“Sir...?” The ship's avatar, currently a spindly old man with a stooped, butlerian manner, paused, mid-pour of my afternoon tea. I glanced up from the foil I'd been reading. “Yes?” “A situation has been...er...unleashed in a small system seventy-six hours away at maximum thrust, provided we vector now. I have been fully briefed by the Dulanis Cluster.” There was a clicking, fluttering sound and a vibration hummed through the warship. I put down the foil and glanced about the rec room as the walls began to shift and reconfigure. “Are you asking or telling me?” My chair gently reclined and gripped my arms. The butler grinned. “Updating you. A real human is required and you are the nearest” The old man holo faded, leaving a small oily-looking silver sphere, hanging in mid-air, “I'll explain everything in DRM-sleep.”
Posts: 61 | Registered: Apr 2012
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This is an interesting opening; a machine informs a man his presence is required for an as-yet-unnamed mission. With the way this opening is set up, it really drives home the ever-increasing dependence man has on technology.
There are a lot of minor grammar and punctuation errors but they're fixable. For example, the second sentence has far too many commas to flow well, but that is easily remedied with some creative editing.
I recommend an edit, but I would read on.
Posts: 742 | Registered: May 2015
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quote: “A situation has been...er...unleashed in a small system seventy-six hours away at maximum thrust, provided we vector now. I have been fully briefed by the Dulanis Cluster.”
So the AI has been fully briefed, but for some reason it hedges instead of explaining "the situation" in a forthright manner. I know this is intended to create suspense, but if feels like the author is withholding information up front. That the AI seems aware it is withholding this information doesn't help. I feel robbed of necessary info.
You can easily fix this by giving just enough to satisfy the reader without spilling the beans. "A trade dispute," "A breach in the shield wall," etc. Give us something.
Or perhaps use more jargon. This first page is pretty jargon-heavy, but here it could be useful. Think: police dispatch codes. "We've got a possible 10-88 in progress on Highland Ave." If your "butler" spoke in such a manner, the reader would still be kept from the secret, but the viewpoint character's affirmative response would at least let the reader know that the two characters were speaking transparently.
I think I understand the issue that you have with the lack of clarity of the 'situation'.
As the author I withhold information all the time-- technically I am withholding the rest of the story until you have read it. I am not, in this instance, actually 'withholding'.
For me to withhold something, it would require--as I understand it--some aspect of the story, some fact or knowledge that the POV character would be clearly aware of (having a clear view of a person that they know murdered someone else, for example), yet keep that information from the reader.
In this instance the drone isn't the POV character as so has no requirement to explain anything.
Revealing information, especially at the start of a story is about choices--I have chosen to set the scene, give some indication of tech level to be expected, introduce the idea of an urgent mission (to be explained shortly). There is a lot more stuff to reveal--but I couldn't do it all in the intro.
I guess you are saying that I should have used my intro word count differently. Of course I could, and I accept that you feel it should explain more and I will certainly consider carefully the need to increase that part.
Posts: 61 | Registered: Apr 2012
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An autonomous machine extension of a warship capable of alterable appearance informs a human passenger of an exigent circumstance far away.
An up close and immediate, more or less, scene sequence -- in a now personas, time, place, and situation (characters and setting); events kind of banal though. The human drinks tea and reads. The robot receives an important message that requires the human's participation. So a messenger scene. Though the information detail is ample, the content is empty.
Though the robot could have a motive for withholding detail, the human would naturally insist upon some small revelation to ease his curiosity at least. Like readers would -- will. Events imply the robot's motive; the warship reconfigures and the robot rushes to put the human in "DRM sleep." The implication is strong though doesn't trump the human's natural nature. Trouble brews afar, immediate departure is warranted, and the human is wanted. Not enough specific detail. A hint of the trouble that matters to the human would suffice, say, whatever, an extinction event, a bank collapse, I don't know, something. Plus a certain and tangible signal of the robot's reason to rush the human. And natural and necessary and plausible response the human needs to exhibit.
I second Disgruntled Peony about ample punctuation -- bumpy syntax for a start fragment. Other bumpy bits too.
Not to mention that opening with speech, no matter how brief, comes from a disembodied voice is problematic for me.
"stooped, butlerian" doesn't take a comma. "stooped" modifies the whole noun phrase "butlerian manner," not just "manner."
"paused" doesn't take a following comma, is the verb of the clause "mid-pour of my afternoon tea." And is a missed opportunity for a more dynamic verb and more vivid description. So soon, I pause at the word pause, consider not reading further.
Note that the second sentence contains a past perfect verb in the contraction "I'd been." The change in tense backtracks to an earlier moment than the action thus far. What does the human read about? Maybe that's a start time to consider and ample opportunity to imply what the narrative overall is about through what the foil is about. Like that above bank failure or whatever, maybe. Not a direct one-to-one correspondence between what the foil is about though congruent, skewed. Then the robot butler "pauses," maybe a visual hiccough of its appearance subroutine, says "Sir," and etc.
The second sentence is unnecessary passive voice, who or what (sentence subject) "has been unleashed" (passive verb sentence predicate) in (preposition of an object of a predicate) a small system (sentence object) the situation (predicate complement)? //Monkey wrenchers unleashed an extinction situation in a small system.// Active voice. Again, an opportunity missed, I feel, to imply what the situation afar is and what the narrative is really about. Mind that tension comes from what readers know and anticipate beforehand of dramatic peaks, not from doubt and confusion.
"There was a clicking, fluttering sound _and_ a vibration hummed through the warship." Faulty coordination by conjunction "and" joins disparate clauses. Also, faulty pronoun expletive "there," faulty pronoun-noun reference.
Likewise faulty coordination "put down the foil _and_ glanced about the rec room _as_ the walls began to shift _and_ reconfigure." Plus faulty parallelism from the second "and's" verbs' tautology, plus faulty verbs (transitive verbs take an object, plus static voice verb "glanced".
Again, faulty coordination. "My chair gently reclined _and_ gripped my arms."
In other words, the organization in parts and overall is problematic for me.
I feel the situation has merit, a human victimized by technology, though an unnatural or no response from the human to the brusque machine mannerisms. The robotic character is amply developed, I might add, to an artful effect. The robot's brusqueness is artful character development and movement. The robot has a want and problem complication development, the human none to speak of, just an interrupted routine. I might think the narrative is about the robot from that, not about the human, which I feel could be the intent.
I would not read on due mostly to forced and rushed language, little, if any of the human's character development and dramatic movement, and bumpy organization.
Posts: 5160 | Registered: Jun 2008
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I would probably continue on. None of the previous objections really distracted me as I read.
I enjoyed the implication in the phrase "situation has been...unleashed...." I'd recommend accenting that unexpected combination of words by ending that sentence with "unleashed".
If this kind of thing is as regular as the dialogue cues imply, then I think T. Griffin's suggestion to use some kind of short-hand for it is worthwhile. And that might even be a comment saying that it isn't quite like any other 10-88 encountered before.
I'm curious to hear how "foil" technology plays out in this future, and to see what else will be made of transformer-tech. But the biggest question I see (although one I'm least interested in) is the relationship between humans and tech. If the AI can do this much, I'm at a loss for what kind of situation still requires human intervention. Is the requirement something from Asimovian rules of AI programming---the tech is hard-code forced to accede to human decision-making on certain things? Is the situation something organic that the tech simply can't do? Something pivoting on emotions or chemistry?
As with most sci-fi, my interest would still be superficial, I'm afraid.
Posts: 114 | Registered: Jun 2015
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The protagonist seems to lack any desires, wants, or yearnings. He is told what to do (essentially go take a nap). If the protagonist is that passive (at this moment) then is it the right moment to introduce him? I don't know the next part, but it seems like the protagonist hasn't gotten to the actual story yet.
Posts: 816 | Registered: May 2009
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I dislike the disembodied narrator implied by opening a narrative with dialogue. I have no context and, really, no setting. It isn't enough for me to want to keep reading despite the 'quirky' voice of the first person narrator.
And, as Rust Hills comments, first person is a very limiting POV for a short story. Third person, either limited or omniscient, gives you a far larger canvas to paint on.
For me, a stronger start would be to introduce, superficially at least, the dramatic complication in a 'flash-scene'. As an example: a rioting mob on the planet concerned, a barricaded door and a frantic transmission asking for help just as the mob seems about to burst through--then jump-cut to the contrasting tranquility of the opening you have now.