This is topic The Meat Locker - 7200 words in forum Fragments and Feedback for Short Works at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by Dame (Member # 8513) on :
This is dark. It is fantasy, possibly urban, but more likely odd. It is the weirdest thing I have written, and the most ambitious. Any thoughts on the first 13 very much appreciated.


I've had a suggestion that this may be a better way to begin:Any preferences?

The Meat Locker
by Damon Shaw

Physicist John Wheeler hypothesised (I know, because I sat on his shoulder as he made the excited call to Richard Feynman) only one electron existed in the entire universe, shuffling endlessly back and forth in time, taking its place in the ecosystem of every atom there ever was.

I hypothesise there is only one fly, slipping smoothly into the mechanism of every rotting corpse. Furthermore I postulate that fly, in fact, is I.

On that golden, sun-drenched afternoon, I managed to drive the mule into a frothing rage, despite the heat. It rolled its eyes, kicked, slapped itself hard with its tail, and I considered myself another point up. Mule - zero; Fly - seventy-three million, nineteen thousand and forty-four...

OR - saving the explanation for the end of the first section -

The Meat Locker
by Damon Shaw

On that golden, sun-drenched afternoon, I managed to drive the mule into a frothing rage, despite the heat. It rolled its eyes, kicked, slapped itself hard with its tail, and I considered myself another point up. Mule - zero; Fly - seventy-three million, nineteen thousand and forty-four. I zoomed twice around its head and was about to dive into its ear when the stench of something long dead rolled past me on a curl of heat-shimmering air.

Something rotten. Something big, at least two months gone, its sweet and low stink streaming out into the late afternoon heat, as if a door had opened into heaven. I forgot the mule, lifted into the air and turned my proboscis towards the smell.

Ahead, the ground rose in a jumbled slope of scree and gravel...

[ December 03, 2011, 09:50 AM: Message edited by: Dame ]
Posted by Bent Tree (Member # 7777) on :
You got me. I would work on punctuation, but this seems well written and engaging.
Posted by pdblake (Member # 9218) on :
You got me too, but it certainly sounds weird and I wonder if you can keep up the POV of a fly to make a complete, convincing story.
Posted by Denevius (Member # 9682) on :
i agree with blake. though what's here is interesting, i can't help but wonder if that interest will sustain for a full length short story. if it's flash fiction, it can definitely work, but if it's 7200 words, i'm a bit more skeptical.

i'm more than willing to take a look, however.
Posted by Dame (Member # 8513) on :
Hey, cool! Glad you folks were intrigued enough so far. [Smile]

I have no idea how to do the punctuation for the Mule Vs Fly scores sentence. Help???

If anyone is interested in reading on, I posted it up at Baen's Universe Slush this evening. I had a LOT of fun with this one, and the fly protag is only the first oddity of this time-travelling fantasy concept... (It has a sex scene in it, interrupted by a very determined fly. [Smile] funfunfun.)

Thanks a lot for the encouragement.

Posted by Bent Tree (Member # 7777) on :
I didn't see if you wanted readers. Send it over if you do. I will leave the punctuation advice for someone better at it.
Posted by Dame (Member # 8513) on :
Thanks, Bent Tree. I would be interested in feedback, but I didn't ask, as I have SO MANY crits to do that I couldn't reciprocate for a while. I've really fallen behind. It wouldn't be fair to ask people to take it on board.
Posted by Dame (Member # 8513) on :
I've popped in an alternative suggestion for the first 13, after someone suggested I put the explanation right up front. Any preferences?
Posted by Bent Tree (Member # 7777) on :
I'll give it a look. "No strings attached" I just cleaned out my crit box.
Posted by Dame (Member # 8513) on :
Groovy! Sent. [Smile]
Posted by annepin (Member # 5952) on :
Your revised version gives us a little more context with which to understand the unique character of the fly. However, it now sets me up to expect that physics, specifically the theory that there's only one electron in the universe, will somehow come into play and be important later on in the story.

The contrast with the mule is pretty extreme, the mule conjuring bucolic, possibly even medieval imagery.

This could work for or against you--but the end result is I'm not sure what you are going for, and, as a reader, and left feeling a bit disjointed and less likely to read on.

I found your original opening to be much more compelling and smoothy written. It seems pretty clear to me that the fly is not really a fly, or is a very unusual fly (Beelzebub?) and thus I wasn't too troubled by the idea of being in a fly's head for 7000 words.

On a nit picky note, it seemed to me the mule would be more likely to become frothy in the heat--it's already sweaty and salivating. And why "that" golden afternoon? What golden afternoon is that? Maybe "one" golden afternoon?
Posted by Dame (Member # 8513) on :
Very good points annepin. I think you have convinced me not to begin with the electron passage. I will, however, tighten the opening section so as to get to it quicker, as it is the passage that explains the whole concept of the tale.

Thank you,

Posted by stutson (Member # 8884) on :
If you are one fly servicing all of eternity, the sequential visit from multiple antics with the mule to the new "heaven" (nice touch, that) doesn't fit the electron model. Maybe following the 450,000th visit to the mule in the last 10 minutes something new crops up that you somehow missed before, even though you seem to be everywhere at once. Or am I being too pedantic?

I like the light style, though, even the "low stink streaming out" bit. I also prefer the second try.
Posted by OliverBuckram (Member # 9655) on :
Very intriguing.

I think the fly-only start (the one starting: On that golden, sun-drenched afternoon) is far superior. In the other one, you've got three different locations jammed into the opening. I would go with the fly, but quickly within the next page get to the (very cool) postulate.

I like the way we get some death in there, quickly dispelling any fear of cute "bee movie" type vibe.

I think the paragraph "Physicists John Wheeler" has numerous problems. First, "Physicist" sounds cheesy. Since I am familiar with Dame, I would never say "Author Dame once posted some lines on hatrack (I know, because I read them)." It sounds like Liz Lemon talking about "Astronaut Mike Dexter." I might say "Dame, an author at hatrack, ....". Second, I don't think scientific theories are communicated by phone. I would tell someone that theory in person, when running into him in the hall or at a conference. Unless Feynman was his coauthor, I wouldn't be calling him.

About the punctuation. I would say

Mule: zero ; Fly: seventy-three million, nineteen thousand and forty-four.

Better would be:

Mule: zero; Fly: 73,019,044.

You don't need to spell out long numbers.

I also found it a bit unclear about the scoring. The fly wins when the tail misses it? How many years would it take for the mule to swish its tail 73 million times?
Posted by Dame (Member # 8513) on :
Thanks, Oliver!

That actual phone call between Wheeler and Feynman is pretty well documented as the first time Feynman (who is often credited with the idea) heard it. [Wink]

I'm going to work on trim trim trimming as much as I can from the opening so as to get to that electron paragraph ASAP. Good point.


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