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July 6th, 2003, 12:42 PM
Hello there, sffworld. I submitted a short story here awhile back and I'd like people to take a look at it. Any comments are appreciated, as long as they're constructive in some way.

*runs and hides*

Oh right, here it is... http://www.sffworld.com/authors/h/hirsch_ben/fiction/atrappedcause1.html

Thanks in advance

July 7th, 2003, 03:25 PM
Hi Acaptus

I'm reading your story as I speak (or rather, type). I'll try to comment as I go along.

The first paragraph: Hmmm, no action packed start here. An awakening and a description of a room. It doesn't contain many hints to what the story is about, and neither does the title. Both are perhaps a bit neutral. But then again, a slow start is okay too. It tells me I'm on a spacestation and sets the scene allright. The only thing that really bothered me was the setence: "Behind the watching organs a brain thought of various ways to improve upon the desolate setting." I had to read that a couple of times to catch the meaning. I think it's a bit funnily worded (watching organs? Why not simply eyes? Perhaps it's an alien?).

The third paragraph mentions a "petite woman" (not an alien after all then?). It then proceed to state that: "...She slept here only because Thayit wished her here, not because she had been given liberty." That got me to think, at first, that she was somehow forced by Thayit. But it didn't really mesh with the obvious feelings shown later. So I'm not sure I really understands what you are saying there. But maybe that's just me being dense.

Your dialogue is very good, I think. It flows well and sounds good. But again there's a slight inconsistence that I can't help but notice. It confuses me somewhat. First, Yanael says: "The stars won’t look like that once we get there, you know." And then the whole conversation goes on and implies, to me, that they are about to make planetfall somwhere (the fixed start, when seen from a world ect.). But then you write that "Several generations later the people of the ship would be allowed that experience." So are they going to arrive on a planet or not? Read and find out, I guess!

(oh, and "totally devoid of any earthly memories"? It was definitely not aliens then)

On page two you continue the dialogue. It paints a nice and clear picture of their personalities, especially Thayit. I can just picture the two of them. Still, the whole list of laws regarding child bearing and upbringing is perhaps bordering on an info-dump. I'm sure Yanael knows the rules too. In a real conversation she would probably have cut him off somewhat earlier.

The next couple of pages gives a pretty good picture of life on this ship, the mineature world. No wonder our hero is bored by the "task" given him. A computer would surely do the job much better. I can't be much fun to be a backup :(. Furthermore, I really like the detail about the time reckoning system counting downward. Nice touch!

On page five the "build-up" seems to be over and something new seem to begin. Although I didn't feel the slightest bored at any point, maybe five pages of intro and setting the scene is a bit much for a ten page story. But that, of course, is a matter of taste and preferences.

But then there are your numbers. 114 light years in 19 days is awfully fast. I thought the reason they were flying around in such a big colony ship was because they were moving around at below lightspeed or something. In fact I think you said that they had been under way for about 300 years. At that speed they would therfore have traveled 657000 light years, all in all. But the entire milky way is only 100000 light years across! Now, this might be nit-picking, but in all other aspects so far your story bears all the hallmarks of hard sf. So I think its a shame that the figures doesn't live up to this a bit better.

Yet now something is happening, and quite fast. If I should be nit-picking again I might say that it's may seem a bit out-of-character for the practical-minded Thayit to be so quickly and completely fascinated by this new star. From what I gathered of their natures in their earlier conversations, I would have thought that this was more like the woman Yanael. But she's completely indifferent to the discovery.

In spite of this I like the way you describe Thayit as not being able to sleep, and going off to talk to Canseres. And I really like the sentences at the bottom of page seven: "Radio telescopes came to life and announced the presence of the kind of photons they enjoyed contact with. The world emanated radio waves."

The top of page 8 begins with: "All particles, no matter their composition, emit radiation of all types so long as they possess some energy." That doesn't sound quite right to me. Matter is energy. And only decaying (that is, radioactive) matter emmits energy spontainously, without being agitated.

You go on to state that: "Radio waves are not found in nature in great amounts." Again, that doesn't sound quite right, in my opinion. Radio waves are just another wavelength of electromagnetic radiation, just like visible light. So stars emit radio waves, for example. That's why astronomers uses radio telescopes. But you are correct in that Thayit wouldn't expect a planet to emit any form of radiation by itself, much less radio vawes (although it would reflect radiation from it's sun). But if he discovers radio waves emmating from the actual planet, he's probably safe in assuming that they aren't natural.

Okay, sorry! Physics rant off for the rest of story, I promise :).

The rest of the story quite gribbed me, actually. I read on right to the end without bothering to stop and think more deeply on it, but just following the story to it's conclusions. Only afterwards did I take the time to analyse it. By then I found that Thayit's sudden departure was a bit unlike my mental picture of the character. I would have thought that he would go find somewhere lonely to cool off, and then use the remainder of the days traveling towards the star to plan his escape. That way, he would also be sure to eject when the colony ship was at its closest to the alien world.

Aside from this, however, I found your description of the apaty of the rest of the people aboard the colony ship very well done. Especially the paragraph about Yanael. I could easily imagine that some people would react this way under their conditions. It somehow reminded me a bit about "The City and the Stars" by Arthur C. Clarke. Have you read it?

Anyway, despite the fact that all the above rantings may seem harsh, I really enjoyed your story. What I said, I said only in the hope that you will read it as constructive criticism and use it to make the story even better. As it is, I rated it 4 out of 5.


July 9th, 2003, 01:16 AM
Phew, for a moment I thought I had made a terrible math mistake. If you'll read again, it says one hundred fourteen lighthours.

I actually have read The City and the Stars, and liked it a lot. I'm a bit more morbid than Clarke, however, so I had to go with an unhappier ending. I wonder if I did get inspiration from that story...

Your complaint about the info dump is something I'm already quite aware of, I'm just not entirely sure how to deal with it yet.

As far as Thayit breaking away from character, I'm not sure that that is something I want to change. There needs to be a massive change in his character during the story to show the effect of the environment on him.

With radio waves though, all matter does emit radiation. Anything that has energy (anything moving, anything hot) will give off photons. Radioactive materials actually have their particles break down into energy, which is a different sort of thing. It's the difference between chemical reactions and nuclear reactions.

The characters speak as if contact with the new world is a thing they will experience because their entire society is focused purely on reaching the new world.

Hmmm... I heard something once. In fact I think I heard it here. I can reinforce the points of my story to a person giving comments on that story, but I can't reinforce them to a person reading my published story many miles from here.

Time to go think for awhile.

Thank you for the input.

July 9th, 2003, 12:07 PM
Phew, for a moment I thought I had made a terrible math mistake. If you'll read again, it says one hundred fourteen lighthours.

Oh no! If that's the case it was I who made a huge mistake. I'm very sorry! That changes the whole thing.