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Mandamon

20220221 - Of Mycelium and Men - 3426 words - Sub 5 - Mandamon

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Here's the second half of chapter 4, dealing with the reaction to what happened, as well as...some more bad things.

Let me know what you think, and as usual, any and all comments are welcome: plot, setting, character, grammar, etc.

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This was much, much better than the last portion. This time it seemed like I ad  just long enough with each character to connect and get invested in them.

A was still relatively passive in her section, but there was plenty of tension through the call with D, and I was engaged enough to not make any comments. 

I love how An's voice is so different from A's and really enjoyed the interaction between him and the implant. There was a lot of tension in the cave and I was glad he made it out even though the others didn't. 

Overall this was a fantastic chapter! 

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See notes at the beginning of my chapter 2 review for a summary. Again, sorry for the backlog.

Overall

I liked the two scenes in this chapter. The scenes between A and D held some good information about their relationship and the scene in the cavern underground was interesting.

The Good

The action at the end of the chapter was very well described, I felt like I knew where everyone/everything was and I didn't get lost in the action.

Issues / Confusions

I didn't feel as much emotion as I would have hoped in the scene in the cavern. It felt like just another day on the job for these guys and, that can be just fine, if they feel like that, but with the attack in the middle I feel like either the characters need to feel scared / nervous or the descriptions from you as the author need to do a bit of overtime to suggest that the area isn't as safe as they assume it is. Something bad just happened, they were attacked by living fungus in an underground cavern, and I would like to have felt more of an emotional impact from the attack than I did.

Nitpicks

You've got me in a medical mindset so your comment about the fungus being red and blue like 'venous and arterial blood' distracted me more than it probably would have otherwise. Blood is actually never blue it goes from a dark almost black shade of red (venous) to a more vibrant red (arterial - image for reference)

Other Thoughts

I'm becoming a bit concerned about the number of viewpoints. I don't mind stories that have many viewpoint characters but it feels like it should be in relation to the length of the book, and that's not something I have a sense of here. If I were to pick up a 350,000 word epic fantasy novel, and read 6 viewpoints in the first 4 chapters I wouldn't think twice about it. If I picked up a 120,000 word thriller, I'd be really put off by having more than 1-2 viewpoints. Since I don't know how long you expect this book to be by the end, I don't feel like I can really judge whether the number of viewpoints is appropriate to the length or not, but I feel like, if you're going to have a character have a viewpoint scene (and especially if they're going to have more than one), then I'm going to expect to see at least some sort of character arc for them during the story. Currently that means I'm expecting at least 4-5 character arcs that I want to be invested in, if the book isn't going to be long enough to justify that many arcs I would suggest cutting / combining some of the viewpoints.

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Thanks @shatteredsmooth and @Mythranor!

1 hour ago, shatteredsmooth said:

This was much, much better than the last portion.

Great! Glad the character investment is better in this one. I try to have one touchstone with Ag. each chapter to give a sense of continuity. Plus, she'll be more of a main character in book 2.

49 minutes ago, Mythranor said:

I didn't feel as much emotion as I would have hoped in the scene in the cavern. It felt like just another day on the job for these guys and, that can be just fine, if they feel like that, but with the attack in the middle I feel like either the characters need to feel scared / nervous or the descriptions from you as the author need to do a bit of overtime to suggest that the area isn't as safe as they assume it is. Something bad just happened, they were attacked by living fungus in an underground cavern, and I would like to have felt more of an emotional impact from the attack than I did.

Great feedback! I usually have problems with emotional connection on the first draft, so this is helpful to know where I need to add some more in.

50 minutes ago, Mythranor said:

Blood is actually never blue it goes from a dark almost black shade of red (venous) to a more vibrant red

Noted! Thanks.

51 minutes ago, Mythranor said:

I'm becoming a bit concerned about the number of viewpoints. I don't mind stories that have many viewpoint characters but it feels like it should be in relation to the length of the book, and that's not something I have a sense of here.

These are all the POVs in this book (except for one very brief one near the end). This one is about 85k, and it's the first of a trilogy, so total wordcount will be about 250k or so. This is a new approach for me, and I'm replicating some of the 70's and 80's scifi I used to read, showing progression in time, or across an event.

Anyway, all that to say, let me know what you think as the book progresses!

 

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20 hours ago, Mandamon said:

These are all the POVs in this book (except for one very brief one near the end). This one is about 85k, and it's the first of a trilogy, so total wordcount will be about 250k or so. This is a new approach for me, and I'm replicating some of the 70's and 80's scifi I used to read, showing progression in time, or across an event.

For me, this is the only way I can handle more than two POVs. As long as the narrative is still moving at the same clip, I can take practically infinite POVs. With your love of the multi-POV story, I think this is 100% the way to go.

 

Overall

Interesting chapter. I'd like more intimate movements with our main two, and there are incorrect fungal spore dispersal dynamics at play. Still, I'm very engaged with the story. Carry on!

 

As I go

- I'd cut that first paragraph and lead with the second

- pg 3: I suppose on the bright side fewer humans means a few lost livestock don't really matter? Fewer mouths to feed?

- pg 4: I think these first four pages could be condensed to one. We keep getting casualty and loss measurements over and over. It feels like the same report

- pg 5: out of all the animals to do well with fungi, pigs would not have been top of my list. Birds tend to carry more fungi than anything else in the higher parts of the animal kingdom

- pg 7: I'd like A and D to connect a little more intimately in these scenes, to keep me connected with them

- pg 11: The attempts were rewarded with a puff of some sort of dust from the mushroom <-- A) that won't end well but B.) aren't there scientists here? Don't they know not to go into caves without respirators???

- pg 12: GAHHH MUSHROOM MOUTHES

- pg 14: He ducked without knowing why <-- ducking shouldn't matter. Spores are microscopic. Once the first thing sporulated they should have all been infected. I think you're going to have to put them into respirators and then work within the N95 versus N99 ratings to sort who dies and who doesn't. One spore is all it takes. Maybe a bunch of the N99s got crushed and so everyone but our lead had an N95 and one guy just like, a shirt over his mouth. He dies first, then the N95 wearers. Right now though the fungal physics don't work

 

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Thanks @kais! I'm sure there will be many more fungal inaccuracies...

50 minutes ago, kais said:

- pg 14: He ducked without knowing why <-- ducking shouldn't matter. Spores are microscopic. Once the first thing sporulated they should have all been infected. I think you're going to have to put them into respirators and then work within the N95 versus N99 ratings to sort who dies and who doesn't. One spore is all it takes. Maybe a bunch of the N99s got crushed and so everyone but our lead had an N95 and one guy just like, a shirt over his mouth. He dies first, then the N95 wearers. Right now though the fungal physics don't work

Great feedback. They use suits later, so changing this up to respirators, with only some that keep out the microbes, would work. I'm adding respiratory masks to the things that got crushed in the crash...

52 minutes ago, kais said:

- pg 7: I'd like A and D to connect a little more intimately in these scenes, to keep me connected with them

I'll be adding more emotion to the next draft.

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As I go:

pg 1. No admins dead I notice. I'm sure to some extent they knew the situation was dangerous and were removing themselves. I feel like this tension is getting closer to flaring up now that it's costing lives and I'm here for it.

pg 4. I think by this point I need more feeling of motion. Right now the chapter is mostly A summarizing stuff to us

pg 6. This feels like the kickoff to some conflict and I'm not sure it needs to take us a full six pages to get here

pg 7. I like A's character voice probably because he's so easy to hate (I think this is the same a-hole from last chapter though I did skim that one)

pg 9. The V getting antsy without drugs is a fun note. The situation seems more fragile by the moment

pg 11. Well that's gnarly. This seems to be where the action really gets going so it could help if the story gets us here sooner

On 2/21/2022 at 8:56 AM, Mandamon said:

Let me know what you think, and as usual, any and all comments are welcome: plot, setting, character, grammar, etc.

My main comment is that as someone who is reading for the social dynamics, this chapter felt a little slow and most of what engaged me and got me thinking were a few offhand comments. Which again, makes me wonder if the story needs more of that or if I'm not engaging with the story in the way that a sci-fi reader would. 

Thinking about the state of the colony, most of the action happens near the end of each of the two sections so maybe the story can heavily trim before then. Though again it's not like that action is what I personally am reading the story for so maybe I'm missing the work that the earlier parts in each section are doing. I will say that even when I try to think outside my own preferences I do believe that the events here work well as setup but could be explored more as the meat of the chapter. Killer mushrooms are exciting but don't convey an emotional arc on their own. I don't really know what the larger implications are for the colony--and while I can guess I think there's room to be more precise about how this will affect the characters we care about. 

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Thanks @Ace of Hearts! I'll sort of reply to the last three chapters of feedback here since the other ones were shorter.

1 hour ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Right now the chapter is mostly A summarizing stuff to us

Agree. I think putting a longer call with D will help to have more action happening.

1 hour ago, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 7. I like A's character voice probably because he's so easy to hate (I think this is the same a-hole from last chapter though I did skim that one)

Yes, it's the same person. I'm interested what you think of him going forward.

1 hour ago, Ace of Hearts said:

My main comment is that as someone who is reading for the social dynamics, this chapter felt a little slow and most of what engaged me and got me thinking were a few offhand comments. Which again, makes me wonder if the story needs more of that or if I'm not engaging with the story in the way that a sci-fi reader would. 

I completely understand this. I wonder if I need to amp up the social tensions more. I feel like partly this becomes more "slice of life" as the book goes on, and I may need to introduce more tensions. Looking forward to what you folks think!

1 hour ago, Ace of Hearts said:

I will say that even when I try to think outside my own preferences I do believe that the events here work well as setup but could be explored more as the meat of the chapter. Killer mushrooms are exciting but don't convey an emotional arc on their own. I don't really know what the larger implications are for the colony--and while I can guess I think there's room to be more precise about how this will affect the characters we care about. 

This is all really good feedback! Yes, the mushrooms are certainly not the only antagonist, but then I tend to write mostly gray characters--not totally good or bad. At any rate, I'm very eager to see if you think the larger story holds up. As with most of my stuff, there's a lot of setup in the first half so the second half can have free reign.

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On 2/22/2022 at 3:01 PM, Mandamon said:

fungal inaccuracies

"Fungal Inaccuracies" is the name of my next band.

As I Read:

She didn’t know if they would survive…” Okay, whoa. I know the structural damage was significant and obviously so are the deaths, but I didn’t think there were so few of them as to put us immediately in “the colony may not survive” territory.

Edited: Okay, this is mostly answered below – I’m more willing to be convinced that this is not just significant, but possibly fatal for the colony. But when it comes up again, it’s actually with a less powerful statement: “The losses were significant.” Maybe consider reversing the order of these two statements?

P2 “...removing as many plates as possible from the KH to reduce the overall weight” its overall weight?

Bottom of p3/top of p4, A is thinking about the effect the incident on construction again. Starting to feel a bit repetitive at this point; I’m not sure I need to be convinced that this is bad news a third time. If you were introducing a new problem, like A thinking of the consequences of the animal pen being affected, this might make more sense here.

P4 “More in critical care might still succumb” missed opportunity for an emotional callback to J here, I think.

The switch from the damage to construction and people over to thinking about animals with fungal infections seems very abrupt.

The ducks always had seemed confused about water sources, and those with four legs…” It took about three reads for me to realize that it wasn’t the DUCKS that had for legs.

I know I was just saying this paragraph is in the wrong place, but I do want to say it’d be a shame to lose it completely. It’s hilarious, adds some great verisimilitude, and I demand that we get a short story of the Great Horse Awakening.

P6 “a pained blatting from a goat or a cow” I love “blatting,” but goats and cows sound pretty different.

...still feel like I’m running a marathon with each…” Not sure why this one jumped out at me so much, but consider ending the sentence with “marathon.”

p8 “This assignment, though devastating…” Unclear antecedent here, it’s not really the assignment that’s devastating.

A much better use of his time…” I think this refers to him burning growth at the edge of the city, but I’m not sure.

Hey, no fraternizing with the civilians there, Andy ;)

Okay, the thought of these supersoldiers all continuing to smoke up as they rappel down into the mushroom cavern is darkly hilarious.

Welp. I guess meat’s not back on the menu after all.

Given that And’s first thought is that the thing eating away his comrade’s face might be spores, I’m surprised the first thing he does isn’t to yell that people need to try and protect themselves from said spores. If the Vs have no way of doing that, probably worth hanging a lantern on.

Having a bit of trouble picturing what’s happening here in the aftermath. The fungi attack three people, and then just … wait patiently for them to clear the casualties and get the flamethrowers ready? They don’t seem to be doing anything while all this happens.

Note: I originally mis-typed “flamethrower” as “flameflower,” because my brain thinks I’m reading a Super Mario script, apparently. All that’s missing are turtles.

Had to go back and re-read after the goat-spore-cloud because my first thought was “aren’t there already spores?” but I guess that was just A speculating about there being spores. But since the spores come up again I definitely think it’s worth either him either actively trying to protect himself from them or ruing the fact that he can't.

Also… if he was just on the edge of the spore cloud, what are the chances he caught some spores anyway? You can see the cloud because of the volume, but there are probably still spores floating around farther from the point of origin that just aren’t visible. Just saying.

Overall: Again, not really much to add here! As noted I do feel that chapter is somewhat out of order, particularly in Ag’s point of view, and the bit about worrying about the fungal infections feels like an odd insert that possibly should have come even sooner than here, where there is a pretty major escalation, and I think would probably feel even more so if I’d read the whole chapter in a single sitting instead of spread over two subs. I also think there's some repetition in Ag's POV that can be cut. But that’s about it. Once again, nice work!

Edited by Silk
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Thanks @Silk!

I think from all the comments I need to do some work on condensing Ag's first POV here, or adding in something else exciting.

10 hours ago, Silk said:

I know I was just saying this paragraph is in the wrong place, but I do want to say it’d be a shame to lose it completely. It’s hilarious, adds some great verisimilitude, and I demand that we get a short story of the Great Horse Awakening.

well now I want to write it.

10 hours ago, Silk said:

Note: I originally mis-typed “flamethrower” as “flameflower,” because my brain thinks I’m reading a Super Mario script, apparently. All that’s missing are turtles.

I just need to add a mushroom character called "Toad."

10 hours ago, Silk said:

Had to go back and re-read after the goat-spore-cloud because my first thought was “aren’t there already spores?” but I guess that was just A speculating about there being spores. But since the spores come up again I definitely think it’s worth either him either actively trying to protect himself from them or ruing the fact that he can't.

Also… if he was just on the edge of the spore cloud, what are the chances he caught some spores anyway? You can see the cloud because of the volume, but there are probably still spores floating around farther from the point of origin that just aren’t visible. Just saying.

Yep. this whole section needs some work,as you and Kais pointed out. Containment suits are the next step, so it should be easy to fix this part to make the spores more dangerous and give them more protection.

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Not much to add I'm afraid. 

The lack of reactions from the V's when their first comrade goes down struck me as strange, but I wrote it off as super soldier tampering. The part that seemed oddly out of sequence is that after they already have casualties, they are still asking if home base wants samples. I would be a terrible super soldier because after seeing someone's face get melted off and being surrounded by more potential face melting, it would not cross my mind to ask if the higher ups wanted some brought back. I could see being ordered to bring some back, but not offering. This might have been more super soldier bad-to-the-bone coolness that was lost on me though :-)

"Still had those strange large eyes though..." I could be wrong, but wasn't it stated earlier that generational were un-altered? This line seemed to indicate that generational had larger eyes than the V's are used to seeing.

A pleasure to read. Thanks for sharing

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Thanks @Sarah B!

1 hour ago, Sarah B said:

I could see being ordered to bring some back, but not offering. This might have been more super soldier bad-to-the-bone coolness that was lost on me though :-)

Probably a good place to add more reaction, at the very least!

1 hour ago, Sarah B said:

"Still had those strange large eyes though..." I could be wrong, but wasn't it stated earlier that generational were un-altered? This line seemed to indicate that generational had larger eyes than the V's are used to seeing.

This was mentioned back in the first chapter than the Generationals have some genetic drift in that they are taller and their eyes are a little bigger.

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I feel like the first scene focuses on collateral damage and how the mission is in trouble for much longer than necessary, since the point is gotten across well pretty early. I don’t think it needs additional excitement added (especially if it’s directly following the action at the end of the previous submission), but trimming/condensing would go a long way.

I liked the second scene as a whole, but mentioned a couple things in the LBLs that threw me off.

Pg 1:

The numbers in the second paragraph should be hyphenated.

“two broken legs” My instinctive thought on reading this wording is “does she have more than two to break?”

The collateral damage detailing on pages 1 and 2 seems to go on longer than necessary.

Pg 4:

I like the description of the perpetually grumpy four-legged animals.  Though I imagine the animals would have adapted to zero-G as well (to some extent)? Especially the ones with shorter lifespans/reproductive generations (whatever the proper term for that would be), where genetic traits or mutations that make them better suited for zero-G would be passed along more often. Makes me curious about what level of microevolution has taken place over this time, and how those changes now make full weight-bearing and normal walking a challenge to their survival as well. Do their muscular/skeletal systems still follow the same gait mechanics (a question which also carries over to the humans) if they’re going from mostly “swimming” to walking?

“Pigs were thriving” Well that’s a small mercy.  At least there’s bacon.

Pg 5-6:

More collateral damage description that seems to go on longer than needed to get the sense of things.

“running a marathon” Is this terminology they’d be familiar with? Or is there some zero-G physical challenge that would be a fitting substitute?

Pg 7-8:

I’d suggest tying this “creepy cave” to the previous scene a little sooner. Last time we saw A, he was on flamethrower duty out at the edges (which seemed to be a mostly-by-himself job).  The opening line of this scene and lack of mention of anyone else around him makes me think he’s still on flamethrower duty, just in a different location, and I was confused why he was so excited about this assignment involving mushrooms until we got to the mention of the others who are present.

“told them where the injured…” splitting up the physical description with this phrase makes the sentence flow here a lot more jagged. Especially since the “still had those…” is a fragment. Makes me want to attach it to the phrase immediately preceding it, instead of as contrast to the “nice smile”. I’d probably recommend keeping the physical description together.

Pg 9:

“mat” isn’t a helpful term for me to picture this.  Also, wisps of what?

“all be experts soon.”  Unfortunately, not soon enough…so that’s too bad.

Pg 10:

“mushroom breeding ground” gross. Also, efficient fungus is efficient. So much for steak dinner.

“puff of dust” that’s probably fine. Yep.  Won’t go horribly wrong at all.

Pg 12:

The blocking here is a little confusing.

Pg 13:

Oh. And now everything’s fine. (well, not really. But A thinks so). The build-up over the previous couple pages led me to expect the “recognizing the fungus as the threat and flamethrowing them” stretch to be drawn out a little longer. Or to involve more than just flamethrowing them.  

“Nothing melted…” Yep. That’s probably also fine…

Oh. We’re still flamethrowing. And here to the end is more what I was expecting from the build-up earlier on.  But that couple of paragraphs receiving and following mission directions in a mostly-orderly way really pulled me out of the tension.  I think there needs to be a clearer breakdown in order and communication here for the tension to carry through.

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7 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

I don’t think it needs additional excitement added (especially if it’s directly following the action at the end of the previous submission), but trimming/condensing would go a long way.

Check. I think most have said to cut this down, so I'll focus on that.

7 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

The opening line of this scene and lack of mention of anyone else around him makes me think he’s still on flamethrower duty, just in a different location, and I was confused why he was so excited about this assignment involving mushrooms until we got to the mention of the others who are present.

Got it. Can do.

7 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

“mat” isn’t a helpful term for me to picture this.  Also, wisps of what?

Yes, this is about the point I realized I needed some more description earlier in the story. That will be in the next edit.

7 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

I think there needs to be a clearer breakdown in order and communication here for the tension to carry through.

I'll also work on that!

Thanks @C_Vallion!

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