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Author Topic: A Forlorn Night
Inkwell
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Good evening, folks. After a long period of technical difficulties (namely, expensive and occasionally fruitless computer repairs) I have returned to plague your eyes with more detritus from the darkest recesses of my mind.

In other words...I'm just looking for some thoughts on this mildly simplistic intro.

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A Forlorn Night

The mission briefing had warned that Forlorn’s nights were as long and cold as the days were hot. The desert world’s unique rotation was responsible for this, as well as the planet’s significant distance from its sun, an intense type-six star. In retrospect, Corporal Moses Colburn wished the briefing had covered a few more specifics on survival after sunset. Apparently, the brass had not included the possibility of failure in their plans. After all, Coalition Rangers never screwed up. Rangers were flawless...perfect.

Yeah, and our military planners are the greatest tactical geniuses in the galaxy. Colburn grinned at the thought, his teeth chattering in the cold. His combat suit was a mid-range design, built for multiple climates and many types of terrain. It was not specifically designed with extreme sub-zero temperatures in mind, however. At least, not this far below for this length of time. Despite the suit’s heaters, Colburn was slowly freezing to death. The only reason he wasn’t a cold, blue corpse trapped in a man-shaped coffin was constant movement.


Inkwell
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"The difference between a writer and someone who says they want to write is merely the width of a postage stamp."
-Anonymous


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NewsBys
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Sounds interesting. I would read it. Is there more?

Only suggestion I have thus far is to move the second sentence to a position after the third one, so we don't have to wait so long for the POV character to be introduced.

If there is more, send it over. I would like to read it.


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Survivor
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SF wise, I would rate it as needing a bit of work. But the essential elements of the conflict, your imagined environment and the man pitted against it, are all right.

Several points. First, "unique rotation" is a rather strange term. Planets rotate in many very different ways even in our own system. Distance from a sun...yes but (meaning that many stars would have habitable ranges with a far greater radius than that of our sun). Calling it a "type six" star is a bit of a fudge when you could just call it by the appropriate designation using the existing classification system.

For any type of advanced armored suit, your primary thermal regulation mechanism would be a cooling system rather than heaters. It isn't that hard to build a suit that will keep a man nice and toasty from his own body heat, even when the external environment is only a few degrees above absolute zero. The real problem is keeping him from dying of heat prostration, particularly if the suit is a closed system with respect to air/water. Besides, heaters are an enormously power-hungry system, and they increase your detection signature ten ways from Sunday.

The reference to constant movement is puzzling. Given the level of the rest of the technical exposition, I suppose that the likeliest interpretation is that he is moving to keep warm. If he's wearing a powered armor (implied by the term "man-shaped coffin"), then this is mostly a waste of energy. The suit is supplying most of the energy, and because he's moving, about half that energy will end up outside.

Anyway, I would parse this whole dilemma differently.

Basically, he can't take off his suit until he gets picked up. For reasons not clear to me, he won't be picked up till the next day. But his suit isn't designed to be worn for that long...he's running out of air, power, plumbing, or probably all three (assuming that the suit has some powered recycling cababilities). When the power goes off, he'll be trapped in a "man-shaped coffin".

Worse, his suit hasn't been rigged for this environment. Sensors are breaking, joints are freezing, the power supply is acting funny, and all manner of amusing problems are becoming apparent. I'll leave you to work out the details.


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Beth
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That's a pretty good opening, but I think it would be better if the opening paragraph focused on Colburn and his experience of the problem (his chattering teeth and slowly freezing to death, etc). As it is you open by talking about the mission brief and the planet's orbit. It is just not as vivid or as immediate as it could be.

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Monolith
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Why don't you try using the second paragraph for the opening one, since it introduces us to the POV character, then tie both together somehow, by using the sentence that begins with "In retrospect,".

Why not just call 'the brass' something else, like his superiors, since that is still a generic term because you haven't given a title to a particular person that is in charge of this impending fiasco.

Just a thought or two.

-Bryan-


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Christine
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Honestly, I thought that the opening was fine in terms of character introduction, tension, explaining the situation,e tc. Sort of in line with what Survivor said, though, it struck me while reading this that you did not understand the science very well...it came across as unbelievable. Aside from the tips Survivor gave you, there were a couple of hprases you should be aware of that killed you. Actually, the entire second sentence did it pretty well. You may not even need that sentence, come to that.

Just some thoughts.


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Inkwell
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Sorry for the delay, folks...had a little bout with reality. After reading through your comments I went back and reorganized the plot of the story, correcting some errors along the way. I also revised the opening paragraph, which might sound a little more coherent than the first incarnation. To be honest, I wrote the original draft in less than an hour at two in the morning, which probably accounts for the severity of its condition. I hope this new version works a little better.

NewsBys...I don't think this is ready to go out yet (even though I just revised it). However, I'd be more than happy to send it over for your opinion once it's somewhat polished.

Thanks go out to everyone for their comments (and for any future posts regarding version 1.1).

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A Forlorn Night

The mission briefing had warned that Forlorn’s nights were as long and cold as the days were hot. In retrospect, Corporal Moses Colburn wished the presentation had covered specifics on survival after the planet’s blistering sun dipped below its bleak horizon. The academy’s cold weather training was a help, though none of the exercises had been conducted in such a frigid climate. He glanced at his helmet’s tactical display, mentally toggling over to the atmospheric readings. The temperature appeared to be holding at negative 120° centigrade. He switched back to the damage assessment report.

Not good…at this rate I’ll lose primary power and fifty percent of my backups by morning. His team was dead, ambushed by Union combat drones only a few hours before. The drones would surely have picked up his trail by now, despite his suit’s active stealth capability. Something had gone horribly wrong, prior to deployment. Someone had betrayed them to the enemy long before their transport left the cavernous launch bay of the Artemis.

We were set up. The thought of a mole inside Special Operations Command chilled him even more than the frostbitten landscape he traversed.
--------------------------------------------

Inkwell
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"The difference between a writer and someone who says they want to write is merely the width of a postage stamp."
-Anonymous


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yanos
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Why would thought of a mole chill him worse than the fact if he didn't do something he would die? Some things need explaining.
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Survivor
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Ah, this is much more interesting in the level of tension you introduce right away. There are a couple of points. One is that changing the enemy from the environment itself makes for quite a different story. The second is that he cannot possibly know that they were betrayed simply from the fact of an ambush. When you are the attacker, you cannot ensure that the enemy will show a vulnerability. It's as simple as that.

Still, this opening feels much more compelling.


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NewsBys
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Sure, I'm still interested in reading it sometime.
FYI - The survival against the environment part is what drew me in the most. Reminded me of early Heinlein.

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Inkwell
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quote:
Posted by yanos:
Why would thought of a mole chill him worse than the fact if he didn't do something he would die? Some things need explaining.

Geez, you want to know the whole story in the first thirteen lines? I've got my work cut out for me.

But, seriously, that works into the plot later on in the tale (and I suppose that this is a good sign...that you had some questions while reading the intro that might inspire you to continue if there was more?)

quote:
Posted by NewsBys:
FYI - The survival against the environment part is what drew me in the most. Reminded me of early Heinlein.

Just so you know...that element is still a primary point in the plot, despite the rewrite. As Survivor said, the focus has shifted to include an 'enemy,' but not the exclusion of the man vs. hostile climate theme.


Inkwell
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"The difference between a writer and someone who says they want to write is merely the width of a postage stamp."
-Anonymous


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Beth
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I think this version is a lot stronger. Good job.
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QuantumLogic
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Just a technical nitpick:
quote:
The temperature appeared to be holding at negative 120° centigrade.
If there is enough atmosphere to be worth mentioning, it would not get that cold in the amount of time since sunset, unless the days were almost as cold. If there is not enough atmosphere to be worth mentioning, he'll be wearing a space-suit, which should have no trouble keeping him warm in those temperatures in a near vacuum, but he should be worrying about how long his oxygen will last.

Overall, this is definitely better than the first version.

[This message has been edited by QuantumLogic (edited October 13, 2004).]


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Survivor
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Erm, yeah, I might not have made it perfectly clear that I was assuming this would be a full environment suit. So please consider my advice in that light if you haven't already.
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