Gold. That’s what they’d discovered on Aegaeon. Gold has always spoken to man like no other metal has. Far more precious and useful minerals had been found on moons across the solar system. But gold was ever the elusive, desirable prize. At the time we thought that only Earth had the burden of that yellow temptress. News of the discovery spread like the northern lights across a Siberian sky.
I don’t think that anyone truly knew just what we were getting into when we picked up our mining outfits and made plans to head to Saturn. Even if we had been told what was in store, I don’t think we would have listened. The siren’s call of gold beckoned to us and that was all that we heard.
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The dirty-yellow protoplasm continued to creep towards me, raising questing blind fingers. My eyes rose to the grate above, seeing the ring of men and women, grinning as they awaited my demise. They yearned again to see their recently stolen Peruvian curiosity at work.
"Stand back. Flee!" I yelled. The fingers flowed closer threatening to strip the flesh and bones from my soul as I backed up against the wall. Fair warning was given. The voyeurs above had no idea who or what I was.
I cried out in excruciating pain as the mindless thing fed and fed. I heard the laughter above stop as the black vapors of my soul flowed up through the grate and began to feed on their flesh, in much the same way the satiated protoplasm below feasted on me. I must say, they tasted awful.
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Shalina watched the slaver’s caravan wind its way down the rocky path towards the dunes. The evening breeze was cooling and she relaxed onto some stone blocks behind her. Glancing down at Rachid, as he unfastened her ankle shackles, she smiled.
“Did B’in Asur say you could have me for the night, again?” She stroked his dark hair. “Is that why we've stayed behind?”
“Don’t touch me--" Rachid twisted his head away. "--please.”
Shalina drew back her hand in confusion. "W..why not?"
Putting the shackles on his belt, Rachid mounted his stallion. “For safe passage across the dunes, we must pay the Pale Lord who sleeps in these ruins.” He waved at the crusader tower behind her. “B’in Asur says you are to be that payment." The stallion whinnied in fear. "I'm sorry. I must leave now."
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Thrusters fire, first rearward, then forward. Pulse balances against pulse, one nanosecond-long burst at a time. I lie steady. Silent. Below me, Titan. Both of us mute and deaf to each other. I am square, silver, compact. A cheap model. Were I a Flask, wide, round, life sustaining, there would be human chatter. But I am a Matchbox, and so my universe is silent. A hatch slides open. An antenna protrudes, red eyed and curious. A decade, maybe, and Mars will receive. A decade longer, and spare parts will come. If I were a Flask, they’d come. But I am a Matchbox, and my business is Titan. So I ration. I orbit one nanosecond-long burst at a time. Calculating. Pondering the silence. And the lights of Titan.
Grit clung in every fold of my skin, and the dark cloud on the horizon threatened another sandstorm. I glanced that way often, marking its progress, ready to call a halt if it turned.
My clansmen and I drove our laden camels across the bare sands. Men and beasts grumbled about the pace. But I knew the oasis was just over the next dune, or maybe the one after that; Achmed could smell the water. If only he would consent to travel at night.
“Lazy, no-good sun lover. Move it!” I prodded his hairy rump.
Achmed swung his head around to glare at me from under long lashes, then curled back his lips and spat. The gobbet went wide, because he respected my whip. “You’d be starving and herdless if it weren’t for me, old man,” he said.
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Motionless waves of sand surrounded Dhanniul and his band of men as far as the eye could see, like an ocean frozen in time. On the eastern horizon of that dry ocean, below the rising sun, a speck of movement had appeared. Rustfolk, an old and gruff man, stood next to Dhanniul watching through a spyglass as the distant dot made its way down a large sand dune.
“What is it Rustfolk?” Dhanniul asked, for himself and the rest of the men that had now gathered behind them.
“It’s a lone man, on horseback, he’s dragging something behind…” Rustfolk squinted through the spyglass, his weathered face creasing “I’ll be a sea lover, I do believe it’s one of those Persian's. He's coming straight for us." Rustfolk swallowed
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"He's talking about the end of the world," said Aduviri, Virgil's guide on the dig. "He is crazy, I think, professor." He laughed and patted the small native man on the head, said something in one of the Quechua dialects.
Virgil dabbed at his neck with a sodden handkerchief. "Does he know where the site is?"
More Qhechua from Aduviri. Then, "He knows it. He will take us there," he smiled, displaying a row of straight yellow teeth. "He says he will bury us there."
"Wonderful. Get the rest of the crew up here. I want to reach the river by nightfall."
Aduviri nodded and jogged away. He never just walked anywhere.
Above, the mountain squatted, green and hazy in the humidity.
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The whip lanced across her back searing into her skin but Cara only focused on her breathing, in through the nose and out the mouth. The air smelled of dust and she could feel the dry air pulling the moisture from her body. The whip landed a second time but she stood straight and refused to jerk. Anything that doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger; those were the last words of her mother. She closed her eyes and breathed in deep, down into her stomach, and blew the hot air from her lungs as the third and final blow struck. Les, her step-father, coughed as she turned around to face him. “Don’t push me girl, my caravan, my rules.” “I don’t obey dumb rules.”
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Kitar stood under the shade of a juniper tree. The buzz of flies filled the silence of the other Shiato Priests standing near him. He held a perfumed cloth under his nose to counter the sweet stench as he took in the gruesome scene. Most of the wagons laid on their sides like large corpses, some charred black. Human bodies were strewn around them, crumpled and lifeless. Those near him were clearly marred with fire holes and deep slashes. Kitar’s people never carried weapons, never fought back, and yet the outlanders had massacred them.
His blood raged through him, pounding in his ears. Even the fiercest Yitrobi tribe would never dare attack a Shivira caravan. Soon these outlanders with their fire weapons would also learn to fear the Shivira.
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Traders never listen. Everything is a haggle with them. It made me wonder why they hired my crew to get them through the desert in the first place. I told them not to go through The Wastes--that it was where sand dwellers lived--but, they chose to trust our safety to some short-cut on an old map.
The sandbarges, loaded to the max with supplies for the mining shuttle to Saturn, hovered waist-high and moved about as fast as racing slugs. Dr. Frank Mayer, head of some archaeological dig from Peru, was hitching a ride with us. He was closed-mouthed about the discovery he kept in a steel case under his arm, but rambling and vociferous about everything else.
It almost made me happy when a trader was sucked below the sands--it finally shut Dr. Mayer the hell up.
Scholar Vingal Sertin barged in the tent and set his hat on top of a lumpy blanket on a table. “What is so important, Relesh?” Relesh lifted the blanket revealing a large curved metal sheet. The edges of the sheet were jagged. A fist-sized hole near a corner shared an impossible trait with the edges, as if the metal was torched like cloth. In the center of the sheet ancient inscribed writing was imbedded into its skin. Vingal’s eyes expanded as he stared at the dead language. “We found this while searching for the fabled city of Lima,” said Relesh. “We think it’s Anglash. Can you read it?” Vingal traced a finger over the words as he read them. “'Sagan 5 spacecraft. Launched April 21 2023 AD to explore Saturns rings'. That would make this artifact 150,000 years old.”
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His fingers ached, nearly crippled from the four consecutive hours of delicately chiseling the earth from the sixteen hundred-year-old skull. He had almost decided to stop when his assisted yelled down to him. "Professor, you aren't going to believe this." Kendra shouted. Professor Kendricks wiped the sweat from his brow. "I suppose it all depends on if you provide me with adequate evidence." "We found...umm what appears to be seven identical twin boys in one of the site two caverns." Kendricks chuckled. "You are right, my darling, I don't believe you." "I thought you might say that.Come see for yourself."
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The window wasn't supposed to open. It was made of special double-paned glass, and each pane alone could withstand the force of space flight. It was not the kind of window that you twirled a handle and it rolled down, yet when Adam leaned back in his pilot’s chair he couldn't help but check if the window was, in fact, closed. Four letters embroidered with stiff thread on the back of the chair scratched him right between his shoulder blades even through his biosuit. Calm down Adam, he thought. You can sleep now. Autopilot is on, and it was only a dream. The window is welded shut. It will not open. He ignored the itching and tried falling asleep with his eyes open. The window didn't move. The moon outside it, however, did.
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There were no smells. There were no sounds. There was only dead sand and dead sky. And at times like this, with the sun high overhead and the wind blowing, it was impossible to tell where the dune ahead ended and the heavens began. Gray, his face hidden from the sun and blowing sand, continued on. Following the steadily disappearing tracks through the emptiness, he hoped to hold on long enough to catch the one who made them. When he had set out into the wasteland he knew that his chance for survival was nonexistent. Even if he did catch the man he chased he wouldn’t make it back out alive. And if he didn’t catch him then he’d die alone, happy, and unmissed. It was far better to die in pursuit than to live quietly with what had been done.
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Smoke rose from the serpentine string of camels below. Arin turned away and closed her eyes. She ran her fingers through her long hair. Only it wasn’t long anymore. She had cut it, and with it, the ties to her heritage. She bit her lip and stifled a cry. May the gods forgive her. May her mother.
She pushed the sound of the slaver from her mind, and lingered for one last moment, letting the strengthening breeze caress her face and dry her tears. Was it a sin to survive?
“Now!” the slaver’s voice cut in again.
She knew that tone. She had pushed Kreg past his limits. Her flesh would feel the steeltips of the cat o’ nine tonight. She set her jaw, then smiled. It was worth it though.
I guess I'll start the voting. Man, good participation on this one. And just about everyone went for the desert caravan. Interesting...
Gold Rush - The problem with this one is that I don’t see mention of any specific characters or plot. It reads like a vague summary of something.
The Return of the Flesh Feeder - Title is vivid and campy. This one throws us right into a slightly confusing situation, but it’s still exciting. That last line is gimmicky, but hilarious. I would read on.
The Pulse of the Red Desert - Good title. Not much to nitpick on this one. It’s clear, concise and has a creepy hook as well as a glance at the character’s psyche. Nice work.
Point Two, Point One - Personal disdain for present tense aside, this one is unique. I don’t really see a reason to keep reading, though. It seems like the story ends at the end of this 1st thirteen.
Camel Master - This one is all setting. I get a good feel for the heat and the harshness of the desert. Not sure what the hook is, but the setting is engrossing enough that I would keep reading.
Land Pirates of the Desert Sea - Good setting work in this one too. The desert is so poetic, maybe that’s whey everyone picked it. The name “Rustfolk” seemed really awkward to me. The hook is present, and I would probably read on to see what the deal is.
Fire Within, Fire Without - This one felt a little rocky to me. It didn’t read smoothly. I don’t really have any strong hook to keep me reading. I like the names though. I always prefer simple names in fantasy.
The Demons of the Desert - This one has a good strong hook, and a good scene set. I like it, and would read on. I have to admit that all these desert ones are starting to run together for me.
Sand Madness - This one breaks the mold and manages to use TWO of the prompts. Nice work here. Believable emotion, good irreverent voice. Awesome last line. I would definitely read on.
Chariot of the Gods - Good standard scifi here. I like the title. It has a little bit of a DUH DUH DUUUUH! moment at the end that felt campy, but I have no nits with the writing.
In the wake of the Creators' War - Cool title that conjures up a hook by itself. This one has a very similar hook as “Chariot of the Gods”, but seems more effective--maybe because of its uniqueness. I found the dialogue a little clunky and unnatural.
Vertical Blinds - Good character work in the first paragraph. Good hook. Not sure what else to say here. This is an example of an opening that seems uneventful, but manages to push all the right buttons. I would read on.
Gray's Redemption - No real problems with this one, but nothing particularly unique (especially after all the similar desert openings). You went to great pains to show how everything was bland (even the MC’s name), and ended up with an opening that is... bland.
Resurrection - Another whipping one huh? Interesting. There seems to be a hook lurking here, but as it stands is relying on pity to compel the reader on. I usually want a specific reason to feel pity beyond the “it’s a poor little girl being assaulted by a slaver”. You somewhat undercut yourself by having her smile about the whipping.
Close contest this time. I was really struggling with about 5 for the 3 spots...
1st place - The Pulse of the Red Desert - Skadder 2nd place - Sand Madness - IB 3rd place - Vertical Blinds - shimiqua Best title - In the wake of the Creators' War
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Gold Rush This one fell a little flat, almost an infodump. With no character or no hint of a plotline other than something's going to happen, but we don't know what.
The Pulse of the Red Desert This one seemed to have too much content shoved into the opening. Three characters plus the Pale God with names I have trouble remembering. Strip that out and we have one worried sister standing out getting cold. I'd read on.
Point Two, Point One Although I was wondering about the difference between a Flash and a Matchbox, it wasn't enough to keep me going. Too much tech and not enough tension.
Camel Master I like the little twist with the talking camel, but that's the only hook. No strong motivation to get into the story or get to know a character better. The writing was good, though.
Land Pirates of the Desert Sea I had a couple of issues with this one. For one, I read this twice thinking Rustfolk was the name of a tribe or a people and had a devil of a time trying to get this opening to make sense. It would name good old Rustfolk something else. The other is that I don’t know if the Persian is riding or dragging. Even with these fixed, I'm not hooked. I really don't have any reference point for the observance of a Persian will help me get interested. This would work better with some action on the gang's part rather than sitting, standing or laying on the sand scouting out the territory.
Old Stone, Mother's Flesh I had a hard time getting my eyes around the name Aduviri. It's too bad the hook came in the middle. It was deflated by the time we got to the mountain with the green sides that didn't have sufficient reference to get me all excited to read on. It's like someone saying in an offhand manner, You die. And then you just ignore him and go on your business. I did like the title.
Fire Within Fire Without Reading this, I felt I should have been hooked, but to me the girl came across as someone I wouldn't like and that soured the hook, which didn't hook me. Another petulant (but strong willed!) teenager story.
The Demons of the Desert Desert fatigue. I guess that's what I'm getting as I cycle through these openings. This was another one where I had no real investment with the tribal names. Watch out for the Shavira! My question is why? If they need to be feared, then why did they just get massacred (again by evil white guys carrying energy weapons)? Is this Custers Last Stand in the Stars? The hook needed a bit more bite for me. IP: Logged
Sand Madness I liked most of this. I didn't get the mining shuttle to Saturn part or the sandbarges. At that point I got lost wondering trying to figure out where this desert was. It was revived somewhat when a trader was sucked in… but lost it again by the casual attitude of the narrator because it was so offhand. He was so detached that the threat was minimized in my mind. The hook, of course is the steel case, and that would keep me going for a bit more along with the voice, which appealed to me.
Chariot of the Gods Star Trek, the Movie in the desert. V'ger lives! I did like the writing but there wasn't an apparent hook other than look at what I found. No microbes from outerspace or little green men rising out of the sand.
In the wake of the Creators' War I had some problems placing people with the action on my first read then I realized there were two sites being worked. I suggest in this case to use a 2 rather and capitalize Site 2. I was puzzling over two caverns or Site 2 caverns. Kendra and Kendricks are too close for names. I think this opening could be written to provide a super strong hook. As it is, the writing got in the way.
Vertical Blinds I thought this was written well. We get a feeling for the setting and for Adam. I was disappointed about the moon moving rather than a tiny crack or some threat to the window, though. I also had a bit of a problem wondering if he is one something that can shift or if the ground is moving or if the moon was moving, so that mitigated the hook. I'd still move ahead.
Gray's Redemption There were a couple of discordant points that made me halt as I read. The first was the featureless environment in the first paragraph, then there is the sun showing and the blowing sand and the ability to see the tracks albeit fading didn't match. The other place was where he would die happy. He doesn't seem happy, so I was confused. The last bit about not wanting to live quietly with what he had done was hooky, but I think there was too much desert description and not enough work on Gray.
Resurrection I was really confused about what was going on. I didn't understand what she was doing that would make a lashing worth it, running her fingers through her short hair? Not enough. I wouldn't go further because I don't have enough information to want to. For example, I guess she's a slave, but she doesn't lament the fact. Why she's there just isn't clear enough.
VOTING Let me start out and say the quality of the writing for these openings was impressive. I had too much sand in my mouth when I finished, though. This was a great group of First 13s. I'm sorry I had to nit the openings to death to find the winners.
I guess I trust AlliedFive's judgement, I ended up with the same openings in the same order! We had different titles, at least I'm not a complete copycat.
First: Pulse of the Red Desert
Second: Sand Madness
Third: Vertical Blinds
Title: Old Stone, Mother's Flesh I couldn't see it in the opening, but I thought it evoked competing textures and that interested me.
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Gold Rush - Reads like a summary, a well done summary, though. There is a hint of conflict, but the lack of immediacy dents the hook.
Return of the Flesh Feeder. - The eaten eats? I think there are too many concepts here. It’s a bit like a snake eating its own tail. I would have been content with just a hint of the guys ‘power’ and mostly focused on him being eaten. Besides, why should he care for those above? They see rather cruel people. The intro feels a little stiff in places. (“Stand back. Flee.”)
Point two, Point One - I am not certain what is going on here. I am not human and am no doubt some orbital sensor/satellite and while I find it interesting and quite unique, I see no hook. Unless ‘...And the lights of Titan...’ is the hook. Is that a suggestion of alien life? Titan to Mars is a decade for a the message to be recieved? I don’t think so--possibly in the neighbourhood of an hour but no much more. Liked it, but can’t vote for it. I’d read on.
Camel Master - Quite liked this one, although it took me a couple of reads to realize that the camel speaks the last line. I must be dumb, but I just assumed it was the herder guy. Hook is slight; talking animals are funny but only slightly hooky. If your camel had turned and said something that drew me on plot-wise you’d have hooked me good. I’d read on.
Land Pirates of the Desert Sea - ‘Rustfolk’ is a bad choice of name--it like calling someone Samuel Nobody. It can be done, but is needlessly confusing. You could do it in a novel, but this is an intro competition and so your choices should be tight. Otherwise I quite liked the piece. The only thing I’d say, is we learn more about the old guy (characterisationally (?) speaking) than the MC. I’d read on.
Old Stone, Mother's Flesh - This one was well written, few nits. One sentence that seemed a waste was the last one about the mountain. Elements like that should be earlier on as they set the scene, and can be woven into another sentence, rather than being static on its own. I’d read on.
Fire Within, Fire Without - Cara doesn’t just focus on her breathing in the first sentence, she obviously feels the whip too, because you talk of a searing pain. This makes me think you aren’t achieving the effect you seek. The dialogue is good, but elements of prose and story need tightening. ‘Air’ echoes in the second sentence.
The Demons of the Desert - Quite like this one. Prose has some clunky elements (‘...filled the silence of the other Shiato Priests...’). Ends with the promise of revenge, which is a weak hook. I’d read on though.
Sand Madness - 1st person, so fairly immersive into the POV, although I felt this was somewhat blunted by the summary feel of the intro--a kinda of 'what’s happened up to now'. Otherwise the voice was good and I would read on.
Chariot of the Gods - Good prose, I get the situation although am somewhat surprised that they still seem to be using tents and the like (blankets and fingers) so far into the future. Not sure about the strength of the hook, but the writing and general situation is enough to make me read on.
In the wake of the Creators' War - ‘...his assisted...’? Typo? ‘...site-two...’ So the hook is the seven boy’s. Although lots of siblings are interesting, I am not certain what makes them interesting here. The prose is good, but the hook is slight.
Vertical Blinds - I liked this one, but elements within it seemed to slow it down. You spend time in the first paragraph telling me what the window is not--time that could be spent telling me more precisely what it is. Also, I found your description of the window a little basic (probably because of the above)--after all I have double-paned glass in my house. If you’d said it was sapphire-glass, double-layered with a translucent polymer in between so it would fail-soft, blah, blah (or something similar) I would have been with you regarding the tech and so felt more immersed. The situation is of some one waking (cliché) after having a disturbing dream where the window to his spacecraft was open. The hook is that this may actually happen... I can overlook the cliché, because the situation is intrinsically interesting. I’d read on.
Gray's Redemption - Calling someone a colour and then starting a sentence with his name is confusing. I would recommend re-jigging the sentence so his name is mid-sentence and we will get clued in by the capitalization. A bit of an info dump in the second part. The first bit was good, but you obviously felt we need to know more.
Resurrection - ‘She ran her fingers through her long hair. Only it wasn’t long anymore.’ Why say it is? Seems like a waste of intro space to say that. She also goes from stifling a cry to some smiling about being whipped. I am not certain I am emotionally connected with this gal. her moods are too fast for me. Besides, you’ve got to have a death wish to grin at the prospect of being whipped by ‘steel-tipped cat o’nine tails’. It rings a little false to me. The prose itself is good.
Votes: 1st: Sand Madness 2nd: Vertical Blinds 3rd: Chariot of the Gods Title: Vertical Blinds
Gold Rush - The opening feels distant since it's narration. I'd be hooked more if given a scene and less intro summary, still I thought it was interesting.
The Return of the Flesh Feeder - I think the intro is good but the subject doesn't interest me. I wouldn't want to read about a flesh feeder, sounds gory.
The Pulse of the Red Desert - Interesting setting, good characters, it hooks me.
Point Two Point One - I have a hard time connecting with a machine so it doesn't hook me.
Camel Master - I like the talking camel, and that's the hook for me. It's cute, I like it.
Land Pirates of the Desert Sea - I tripped over Rustfolk,since I thought it was refering to a group of people rather than an individual. I'm not connecting well to the characters, they feel distant and the action is fine but doesn't really hook me. Nice description though.
Old Stone, Mother's Flesh - I like the scene. I can see it and the people. Nice dialog and good hook
The Demons of the Desert - There seems to be a bit much packed in the intro. I don't feel Kitar's anger since I don't yet care about those slaughtered or understand his connection to them. I thought the description was very clear.
Sand Madness - All three prompts? I like the voice and setting. Throwing in all the prompts though seemed to make it too packed and a little choppy. I like it though.
Chariot of the Gods - I like the hook, my favorite part of it is that at first I think it's present day. Great character development and voice. The description of the artifact was a little hard for me to visualize.
In the Wake of the Creator's War - Interesting, I would read on.
Vertical Blinds - I love the voice and I am hooked.
Gray's Redemption - The description is good but then the character voice is distant and I am wondering why he is chasing this man why he doesn't just say why.
Resurrection - I am intrigued by her situation and how she got there and would read on a little to figure out how it happened.
Hard Choices 1st - Vertical Blinds 2nd - Old Stone, Mother's Flesh 3rd - Chariot of the Gods
Gold Rush Nice voice. For me there was too much emphasis on the lure of gold, which we all understand without any explanation. Just alluding to a disaster was not enough hook for me. I needed a better tease.
The Return of the Flesh Feeder I thought this one was original and had an interesting premise, but it seemed a little rushed. It went from the mc backing against the wall to screaming in agony. I realy wanted to see the attack.
The Pulse of the Red Desert I really liked this one. Way hooked. My only complaint is the name B'in Asur. Do you really need the apostrophe?
Point two, point one This has a good voice, but I am just not that into a mc who is a ship.
Camel Master Talking camel, a little Mr. Edish with attitude. This could be fun.
Land Pirates and Desert Sea Nice description of the desert, poetic. The description of Rustfolk (I agree with others that this is an odd name) and the gathering of the men could have been more smoothly integrated into the prose. Not really seeing a hook, but the title is interesting.
Old stone, mother's flesh This is a good clear set up. Not much to make it seem original yet, but I would keep reading.
Fire within Fire Without The fact that the slave master is her step-father is interesting. I am thinking that the mother is dead, but if she isn't, it makes this whole scenario all the more intriguing. My one problem is with the MC. I don't understand what happened to make her suddenly decide to challenge her step-father.
Sand Madness Extra points for using all three prompts and doing it well. Really good voice too. My only question is why in the age of space travel are they hauling equipment across the desert, can't they fly the stuff over it? I don't expect you to explain that in the first 13, but if I read on, I hope it will be.
Chariot of Gods "Anglash," very funny. This is well written, and I am curious to see if we were the Gods mentioned in the title.
In the Wake of the Creator's War I already have a clear picture of professor Kendricks (name is too close to Kendra), nice job. I love how he calls his assistant Darling. I found the twin thing confusing. Are there seven sets of identical twins or are there seven identical people (which would be identical septutlets?).
Vertical Blinds I totally loved this until the end. I was disappointed with the moon moving after the build up of the window. I would read on hoping that the window is important to the story.
Gray's Redemption The description of the desert was good, but it just didn't tie in well with the next paragraph. I think this would be better starting with Gray and describing the desert around him. I also didn't like the line saying that he would die happy. It didn't seem to fit the character you were creating.
Resurrection I like the premise. I am assuming that she hid among the slaves to avoid death, very interesting. But I had a problem with the end that she thought it was worth it. What was worth being whipped? Ignoring the slaver so that she could stare at camels and think?
Overall these were all very good, so I had to be really picky about the winners, but many of these were stories that I am interested in reading.
Gold Rush: It has a folksy voice, which I like, way too much telling. I want more of a visual picture to connect to, right now all I'm seeing is the words, the words are well written, but I'm just not connecting to any characters, or even the situation.
The return of the Flesh Feeder: Hello 1950 's B movie title(And a sequel no less) I really liked bits of this, and the voice (though cheesy) was funny and unexpected. The "I must say, they..." was a hook for me. I would read on, but a bit hesitantly.
The Pulse of the Red Desert: Nice. I'd keep reading.
Point two, Point one: I loved this one. I think the line "if I were a Flask, they'd come." makes the matchbox sympathetic. Great. And in present. Who knew?
Camel Master: Interesting that the only named character is a talking camel, but I don't see the story here. The talking camel in not a hook enough for me, sorry.
Land Pirates of the Desert Sea:Interesting imagry, I would keep reading. You've hooked my curiosity.
Old stone, Mothers flesh: Cool title. I dig it. "He never just walked anywhere" is a great line good character description in the attitude of the pov.
Fire Within Fire Without: The line "Anything that doesn't...last words of her mother." Struck me a humorous, like a failed joke. It feels like the tone is, and should be, serious and the irony should be a bit more malicious. IMO
The Demons of the Desert: Good descriptions, cool fire weapons, I don't understand why if the people never fight back, why the outlanders should fear them. A hint of a reason would be enough for me to keep reading, as it is I'd probably stop.
Sand Madness: Snaps to you for using all the triggers and still placing a good hook. Nice.
Chariot of the Gods: I like the Anglash, good set up for a cool idea, though the 150,000 seems like a bit much. But interesting. I would keep reading.
In the wake of the Creators War. I liked the "I suppose it all depends on..." good description of character in one line. One small nit, Kendra and Kendricks seem too similar to me. I would keep reading.
Gray's Redemption: Cool voice, I think it would be cool if the last line "With what had been done" was changed to with what he had done. Just an idea. Some trimming would make this awesome. Great first three lines though.
Resurrection: This almost worked for me, but I feel like I'm watching her, instead of over her shoulder. I like how she has a new name and the tie in to the title. A little work would make this one more interesting.
Voting: 1st: Point two, Point one 2nd: Sand Madness 3rd: Old Stone, Mothers Flesh Title: Old Stone, Mothers Flesh
This one was tough. Chariot of the Gods and the Pulse of the Red desert and the Sand Pirates were all competing, I'm still not sure if the order I wrote is right. Good work everyone! ~Sheena
Hmmm, sounds like the beginning of a Yukon gold rush story I remember reading while I was a kid. There is a basic problem with this premise, gold isn’t that valuable in space. Ice would be worth a lot more than gold. If you sent a space ship from earth, mined enough gold to fill the hull, and returned, you would be in debt.
The Return of the Flesh Feeder
This bugged me.
strip the flesh and bones from my soul
I don’t usually associate flesh and bone with souls. The two are mutually exclusive in my mind. Very creepy submission, although I did like that last line.
The Pulse of the Red Desert
Nice prose. The premise had promise but the hook isn’t that sharp.
The evening breeze was cooling and she relaxed onto some stone blocks behind her
IMO, this line should be broken up.
Point Two, Point One
Too many short sentences. Combining them may have helped this. A story from a probes perspective is interesting but short and stop style of the prose makes it difficult to get into.
Is Achmed the camel? A nice hook.
Grit clung in every fold of my skin, and the dark cloud on the horizon threatened another sandstorm.
This would be a lot better of an opening if these were two separate sentences. They are two unrelated clauses. They dulled the opening.
Land Pirates of the Desert Sea
Motionless waves of sand surrounded Dhanniul and his band of men as far as the eye could see, like an ocean frozen in time
The first time I read this I thought Dhanniul’s band of men stretched as far as the eye could see (quite a band). I think if the second half of the sentence was moved it would make a nice opening sentence.
Motionless waves of sand, like an ocean frozen in time, surrounded Dhanniul and his band of men as far as the eye could see.
I think a few of those ‘Rustfolk’s could have been cut or replaced with pronouns.
Old Stone, Mother's Flesh
The description tags do not flow well with the dialog, that can be fixed with a minor rewording. I am not seeing much of a hook, however.
Fire Within Fire Without
not a bad hook. The tension is there. Opening sentence should be cut into two sentences. An echo in the second sentence hurts the prose. I liked this one.
The Demons of the Desert
The tension is clearly there with the last sentence. There are too many modifiers, IMO. A small reworking and this would be good to go.
Sand Madness The only problem I see with this is the attempt to get all three prompts into this opening. Too much info crammed in. I do like that last line however. Nice touch.
In the wake of the Creators' War
He had almost decided to stop when his assisted yelled down to him. "Professor, you aren't going to believe this." Kendra shouted.
A bit rusty now that you’re busy again, BT. A bit of redundancy you have there. Other than that the prose is very nice. The hook isn’t so sharp, though.
Okay, I am not entirely sure what is going on but I need to know what is. Tension is there and I love this character thus far. I am hooked. Title sure fits that opening as well.
too vague. I would have liked it if I knew the crime/reason why Gray pursued this unknown offender. While I liked the last line I wasn’t hooked by the premise.
I kind of liked this. Easy to fall into the characters blight. The last line blew the hook for me. IMO, it would have worked if it said…
It would be worth it
First Vertical Blinds (An easy choice for me)
Second Camel Master
Third Sand Madness
Pulse of the Red Desert and Fire Within, Fire Without deserved to be in the mix as well. Either one deserved a second or third place finish in this.
The Return of the Flesh Feeder - The title raised my interest but it was squashed by the first line. It just felt awkward and I had to read it twice to get the picture in my head. Other than that, I would probably read on just because of the second paragraph. I thought it was a vivid image.
The Pulse of the Red Desert - I enjoyed this one the most. I was immediately intrigued, curious, and afraid for the girl. Excellent!
Point Two, Point One - I liked it once I understood it. It's not the style I'd normally read so it took me two reads and I probably would not continue on.
Camel Master - Is the camel talking in that last paragraph? I think so...I would read on just to find out. I liked the image but I didn't really get hooked other than mild curiousity.
Land Pirates of the Desert Sea - I loved the title but the story seems dry to me. No pun intended. I get the image you're conveying but something's not luring. Perhaps some more about the thing being dragged would hook me in and awaken my curiosity.
Old Stone, Mother's Flesh - The title was interesting to the extent that I'd read on just to find out what the title meant. The intro tho felt like it wasn't an into. It was like you chopped off the first part of the story and dropped me in the middle of a dialogue I knew nothing about. I did like the line about Aduviri never walking anywhere. That made me chuckle.
Fire Within Fire Without - I would read on in order to find out what the rules were and why she was being seriously punished for breaking them. Her attitude in the beginning was excellent but I lost a bit of interest in her response to him. She was trying so hard not to make a sound when whipped. Then she turned around and baited him in a pretty childish manner. I felt at the moment I read it that it would have been more in character for her to glare silently at him. Maybe she'd even just 'think it' at him.
The Demons of the Desert - Definitely like this one. Good imagery and a nice hook. I would read on. I love the title too.
Sand Madness - Clever use of the prompts! I did feel like it kinda disjointed the story though. Is it about the supplies going to Saturn? Or the caravan running into danger in The Wastes? Or the archeologist with his secret discovery? I would not read on.
Chariot of the Gods - Excellent title. I felt it was ho-hum at the start but you immediately hooked me with the date at the end. Very good job. When I read it again I thought that Anglash might equal English, so that was interesting enough to reel me in.
In the wake of the Creators' War - I thought the names were too similar. I mixed them up the first time I read. You had me hooked at the professor's return comment to Kendra when she said he wouldn't believe. But then you lost me at "seven identical twin boys". It halted the flow for me because it was so strange. My second thought after reading that was Indiana Jones. Perhaps some rewording would help remove that block from the flow. Other than that, I would keep reading.
Vertical Blinds - The title amused me when I read the rest. The flow was very nice and I love the voice. A very good piece.
Gray's Redemption - Excellent hook at the end. I liked the flow and images. His name was awkward. I thought you were continuing to describe the landscape and so the sentence confused me until I realized Gray was a person, not a description. Once I understood that, I would read on.
Resurrection - I like the title and the scene the follows it. I immediately felt connected to the main character. Probably because I cut my hair recently from very long to very short. I understand that feeling of 'oh wait, it's not there anymore'. I did think it was odd that she would smile about a whipping. Even if it was worth it. A grimace would be more appropriate. Liked it overall and I would keep reading.
1st - The Pulse of the Red Desert 2nd - Vertical Blinds 3rd - The Demons of the Desert Best title - Land Pirates of the Desert Sea
[This message has been edited by RillSoji (edited August 21, 2009).]
Gold Rush - The beginning is sluggish. This is 1st person, but it's speaking in "we"s, keeping us distanced from the narrator--which defeats the purpose of first person. Also, the first two sentences of the second paragraph tell us they made it out okay--no indication otherwise.
The Return of the Flesh Feeder - The first sentence is 1st person, in the second and third, the storyteller knows what others are thinking and feeling. The second paragraph does this again, saying the "voyuers above had no idea who or what I was", but not explaining why.
The Pulse of the Red Desert - My main problem with this (other than the occassional nit) is it seems complete, not like a beginning.
Point Two, Point One - I don't feel the tension in this piece. I feel no connection to the character. It's like I'm reading the journal of someone who has to keep--as opposed to wanting to.
Camel Master - Interesting flip of man and beast, enough to hook me into finding out why.
Land Pirates of the Desert Sea - Dave Wolverton says the beginning should start in motion, and only the first line takes away from that. The only problem I see (other than that nit) is: where's the speculative element? Don't get me wrong, I'd definitely read on, but I'd think it was historical fiction.
Old Stone, Mother's Flesh - Why doesn't anyone react when the native say he'll bury them there?I'm not sure whose PoV I'm reading.
Fire Within Fire Without - For me, I couldn't believe it from the get-go. Whipping is not something that resolve can defend against. Some of the slaves who were beat had great physical strength, and had grown tough or callused skin, and didn't just defy those who had whipped them. I like the basic defiance, but there would have to be a hint at why she could withstand something so many others couldn't.
The Demons of the Desert - What outlanders? Have they met? Spoken? Why wouldn't the Yitrobi (fierce, right?) have tried to trade for advanced weapons? There are a few redundancies: "Human bodies strewn around them, crumpled and lifelesss." (One is indicative of the other.)
Sand Madness - It sucks. This author jailed for any attempt at stringing words together to form a coherent story.
Chariot of the Gods - It's a little As-you-know-Bob-ish. When I read "Sagan 5 spacecraft", I had to go back and see if there was a humor theme. I think I was a bit disappointed not to find one.
In the Wake of the Creators' War - Love the title. What a huge difference an apostrophe can make, eh? First, you should clarify that Kendra's the assisstant (not assisted). Also, Kendra and Kendricks are pretty close. You also misspelled "say" as "sav". Where are they?
Vertical Blinds - Adam is a cliche name, especially is Sci-Fi. "Only a dream" is also cliche'. (I should know, I try to combine them all the time.) Nice moon hook.
Gray's Redemption - He would know who the man is, and why he's following him--so should we. There are no soind in the windy desert (blowing sand makes sound, right?)?
Resurrection - This leaves me with questions about what is happening in this thirteen. I have nothing to latch on to. She knows what happened, what she survived, we should, too (if not in detail, at least in passing).
Number 1 - Land Pirates of the Desert Sea: I know just enough to want more.
Number 2 - Camel Master: If it was clear that the narrator was the camel earlier, this would've been my number 1.
Number 3 - The Pulse of the Red Desert. On a second read-through, I'm uncertain of the Speculative element.
Best Title: Tie between In the Wake of the Creators' War and Land Pirates of the Desert Sea
(Since I've been forced to choose a "Best Title", I have to go with Land Pirates of the Desert Sea because that is a strong hook in itself for me.)
[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited August 25, 2009).]
Gold Rush: That opening paragraph was too much narration for my taste. I found the second paragraph interesting and wanted more. The repetition of “I don’t think” distracted me. Perhaps cut “to us and that was all that we heard”.
Return of the Flesh Feeder: I like the intriguing twist and powerful character. But it’s too grotesque for my taste. Suggest cutting the last sentence.
Pulse of the Red Desert: I liked this one very much. Good hook, and I care about the characters. “Glancing down at Rachid, as he unfastened her ankle shackles, she smiled” sounds awkward to me.
She sounds like she wants to be with him. I found the wording in this phrase to be somewhat implausible: “… you could have me for the night…” because it is based on the owner’s permission, not her own invitation. Not much self-respect (but then she is a slave, so its probably okay). I found the dashes and stuttering in the dialogue distracting.
Point Two, Point One: Its interesting. But without a live character, I’m just not engaged yet. And I don’t get a sense of moving forward from here; the story sounds complete in this paragraph.
Camel Master: Need more story--check. It’s thin because I didn’t imagine anything beyond this scene.
Land Pirates of the Desert Sea: The opening made a few too many comparisons between desert and ocean; with nice imagery, sometimes less is more. I’m not solidly in Dhanniul’s POV and I don’t feel any attachment to him yet. I see the potential for a good story though.
Old Stone, Mother’s Flesh: I was very confused at first because I thought there were only two characters; who was patting whose head? Then I realized that the small native man is a third character; he needs a name. Later: More Qhechua from Aduviri. Then, "He knows it…. Also confusing because the native didn’t say anything… and yet he must have. I like the characterization of Aduviri. Am I supposed to be in Virgil’s POV? The only thought is: He never just walked anywhere. A nice line, but very light penetration. I loved the word “Wonderful” immediately following “He says he will bury us there." That’s your hook.
Fire Within, Fire Without: I have immediate sympathy for Cara. I wonder what happened to her mother, and if that is what made her so tough. I found it hard to believe that she is so stoic during this harsh punishment, or that she has the gumption to backtalk as soon as it’s done. Maybe if she showed more involuntary reaction I’d accept it.
Demons of the Desert: The first sentence is weak; there’s so much more interesting stuff that could have pulled me in at the get-go. In the first paragraph Kitar strikes me as a dispassionate observer, with the smell and gruesomeness as his only qualms. Until I get to “Kitar’s people never carried weapons, never fought back, and yet the outlanders had massacred them.” That would make a good opening line (tweaked to define “them”).
Then we finally get some emotion in the next paragraph. I like the threat in the last line. Mix it around some, and this’ll be a great opening.
Sand Madness: I love the attitude, the voice. This is great immersion in the POV, good characterization of the speaker. There’s the threat of danger, and the mystery in the steel case. Excellent. At first I was thrown by the attempt to merge the desert with space; I thought it was all happening in space. Then I figured out you meant that everything happened on Earth, before they got to the mining shuttle. Duh.
Chariot of the Gods: Every time I read it this jumps out: “Sertin barged in the tent…” It makes me think he bashed in the tent with a club or something. IMHO “barged” should be followed by an entry (?) modifier (into, through, past, etc.). He barged in and set his hat? The first verb is so active, the second not so much. It didn’t fit, especially with all that description of the blanket/table slowing it down. (And when he lifted the blanket, where’d the hat go?) I have a few other little nits, but here’s what I really like about it… who is this guy who can read a dead language that is SO old? Let me know more about his story, and I’ll read on. “Anglash” is clever.
In the Wake of the Creators' War: I like the characterization of Kendricks. The dialogue is nice. How could she tell the boys are twins, assuming they are skeletons? I’d give it a little further, but I’m not really hooked yet.
Vertical Blinds: This is great. I love the guy’s paranoia. I’m right there with him; I can see the setting and feel his anxiety. Do windows really go down when you twirl a handle? Haven’t seen one of those in a long time! This phrasing sounds like it is supposed to be ominous, and yet I can’t imagine what might be wrong: “The window didn't move. The moon outside it, however, did.” I don’t get the title. Nit: don’t need “even”
Gray's Redemption: I’d combine those first two sentences. I like “dead sky” and the description of blowing sand merging with sky. I’m interested by Gray’s willingness to face death, and the options in front of him. I’d rather leave the reason for his quest unmentioned (to be explained soon) than to have this ambiguous phrase: “It was far better to die in pursuit than to live quietly with what had been done.” What had been done? Did Gray do it? An emotion at the end would have worked: live with guilt, etc.
Resurrection: This one hooked me good. I’m rooting for her out of the box. I like the long hair that’s not there anymore, and the line “Was it a sin to survive?” Nits: “May her mother” is incomplete; it bugged me. At first I thought the phrase “It was worth it though” meant that she didn’t turn round and respond right away, and I thought, how is that worth a whipping? But then I figured it out (a little slow); the “It” is too ambiguous. I’d like to know how cutting her hair will help her survive.
I count fourteen entries and ten votes. So currently we are short four votes.
Anyone who fails to vote will have all points given to them cascaded down to the person below them (by the votee), so if someone voted them first, then the five points will go to the person voted second by that particular voter, etc. Obviously if they were voted third, then points simply evaporate.
Still, we are nowhere near that stage as we have a few days left.
Sorry folks, been away on business, only in the office for a bit so im just doing my top three;
1. Pulse of the Red Desert - my favoritist; what a great job you did of showing us the relationship between Shalina and Rachid. Strong hook (for me) in the last paragraph. Lots put into these first 13 lines without it seeming to be forced.
2. Old stone, Mother's Flesh - "He knows it. He will taus there. He says he will bury us there." I gave this my number 2 spot just for this hook.
3. Sand Madness - I didn't feel overly hooked on this one, but you did what I always try to do (roll all the lines into your story) and fail at. Kudos to making it work!
Thanks for putting on the challenge! I miss these things...
Gold Rush: The writing is good and smooth, but there's no hook. There's nothing that captivates me.
The Return of the Flesh Feeder: Sounds like a great B-Movie (which I absolutely love). The voice seems too formal for the situation though ("demise" "voyeurs above") - perhaps for the situation at hand its too thought out.
The Pulse of the Red Desert: Clearly written. More names than I needed, but well done.
Point Two, Point One: I'm not one for techy writing. Its hard to get emotionally involved with a machine, especially one with a seemingly monotone voice.
Camel Master: The last sentence could easily have been said by the narrator, so I first read it as a typo. I would like to see the camel's first words something more memorable.
Land Pirates of the Desert Sea: Rustfolk doesn't need to do anything after he says "he's coming straight for us". Dhanniul's name tripped me up a couple of times and slowed down my reading a bit.
Old Stone, Mother's Flesh: The part where Virgil laughs while the worker is talking seems a bit out of place. The last sentence seems like its thrown in there, maybe you can work that in someplace else.
Fire Within, Fire Without: I'm hooked. It has me wondering what rule could be so dumb that she'd be ok getting whipped for it and so defiant. There are some technical problems there, but the hook is strong.
The Demons of the Desert: A good scene setter - the bodies strewn about, the stench, etc. I'd read on to find out why they were killed and what our MC was going to discover.
Sand Madness: The combination of desert, Saturn, and the dig from Peru had me confused. It certainly was the only one we've read that tried to tie all 3 prods together so you get credit for that. The voice was good, and the last sentence is great, but its too much to fit into an opening.
Chariot of the Gods: Nothing here tells me that its 150,000+ years into the future (we'', except when he says it). I'd like to think we will have come a long way in that time - if not there better be a darn good reason for it. this reads like a Twilight Zone episode.
In the wake of the Creators' War: Are 7 identical twins, 7 sets of twins or 7 identical babies? If its 7 identical babies then they're not twins. this had me confused and set me off the rest of the reading. Then the Prof. asks for evidence and then disbelieves before seeing any.
Vertical Blinds: I like the last sentence. Does a person so far into the future with spaceflight like that, really know what a hand rolled window really is? Most 16 year olds don't know that now.
Resurrection: I'm hooked on why she even questions on if its a sin to survive, when other people obviously didn't. The survivor's guilt premise is seeing alot of airplay lately in my sphere (it was even on Army Wives a couple of weeks ago). I actually liked the smiling at the thought of being whipped in conjunction with that.
Voting First - The Pulse of the Red Desert Second - Fire Within, Fire Without Third - Resurrection Title -Vertical Blinds
Hey, I am not the last. Maybe I should come back later then.
ok, lets give it a go.
GOLD RUSH the writing is fine, no problem there, it read real smooth, but its just not a scene for me.
The Return of the Flesh Feeder A campy, type b-reated movie title. Not my choice, but if the first 13 shows anything, it shows this will be a fast, fun read. I would lose the, I yelled - let the dialogue speak for itself.
The Pulse of the Red Desert[/b} onto - maybe on, love the title, and the story. My only concern is, I feel like I know too much too quickly. I personally would like it played out slower.
[b]Point Two, Point One I'm lost. Don't take it personally as my reading tends to be pretty straightforward, action adventure. I just never understood it. The writing itself seemed fine.
Camel Master Well done, setting the scene, but I wasnt drawn in, I am not feeling for anyone as of yet.
Land Pirates of the Desert Sea I liked the title and setting of the scene.
Old Stone, Mother's Flesh I liked this one. The line, he knows it, will take us there, and he says he will bury us there hooked me.
Fire Within Fire Without ok, so the first part was fine, I liked the taking the whipping, probably because it was simialar to mine, with the belief that there can be more to a whipping than just a whipping. But the last 2 lines, the dialogue left me wanting something more, harsher I guess.
The Demons of the Desert I don't, when I first read this, It read like an info dump, and I thought the writing could add more of Kitar in the scene, but on the second read, i realize Kitar is in there a lot. So I guess it was more that I don't feel for Kitar, and I should, I should feel a lot with all that pain, and the massacre.
Sand Madness The voice is good and distinctive. I felt the intro was little more telling than showing, and not really an active scene, then the last line got me, and it fit the previous lines perfectly. So, I don't know.
Chariot of the Gods one nit, eyes expanded seemed alien to me, almost as if you were looking for another word for widened. But onto the story. A fast start and I would like to see it slowed down a little. The writing is sound. I liked the first sentence where, the action, or beat sets the dialogue up nicely versus throwoing in a tag.
In the wake of the Creators' War First off, happy to have you back Scott. nit assisted-assistant? Good characterizaion, I get a good sense for the professor immediatly.
Vertical Blinds A lot of talk about a window. The last line has me a little intrigued, not sure if its for the right reasons or not. I want to know if the first paragraph was just a setup or gimmick to make the moon line stand out, or if the window will open. It should, or i would feel mislead.
Gray's Redemption Interesting. It seemed a little passive to me, not an accurate use of the word passive I am sure, but the writing talks of what not, not what is, and that seems off. The premise sounds promising though, and inner conflict to start off with.
Gray's Redemption Always fun to critique your own work. I now would lose the first sentence and second for that matter. Added it at the last minute and it brought up too many questions for my liking. As far as the smile, I like it, grimace might be a better choice of words. And if i lose the first 2 senteces then I can get the next sentece allowing the reader to know what was worth the whipping.
1)The Pulse of the Red Desert 2)Old Stone, Mother's Flesh 3)In the wake of the Creator's War
Title: The Pulse of the Red Desert
OK, well done all and thanks Skadder for challenge.