View Full Version : Critique: The Gift
January 4th, 2006, 08:48 AM
The cave man sat looking the device over. "Seems new-fangled to me. Can you tell me how it works or what it does?"
"I'm the coffee-making man," the ET said. "I can brew you up a pot of the best with this. It's a battery-powered automatic coffee maker, and I have the makings in my pocket!"
"That sounds good," the caveman said. "I'm no good without my morning cup of coffee. If you can have one for me, I'll talk better."
The ET set the coffee-maker to work. It was shortly percolating cheerfully, and in two minutes he was able to hand the cave man a cup of coffee. The cave man took it and drank it meditatively. "Good coffee," he said.
"No more heating up rocks," the ET said. "It takes you hours. This thing works in a jiffy. Batteries guaranteed for life without difficulty." He had heard the ululations of a dino and did not estimate that his guarantee would cheat the man any. "It's free, too," he told the caveman. "We want you to be happy."
"That's fine," the cave man said. "You're just like gods are sometimes."
The ET left and the caveman moved back into his cave, which was set further into the rocks than any dino could reach; and there he brewed him up a pot of coffee, and it was mighty fine. His neighbors found what he was doing after a few days, and it was not long before coffee-klatches were assembling in his cave. In two years he was a wealthy man, for his approach to things, utilizing gifts of the gods, had revolutionized caveman society. His whole outlook changed as he benefited from the gift. When he died he went to heaven, which was not where he had been going, but the new spiritual enlightenment which had come from the technological gift had converted him to better ways.
He knew one day he would meet the ET there too, for this great benefactor of mankind was certain to go to heaven also.
January 9th, 2006, 04:30 AM
I like the premise, but just don't get where you're going with it.
"That sounds good," the ET said. "I'm no good without my morning cup of coffee.
Are you sure you don't mean the caveman?
Why does the ET do this in the first place? What's in it for him? He gives the caveman a coffee machine for free and, apparently, coffee for a life time too (nevermind that he expected him to die sooner).
What did he expect to gain from this?
I think you need to explain this part more:
In two years he was a wealthy man, for his approach to things, utilizing gifts of the gods, had revolutionized caveman society. His whole outlook changed as he benefited from the gift.
You lost me there. How is utilising the gifts of the gods a new approach?
Why would it revolutionize society? So what does his outlook change to? And what would his wealth be constituted of? Furs?
I was actually expecting them to change because everyone gets so hyper on the caffeine...and then of course the coffe "klatch" would be new too.
So what's the point of the story? It sounds like you want to make a clever point about society, but which one?
January 9th, 2006, 09:00 AM
Well, I left glaring gaps in the reasoning of my story so that the reader would have to fill them in and think them out, but you certainly caught me in one that was not intentional, and that's the one where the caveman was speaking and it says the ET was speaking. I was looking out my window when I typed that. I've just edited it so that it now reads correctly.
I was wanting to discuss the details of my story, and I'm very glad you had comments about it. As things are seen in my story (which is meant to be distinct from life as it is or has been lived, not to reflect it), the caveman doesn't need a lifetime supply of coffee, as he is so primitive that he is being watched closely by heaven, and they supply the coffee and fulfill the concept of there being coffee there. The caveman has not been having a morning cup of coffee, but he is standing in a time stream due to the intervention and it informs him what to say.
Now as to the ET's motives, it's an important point in the story. He gives the caveman the coffee-maker because he feels like doing so. Looking at the caveman gives him the desire to change him in some way. This impulse, often unnoticed in life, is an important part of it and is what the story is intended to highlight. What he gets out of it is simply the doing of it, the knowledge that he has affected this caveman. His gain is feeling different.That's a gain, too.
I see the cavemen as ignorning the gods and paying no attention to anyone outside their own so-called culture. So using something from somewhere else is so novel that it has a revolutionary effect. Their social order is dependent upon maintaining their culture exactly as it has been and they have to compensate for any change in it by manifesting the change in various ways including material ones. However, the change is easily brought about because
they have not noticed that they are dependent on maintaining things as they are; thinking about what they were doing would itself be a novelty. His outlook becomes one of progress because he likes the effect the gift has had. His wealth is in fact whatever constituted wealth in those days, plus whatever new forms of wealth are brought about by change.
The point of the story is that someone would want to change a caveman's behavior, which implies that I, as the author, have some interest in the matter, or there would not be a story or a point to it. I'm glad you can see that the story would have a point. As to where it is going, it is simply going away from caveman-style thinking---which I maintain exists in mundane literature.
Arguement with the story is welcome.
January 9th, 2006, 09:44 AM
Your story requires too much explaining. I'm all for brain teasers, but there are just not enough hints in your story to support the meaning you want us to read into it. You need to deploy a few more clues.
This is because you write about cavemen that do not behave like cavemen do and coffee machine sales representatives that do not behave like those do either. We don't know what to expect and not expect from them and therefore can neither be surprised nor enlightened by anything they do. D'you get me?
I see the cavemen as ignorning the gods and paying no attention to anyone outside their own so-called culture.
YOU see them as ignoring the gods. Your readers don't. In common perception, cavemen had burials and some kind of religion. If you're going to make that kind of presumption, you need to show us that first. Otherwise, how can we acknowledge the change?
Also, it's not enough to tell us there's a change. Give us an example of what they do or say differently afterwards. I know you're doing artsy concept writing (I enjoy that myself), but even so an example would be helpful.
the point of the story is that someone would want to change a caveman's behavior, which implies that I, as the author, have some interest in the matter
it is simply going away from caveman-style thinking---which I maintain exists in mundane literature
Now you've lost me again.
So the point is:
All those dumbasses who write/read mundane literature pay no attention to anything outside their culture, but you want to be the ET that helps them do that by introducing novelties - and as soon as you've managed, they and you will both go to creativity heaven?
In that case: Dude, you have a mighty strange way of thinking. :)
And also - the story seems too cynical to support the view of the ET as an angel. He behaves like a sales representative and I kept waiting for the catch. And what was with the cynical bit with the ET thinking the caveman's gonna kick the bucket soon anyway?
January 9th, 2006, 05:54 PM
Cave-man thought exists in mundane literature, it doesn't dominate it. Nor is it found in every work of a mundane nature.
January 9th, 2006, 08:55 PM
Ok - there's at least four major questions you didn't answer in your story.
What was the ET doing there in the first place?
How did these two meet and become friends?
How did the caveman get introduced to coffee?
How did the caveman learn the ET's Language?
A little self-interest added to this story can make it go a lot farther, like -
1. ET came to get coffee beans for his machine (but how did he know they were there?)
2. ET got hurt, the caveman rescued him.
3. While the ET was recovering in the caveman's cave, he showed the caveman how to make coffee.
4. A deus ex machina like the high-tech coffee pot taught the caveman the ET's language. (or he already knew it somehow.)
Dinosaurs weren't roaming around when the cavemen came about - but sabertooth tigers, wooly mamoths and bears were - unless this isn't Earth.
Also, how does the caveman know the gods? And knows the ET isn't one of them? What other 'gifts of the gods' does the caveman own? How does he grow wealthy when there's no money?
It's a cute story but needs more development.
January 10th, 2006, 08:50 AM
Methinks yourself and Onions are looking for "truth" in a story. And this is a question I have--since when did story-writers have factuality in mind? Your choice of names shows that you are particularly concerned with information, which of course you would want to be valid. A story-writer has in mind departure from fixed reality, and gets faced with "that isn't reality as I have come to know it in my experience of this lifetime." Like a poet, a writer plays games with reality, seeking to lighten the burden of stark reality. Not that I am objecting in turn to you--the story was posted here for a critique, and in fact its propositions may well be argued. But I do have the argument that a story writer seeks to be phantasmic and mystifying.
Now, after being this way, he's there to answer any questions the reader may have. And I'll answer yours: the ET was there being unexpected. Like the storyteller, he liked being different and surprising people. Beyond that, he thought people like cave-men needed a rev. This doesn't relate much to life. When cave-men existed they were just left alone until the cro-magnons came along. That's because there was nobody there to do anything different. That's why I would write a story like that, to have something different happening than what was. If man does not exist (that is, if people other than cave-men don't exist at a particular time) it may be necessary to invent them. So he was basically there to suit my pleasure, and any story-teller might tell you the same thing.
How did they meet and relate? I didn't think I'd need to point out that the ET had been watching the cave-dwellers telepathically--that's what an extraterrestrial is likely to be like, by established story standards. Then he came and imposed himself on the cave-man to see how he could mess around with what he had seen. The cave-man was given the entire concept of coffee in the mornings telepathically. The ET learned the cave-man's language; you can assume the conversation is translated out of cave-speak.
As for your possible additions to the story, they would make it more interesting; if I were to lengthen this story in order to send it somewhere, I'll make use of your suggestions.
In fact, my cavemen won't be someone else's cavemen; there are people who think cave men didn't even exist, for all we know about them. But if they did I prefer to have them existing when dinosaurs roamed and ate them, just for the sake of the story. It makes it better in each and every way to have this threat to their existence. (It wouldn't make their lives better, but it makes for a more complex story than to have them living at their ease--and then for the sake of ease, the new invention brings them closer to luxury.)
And I do like to get a discussion. For instance, later man, homo sapiens , imagined that there were dragons; how did such imaginings come to pass? Perhaps from tales passed on by the cave men?
January 10th, 2006, 09:10 AM
Your choice of names shows that you are particularly concerned with information,
That's a first.
Look, it's really quite simple.
You want to get a certain meaning across.
It's not getting across.
At least it isn't to me, and since I'm not usually a dolt and, as I said, I enjoy your kind of use of the absurd, I'll wager I'm not the only one.
Of course you can remain your own best reader, but if not, you'll have to give us a little more ground to stand on.
The thing is, your caveman and your ET are not connecting in my mind to anything. As a metaphor, they do not work yet. Because for a metaphor to work, there have to be similarities to the thing they represent. And at the moment there aren't any that you show.
I'm not trying to lecture you as a writer here, I'm trying to tell you what I, the reader, see in your story. And that is - it has the potential to be fun and witty and thought provoking but it fizzes out because it doesn't connect to anything in my mind.
January 10th, 2006, 05:30 PM
I'm liking the critique well enough not to argue with it at this point...I didn't post the story on a "stories for egoboo" board. I want to see what its failings as a polished work are. I have been seeming to object in order to give you more to fire at. But I think I'll await results from the other poster before saying anything further. Then I'll want to know if you think you have located all of the errors in my presentation of the story.
January 10th, 2006, 09:32 PM
If the ET isn't actually speaking to the cave man but rather using ESP, it really should look something like this.
The cave man sat looking the device over. "Seems new-fangled to me. Can you tell me how it works or what it does?"
I'm the coffee-making man, the ET thought. I can brew you up a pot of the best with this. It's a battery-powered automatic coffee maker, and I have the makings in my pocket!
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