Short story (about 3,400 words) set entirely in this world around the events of the Apollo space program, specifically Apollo 1.
I have been looking for a place to shop this around to, but since it is not specifically any genre it doesn't seem to fit into any specific publication. Any suggestions on where to begin would be appreciated.
Begins with short poem by Vachel Lindsay (which is where the title for the story is pulled from).
Jason had watched the tape of the late, great John F. Kennedy’s speech at Rice University so many times that the sound had faded and the picture was full of snow. He had probably watched it a hundred times in the past weeks; those weeks following the disaster.
(short snippet of Kenedy's speach)
Watching this speech for the first time, back in 1962, Jason was swept in by the man’s emotion and presence. He had been a graduating student at the ceremony where Kennedy had given the speech. It was sitting there listening to the promises of the President that he decided against a job in civil engineering and decided instead to apply for a job in the aerospace technologies field. He had been accepted as a launch pad technician at Cape Canaveral and moved down, with his fiancée Sharon, the next month. There he worked towards Kennedy’s magnificent dream.
This in an interesting premise set in an interesting time. The idea is full of possibilities.
I will bring up the same thing I see in many places.
Passive verbs. Past tense verbs. Active verbs engage. Passive verbs explain.
This entire "hook" is explanatory backfill. It is important, but it is not "hooky". There is no sense of conflict, desire or yearning. While this is no doubt critical to character development and the story- it does little to draw me in.
The "best" part for me was the last sentence in the first paragraph. Even though the first line isn't particularly engaging- it does set up the second sentence pretty effectively.
The second paragraph did little to build upon the momentum of the first.
To sum up, I would bring as much as possible into the present tense with active verbs. Push the second paragraph down in the story until we are fully engaged in Jason's conflict. Use more of the 13 lines to develop said conflict.
I liked this (of course, this particular subject is right up my ally), but I think it reads more like a novel opening than a short story opening. I generally expect a bit more hook from my short stories, though nothing needs to explode in the first paragraph, or anything.
Nit: Check your use of semi-colons; they should really link independent clauses.
This has lots of interesting possibilities, but at the moment I'm not hooked.
Rahl might have hit on it, or maybe Susan. I'm not sure.
But here's another possibility...this entire opening is in the past, and I don't mean the 1960's. It's in the past of the character's life and while this may lead to an interesting present, I don' have a present to cling to in order to care about the past. It feels like a flashback right at the beginning of the story or maybe like an info dump.
I was also thrown off a bit by your leaving out the poem and the speech snippet, since these are clearly part of a first 13. Since I'm not an avid student of Kennedy, I can only make vague assumptions about the content of the speech and I have no clue about the poem at all. These are part of the hook, if you put them up front. By leaving them out, in fact, I would have expected this to get a lot further into real action.
Doh...baby crrying. Will have to say nice things about it later.
You can leave out the poem, since you'll need to investigate whether you have (or can secure) the right to use it anyway. I'm thinking that fair use doesn't cover the entire thing.
The snippet of Kennedy's speech is a different matter, fair use almost certainly covers that, and the specific section of text you choose is critical to the narrative here, so you have to include it.
It seems like you're starting in a good place, with Jason watching a tape of the speech. Then we slowly realize that's not what's happening, it's something that has happened, like everything else in this opening. The whole thing starts to feel like summary, we're not getting a story here. The eulogistic tone that arises in reference to Kennedy doesn't help, eulogies are...well, boring summaries of what's happened in the past. It's not the best way to get the reader interested in your story, though it can work in some circumstances (usually where there is inherent dramatic (or simple) irony raised by the eulogy).
From what you say, your actual story starts sometime during the Apollo 1 mission. So start there. Don't bore us talking about things that happened to make the Apollo program possible, you might as well start with Jason being born (or concieved, which would be interesting, but still have nothing to do with the story). Consider the main dramatic tension that will be resolved at the end of your story. It's probably not "will there be an Apollo program?" or "will Jason be part of the Apollo program?" or anything raised by this opening. Your opening should introduce elements of the main tension that will drive the story, the story begins when the main character first encounters that tension. So start at the beginning, eh?
For me, I'd qualify Susanna's statement. It's not that there's too much information: it's that it isn't really gripping information; it's unclear whose POV we're in (not a fatal flaw if you get to it PDQ); and it may be the wrong information, in that we don't know from it what the story's about. Someone watching a videotape of Kennedy and admiring him just doesn't go anywhere yet. What *will* happen in your story? You can tell us, in the text (says OSC) and people will love you for it.
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