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tall tales

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  • tall tales

    We've written a bit about tall tales recently in connection with Berry's suite of flash fiction.

    I'd like to see some tall tales if people would like to give them a try. The late R. A. Lafferty was a master of the sf version of this form. Mark Twain and Ambroise Bierce were past masters of the form. In a curious, sophisticated way, so was Saki (H. H. Munro). L'Etranger pointed this out to me in passing some time back (thanks, L'E).

    I posted a tall tale of my own devising on this forum for a short time: "The Martian Sojourner."

    Anyone want to give it a try?


  • #2
    i"ve been asked by several people to "define" the tall tale.

    There are no hard, fast rules for it, but here's an attempt to describe it.

    A tall tale claims to explain the reason for some natural phenomenon, or sometimes describes its protagonist in terms that paint him as superlatively skilled, intelligent, or puissant.

    The tall tale is often told in such a manner as to make it seem very obviously ridiculous or absurd. It is fiction that somewhat stretches our willing suspension of disbelief.

    American popular and folk literature is full of examples of the tall tale. It is sometimes claimed that the tall tale's origins are seen in the bragging contests that often occurred when the rough men of the American frontier gathered. The tales of legendary figures of the American Old West—such as Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan—owe much to the style of tall tales.

    The surprise ending, called "a snapper in the tail" (of the tale) isn't a REQUIREMENT, but it is
    a frequent feature.

    Tall tales can be funny, and they can also be sinister.

    Some good examples of the tall tale: Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," Bierce's "An Imperfect Conflagration," and I would submit that Saki's "The Reticence of Lady Anne" falls into this category. Don't forget the outrageous "exploits" of Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Baron von Mأ¼nchhausen. Those stories come pretty close to defining one branch of the genre, too. For a modern sf version of the genre, look at R. A. Lafferty's "Nine Hundred Grandmothers." There is a sense in which Frtiz Leiber's "Gonna Roll the Bones" might belong to the genre.



    • #3
      I have taken down the post that contained "The Martian Sojourner."

      If someone comes down with an incurable desire to read it, they should send me e-mail. I can send a copy along. It's only about 2100 words.