultimate mix of the two. Typically, for me, the Brits come closest. Mike John Harrison (Light) and Chris Priest (The Separation) come closest from the SF-side. David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, the Bone Clocks & The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet) comes closest from the literary side.

    When I started writing in English, The Style of Elements was my bible (for a while), which didn’t quite have its peer in science fiction (even if the Turkey City Lexiconhttp://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/turkey-city-lexicon-a-primer-for-sf-workshops/—and other sources tried real hard).

    Then came this prompt from AE SciFi magazine for their 2013 micro competition:

    “There’s something appealing about the elements, the idea that everything can be broken down into fundamental building blocks that can be endlessly recombined to create new wonders.

    “In AE Micro, we give our authors only two hundred words to work with. But the letters and spaces that make up this microzine aren’t the most impotant elements of the stories. […]”

    This prompted me to write “The Style of Elements” (exactly two hundred words, based on the original chapter titles), both as an ironic mirror image of “The Elements of Style”, but also as a way to look differently at both writing and the world at large. AE SciFi rejected it, as did several other markets (even if The Journal of Unlikely Story Acceptances, while rejecting it, gave it a ‘dishonourable mention’).

    Until, indeed, lightning struck. As a triptych, centered between the scientific (and science-fictional) lore on the left, and the philosophical (and literature-like) lore on the right, it finally shone as I intended. Or possibly it was a matter of finding the right editor, for which my great thanks!

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