NEW STORY: "Load," by Jeff Vande Zande
Clouds weigh as much as 747s. If you were to stuff a cloud into a 747, it would drop like a seagull full of Alka-Seltzer. Clouds don't look heavy. You can fly right through them. But all those fluffy tendrils add up. A big thunderhead might weigh as much as 10,000 747s.

A material's force-per-unit-area-at-failure divided by its density is its "strength-to-weight ratio."

Crackers have a pretty shitty strength-to-weight ratio. Cookies are a little bit better, but you will still never see a tank or drill bit made out of cookies. Also, you will never see an apartment building made of chalk, even though chalk is a thousand times cheaper than steel. This is because of RATIOS.

Multiwalled carbon nanotubes have the highest "strength-to-weight" ratio of any material yet measured. If you made a sandwich out of multiwalled carbon nanotubes, you would not be able to finish that sandwich. I don't care who you are.

The principle of load refers to the forces that act on a structure or on a component of that structure. The discipline of structural analysis helps engineers and scientists predict the outcomes of these forces.

Stories can fall apart just the same as a building or a bridge. There is probably some algorithm that determines the perfect tensile strength of a story: the perfect relationship between character, plot, and insanity.

For a story to hold up, it has to have perspective, plot, characters, and conflicts. It has to have the girders of concise language and the mortar of beautiful description.

Also, a story can't merely "hold together." It has to bear the massive load of reader scrutiny. Some readers are more demanding than others. Every story breaks somewhere, and it is up to a writer to find these breaks, tap them with a wrench, and petition the Building Committee in their mind to shore them up without tearing the building down and starting over.

Getting it right is all about pressures. Material dynamics. Also there are building codes and Rules of Thumb. It's all very complicated.

The best stories are the ones which don't just hold together, but are also actually beautiful. You can't simply "construct" these stories. Like Gaudi cathedrals, they must come together through almost organic accretion.

Today, we bring you "Load," by Jeff Vande Zande. It's strong. It holds up. It's also very beautiful. Go ahead: snoop around. Beat on the walls. Jump around. Invite all your friends. Fill that shit with concrete blocks. Throw a fucking party in there. You won't bust it.

Posted by miracle on Wed, 21 Apr 2010 19:57:06 -0500 -- permanent link

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