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Paracosmic_nomenclator

8/14/17 - Paracosmic_Nomenclator - Repossession

10 posts in this topic

This one's a bit long, and a bit late. Definitely a gore warning. All feedback is appreciated. I'm trying to get this one under 5k words, so if there are any parts you think could be cut, let me know. Thanks,

 

~PN

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I perceive some inconsistency in the fact that Rowan actually does not like the human form, or being human, but he ends us trying to commit suicide because he's not human anymore.

I would try to hide a little better the surprise encounter with Deborah, it's a little phoned in, ad least for me it was. (“Yes, sir. She appears to be in an enemy encampment near the border.”)

I would not presume to give directions - but IMO a better sequence would be if Rowan, after a string of succesfull fights and ever growing ache over missing Deborah (let's say he's told she died in the hands of the enemy), would try to kill himself, and then he would be send to finish Deborah.

I felt the part with the general was not really necessary, it seems to be there only to explain Rowan's condition, and could have been done faster and maybe more interestingly during some fleshing of Rowan's character (for instance him selfanalysing his condition).

 

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- I like the opening description of being inside a robot body. Very cool.

- I'm interested to know what "Approval" is. Is it perhaps how the robot is controlled, because they are addicted to approval? Regardless, this idea might have to be developed and described more.

- I like that the near-future setting, using existing vehicles - like the Apache helicopter - to root the story in a semi-modern setting.

- Overall, It's a really solid effort. I liked the near-future setting, the military action, the bleak ending. One issue: it felt like Deborah's impact on Rowan's life was "told" to the reader rather than shown to us, which negatively impacts the impact of her death later on. I'd rather have a scene with Deborah and Rowan pre-combat rather than more back-and-forth between the higher-ups. 

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I enjoyed this submission! I feel like it is one of the better ones you've shown us so far. 

That said, I did feel like the denouement went on a little long and robbed the end of some of its impact. You've got a nice twist that, while telegraphed, was handled pretty well and the main character's realization about it seemed believable. Having only one female in the entire piece, though, does kind of give it away in a nice, big, brightly wrapped package.

The evil Colonel is a bit cheesy, especially at the end where he drops his mask of political correctness. He worked better when he was not twirling his villain's mustache at the protagonist. 

Some parts could probably use some clarification, though which bits in particular are likely up for interpretation. I had no problem with gleaning the meaning of "Approval" from implications in the text, but it took me a while to figure out "morphologies" and that confusion did knock me out of the narrative a bit. The ramp up with the general at the beginning could also probably be more concise, since it more sets the initial tone than has much to do with the overall plot. 

If this was a longer work, I'd definitely want to see more of D, but since this is short and she's ultimately more plot-important by her absence than her current or past actions, I'm okay with not seeing any direct interaction between the two. 

"The eerily half-colored face " This is easily my favorite line. It's evocative and does a great job of showing how much the main character identifies with the robot body. 

Keep up the good work! 

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On 8/15/2017 at 8:40 AM, Gustaf Taen said:

after a string of succesfull fights and ever growing ache over missing Deborah (let's say he's told she died in the hands of the enemy), would try to kill himself, and then he would be send to finish Deborah.

I like this idea. I still want him to commit suicide after killing Deborah, but showing him dealing with growing depression in her absence would work well I think.

On 8/15/2017 at 8:40 AM, Gustaf Taen said:

I felt the part with the general was not really necessary, it seems to be there only to explain Rowan's condition, and could have been done faster and maybe more interestingly during some fleshing of Rowan's character (for instance him selfanalysing his condition).

Got it.

On 8/15/2017 at 4:41 PM, rdpulfer said:

I'm interested to know what "Approval" is. Is it perhaps how the robot is controlled, because they are addicted to approval?

Basically. R is a human brain which can control robot bodies, and "Approval" is his pleasure centers being directly stimulated. I can make this a little more clear.

On 8/15/2017 at 4:41 PM, rdpulfer said:

I'd rather have a scene with Deborah and Rowan pre-combat rather than more back-and-forth between the higher-ups

I think the story would be stronger if I did that. Thanks for the suggestion.

23 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

The evil Colonel is a bit cheesy, especially at the end where he drops his mask of political correctness.

Agreed, but I don't feel like there's space to make his character multi-dimensional. Also worth noting that people that evil really do exist in positions of power.

23 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

it took me a while to figure out "morphologies"

Would "bodies" be clearer?

 

Overall: in draft 2, I'll cut down or remove entirely the General scene, and add in a scene at the beginning which highlights D's character a bit more. 

Thank you for the feedback, and I'm glad you guys enjoyed it!

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Overall

Nice piece! I had very little to comment on, other than that the last two pages could probably be cut and it would still be a strong work. 

On 8/15/2017 at 4:41 PM, rdpulfer said:

it felt like Deborah's impact on Rowan's life was "told" to the reader rather than shown to us, which negatively impacts the impact of her death later on

I agree with this. I'd like more showing in this area

On 8/16/2017 at 2:39 PM, industrialistDragon said:

Having only one female in the entire piece, though, does kind of give it away in a nice, big, brightly wrapped package.

This was a bit of an issue for me as well. The writing was strong, but killing your one female character and having her death advance reader empathy and plot for a male is pretty textbook fridging. This wasn't as bad as some that have come our way, but alas, we must now reset our counter.

But really, this was a very strong submission. I enjoyed it!

 

As I go

- the love of music in an android makes me think immediately of Ancillary Justice

- I'm kind of surprised it didn't just end on page 18

 

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The first two paragraph are just description of a robot. I'd rather have action or character definition to draw me into the story.

pg 2: "you want to send a ** twelve-year-old into enemy territory? I’m not going to sign off on a ** child soldier!”
--you could probably start here with a much bigger impact.

pg 8/9: a little too much infodump on the switch in morphology. Maybe cut it down by a paragraph or so. (I didn't have a problem with "morphology" as a concept. Might be from reading more military SciFi? dunno.)

I agree with the others that the structure felt a little off. I was ready for it to end around page 18, but then it kept going. I'll also second that putting the development with D should go first, to show that relationship. Right now, the first half of the story is almost only descriptions of violence. I was almost ready to skim when I hit the much more interesting part about R's development as a person. I think if you condensed the beginning a little, and let R and D's relationship show through, this would be a really strong story.

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13 hours ago, kais said:

I agree with this. I'd like more showing in this area

The only problem I foresee with that, is that by making D more prominent in the story, it'll just make her eventual fridging more prominent as well. To me, she's more of an abstract concept right now, the compassionate female teacher archetype, and while her death resonates less, the fridging she gets doesn't bother me much: she's barely real to begin with. I feel like her lack of dimension puts more emphasis on R's eventual attempt at self-determination. 

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Looking forward to another one of your stories.

  • meter-scale robotic form” – not sure how this sits with the 2m height. Is it not ‘two metre scale’?
  • neck could rotate indefinitely” – this is more of a measure against time than the extent of rotation, which I thought was what you were going for, given the context.
  • The leg joints, unfortunately, mirrored the human body’s quite closely” – this seems puzzling considering the lack of limitation on the rest of its movement. I'm wondering why the legs were designed with a higher level of limitation.
  • making everything seem smaller, as well as being situated one on top of the other” – something about the phrasing here – I thought they were meaning that the objects of focus were one on top of the other, as seen through the eyes.
  • There’s a large screen in front of R, but also there is “the screen in front of them”. Does this second reference mean ‘them’ as the eyes of Colonel Brandt, or does it mean in front of R and B? Either way, it seems confusing, and I don’t really get the blocking of the scene.
  • the greek alphabet’ – Greek.
  • Jesus Christ, you want to send a F-bomb twelve-year-old into enemy territory? I’m not going to sign off on a F-bomb child soldier!” – I have several problems with this. One: this Davidson is swearing like a trooper in front of a 12-year-old child. This makes him a hugely insensitive, boorish and generally despicable person. Two: more importantly, the man is a poor soldier to show so little self-control in front of his subordinates. I don’t know enough about the situation. Maybe it’s the end of the world and he’s that worked up, or he was a corporal yesterday and isn’t equipped for the role, but for me the story hasn’t yet earned the right for this character to act that way – imo.
  • Given the hormonal stimulation procedures” – I think this says the procedures are hormonal, rather than stimulating hormones. I think it’s ‘hormone stimulation procedures’.
  • brain is closer to that of a twenty-year-old” – interesting; scratch Point One.
  • Also, I like the use of Greek letters, although the general makes a fair point. I’d need to count through on my fingers.
  • instead of “Patient Rho,”
  • when he had a mouth” – I like these little asides to the body changing elements of the story.
  • he’s still a F-bomb kid” – Ok, reinstate Point One.
  • The Colonel’s voice broached no argument” – ‘brooked no argument’ is the phrase.
  • get into any morphology, go into any virtual environment” – neat idea.
  • R’s current body was an aerial vehicle” – I'm enjoying the idea of a mind inhabiting and controlling different machines, however I'm not really feeling the emotion of what that is like. I'm not saying this is inconsistent, because R’s emotion seems to be controlled by the Approval drug, but it does introduce a kind of distance from the character, I think.
  • The ground below him bloomed with color” – Super line; I'm picturing the napalm scene from Apocalypse Now.
  • like a piece of abstract art made 3D” – I'm less fond of this. Seems like low hanging fruit as far as description goes.
  • with three times as many primary colors as the human eye perceived” – confused; surely, by definition, there are only 3 primary colours?
  • the Approval was starting to fade” – in case I haven’t mentioned already, this is a next concept. I like it. I don’t think there would be any harm in giving a bit more description of what ‘Approval’ feels like – so we get more of a show than a tell.
  • Hydraulics triggered at his thoughts” – there’s a grammar issue here, I think. A trigger is a ‘1’ or a ‘0’, pulled or not, and over in an instant, whereas this phasing is for a continuous or at least longer term action.
  • Nice description of the change in perspective. It worked for me, but I still think you could push is further.
  • It was limited to a rifle and an automatic” – this puzzles me. Surely, all that is necessary is to target and pull the trigger. I don’t see how there is any more processing power required if he has a laser, or a rocket launcher, or two automatics.
  • glowing in near infrared” – wouldn’t this be visible? In which case, why would he describe something he can see as being near something else he can see?
  • the I morphology reminded most of a giant spider” – because he was in a humanoid form earlier, I assumed this was a humanoid form. I think the indication about the spider form would be better earlier.
  • R shot it. It stopped making noise.” – No Approval for this? I guess the problem with mentioning almost every time is that the times you don’t stand out.
  • Lost in a giddy haze of pleasure” – Hmm, so he’s so hopped up on this stuff, surely it affects his effectiveness; his ability to function. I wonder if it might be dialled down. It’s starting to feel like he’s a drug-fuelled maniac. Unless that’s the point, of course, which is see that it is!!
  • could see the figure in front of him by visible noctilucence” – I think this is redundant. You’ve said ‘see’. I don’t think the reader needs ‘visible’.
  • a greek letter Rho” – Greek.
  • through the lense of Approval” – lens.
  • The pale blue snow, was stained dark in the visible spectrum, yet brilliantly in the infrared.” – Great line, but didn’t read like a sentence to me.
  • For the first time, though, the bliss was tempered” – What bliss? From the Approval or the sight of her face?
  • Great last line to finish this section – powerful.
  • If he looked closely, he could notice the flaws” – For me, ‘notice’ is an accidental thing, not part of a deliberate action. Was there a reason you didn’t just say ‘see’?
  • same 2-dimensional plane” – in this usage, the numeral stands out like a slap in the face, i.e. in a bad way. ‘two dimensional’ is more organic, natural to the eye, and doesn’t draw attention to the writing. Also, redundancy, a plane – geometrically – is 2D by definition.
  • The scene with D worked really well, I thought. Good to see these emotions from R.
  • With the approval he was under” – not capitalised here, and neither are the later instances. Consistency required, I think.
  • humanoid morphology in the base” – sounds odd. Conventionally, it would be ‘on the base’, I think.
  • meant that the brain was still intact, that he was still alive” – this doesn’t follow automatically.

I enjoyed this story. As usual, your style is easy to read and flows nicely. I like the idea of the story, and some of the concepts were well done and innovative, I thought. One thing that stuck in my head was the fact that the owner of the physical body that R possessed, that he killed, was ignored. If that was not his body, whose was it, and where was their consciousness? In a short piece, it’s worth being wary about introducing new question late on.

I was not keen on the colonel as a character. I did not think his tone fitted the piece. He seemed a caricature of a solider, but not a very good soldier.

Other than these things, really just some grammar and word choice points. I think another few passes would really tighten this up and make it marketable. Nice work.

<R>

 

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On 15/08/2017 at 4:40 PM, Gustaf Taen said:

commit suicide because he's not human anymore

I didn't think that was why he killed himself - I thought it was purely out of remorse for killing Deb. Sure, he hated being addicted to the Approval, but I thought it was what he did that was the driving force behind the decision.

On 16/08/2017 at 10:39 PM, industrialistDragon said:

The evil Colonel is a bit cheesy, especially at the end where he drops his mask of political correctness

Agreed, but when was he ever politically correct? He started off throwing F-bombs at a 12-year-old.

On 17/08/2017 at 10:05 PM, Paracosmic_nomenclator said:

"Approval" is his pleasure centers being directly stimulated.

When he had the controller, I think you described him as stimulating the pleasure centre, but didn't use the word approval. I thought, in that instance, he was doing something different from delivering Approval.

On 17/08/2017 at 10:05 PM, Paracosmic_nomenclator said:

I don't feel like there's space to make his character multi-dimensional

I don't think it's necessary to make him multi-dimensional. You can just make him serious and professional, as a career soldier is more likely to be. You could even make him appear caring, which could make the shock of his real position more impactful.

On 17/08/2017 at 10:05 PM, Paracosmic_nomenclator said:

Would "bodies" be clearer?

Bah, I really like morphologies; for me, it's one of the aspects that make the story sound futuristic, and stand out and be more convincing, technologically speaking. 'Bodies' is a very ho-hum term for something that is amazing, technologically. Also, how likely is it that the boffins who developed the technology would use such a boring term? They are scientists, and are far more likely to apply scientific terminology, surely.

On 18/08/2017 at 5:16 AM, kais said:

but alas, we must now reset our counter

Yup. Okay, there were not that many characters, but the general could have been a woman, the guard at the end (although they got rough treatment too). Definitely other opportunities.

13 hours ago, Mandamon said:

I didn't have a problem with "morphology" as a concept. Might be from reading more military SciFi?

I read basically no military SF, but I was perfectly happy with the term. I think if you are writing an SF story, you have to use scientific terms. It's a reader expectation, a USP of the genre. I think dropping 'morphology' would be a mistake.

13 hours ago, Mandamon said:

Right now, the first half of the story is almost only descriptions of violence.

This struck me too, but I forgot to #agreewithMandamon in my comments. I think you could trim the violence in terms of word count without losing its impact. Plus breaking it up with a suggest insert scene, which sounds good to me too, for what it's worth.

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