Present vs past tense

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Present vs past tense

Postby Brightonian » Mon Dec 08, 2008 2:50 pm

In the current issue of Interzone, three of the six stories are narrated in the present tense.

Doesn't this tend to lose its effect if everyone is doing it?
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Re: Present vs past tense

Postby admin » Mon Dec 08, 2008 7:13 pm

Using the present tense is a trick of artsy writers, of whom Interzone is fond. Other writers switch to present tense for the exciting bits.

Tarzan walked slowly down the jungle trail. A lion springs from the undergrowth!

Even worse is first person, present tense.

I walk into a bar. The sexy girl at the table in the back bats her eyes at me.

I seem to remember at least one story that ends, "And then I die."

My own recommendation is that you stick to the third person past tense unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise.
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Re: Present vs past tense

Postby Brightonian » Tue Dec 09, 2008 7:39 am

admin wrote:My own recommendation is that you stick to the third person past tense unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise.

I suppose wanting to get into Interzone could count as a compelling reason?

One of my pet hates is when academic historians are asked on to TV or radio programmes they invariably speak in the present tense about events that happened centuries ago, as if they were talking to dim schoolchildren. Do you get that in the US?
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Re: Present vs past tense

Postby admin » Tue Dec 09, 2008 8:25 am

No. In the US academic historians are never invited to go on tv. If they want commentary on George Washington, they ask Madona.
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Re: Present vs past tense

Postby Brightonian » Sat Dec 13, 2008 3:47 am

The obvious next step would be to write a story entirely in the future tense:

"At 4.00 EST on April 17th 3024 CE, Trooper Evan Williams will wake suddenly in his bunk as a barrage of cobalt missiles slams into the bulkhead of the USS Enduring Freedom, in deep orbit off Callisto. He will spring into action, automatically reaching out for his BL58 personal laser cannon ..."

Do you think Interzone would buyt it?
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Re: Present vs past tense

Postby admin » Sat Dec 13, 2008 11:59 am

It's been done.
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Re: Present vs past tense

Postby Brightonian » Tue Feb 03, 2009 3:30 am

Just finished Keith Roberts' "Molly Zero" which is not only told in the present tense but the 2nd person throughout. While reading the story I found this intensely irritating, but it turns out to be possibly justifiable for reasons I will expound when I have more time. I don't think the authors I alluded to in my first post have any excuse though.
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