Hi all, looking for some critiquing on a new short story I am working on. It's SCI-FI with a harder edge and so far is roughly 2500 words. It may be a little tough to get much out of the first 13 but all comments appreciated!
Silvet’s nostrils flared as she inhaled slowly and tried to keep her focus tight on the flowing datastream that the fatline tap was replicating. The tap had been in place for only twenty seconds now and her datacube was already over half full. She couldn’t even begin to estimate the enormous stream rate that implied, at least not while monitoring the transform array and harmonic pulse indicators. She concentrated, watching for the telltale flicker that could indicate the presence of a program marshall. At this stage it was all just pattern recognition and response time. Man versus machine as it were. Well, all right, man and machine versus machine was a lttle closer to the truth.
'man and machine' should be italicized in the last sentence but I haven't figured out how to do that yet!
To italicize text, you need to use UBB code. I can't type it for you here because then it will become the code, but your UBB code commands should consist of square brackets, like [ and ] with the code sandwiched in between. To begin your italics, you want to insert an "i" inside the square brackets (without the quote marks. To turn the italics off you must type "/i" The forward-slash is the code to turn it off. Think of it like flipping a switch. Turn it on. Turn it off.
An easier way to learn the codes is to simply click the words *UBB Code is ON when you are typing your message. You'll see that link to the left hand side of the "reply box" when you type your comments for posting.
The process is the same for bold, and quotes. i = italics on. /i = italics off. B = Bold on. /B = Bold off. quote= Quote on. /quote = Quote off.
Of course, you need to sandwich all UBB commands inside the square [ brackets ] .
[This message has been edited by Elan (edited November 26, 2005).]
The only place that the density of the jargon bothered me was the very first line. There, the jargon was less troubling than the number of things that are happening. Nostrils flaring, inhaling slowly, focusing, flowing and replicating. The jargon itself seems fairly clear from context, but the density of information in general slowed me down.
I could use more clarity on, "At this stage it was all..." What is it? The datastream or her job or the program marshall? The program marshall is the most recent noun so I'd expect the "it" to refer to that except that would make no sense. I figured it out, but did pop out of the story there.
What other people said: density of information.
The problem is that the information I most want -- what's this story about? -- isn't here. I don't have a reason to care yet. How does Silvet feel about what's happening? If she doesn't fill up her datacube, does she get executed? make a little less money? What's the significance behind the exposition? That's what I want to know.
In my opinion (which you can, of course, ignore if you prefer), answering wbriggs' questions still won't help. At all. Why? Because watching someone else watch a data transfer is BORING. Heck, even if I was closer to the action (ie, if I was the one watching the data transfer) it would still be boring. I don't care how she feels about it, I don't care why she's doing it, I don't care what will happen if if if. A data transfer is devoid of action.
I'm not saying this image doesn't belong in your story. Who am I to say such a thing? What I'm saying is that the opening image needs to grab our interest and pull us in. Is there another point nearby with some action in it? (Remember, action can be in thought as well as externally.) Perhaps you could move the data transfer into the background, so it's happening as part of the setting while we see Silvet's internal action. What's she thinking about? What's her conflict?
I'm being blunt, I know. That doesn't mean I don't want to be supportive. I'm sure you have a great story. Let us see it!
I'm not much into hard science fiction, but I thought these first 13 lines were nicely done. I can choke down the jargon.
However, the comments the others have made should be given serious consideration. I need to care about the PERSON, not the data download, in real short order. I think Will's comment was spot on... what is her emotional investment in this process? Telling us why SHE cares helps us figure out why WE should care.
Something else to add, along the lines of sojoyful's post: it's unlikely that MC will be thinking about the technical details, any more than I'd be thinking about how floppy drives store information when I'm copying a file -- or reflecting on internal combustion when I'm driving. Unless it's all brand new to me. Something to be careful of.
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Thanks everyone for the feedback, all comments much appreciated. I'll try to rework this opening to place the action more in the context of the character introduction. (Probably lighten up the jargon a bit more also) ... then we'll see about having a general read for you adventurous souls! Thanks again.
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I liked it. The first line is too long/dense for me, like MaryRobinette said. But I thought it was pretty cool imagery all the same. I liked the gentle hook of 'What will the MC do if a program marshall interrupts? Is she doing something illegal?' I would maybe like to know in the first 13, that there would be dramatic consequences for the MC if she got caught.
I disagree about the MC 'not thinking about the technical stuff'. She would very much be keeping tabs on how fast the download was occurring, especially if she is doing something illegal and wants to get in and out in a hurry. She seems, after all, to be monitoring the process with some degree of urgency.
It does make me wonder if it starts in the right spot. The next few lines will tell.
The title makes me wonder whether she will be having some sort of effect simply through the act of observing and how you, as author, are going to tie it all up in 2500 words.
I would like to read it.
[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited November 27, 2005).]
As a short story, all the jargon seems fine to me. It's not like you are writing a novel in which you are going to explain everything that is happening. This is the story, and that is what you are talking about, the story. Juz my opinion, sam
Posts: 19 | Registered: Nov 2005
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i am an old-school SF head and i like the lingo, but i agree with many others that it's too much too fast. it's obvious you want to establish some unique terminology and that's a good thing (i love 'fatline') but you're getting lost in "Jeffrie's Tube" hell. the comments about focusing on the character and the action are very apt. if we can't see motivation or personality we're less likely to be grabbed.
points: 1. human/character action is more compelling than any other. 2. SF is at its best when the SF is more setting than excuse for storytelling. you're focus is too much on the tech and the scene. 3. look up Iain M. Banks for some great use of character in SF settings
it's a good start and i had a nice visual going right off the bat. show us more character and it'll be that much stronger.
Doesn't seem as though you need any new "Yeah, me, too" remarks but I have to agree with the posts I've seen so far. The technobabble is just that--and not engaging me. I *LOVE* machine-oriented stories, and not just because I'm an engineer who likes to take them apart. I just love eToys and being around them. I did not feel I was "around" your eToys.
You gave me no visuals, no human responses (other than boredom and others said, that left me just...bored) and no sense of who or what my viewpoint character was. Maybe the POV char is not a human? Who knows? I don't, not from this 13 lines. I want to know. I want to know how any human can even contemplate trying to scan a datastream that fast--is it something commonplace in this setting of yours? I have not a clue. Is the POV char a cybersomethingorother or just some bored data input tech. If the latter, they MUST have a life. Have you ever worked doing data input? Like a temp job? It's intensely boring work unless you have some interest in the data itself. All the novelty wears off in the first six hours of blurry eyes--esp. given you are going to have 40 hours a week of this stuff.
How's about some of THAT kind of mood from this data entry clerk? Give me some history on this person, like how long they've been at this gawdawful job as of right now. Maybe you could have them give nicknames to all the eToys--out of boredom, no doubt, gotta find some way not to smash the darn machines to exert some power over your job.
Or am I just way off on an irrelevant tangent? Is this person a data entry clerk at all? Are they stealing the data? Maybe they're trying to search it so they can sabotage it? Give me a clue! THEN I'll care and believe that any data entry clerk wants to even try to look at a fast datastream, as opposed to say, counting the how many tries it takes to blow a spitball all the way up to the ceiling before the next stream is ready.
I love the title, btw and notice no one's said anything about it - but if you use a title like that it BETTER have some bearing. :-) Please post an update/rewrite if you do one.