PDA

View Full Version : Please critique my first sci-fi attempt


SFFWorld.com
Home - Discussion Forums - News - Reviews - Interviews

New reviews, interviews and news

New in the Discussion Forum


mikebryant
January 10th, 2006, 11:53 AM
Hello all,

After putting it off for way too long, I finally sat down and wrote a sci-fi short story. Please take a minute or two to read it and provide any comments you feel are constructive (including whether I should spend my time on other things).

http://www.sffworld.com/community/story/1184p0.html

Thanks,

Mike

onions
January 10th, 2006, 12:16 PM
Hey Mike!
Just wanted to say that I really had to laugh when I read your story. You have a certain Roald Dahl-ishness, did you know that.

I love some of the unexpected ideas - like "Bangladesh" took me completely by surprise.

I think the sex plant requires a little more explaining - Can't really imagine what you're talking about.

Then there is the tone of your story, specifically in the last two paragraphs.

I think it doesn't synthesise the cynical and the tragic element very well. You can have both, of course, but it needs to amalgamate more to grip me as a reader...hmm, sorry, that's not very helpful.
I think it's because first you're being quite desultory to him ("sulking") and then you kill him off in a scene that sounds like it ought to be tragic in it's wordless despair, but like this it just sounds flat and callous and uninteresting.

The last two paragraphs as a whole are very abrupt. The tone isn't quite right (for me personally, dunno how others see this).

The suicide caught me by surprise because I am still not sure why not being a synth is so horrible. My interpretation is that John has been the "good boy" all his life, hoping for recompensation by being made part of the Synth-elite. Then he realises he's going to be left to age just like the rest of the plebs and the way he has squandered his life leaps out at him. Or maybe he is just so afraid? I don't know.

The last paragraph sounds really hammered home, like you're sticking out your tongue at poor John Smith and the readers saying "Haha, see? This is how mean the world is :P"
Maybe you could be a little more elegant in introducing the letter? Like, sneak in a mention earlier and then have the cleaning lady open it at the end? Or something? I don't know. You're better at this than I am.

My last question is about his name. I realise you're trying to make him into one of the faceless numbers. But I think the whole thing would be both more tragic and more ironic if he had a really unique first name. Because...he's human and would have had the potential to be unique. But he never was.

ETA: I really really like the beginning - right in the middle of things with not a word too many.

Dawnstorm
January 10th, 2006, 01:05 PM
That's a nice story, an interesting concept, and there's a lot to think about outside of the text.

However, I don't feel the setting is vivid enough for me to know how to feel about the ending. (I do appreciate the irony inherent in it.) I don't really know what it's like to live as a synth. I don't know what it's like to live as a non-synth, either.

There are some interesting sentences, for example:

"They had better meals in the rare occasion they were needed and often were granted permission to live on the lunar colonies and sometimes even the new colony on Mars."

From this, it's clear that it's a rise in social status. I can infer that life off Earth is considered "better" (perhaps, because less crowded). "in the rare occasion they were needed" is a very interesting addition to that sentence; it shows that "abstinence" is an important ideal in this society: food = necessity (however, the word "better" is ambiguous, here. Better: as in more nutritious? Better tasting? In all respects?)

But, you see, these sentences just hint at what people think life is going to be like. They remain abstract; what remains hidden, remains hidden ("How do synths really live?"), and what's taken for granted remains invisible ("How does the character really live?").

For example, instead of having your character think in concepts ("better food"), you could have him imagine eating that better food (and perhaps failing). However, bear in mind that this wouldn't only change the method of representation, it would also change your character; the way he's characterised ("docile citicen"), it may be more likely that he'll think in abstract terms.

Another thing you could do is expand the story with meaningful details. For example, if he's applying to be a synth, he might view the clerk in those terms. The clerk who tells him "one application per month", is he a synth, a non-synth? Since he thinks about age later on, he might notice age, too. Is the clerk a non-synth beyond 35? Mr Smith might tend to mistake the clerk's bored tone for a bitter one. Is he a synth and younger? Mr Smith might be ashamed of his feelings of envy. Do you see what I mean by "meaningful details"?

Lastly, you could remain all abstract throughout the story and focus on conceptual controversy. You've got a hint of that in this sentence:

"Further, he was loyal, not like those unthankful renegades who constantly try to overthrow the power seat of the world government in Bangladesh."

Why do the renegades attempt to overthrow the world government? What do they want to achieve? Is Mr Smith afraid of them (as terrorists)? Does Mr Smith find their goals immoral? Distateful?

It's because I see neither the world nor Mr Smith clearly, that I don't know how to take the ending (beyond the obvious dramatic irony). It's still a nice story that gives a reader a lot of room for imagination. Just a bit more guidance for the reader could improve it, though.

sfxfantasy
January 11th, 2006, 09:07 PM
I like that story. The premise of the story and twist at the end are interesting.

You could make the reader feel more for Mr Smith, so that there would be a little more sympathy for him.

Expendable
January 14th, 2006, 03:02 AM
The story's got some potential. Good irony but not surprising. The angst was good too. But some things I'm not sure I understand.

Why is he filing a request to become a synth at a food terminal? Wouldn't it make more sense to do it at the synth prep center where he works? And if it's a synth-terminal, why is he requesting food at it?


Grabbing his food ration card from the terminal, John Smith walked along the lonely, busy Atlanta streets to his tiny apartment They're lonely and busy?


And at 35 you became a no-gooder, useless to society and having virtually no chance of ever becoming a synth.... ....And they acknowledged that many people over the age of 35 were every day granted synth status.

So which is it? If someone over 35's becoming a synth every day, then how's that no chance?

I can see the synths do have it better - but why? They're all not going to the Moon or Mars. So what use are the synths? Wouldn't he have a better chance to become a synth if he learned some skill they needed in space?

Also we never see a synth anywhere, we just hear you telling us about them. How does he know they get better food, bigger appartments?


He had volunteered for sterility treatments. Never once had he sought solace in the sex clubs or drank alcohol or took any drug that the government suggested against. Further, he was loyal, not like those unthankful renegades who constantly try to overthrow the power seat of the world government in Bangladesh. Why not me?
How does sterilizing himself give him a better chance at becoming a synth? What's wrong with drinking or going to sex clubs if what he's having sex with is a plant? I can't imagine everyone who gets synth bodies had as much self-control. How is the government going to know anyway?

And, then, repeat the day's activities as he had done since his unlawful parents had born him. Why were his parents unlawful?

In the end, thinking his life's so miserable, he allows himself some pleasures then jumps in front of the train to end his pain - but I don't understand what a high-speed train's doing going down a city street.

Why didn't the terminal know he'd been approved?

If drinking and sex is enough to stop him from getting his synth, wouldn't it be more powerful if he comes back to his home, read the letter, realize he's blown his one chance and then goes run in front of a train?

As always, feel free to listen or reject anything I've said here.
--Ex.

Expendable
January 14th, 2006, 11:07 PM
What you've written here isn't finished yet.

Did you ever see the b&w Twilight Zone TIME ENOUGH AT LAST? Where the guy only wants to read his books? Think about that.

Expendable
January 14th, 2006, 11:40 PM
What you've written here isn't finished yet.

Did you ever see the b&w Twilight Zone TIME ENOUGH AT LAST? Where the guy only wants to read his books? Think about that.

stormyknight
January 28th, 2006, 03:04 AM
>After putting it off for way too long, I finally sat down and wrote a sci-fi short story. Please take a minute or two to read it and provide any comments you feel are constructive (including whether I should spend my time on other things).


Normally I'm a pretty critical guy. Get me any other time, and I'll do my best to tear something apart. But several other posters have done that already. I just wanted to say that I did enjoy your story, and if you enjoyed writing it, then write more.

Although I must say: I liked the straightforward simple humor of the sexplant. I don't want any more information, and I think elaborating may actually be detrimental. It's pretty daring to keep it ambiguous, and make the reader wonder what "realizing the pleasures" actually entails.

In one page, I laughed out loud twice. That's a really good achievement.

Good job, good start. Thanks for the story,
Silas