Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Mandamon

20220124 - Of Mycelium and Men - 3449 words - Sub 1 - Mandamon

20 posts in this topic

Hello all!
Well, I'm finally back to submitting, as I haven't since *checks forum* goodness...June 2020!

This is the first chapter of the first book of a new hard sci fi trilogy I'm writing, about a generational ship encountering a strange planet. I won't give anything more away for now.

Any and all comments are welcome: plot, setting, character, grammar, etc.

If this was the first chapter of a book you picked up, would you keep reading? If not what turns you off?

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Overall:

The opening was a little rough for me to get into, but I’m not sure how much of that was just not being used to some of the sci-fi tropes/concepts. 

I really like Al-, and can sympathize with his desire for routine (though his second scene had some things that seemed slightly inconsistent, which I called out below).  The “observing beings” pov was also really intriguing, and makes me really interested to figure out what’s going on there.  J’s pov was not quite as engaging for me, but it also wasn’t kicking me out of the chapter either.

I very rarely just pick up a book without having someone recommend it these days (seems like the 24 hours in a day gets shorter and shorter every year), but if I was back at a stage of life when I had the time for such things, I would keep reading. At least for a few more chapters, to see what’s up with our planet beings. But I’d probably want something in those chapters to really grab me, since I don’t latch on to sci-fi as quickly as I do fantasy. 

Pg 4:

The opening sentence feels a little wordy to me, and the “one of many” is non-specific enough to keep me from feeling grounded.

“from the same source” : made by the same manufacturers? From the same planet? From the same star system? 

“this star”: the one of many, I assume? If it’s the star they’re aiming for, I think it might be worth naming it in line one.

“ten times before” : meaning they’ve come to this star ten times before? I’d like a better sense of whether this is unusual or a routine thing. Ten times over what stretch of time?

*also, side note, I have no idea how many of these things are more a result of me not reading much space-based sci-fi.  Readers who are more used to it might not have the same grounding issues.  I’m fine by the end of the first page.*

Pg 5:

This is all it takes for me to like Ag-

I’m not quite sure why the thought of keeping the name has this reaction. I could see it coming after the realization that the planet might be inhabitable, but it seems like an odd jump here.

Is “sus-ani” something most sci-fi readers would get right away? My immediate thought was to read it as a place, and it took a few extra seconds to figure out why it wasn’t capitalized. But again, might just be my lack of familiarity with the genre.

Pg 6:

almost-mythical* ? my brain wants to put a hyphen there, but that could just be me.

I definitely sympathize with Al’s desire for routine.

Pg 7:

“just as uninhabitable as…” this being mentioned in paragraphs 2 and 4 on this page with really similar phrasing feels a bit repetitive.  Especially since we know enough about what Al- wants to be paying attention to relevant details, and to not be hugely surprised when S. No- says it is habitable. Because story.

I like the note of them having a bet on it. A small but very relatable detail.

I don’t always like when there are pov-shifts mid-chapter, because I usually prefer clearer breaks, but I didn’t mind this one. I almost think the passive-voice in the first sentence helps with that for me? It makes it far clearer that we’re somewhere else than if we had some sort of “the observing bodies observed the encroaching lifeform…” opening.

Pg 8:

“more efficient…than direct research”  as someone who has spent a lot of time contrasting the pros and cons of calculating the exact way to do something vs. “I don’t know. Try it and hope it doesn’t explode”  I really appreciate this line.

Yeah. I think the passive voice and sense of distance/non-specificity through here does a really good job of conveying that we’re in the head of some consciousness that doesn’t process things the same way most people do without being incomprehensible.  10 points to you. 

I’d say the one risk with that is that if there are details we are meant to hang on to, you’ll want to make sure those are called out a little more clearly, because the language definitely encourages an “I don’t entirely get what that’s saying, but that’s probably fine” feeling for me while reading.

I also really like the description of trying to process the letters.

Pg 9:

“Let go of I guess “dropped” doesn’t quite make sense, but “nearly let go” feels funny to me. Dropping something feels like it has stakes because it could fall and break, but “nearly let go” conveys that he’s startled, but not really in a way that makes me concerned the way “dropped” would. I’m not sure if there would be a good equivalent to use.

Also, something about Al’s determination to follow protocols made me think he wasn’t the jumpy sort, so this doesn’t quite mesh with my idea of him from before. Irritation that someone would break their routine to be right behind him when they should be somewhere else, sure. But needless rattling of things?

“m—x” ?  I assume this is some sort of term of respect, but don’t have a good indication of what it is indicating.

Pg 10:

I’d been about to mention that he seems a little less put together through here than I would have expected from the character introduced at the beginning. Then I got to where he mentions his nerves are fraying.  I don’t know if it would help for that to come in a little earlier to get an idea of the reason for the shift in character? It hits me as a pretty big shift from competent and rational and set in routine and protocol to being jumpy and hesitant and uncertain (“I…I’m not sure…” doesn’t fit the protocol-obsessed Al- from the start in my head)

I’m pretty sure the end of the second to last paragraph in this scene is word for word what we had back in the second or third page of the chapter.

Can cut “her eyes” in the opening line of the next scene.

The second half of the second sentence feels a little clunky to me.

Also, “vision” gets a little repetitive in this paragraph.

Pg 11:

“Admin B grumbled.” This is one of the things I probably overthink in my own writing, which made it jump out, but if we’re in her pov, is she likely to call herself this instead of just using her name?  Having the handler call her Admin B above would work if it’s just to introduce the full name/title. My first thought was that Admin B was another person standing here.

Nice contrast between J and Al-‘s thoughts on floatiness

Pg 13:

Her comments on not knowing much about astronomy make me wonder what qualifications she has to be making these decisions… wouldn’t that be important? I also don’t have any sense of her apparent age either. Especially since swapping between “J-“ and “Admin B-“ give pretty different perceptions of the character.

 

It was fun to finally read some of your writing after all this time, and I really enjoyed it . Thanks for sharing!

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd been meaning to get back on here, and I guess this is the push I needed to do it!

Overall

I'm intrigued. I love sweeping space operas and such, so this hits all the right buttons for me. If I were at a library I might bring it home. At a book store I'm not sure I'd buy it. Generally to get me to buy a book (and this is just me, obviously) I want at least one character whose personal life drives me. In a chapter like this it could be as simple as having Jane wonder if her wife had also been woken, etc., just some touchstone that makes me go ah, here's my emotion arc. Right now there are a lot of plot-level arcs, which I love, but I need that one emotion arc to get me to shell out money for a book. I'd waffle a bit though, as you have 'they/them' pronouns listed. Still, an emotional tie would seal the deal.

For a first draft on an RE forum? Very nice. Carry on.

 

As I go

- I adore that the dramatis has pronouns!

- Might be too many people though, for a dramatis. Generally they just highlight the key players, yes? The first page I read with enthusiasm, the others I skipped over. Too many to remember and connect with. Maybe just use it for POV characters?

- that opening sentence is pretty raw and hard to follow. I think trimming it down would give it the punch you want

- pg 5: He put in a note to report her violation <-- I laughed. Little uptight

- pg 5: He had nightmares of being stuck <-- this is where you start to lose me. I liked the wonder of the solar sails and arriving at their destination. I enjoyed the characterization of Alvin and his dislike of cute naming. But now I'm starting to get bored, wondering when things will progress

- pg 6: I thought he was fine with the Lid name? Why go back to the number? I'm confused as to Alvin's thought process here

- pg 7: I think this first interlude would work fine if it lost maybe 2 pages. It's got a lot of good content, it just wanders there at the end in particular

- I really enjoyed the second interlude

- pg 9: nearly let go his datapad  <-- missing 'of'

- pg 10: He had nightmares of being forced to live in a gravity well. <-- this is better here than in the first interlude. Also I think this part should be put up with the first interlude. That would give it more punch, and make the 'alien' interlude have more impact as well

- pg 12: as much as I dislike multiple POVs in one chapter, I think you've done well with these. It makes sense, noting the size of the world you're building

 

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Overall

There were some rough parts to the beginning but enough pieces of interest to keep me reading for another chapter or two. I understand why you started with Al's point of view because that's when they arrive in the system but I didn't really find anything engaging until they woke up J. and there was the momentum to imply that something is about to change in the world/character's lives, so I'll be interested to see where things go from here but it feels like we haven't really gotten into the heart of the story and conflict yet.

I am, admittedly, not a huge fan of hard science fiction; so I'm not going to be very familiar or comfortable with the trappings of the genre; but, for what it's worth, here are my thoughts.

The Good

Al. is afraid of being 'stuck on a planet' while living on a ship on a mission to find a place for people to live that is not on the ship. That remains true even after he describes how awful it is travelling between the stars. That's fascinating and the first thing in the story that really caught my attention. How do other people on the ship feel?

Al. talks about not being able to reach things over head if they land on a planet and it made me wonder if they've been living in low/zero gravity this whole time (made clear later that they are) and if so how that would have effected their biology and I love that you've already started trying to answer that question with J.'s observation of how the people have changed.

The alien mind from the planet is really interesting. It's definitely not human and I get a good sense of that from you. The only thing that is a bit weird is that it feels more robotic than organic, but I know it's hard putting us in a non-human mind and I think you've done a solid job.

Unlike C_Vallion, I actually really like J. Probably because she at least shows personality (she's grumpy when she gets up in the morning), she's personable (recognizes and remembers a friend that in world is long dead - even though it's only been a day or two for her), and she uses terms that I can relate to (years). Plus there's the emotional shock that she's been asleep for 400 years (or at least alive for that long). She seems to want to colonize a new planet and I want to see her going down there and figuring things out.

Issues / Confusions (in order)

Mega Seconds

  1. Why use such an unwieldy measurements, numbers that large representing something so small are mostly meaningless to most people. Could you just use sleep cycles and/or some sort of equivalent for years
  2. At another point you use hours to measure something, so again why mega seconds to refer to a period of years?
  3. So the last star was 300 mega seconds ago, that means the next star is 8x further than the previous one. So he was what? About 10 on the previous star, now early 20s? Or are we saying 15, 25 (he'd be 105 at the next star). I don't really care about how old he is (beyond a general vague is he middle aged, a young adult, a teen or a child) I'm just trying to get a feel for time here because the mega second thing makes me want to calculate everything out (I literally kept a separate window open on my computer to calculate out these times because every time I saw mega seconds because it confused me and I had to figure out how long that actually was)
  4. I made at least six notes about how annoyed I was with mega seconds. Maybe this is common to your genre but when I look at the way people behave, we always try to reduce data to understandable numbers. (We split time into seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years, decades, centuries, millennia and even millions of years and use the time frame most applicable to the length of time being discussed).

Inconsistency with the names for the planets

    Al. decides to change all the other names back except Lida. That's a great shorthand for us as readers that Lida is important and we can discount the rest. But then a few minutes later he changes it anyway because he doesn't like the thought of settling down. That seems inconsistent, if he's that opposed to settling down why did he even consider keeping the name and if he's interested enough in the planet to keep the name at first having him change his mind a minute later just makes him seem very arbitrary and flighty. That sense is exacerbated because, up to this point, his only reason for renaming the others is 'protocol' he even reported Xnk. for changing the names in the first place. Does he care about protocol or not?

Not remembering the Vagal's name

    How many people are on this ship? In the fleet? How many people does the processor interact with? Is his failure to remember the soldier's name because he's a jerk, because he's bad with names in general, or just because they don't spend much time together. If this was an office job, does he see her often enough that he should know her name or is she one of the hundreds of faceless workers at a large company that you know by sight but don't bother to learn their name because you only see them once or twice a week in passing and don't ever really interact with them. I hope she's not important because right now the sense I get from being in Al.'s head is that she isn't and so I can just forget about her, she's a world building detail not a person I should care about as a reader, but that tells me more about Al. than about her or the Vagals.

What does Al. want?

    We can clearly see that he doesn't want to settle on a planet (love it as mentioned above) but what DOES he want? It seems like the only thing he wants is to continue with his life as it's been to this point. Not knowing what he wants is something that's already a question in the back of my mind and if I don't learn that soon, I'm going to be annoyed as a reader.

Al.'s Age

    How old is he? How long do people live? 2500 mega seconds to the next star. That's just shy of 80 years. Is he only 20? If so how recent was their previous star that he is able to remembers it. How fast are they travelling when they go between stars? The average distance between stars is around 5 light years. So is this 80 years longer than normal? Is he already at least 80 years old? This is answered later when we learn it's only been 10ish years since the last star, but it still confused me.

Al.'s Life

  1. How many planets has he visited? In the second scene from his point of view I finally understood that this was his second planet but several of the paragraphs in the first section (especially the one about people being punished after waking one of the administrators up) makes it seem like he had visited several of the planets before this one which made his age even more confusing.
  2. In the section where he talks about the people having petitioned to stay at a previous planet it sounded like Al. was part of that petition; especially because of the section talking about how he would still be on cleaning duty if the punishment had been a longer period of time. Generation can either mean an actual generation or a period of time (and frequently means a period of time in genre fiction) so I read it as an approximation for 20-30 years of punishment, again making me think he was older and had been visiting multiple worlds. It doesn't help that Al. feels like he's in his 30s but that math doesn't make sense (child at their last world)

Al Being Plot Savvy

When they decide to wake a ship commander up, Al is convinced that means they're going to settle on this planet. The last time that happened the commander took one look at the planet and decided to move on but somehow, this time, Al knows they're going to land. Wouldn't he just assume (or at least hope) that the ship commander would decide the same thing so he could stop worrying about his nightmare come true? If there's a reason it's definitely going to be different this time, I need to be more grounded in what Al. knows to make him so certain which will help me understand his emotions.

Nitpicks (in order again)

From a technical background, I'm hesitant to see an abbreviation without a definition of what it means (I still don't know what UGS means)

Why is it 'one of many stars'? Is there a reason it couldn't be the most recent star or the newest star or just a star?

'10 times before' - why this specific here. It seems using an approximation would let us move on and then we can get into the specifics later when we discuss why the number of planets they have visited is significant. This early on I don't even know the character so I don't know why I should care about the specific number of times this has happened before

How can space be a 'resource rich atmosphere'

If the HUD displayed information about where the planets were then shouldn't he be able to point to exactly where they were? What's the HUD showing if not the planet's location.
    
Do they really refer to each ship by UGS Name even amongst themselves? I would expect people to have come up with shorthand / nicknames (or just use Name)

Lilly could be considered "cutesy" but would the processor really think that? He seems to be very practical and him thinking 'cutesy' feels weird.

What is a processor anyway? Maybe you'll answer this later but it's a question that's still hanging in my brain. If that's you're intent and you'll explain it later, great; if not, just know that I'm still wondering.

Why is he just now noting to report Xnk's violation? Wouldn't he have done that when he was first told the name?

He's formal enough to refer to Xnk by her full name but not formal enough to use a title when thinking about her to himself? Or is Ag. a title?

"gifting him with" is awkward (talking about his parents giving him presents)

Are the Vagals and the administrators the same thing? There are times when it seems like they are and times when they feel clearly separate. Which is it?

Was he supposed to meet Maria? Is it a problem that he didn't? Why does it matter that he just missed her? Or does it?

Typo: "father down the length"

How can you owe someone RR time. Do you have to give yours to them? Is Alvin a superior to Noce and doesn't want to give him extra time off? Maybe this makes sense to people who have been in the military or are familiar with that culture, but it was confusing to me.

'Some sort of Asian and African descent' is a bit awkward

'Infuriating person was...' not sure what this sentence is supposed to mean.

'clumsily' can you show us this through action instead? Note this is the first adverb I've noticed in the entire text, which is great.

'animal-like things': scientifically that would be fauna (ie flora and fuana = plants and animals) everything else is very grounded in scientific terminology so this feels a bit weird.

How do the Vagal's / processors tag something as sentient. Seems weird to assume sentience without actually attempting communication. If you're going to stick with this assumption, maybe give us a reason on how they make that determination.

Other Thoughts

The dramatis is something that I've personally never found useful. Maybe it's genre specific but every time I see it in a book I just skip over it. If the writer can't help me understand who the characters are in the actual story, I'm definitely not going to remember character names from a list.

Similar with the conversion sheet at the end of that section, maybe this is genre specific but, as a reader it annoys me that you're making me learn a new form of calculation and measurements and using them in a precise way instead of just using the approximations you've already listed. I can accept that maybe the ship wouldn't be using months any more but surely they have some way to measure age that's not as unwieldy as calculating out the exact number of seconds they've been alive. If you're going to make me learn a new system of measuring time, giving me in world examples of how the times relate so I can approximate things myself would be useful.

The term 'vagal' for the soldiers. From a medical background, that term is used specifically to refer to the Vagus nerve which has the effect of slowing the heart rate and dropping the blood pressure. That feels weird for a soldier unless they fight in a way that lowers the blood pressure of their enemy inducing unconsciousness. That could be an interesting way of fighting but there's no indication there's any reason at all for the name which makes me wonder why that specific term was used.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is my first time critiquing creative fiction for someone, so keep that in mind.

Thoughts as I read:

I’m guessing this is a first draft, so I’m not going to make nitpicks on prose or grammar, unless it really stands out to me.

Pg 1-3:

Honestly I skipped over the Dramatis after reading a couple of names… hoping that the characters are made clear in the prose.

Pg 4:

Like some others here, I haven’t read a lot of hard sci fi, so I’m not too aware of any common tropes (good or bad) that I may run into here.

I like the idea of the current inhabitants of the ship thinking in kiloseconds, megaseconds and so on. It seems to be a logical development. In my head, I imagine these time measurements were probably used for logistical purposes originally, but became more natural to later generations, as days and months wouldn’t have an observable reference for them.

Interesting detail on how resources are managed when between systems vs when in a star system. I assume they make some effort to store energy and resources collected when in these areas.

Pg 5:

I like how particular Al is about protocol. I would probably hate him in real life, but its fun for the story.

I hope we  meet Ag later, she seems like fun.

Why does Al hesitate to change 11d back to its proper designation? Does some part of him want to live on a planet?

I’m picking up that Al’s primary motivation for now is to keep living in space, and he’s scared of the idea of living on a planet. I’m curious to see how this develops.

I didn’t realize what you meant by sus-ani until a second read-through.

Pg 7:

Paragraph 3, sentence 1: Not sure if you need the processor label here, as that has been established already.

I can’t decide if placing bets is consistent with Al’s protocol-obsessed character, even though I like it.

Pg 8:

Like others have noted, the passive voice here does a good job of portraying the thinking of the weird lifeform(s?) on the planet. I’m not always sure on this page what is going on, but I’m not sure that I’m meant to understand, so I enjoyed this bit quite a lot.

Pg 9:

Is m**x a nickname? Term of endearment? Term of respect?

Pg 10:

This page makes  me think there will be some sort of tension between the higher up people and the others.

Pg 11:

I’m not sure how this person knows who Xi is. I know I wouldn’t know the name of an ancestor ten generations distant, unless they were especially significant. Others may not have the same experience as me, and it could be a cultural thing, maybe part of the culture that has arisen in a generational spaceship? So it doesn’t bother more than giving me some pause.

The contrast between J’s hate of zero g and Al’s fear of gravity is an interesting detail, as well as their clearly conflicting desires concerning living on a planet. I hope there is some interesting tension surrounding this stuff as the book progresses.

Pg 12-13

The shock (though apparently suppressed) seems reasonable for J when she learns how long it has been, though shouldn’t this be lessened since she already learned that it had been ten generations since she’d been awake? Or maybe it is lessened and I’m just interpreting it as suppressed shock.

Evolution is always a fascinating topic to me. Did the organizers of this voyage not take genetic drift into account? I guess the plan was not to stay in space that long. The biological changes in individuals are interesting, but I’m not sure if there would be enough change to actual genetic code to be of concern, as some of these changes could be attributed to epigenetics, which are much less permanent. I’m very curious now if a few centuries in space is enough for a population of humans to evolve into a new species, especially if they’ve started mixing between ships, which would introduce some diversity… It does make sense as a potential concern, but now I’m very curious.  

General notes:

I am excited to see where this goes, I would keep reading. The potential for interesting interactions/tension between the different classes of people on the ships is intriguing to me. This is good, because I’m not sure if the promise of exploring a new planet is by itself enough to keep me reading. If the planet proves to be very interesting and unique, then I would be interested, but as of now I don’t know enough about the planet for that to be the aspect that keeps me turning pages. So I hope there are some interesting upcoming interactions between characters.

Even though I like the idea of these characters using megaseconds for time measurement, it does cause me to pause and think a little more than I’d like every time it’s used. It would take a lot (for me) to get used to it, but I think if the story is interesting enough it would be worth it to most sci-fi readers, especially since it grants your worldbuilding some depth and adds to the social distance between the administrators and people like Al.

I’m not sure what a processor is, or what their responsibilities are. Little bits and pieces keep coming as it’s relevant though, which works quite well for me, since I’m under the impression that understanding the full scope of Al’s responsibilities isn’t relevant to what I’ve read so far.

I keep wondering what the situation on earth is. Is earth still functioning and these ships are part of a planned mission? Did humans flee earth? Are there other groups of ships like these, somewhere else in the galaxy? Is there any communication with anyone outside this fleet?

I also wonder if whoever organized this voyage couldn’t have planned on more use of suspended animation to mitigate some of the concerns raised on the last page. If more people were in suspended animation, then less resources would be used, and genetic drift wouldn’t be a concern. But this would raise a host of its own issues, of course, and I don’t think this is a real problem with your worldbuilding, just a thought that I had a few times while reading. I’m not searching for unexplainable plot holes, just voicing my thoughts as a reader.

Final thought:

Overall, very good. I want to know what happens next. You've made me think I should get into more science fiction…

2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks @C_Vallion, @kais, @Mythranor, and @Mwindaji! Great feedback. Seems like hard scifi is not a well-read genre here, so I'm interested how this goes over.

(By the way, @Mwindaji congrats on the first critique! I'm honored.)

A few comments:

On Megaseconds - I continue to waffle on this one. I like it as something people on a ship might use with no reference to a planet, day/night cycles, or a star, and just using the passing seconds of the clock. It's also accurate for the subjective time for the passengers, especially if they are moving an appreciable fraction of lightspeed. That said, the conversion is messy, as @Mythranor and @Mwindaji say. This is something that continues through the book, but we see it from different perspectives, so let me know if it gets better/worse.

On Dramatis Personae - No problem with skipping over this. I'll probably cut this back to just the main characters and the Admins, as it might be confusing to keep track of all of them.

On POV shifts - This will be A Thing with this book. There are only 12 chapters (!) for an 85k book, so some of the later ones get really long. I might actually re title these to "sections" instead of "chapters" depending on if things are confusing.

On Passive voice - Looks like this came across fairly well. I was concerned how this would be regarded, but it seems to be doing what was intended.

On 1/24/2022 at 5:46 PM, C_Vallion said:

Is “sus-ani” something most sci-fi readers would get right away?

 

10 hours ago, Mwindaji said:

I didn’t realize what you meant by sus-ani until a second read-through.

This was clear to me when I wrote it, but seems like not clear to others. I can explain it the first time so it makes sense.

 

On 1/24/2022 at 5:46 PM, C_Vallion said:

“m—x” ?  I assume this is some sort of term of respect, but don’t have a good indication of what it is indicating.

I'm using "Muux" as a gender-neutral term of respect along with "ma'am" and "sir." Hopefully this works.

 

On 1/24/2022 at 5:46 PM, C_Vallion said:

“more efficient…than direct research”  as someone who has spent a lot of time contrasting the pros and cons of calculating the exact way to do something vs. “I don’t know. Try it and hope it doesn’t explode”  I really appreciate this line.

This was definitely a callout for engineers. ;-)

 

22 hours ago, kais said:

Generally to get me to buy a book (and this is just me, obviously) I want at least one character whose personal life drives me. In a chapter like this it could be as simple as having Jane wonder if her wife had also been woken, etc.,

I think this might be in the next chapter? Let me know what you think when we get there. I might need to move that part up somehow.

 

17 hours ago, Mythranor said:

I understand why you started with Al's point of view because that's when they arrive in the system but I didn't really find anything engaging until they woke up J.

Also this. I wonder if I just need to suck it up and put one of the main POVs in the second chapter into the first, even though it's not really at her inciting incident yet. I'll ponder.

 

17 hours ago, Mythranor said:

Unlike C_Vallion, I actually really like J.

Awesome! I love her too. She's a terrible human being, but I really like her story.

 

17 hours ago, Mythranor said:

How many people are on this ship? In the fleet? How many people does the processor interact with? Is his failure to remember the soldier's name because he's a jerk,

Good point. I think I need to make a note in the beginning of how many are awake on the ship. I note it later on, but it might need to be earlier.

 

17 hours ago, Mythranor said:

We can clearly see that he doesn't want to settle on a planet (love it as mentioned above) but what DOES he want?

That's pretty much all he wants at this point. He's a creature of habit and just wants to keep doing what he's been doing. His arc I experimented with coming from a character being perfectly happy in the beginning, and then things change.

 

17 hours ago, Mythranor said:

How old is he? How long do people live? 2500 mega seconds to the next star. That's just shy of 80 years. Is he only 20?

Most of the POVs from the ship are pretty young, so yes, he's early 20's. There's more on this next chapter, so let me know if it helps.

 

17 hours ago, Mythranor said:

The term 'vagal' for the soldiers. From a medical background, that term is used specifically to refer to the Vagus nerve which has the effect of slowing the heart rate and dropping the blood pressure.

There's some explanation for this a bit later...

 

11 hours ago, Mwindaji said:

I am excited to see where this goes, I would keep reading. The potential for interesting interactions/tension between the different classes of people on the ships is intriguing to me. This is good, because I’m not sure if the promise of exploring a new planet is by itself enough to keep me reading.

Awesome! Both will be important...

 

11 hours ago, Mwindaji said:

I also wonder if whoever organized this voyage couldn’t have planned on more use of suspended animation to mitigate some of the concerns raised on the last page

Lol. There were definitely some Issues in organizing this voyage. I don't really directly refer to them, but some you can read between the lines.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Mandamon said:

This was definitely a callout for engineers. ;-)

Hah. Got me. :) 

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Mandamon said:

On Megaseconds

I read a lot of hard sci fi and this did not bother me.

 

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yay scifi!

That is a very sneaky way to put in a prolog (interlude 1), I like it :-) It reminded me in some ways of "Fire Upon the Deep" 

I skimmed the roster to get the general idea, but I was really happy to see that there were only a handful of distinct characters introduced in the first chapter so that I could keep track of them.

Ground/gravity sickness was a nice touch! This got my sympathy immediatly. Living on a boat, I get landsick sometimes when I first come on shore :-)

M*** was a bit confusing to me at first. I started off thinking it was some sort of greeting or slang, but ended up on the right track that it must be a title. 

"The ship is  generational ma'am..." This struck me as a bit maid and butler for two officials serving on the ship to discuss what kind of ship it is. I think the earlier mentions of generations and family lines made the setting clear, but I read a ton of scifi. 

For me, the second interlude was a little long. It definetly set up the suspense of what they are going to find and (as others mentioned) gives some really interesting hints. But I think maybe due to the vagueness of the descriptions, I caught myself wanting to skim at about 1/2  to 2/3 of interlude 2. 

I really liked the set up for the ship and the different types of crew on board. I would definetly keep reading!

One point that I am hoping will be covered (I think someone else mentioned this) is why so many people need to be awake if they have effective cryogenics and I assume can also freeze embryos. Wouldn't it be more efficient resource wise to have a handful of.people rotate through active duty every few years? I'm sure there are reasons and you have worked it all out. Most books I've read choose one or the other, generation ships or cryogenics, so as a reader I am super curious to find out why they use both.  

Thanks for sharing! I'm looking foreward to the next part

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 minutes ago, Sarah B said:

That is a very sneaky way to put in a prolog (interlude 1), I like it :-) It reminded me in some ways of "Fire Upon the Deep" 

I'm honored! I love that book. (and glad it worked...) ;-)

16 minutes ago, Sarah B said:

M*** was a bit confusing to me at first. I started off thinking it was some sort of greeting or slang, but ended up on the right track that it must be a title. 

Yeah, I think I need to define this on the first go-round. It's used later in the book as well.

16 minutes ago, Sarah B said:

For me, the second interlude was a little long.

Noted. I can definitely compress it a bit.

17 minutes ago, Sarah B said:

One point that I am hoping will be covered (I think someone else mentioned this) is why so many people need to be awake if they have effective cryogenics and I assume can also freeze embryos

Sort of? There's some talk about the ship going for 400 years when it was only supposed to be 85, but nothing direct. Let me know what you think with the next few chapters.

Thanks again @Sarah B!

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All right time to get into it!

As I go:

pg 1-3. Whenever I see a glossary of character names and affiliations, I have two reactions: 1. Glad this is here! 2. ...This is going to be hard for me to follow, isn't it?

-Idk how set in stone these characters are but since nb seems fairly common here I'm curious if there's a reason why all nbs seem to use they/them exclusively. I'm guessing it's so that you dont' have to deal with the confusion of switching pronouns with an already large cast, but if you wanted you could have chars who mostly get called one pronoun who do use others.

-I'm also thinking about the one binary trans character. I think it's probably okay but I am thinking if there's a better way to represent it, since 1. it can be a source of annoyance when being trans is highlighted as a thing but being cis isn't and 2. labelling every other binary character as cis might just clutter up the page. No real suggestion here; just sharing my thoughts. 

pg 4. I want the first line/paragraph to draw me into the story's dynamic. Right now it feels like it's mostly setting the scene and it's hard to be engaged. 

pg 5. I'm already on team A. More funny names for stars/planets please

-I'm curious if the protocol is supposed to seem super restrictive in a bad way or if it's supposed to be innocuous. So much sci-fi I see is dystopian that I'm always looking out for that at the start of stories. 

pg 6. At this point I feel like I need a bit more clarity about what I'm supposed to be tracking 

pg 7. Generational punishments seems pretty dystopian! ...It feels like this isn't the main point but I also can't really tell what the main point is right now

pg 8. I don't really understand the significance of the lifeform. Part of me thinks I'm not supposed to, but in that case I think we spend too much time on it unless it's a constant lurking mystery type of thing

pg 10. As I understand it, the emotional dynamic here is that A is afraid to live on a planet and that living with constant gravity seems like a nightmare? I think I need more of this throughout the earlier pages. 

pg 11-13. Okay I'm engaged here! This gives me a fun dynamic that feels distinct and a clearer idea of what's going on. 

Overall:

Part of me wonders how useful my thoughts are going to be since I feel like a lot of the constructive feedback I bring up is true for a good deal of the sci-fi I pick up, so maybe it's a personal thing rather than issues with the story. With that preface out of the way...

Would I keep reading? If I were able to get to the part where J wakes up, then yes. As of now, I'm not sure I do. I don't think I really "get" the part with A and the lifeform. I generally understand what's happening, but I had a hard time picking up the narrative dynamics and finding points of engagement. I tend to get bogged down in sci-fi and I don't always see strong emotional dynamics that get me invested in the characters or story, and that's how I feel about the first few scenes. Funny names for the planets is fun, but I don't really see how the actions here fit together to form the kind of story I'm engaged by.

The part with J is a good hook for me. Honestly I think I understood it well enough on its own and some dynamics with A really only made sense to me after J's section. That being said I still don't get the feeling that the story has really gotten rolling yet. I'm hooked by the end, but cautious since I don't see promises of motion yet. 

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Would I keep reading? If I were able to get to the part where J wakes up, then yes. As of now, I'm not sure I do. I don't think I really "get" the part with A and the lifeform. I generally understand what's happening, but I had a hard time picking up the narrative dynamics and finding points of engagement. I tend to get bogged down in sci-fi and I don't always see strong emotional dynamics that get me invested in the characters or story, and that's how I feel about the first few scenes. Funny names for the planets is fun, but I don't really see how the actions here fit together to form the kind of story I'm engaged by.

The part with J is a good hook for me. Honestly I think I understood it well enough on its own and some dynamics with A really only made sense to me after J's section. That being said I still don't get the feeling that the story has really gotten rolling yet. I'm hooked by the end, but cautious since I don't see promises of motion yet. 

Great feedback! This seems to be the general consensus for the people here who read more fantasy than scifi. This is also definitely an odd story for me, but I ended up really liking how it came out, so I'm interested how you all will connect with it. There will be a lot more character connection as the story progresses, but this is also very much more a story concerned with the journey rather than destination. 

 

(Edit: I realized I didn't actually address other things I wanted to...)

On the character list/trans rep:

Yes, using they/them was basically for ease with the large cast.I thought about throwing Ze/Hir in, but I felt like it might complicate things. Other pronouns might possibly show up in the second and third book, however!

There is definitely a better way to signal the trans character. Part of that is a note to myself, as that character changed gender a couple times until I figured out which one worked best for their character (transfem). It's also a cheat to let the audience know there's representation when gender really doesn't affect the story one way or another for any of these characters. If I can make it clear enough in the text, I'll probably (maybe?) take it out of the list of people.

 

 

Edited by Mandamon
1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have mixed feelings about this one, right from the opening scene. 

I like the imagery of the ships in space because it reminded me of a star wars opening scene, which tends to open with spaceships. But I like that better in movies than books and want a character in the first paragraph, but we're in the last paragraph, close to the end of page one before we meet A. And then when we meet him, he is fussing about planet names and looking at charts, and it's not terrible but it's not super interesting, though the "Steve" line did make me laugh a little. 

I got a little confused in the second scene. Is that an organism (I think I might know what it is based on your short story) from the planet watching the ship? 

What is the difference between A and Processor A? Why is he sometimes just A and other times Processor A?

I like how A really doesn't want to land planetside. This third scene is where stuff finally seems to be happening, but it still is building to it a bit slowly. 

J waking up kept me engaged throughout. And I like how her attitude about being planetside is so different from A's. Though I wonder if her reaction to the time lost could be a little stronger. 

Right now, I feel like the background and exposition is overpowering the characters. It's interesting, and needs to all get conveyed early on, but with more world-building than character, I'm not as hooked as I'd want to be were I paying to read. 

Edited to add: Keep in mind that I am saying this after reading three adult sci-fi books (including one that I almost DNF'ed) and coming to the realization that the pacing of adult sci-fi isn't exactly my favorite. 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

Edited to add: Keep in mind that I am saying this after reading three adult sci-fi books (including one that I almost DNF'ed) and coming to the realization that the pacing of adult sci-fi isn't exactly my favorite. 

Thanks @shatteredsmooth!

Yeah, I think the pacing is what keeps tripping everyone up. The slow "zoom in" opening arc is a lot more consistent with hard scifi. I may change it up, or may leave it as it will satisfy that audience. I'm interested to see what people think of the second chapter and if that helps.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Mandamon said:

Yeah, I think the pacing is what keeps tripping everyone up. The slow "zoom in" opening arc is a lot more consistent with hard scifi.

This is interesting to me because I liked the opening and Al a lot, but don't always enjoy hard sci-fi (I usually blame engineer-brain for overanalyzing the world's tech, but I think I just need to try more of it). Though I may have overlooked pacing concerns because I latched onto Al pretty quickly. I really like characters who can appreciate structure and protocol, and whose first thought upon running into a problem isn't to burn it all down.  In case anyone who's read anything I've written hasn't noticed that already... (I blame my family tree for being full of engineers and military members).

Not sure if that's helpful to mention or if it just complicates things more since I seem to be the odd one out on that front.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

P5 “At least theoretically possible for humans to inhabit it…” Based on what, I wonder? How complete is their information?

Not sure what the connection is between the nightmares and the mis-named planet. Feel like I’m missing something here.

P6 “strict” seems like an odd word choice in relation to a nod. Stern? Severe?

Interesting character twist, that he’s not interested in a habitable world.

“Other Gs had petitioned to stay in the past…” Stay in the star system?

I’m trying to decide how I feel about this whole paragraph at the bottom of page 6. It’s a lot of information, and it’s probably good information, but it feels like the first few pages have been, well, pretty info-heavy.

P7 … “due to his stargazing” just flagging close repetition of “due to” in this and the next sentence

p8 “this was very alien to…” ‘alien’ here seems almost like putting too fine a point on it, though I’m having a hard time articulating why. I think because it reads as a value judgment rather than detached observation.

I’m intrigued by the interlude here, but I’m struggling a bit with the passive voice – which I hesitate to say because I don’t have a better solution – but it’s unusual enough to see sustained passive-voice passages like this that there’s a part of my brain that keeps wanting to “correct” it.

P9 “the big V person’s coordination…” Awkward phrasing. maybe just “the big V’s coordination” ?

Oh, so the gravity well thing is some kind of past trauma I guess? That makes the original mention of the nightmares make more sense.

And, hang on. Did we skip the actual discovery/confirmation of this planet being habitable? Or did they already know about the flora?

Administrator B. is J, yes? Maybe introduce J by first and last name before her surname is dropped. It took a split second to track and booted me out of the narrative.

P13 “...and drift would only get more extreme.” Good to see this sense of urgency coming through.

Overall: So! I’ve enjoyed this. I think it’s worth saying right off the bat that some science fiction books, especially hard SF, are less accessible than others, and this definitely feels like one that is a less accessible. Which I don’t think is a bad thing, by the way, but it definitely feels like a book for a very specific audience.

My last comment from the LBLs was about the urgency, and I would like to see a little more of that earlier on. I don’t think you need to change the speed at which things happen (though I’m not expecting, say, a highly adventure-oriented narrative at this point; I’m expecting politics and survival), but stronger emotions might help pull us in. I sympathize with Al’s desire for routine, for example, but in his first POV scene the possibility of the planet being inhabitable as presented as a distant possibility. Even in the second POV we don’t get much more commentary from him than “and now it was happening.”

I think it would also help to understand a little better the parameters they use for determining whether a planet is habitable and see them discovering, to some degree, that more and more of the benchmarks they’re looking for are present (or whatever). Feeling a little more concretely that progression from “yeah, this planet is maybe inhabitable” to “this actually looks fairly promising” would help increase the urgency and carry us through to the actual inciting incident at the end of the chapter.

On 1/26/2022 at 7:50 AM, Mandamon said:

This was clear to me when I wrote it, but seems like not clear to others. I can explain it the first time so it makes sense.

Might be partially an audience thing? I didn't stumble on it, but maybe I read a bit more hard SF than others?

On 1/26/2022 at 7:50 AM, Mandamon said:

I might need to move that part up somehow.

I definitely think that if you can move the emotional touchstones up a bit, that would be a big help.

On 1/26/2022 at 7:50 AM, Mandamon said:

On Megaseconds

Didn't really bother me. If it were only narrative decoration, I might skip it, but in a setting and story like this I think it makes sense. It's one of the little details that helps drive home the culture difference between J and people like Al, whose only use for terms like "day/night/etc" would be if they were culturally enforced by ship life some how. Which could pretty plausibly be the case, but also, this kind of precise timekeeping is probably actually necessary on a generation ship.

15 hours ago, Mandamon said:

The slow "zoom in" opening arc is a lot more consistent with hard scifi.

I almost commented on this and decided not to, because it does hit that "cinematic feeling" button nicely, it was a great description of what was happening, and it did set my expectations pretty well for what was to come. You could probably trim it a little.

Edited by Silk
1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, Silk said:

Not sure what the connection is between the nightmares and the mis-named planet. Feel like I’m missing something here.

Nightmares are more based on gravity wells as a concept to one whose been in zero-G his whole life, rather than this particular planet. I'll see if I can make it clearer.

15 hours ago, Silk said:

I’m intrigued by the interlude here, but I’m struggling a bit with the passive voice – which I hesitate to say because I don’t have a better solution – but it’s unusual enough to see sustained passive-voice passages like this that there’s a part of my brain that keeps wanting to “correct” it.

Yep, this was a fun thing for me to play with. Let me know what you think as there are more of these interludes. It's passive voice for a specific reason.

15 hours ago, Silk said:

And, hang on. Did we skip the actual discovery/confirmation of this planet being habitable? Or did they already know about the flora?

Ah. Yeah, I think I may need more direct info on this point. Having a paragraph or so on what other livable characteristics there are will help things out.

Thanks, @Silk!

 

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Mandamon said:

It's passive voice for a specific reason.

Figured as much, and really, this is one of those things that is just easier to get away with in a finished book than a draft, just by virtue of not being a draft. Might be a reason to keep them snappy where you can though, as it will definitely give some people an itchy red pen. 

I'll see myself out, before anyone can arrest me for what I just did to that metaphor. 

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Overall: Only five chapters behind, I think I can catch up. Interesting start to the story, I have some concerns that things are going to take a long time to really get going, but we’ll see. Also some things about the time scale you’re using are confusing to me.

Awesome:

  • Planet: I like the perspective of the alien entity on the planet. Looking forward to see more of that.
  • Generation ship: I also like the idea of a generational ship finally reaching a planet, with multiple generations of people, including one that is in suspended animation for hundreds of years and is completely out of touch with what the rest has gone through. That’s an interesting hotbed of potential issues and conflicts and I’m here for that.
  • Sci-fi: I don’t read a lot of sci-fi, and when I do it’s more space opera, but I do enjoy some hard sci-fi every now and then. I’m looking forward to reading more in that regard too.

Boring:

  • In too early: Not really boring, and depending on the next chapter, maybe you’re not in too early, but I have the feeling that things aren’t really going to start happening until they are actually in orbit or landing on the planet, but that’s still two months away.
  • Passiveness: Nothing is really happening overall, the ships are still two months away from when, I think, the story is going to pick up.

Confusing:

  • Telling time: I find the separate time system to be very confusing, from the explanation of it (which I’m never going to remember) and the first usage of it. What’s wrong with just using seconds / minutes/ hours, etc.? Archaic Earth timeframes might not apply 1-to-1 on a generational space ship, but for me as the reader it feels more understandable. The numbers also don’t round out very well, which grates on me a little to be honest.
    I didn’t get the first usage of it until you said it was two months. All other instances I just skim over, with the idea that kilo and under is a short time span and mega is a long time span.
  • Probe: Are there time jumps in the chapter? Because with the time given at the start of the chapter, I assume the whole chapter is basically set in that specific time frame / day. Given that assumption I was confused at how the fleet has entered the system, is slowing down (with two more months to go to reach the planet), manages to launch a probe to the planet, gather data, and return that data, all at roughly the same time.
  • Muux: is this a title or something?
  • One or two administrators: When J is awoken you use only her first name, so when you used her last name I thought this was a different character speaking. I didn’t catch that they’d only woken one administrator until the end of the chapter. Maybe when you introduce J, do it with her last name too.

Miscellaneous stuff:

  • “filling the sky”: They’re still in space, calling space sky feels weird.
  • “Then A shivered. He had nightmares”: This came completely out of nowhere for me. At one point he is thinking about allowing an infraction of protocol, the next he’s afraid of something that is not even in the scene. I take it that this is a reaction to his own thoughts of allowing a breach of protocol?
  • Lida: A’s perspective flip-flops on this planet’s name, going from the official designation, to the nickname. He has a reaction to the nickname, he corrects himself, on page 6, but on page 7 it’s back to Lida.
  • Four hundred years: Ah, so they still use that terminology with the leadership. Makes a lot more sense to me than the other way of telling time.
  • Question, would I keep reading: To be honest, the chapter starts a little slow and passive, so if I saw this book in a store I’m not sure I’d pick this one over another. The mega seconds and conversion table at the start are also a turn-off for me, because the numbers don’t line up neatly and I know I’ll never remember any of it.
1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks @Asmodemon!

I'll probably need to mix this first chapter up a bit, and add or change out a POV to Ag, rather than Al, as she's more of a main character.

I've already made some changes that address some of the things here and there, but you have some good catches in your "misc" section on some word choices.

2 hours ago, Asmodemon said:

Probe: Are there time jumps in the chapter? Because with the time given at the start of the chapter,

Yes, there are (unspecified) time jumps in here, mainly because they don't really pertain to the story. I'm assuming the probe can accelerate and decelerate a lot faster than the ships, and also move at higher speeds since it's unmanned, which is how it reached the planet so fast.

2 hours ago, Asmodemon said:

Passiveness: Nothing is really happening overall, the ships are still two months away from when, I think, the story is going to pick up.

Yes, this one does start a little slow. I'm going to hopefully ramp that up a little in the next edit, but also, this is the first book of a trilogy, where I'm planning to released them pretty close to each other, so the story overall is longer than what's just in this book.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.