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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Venus

Author Topic: Venus
New Member
Member # 10940

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I wrote a short story for a contest and I want to expand on it further. Constructive feedback will be a great help, thank you!

It was complete. Finally, after years of research and testing, the dome was complete! Or, the pieces were, anyway.

It was actually two domes. One was made entirely of UV protective glass, and the outer dome was made of a thick, shatter-resistant material. The space between was filled with a cooling gel, and the UV dome would give everything a light purple tint. Venus was a very hot planet, after all.

Mars has been colonized for several years now, and the Earth's population continues to rise. Venus was the next frontier.

The domes were created in six separate pieces, which pull apart like pizza slices. Each section will be prepared for its three-month trip to the hot surface. They will then be installed and a replica of one of the greatest cities in the world will be

Thanks again!

[ June 14, 2018, 09:12 AM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Samary, it is always our intention to provide constructive feedback here at the Hatrack River Writers Workshop forum.

We try very hard to make sure that feedback from participants is helpful and useful.

So here is a quick offering from me:

Stories engage readers best when they start out with a character for the readers to care about.

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A disembodied individual describes a pendent architectural project.

Golden Age science fiction, circa 1930s through the '40s, portrayed extraterrestrial colonization and settlement: Moon, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, asteroids, comets, exoplanets, etc. A Golden Age convention favored awe and wonder emotional clusters instead of fear, pity, and curiosity. The greats included the lot, Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke, among the several. Plus, their later works enhanced complication's motivations and conflict's stakes risked, not so much overt tone, though covert topical attitudes toward science fiction themes and topos (recurrent motifs within a genre canon, like space travel).

Scientifiction predates the Golden Age, mostly driven by Hugo Gernsbeck's awe and wonder gadgetry aesthetic, not story nor dramatic, more Popular Science futurism and modernism aesthete reports than dramatic stories. Scientific Romance predates Scientifiction, includes works by Mary Shelley, Edgar Alan Poe, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells.

Colonization of Venus Golden Age science fiction predated knowledge of Venus's extreme environmental conditions and offered imagined rationales for exploration, settlement, and resource exploitation. Much of the works' bases proved invalid when drone surveyor craft determined Venus's actual conditions. Few, if any, works justified Venus colonization to alleviate Earth overpopulation. Mars, yes, and later: Silver, Platinum, and Postmodern age science fiction. Rather, Gerard K. O'Neil's The High Frontier, 1976, orbiter habitats were responsive to population and raw resource shortage pressures.

A theme-complication basis for space travel fiction itself revolves around the indomitable outlier human quest for further and farther outward and inward journeys, the young and early adult age phases' detachment processes from the natal creche and natal family, colonization's bitter subjugation of subject populaces for personal and group gain at the subject populaces' expense -- zero-sum scenarios, and philosophical adjustments' counters thereof; for example, Star Trek's Prime Directive.

In short, a narrative about Venus colonization wants a greater purpose than mitigation of population pressures. Usual Darwinian responses to overpopulation are homicidal combat, plague and pestilence, famine, and death, or the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride the firmament's ramparts. Darwin's theory that a species expands to fit the limits of its biome's resources, then dies back to a metastable equilibrium state for a time, and thereafter oscillates between extremes, applies. Personal gain trumps altruistic and philanthropic colonization motivations. Money follows money -- has had, did, has, does, would, always will.

What's a personal financial incentive for Venus colonization, one or more that are probable, even if improbable, given Venus's extreme conditions? Terrestrial sulfur is abundant enough; Venus, a fire and brimstone Hell. Hard science fiction's fantastic technology and physical and social sciences? Or Golden Age fantasy science fiction, in which even the impossible is possible?

A UAT tester understands the concepts of focus groups, to which writing workshops are akin, though workshop respondents are more savvy product consumers than focus groups' preferred naive and gullible participants. Workshops, though, do test end-consumer product satisfaction; however, prior to product release debut. Digital Age industrial practice anymore is more a rush to release for sale and let consumers sort out the bugs afterward.

Several workshop critique mannerisms present: proscriptive, which mandates do this, do not do that; prescriptive, which advises adjustments for perceived shortfalls, what doesn't work for a given respondent and, by extension, other consumers of like minds; and descriptive, describes what does and what doesn't work for a given respondent, and through use of Socratic irony (see dictionary definition of "irony, 1"), develops craft skills for writer and responder, more so accrues to responder skill growth.

The above describes space travel canon and colonization conventions from the past through to the foreseeable future. This below describes this fragment's prose grammar, craft, expression, appeal, and reader considerations:

The fragment's tense and grammar mood are at first simple past indicative then future subjunctive. Unnecessary and unsupported tense and mood shifts distract readers. Plus, abundant state of being to be verbs -- every sentence static voice. Prose of any and all genres favors dynamic voice. Static voice of the first order uses to be verbs and predicates; second order static voice uses weak verbs of a nonfinite nature; third order static voice uses predicate constructs of an indefinite time span nature.

And the grammatical person is impersonal third person detached, apt for non-prose, a fatal nemesis of prose.

Here at Hatrack, the concepts of static and dynamic voice evolved, for the most part from our moderator Ms. Kathleen Dalton Woodbury's answers for respondents' invalid notices of "was" and such verbs' sentences labeled passive or passive voice when those were not passive, rather, were active voice regardless of to be verbs.

Several of the fragment's sentences are passive voice; for example, "One was made entirely of UV protective glass, and the outer dome was made of a thick, shatter-resistant material." Passive and static voices. Made _by_ whom for what true purpose? Prepositions like "by" and sentence objects, who are a verb action's actual doers, given or implied, are a dead giveaway of passive voice. Passive and static voices are unfriendly to prose, though perhaps necessary and supported for non-prose compositions' impersonal mandates and natures.

Seymour Chatman's Story and Discourse's notice of state of being statements, stasis, static voice, supports Hatrack's static voice principles. Chatman labels dynamic voice "process statements."

Use of pronouns, like "It," for sentence subjects without antecedent noun subject referents is a grammatical error known as "Syntactic expletive," (Wikipedia). Weather idiom uses notwithstood. It is sunny and warm outside today.

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness..." (Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford, 1830.) A much disparaged novel opening line.

Much admired, Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities opening lines' expletive "it," though, for the artful syncrisis figure of speech: comparison and contrast between parallel clauses. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . ." Plus alliteration, assonance, and consonance figures.

The fragment does express an enthusiastic awe and wonder tone. Overstatement attitudes make me wonder about true agendas, doth protest overmuch the glories of Venus colonization? What could possibly go wrong or be wrong? Ulterior agendas, not of a writer, per se, what's really behind the colonization push!? Rid Earth of perceived undesirables? Crucibles forge greatness? Both and more?

Title "Venus" contributes little, if any, to reader engagement, more description wanted in a title's usual economy of words. Even a persona's name, maybe a cue of what the narrative is truly about, without the dramatic movement telegraphed, could expand interest: //Catamon and the Venus Exodus//, for a wild blue-sky example.

Otherwise, the fragment's grammar and style are above the average mediocrity pall. Story craft -- about par average. Expression and language, about par. Appeal, little, if any.

As is, I am disinclined to read further as an engaged reader, in the main due to story craft shortfalls and lack of personal emotional investment to care about, the first of questions readers ask. See our host Orson Scott Card's "Three Questions Readers Ask," "So what? Oh Yeah? and Huh?" Characters and Viewpoint, pgs 19 - 21.

Though a narrative that explores overpopulation pressure from a personal perspective that realizes and obtains great, timely timelessness and current relevance appeal promise and potential would hopelessly engage me. Say, Venus as the blighted ghetto of the Solar System? Elites condemn marginal status persons to that unholy Hell? Huh, somewhat reminiscent of Cyril M. Kornbluth's The Marching Morons, 1951, and every compelled migrant mass exodus since prehistory through to present-day and foreseeable-future compelled migration waves.

[ June 15, 2018, 01:01 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Jay Greenstein
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You're transcribing yourself telling the story. That's pretty much what most people do when they begin writing. But the reader can't either hear or see your performance, and that kills all the emotion you place in the performance. Have the computer read it aloud and you'll hear the problem.

As has already been noted, you want to begin your story with story, not history. Stories happen in real time, as we watch. So every place where you, as the narrator, are talking to the reader is a place to think about using another, more personal to the protagonist, approach.

In short: Hit the local library's fiction writing section. There you'll find a huge resource in the views of professional writers, teachers, and publishing pros. Tme spent there is invaluable so far as picking up the nuts-and-bolts issues of writing fiction for the page.

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Not much happening here, it seems. (The forum, not the story.)

I don't think the author has shown yet that she's not getting the character thing. I took this as the gushing of a character involved in the project. I suppose you could clear that up, author, by saying "I" (I can't wait to see Venus opened up...).

Or, if it's the author's summary... I'd say keep the gushing enthusiasm, but put it in MC.

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I'm going to agree with Kathleen here. You need a person at the center of this. You imply one in the first line, I think, but after that she disappears.

Maybe it's me, but I come for the sci-fi, but stay for the characters.

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