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Mandamon

20220228 - Of Mycelium and Men - 5620 words - Sub 6 - Mandamon

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This is all of chapter 5, and I apologize in advance. It was 5300 words and I "fixed" a section, so now it's 5600...
This part gets into more of the worldbuilding and shows what directions different characters are going.

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

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As I read:

1

"It felt like his hand was itching inside the skin." This doesn’t bode well for him.

3

"...nothing he had ever seen before." Then you proceed to show something similar that he had seen.

4

Overall this was a pretty engaging section, but I had to re-read the last page or so a couple times because something about the back and forth between thinking about the colony losses in general and present moment kept pulling me out of the narrative. But for the most part, I enjoyed this section. 

7

My only critique of this A section is that I am having a hard time picturing the whole thing. I can visualize the water, but not where A is walking. I picture everything outside the radius of where the ship landed as too dense of a fungal matt to walk through. So how wide is it cleared along this river? How big is the bank? How much space does he have to walk without touching the matt? Otherwise, this section was well done!

9

This scene had an interesting realization but as the reader, I’m not sure I need to be here for it. I feel like this whole thing could be condensed paragraph in a different scene. Or even something conveyed in dialogue.

I also am starting to get annoyed again at only getting to stay in one POV for a few pages. Every time I feel like I have something to latch onto, boom, the narrative is in someone else's head. My favorite submission so far is the one that only had two POVs.

I don’t generally mind short scenes and short chapters, but there are so many characters that it’s easy to almost forget who someone was by the time I get back to them. Granted, I might be less likely to forget if I was reading larger chunks at a time and not week by week.

"The Generational" ]Is this F? If he is going to explain J what his chapter just conveyed, I don’t think we need the chapter of him figuring it out and this one. You’re just repeating information and adding to the POV fatigue.

11

We are going to win against this biomass.” Whatever you say, Jane. lol

"sounding" Not sure what you mean by sounding

12

"...check the other radians yet." We’ve spent a lot of time in her head and not much has happened. Just filling in / telling about stuff we didn’t see happen, which isn’t super engaging.

"She was a part of a moment of history." Nice line!

I think part of my frustration with all the POV shifts is that sometimes, nothing happens. It’s just a few pages in someone’s head while they do one menial task and think about  more exciting things that did happen off-page.

13

"Ag..." Hoping the rest is of this chapter is all from Ag’s POV and something actually happens. I’m getting antsy.

I’m not sure this scene really moved much forward. Again, another update with a lot of telling but little actual action.

14

"A rubbed his hand against..." Oooh glad to have a second POV from someone in one chapter.

"... ran from the building." Glad he’s finally going to get his hand looked at.

17

"...to remove your hand"Should’ve gotten that bite looked at right away, A.

Overall, you have a fascinating concept with a great group of characters. The world is so detailed and well built. But the structure is taking away from that and not helping. This chapter felt very chopped up to me. I felt like for a lot of it, I was just being told stuff about the world. There wasn't much forward motion. The only character who seemed to really have a complete arc was A at the begining and end, but the middle of the chapter did not have an arc and none of the middle characters, except maybe Al, seemed to have close to a complete arc. Maybe overall they have one, but it's hard to see when it's coming in such small bits. 

I remember you said you were copying a structure you'd seen past sci-fi authors use, but if I'm not the only one having issues with all the POVs, you might want to consider modifying the structure.  Or, if you keep these short, fast changes, make sure each little mini scene has a strong beat and arc so readers are left satisfied with what happened in the little scene instead of feeling like they just had a bunch of information dumped on them. I guess if you are going to keep to the structure, in order for it to work for me, there needs to be less telling, less summarizing of past events, and more happening within the short scenes. 

 

 

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"Gasping like a dying goat..." Can relate :-)

I liked this first section a lot. A is not the most likeable character for me, but he comes across so vividly and has such clear desires and dislikes is easy to follow him. I spent this whole section thinking, "poor Al"

The head hopping doesn't bother me as a reader, I suspect I have read similar classic scifi and had my tastes set by them. I'm not sure the middle POV's added very much here though. Looking back, I easily remember what happened in the first and last sections, but the middle gets a bit lost. The first and last also had the advantage of in the moment danger (of varying degrees, poor Al) and vivid description. 

I am always on board for characters that I love to hate. Even better if you can make me love them by the end. I feel like this is the direction some of the Vs and higher ups are going. The generational characters are, on average, likeable and sympathetic. 

Overall, I am loving this story. Thanks for sharing

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Thanks @shatteredsmooth and @Sarah B!

18 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

My only critique of this A section is that I am having a hard time picturing the whole thing. I can visualize the water, but not where A is walking. I picture everything outside the radius of where the ship landed as too dense of a fungal matt to walk through. So how wide is it cleared along this river? How big is the bank? How much space does he have to walk without touching the matt?

Great feedback. This will help me add some more detail.

18 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

"The Generational" ]Is this F? If he is going to explain J what his chapter just conveyed, I don’t think we need the chapter of him figuring it out and this one. You’re just repeating information and adding to the POV fatigue.

 

18 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I think part of my frustration with all the POV shifts is that sometimes, nothing happens. It’s just a few pages in someone’s head while they do one menial task and think about  more exciting things that did happen off-page.

 

45 minutes ago, Sarah B said:

The head hopping doesn't bother me as a reader, I suspect I have read similar classic scifi and had my tastes set by them. I'm not sure the middle POV's added very much here though. Looking back, I easily remember what happened in the first and last sections, but the middle gets a bit lost. The first and last also had the advantage of in the moment danger (of varying degrees, poor Al) and vivid description. 

I suspect part of this is due to different reading styles and not as many people reading hard scif-fi as much, so I'll see what other opinions folks have. That said, looking back on this chapter, I think it's one of the weakest in the book, so this is a good place to shore up with some extra action or drama. Maybe something with the upper and lower class tensions.

 

48 minutes ago, Sarah B said:

I am always on board for characters that I love to hate. Even better if you can make me love them by the end. I feel like this is the direction some of the Vs and higher ups are going. The generational characters are, on average, likeable and sympathetic. 

I hope so! Let me know what you think as we get there!

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as I go:

pg 1. I say it's a 50/50 toss up as to whether A has actually thought about a lingering infection from it given his track record. There's a part of me that kinda wants him to turn into a mushroom zombie 

pg 3. A is making some actually kind of intelligent points, which is a surprise but not an unwelcome one

pg 4. There's a lot of commenting about the power structure between generationals and admins. I like that the generationals aren't totally conscious that they could try to revolt but I do think something needs to happen with this soon. A bunch of generationals died from the collapse while all of the admins were safe and there's no way they aren't deeply bitter about that

pg 7. I feel like the questions here should have pretty clear answers unless fungi work differently than on Earth. Maybe Al doesn't need to know but surely someone does so I don't think this pondering really adds much

pg 8. A few comments from someone who works with a lot of genetic data (apologies if you already know some of this but I want to be thorough):

-higher base pair count generally just makes analysis take longer rather than making it messier. Messy results tend to come from sequence data that's low quality, which is quite possible for alien fungi

-for genetic data we typically talk about gene combinations rather than protein ones. Doing protein analysis for protein combinations is totally doable though

-From genetic (assuming we're just talking about DNA here) analysis alone you can't tell which chromosomes are inactive. For that you either need RNA or chromatin analysis. Chromatin is the best bet since you can physically see chromosomes that are all condensed and inactive (RNA tells you which genes are currently expressed/active). It's worth noting that entire chromosomes can sometimes be inactive in humans too, most commonly in humans with more than 1 X chromosome (okay kinda a lie; some of the X is active after X inactivation but it's mostly inactive). Is this similar to that?

-High chromosome count generally discourages fast growth since replicating cells is more costly with more DNA needed (which is why bacteria have small genomes). Since the fungi grow quickly here it might make sense for Al to call it out 

-Incorporating external genetic material into the genome is something Al would probably know about from earth. As I understand there are two ways this is typically done: horizontal gene transfer in bacteria and viruses inserting DNA into the genome. Viruses carrying entire plant/animal chromosomes with them would be unlikely on earth and probably unlikely on an alien planet unless specifically engineered that way (that is how we do genetic editing here on Earth after all). Horizontal gene transfer does what's being described here but generally on a smaller scale and mostly only for bacteria transferring other bacterial sequences. How similar is this to those?

-The idea that there's 100% accuracy implies that differential mutations haven't set in, which implies either: 1. This all happened very quickly and recently 2. cells with any mutations are recognized and killed or 3. Mutation works differently here. All of those seem unlikely so I'm guessing the easiest thing to do is say "basically 100% barring some expected, harmless mutations."

-Now that I think about it if the analysis is messy you wouldn't get 100% similarity even if you sequenced the same cell twice because of sequencing errors 

pg 9. I feel like this is more than "wouldn't be surprised" isn't that the only logical conclusion? ...Though I don't know about fungi so maybe there are other explanations 

-oh they mean one growth for the whole planet. Yeah that is more of a "can't conclude this yet but wouldn't be surprised" moment

pg 10. They should probably do research on fungicides that could work against the thing. If some of the genes are similar to irl fungi then there are probably some essential ones that can be targeted and shut off. Single-site fungicides based on those genes should work even if the entire rest of the organism is different

-A really spicy solution would be developing a disease to kill the thing. That's the reason why huge genetically identical growths aren't super common on earth after all (and are even seen as evolutionary dead ends that inevitably lead to extinction by many biologists). Of course since fungi are more similar to animals in this world it risks the disease infecting the people and animals too...

-Another point of topic here is how much the fungi can communicate with itself across different areas of the growth. If they try to burn part of the fungus will the other part know? This kind of communication is possible with earth fungi as I understand it (though again my knowledge of fungi is very limited) though I think it's fairly unrefined 

pg 12. I do like the hope that's here and I feel like it's going to all come crashing down for the generationals. Honestly I'm astonished there hasn't been more tension already 

pg 13. I'm not sure what this tells us that J's PoV didn't

pg 17. Honestly I feel like An is lucky to only lose a hand

 Overall:

There's lots of stuff happening here, and I think the meat of the chapter is where F is talking to J about what the fungi being one entity means for the community. As for A's section, I like his voice but I feel like it's pretty obvious that his hand got infected. It doesn't have to be obvious to him but I'm not sure we need two scenes of him before he goes to the doctor. The signing the brick thing feels disconnected from the rest of the chapter but I don't mind that, so long as it leads up to something like it feels like it is. 

Overall, I think F talking to J could be potentially expanded and the other parts could be cut down. I'm also still waiting for tensions to flare up and with the collapse of Kh I find it strange that nobody is bitter about how certain classes of people are thrown in danger and others aren't. 

 

 

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Excellent feedback, @Ace of Hearts!

So you've sort of guessed at a couple things I plan to do with the biomass, one of which is already in the novelette in Distant Gardens that comes after this book, and some others sort of come later in this one and in book 2, which I'm writing now!

Thanks so much for the rundown on genetic material. I know about enough to be wrong about it, so that explanation will help shore up this section.

6 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 12. I do like the hope that's here and I feel like it's going to all come crashing down for the generationals. Honestly I'm astonished there hasn't been more tension already

I'm interested what you think of the rest of the book, though I imagine there won't be enough tension for you. I can replace some of the slow sections in this and the last chapter with more of a buildup. What I want to do with this is show that these people are smart enough to know that they have to all depend on each other to build the city because they literally have no one else. More of this conflict will come in the next two books, though.

6 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

-Another point of topic here is how much the fungi can communicate with itself across different areas of the growth.

Quick note on general genetics stuff with the biomass: It can definitely communicate across areas, which is what makes it resistant to change. What I'm hoping to show (eventually) is that the biomass has basically a lot of DNA strands and types, but can actively choose which part is expressed, meaning it can have fast growth and change (like bacteria) but can also develop complex systems when needed. Do you think that's something that could work?

I might get you and Kais to look at specific genetics sections of the whole book, if that's ok, to see if they're realistic.

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1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

What I'm hoping to show (eventually) is that the biomass has basically a lot of DNA strands and types, but can actively choose which part is expressed, meaning it can have fast growth and change (like bacteria) but can also develop complex systems when needed. Do you think that's something that could work?

As I understand it lots of DNA is going to be bad for fast growth no matter how you slice it, since the fact that more DNA = more stuff to produce when you grow can't really be avoided. Though that's not to say it's a hard and fast rule. And in this case "slow" growth could mean it just banks a lot of resources and distributes them in a way that allows for lots of cells to be made in short bursts. Like how fruit trees are slow growing but can produce fruit relatively quickly. 

As for developing complex systems when needed, I'm not totally sure but I'm leaning towards yes that could work with a little bit of fudging that sci-fi allows. My main concern would be does incorporating stray chromosomes from other genomes allow it to actually perform complex functions of that organism given how interconnected genetics is. It's not an easy sell, though I think it's easier with plants than animals, since they're much less likely to just fall apart without all of their DNA, though I'm also not sure the distinction matters for 99% of people. Either way to me it sounds like a tricky thing to navigate, though I'd think it should be possible. 

Also, if you want the fungi to have more plant/animal DNA packed in without exploding its genome size (to make it more believable that it's capable of performing complex functions from those organisms) you could have it cut out some noncoding regions to fit more actual protein-coding genes in. I'm guessing you've heard that only 1% of the human genome codes for proteins, for example. Of course, you can't cut out all of the other stuff since a lot of it is very important for regulation but it's something to keep in mind (and I'm guessing a decent chunk of the regulation should be happening outside those chromosomes anyways?). Also it's not like organisms on earth can choose to splice out DNA regions they don't like (so far as I know), but some fungi do sometimes directly "intentionally" create lots of mutations in parts of the genome that are likely to be viral so it's not the craziest idea for a creature to have fine control over their genome like that. Though this is all me spitballing.

Oh and I'm guessing you know this but just in case I'll say that scientists can disagree about a lot of stuff and just because it meets my approval doesn't mean it will meet others' (or vice versa). And while genetics is related to what I'm studying I'm by no means a geneticist by trade. 

1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

What I want to do with this is show that these people are smart enough to know that they have to all depend on each other to build the city because they literally have no one else.

I think if this is the goal there's room for the characters to be more explicit about this because the way I read the generationals is that they're so trained to accept the power structure (even if they complain about it) that they can't imagine another way of living, not that they are actively choosing to depend on the admins. 

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9 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

And in this case "slow" growth could mean it just banks a lot of resources and distributes them in a way that allows for lots of cells to be made in short bursts. Like how fruit trees are slow growing but can produce fruit relatively quickly. 

Perfect. I like this idea.

9 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

My main concern would be does incorporating stray chromosomes from other genomes allow it to actually perform complex functions of that organism given how interconnected genetics is. It's not an easy sell, though I think it's easier with plants than animals, since they're much less likely to just fall apart without all of their DNA, though I'm also not sure the distinction matters for 99% of people.

I'm fine with some handwaving, since this is alien DNA, so maybe there's a different sort of virus recombination, a bit more complex than RNA, that could actively edit the DNA to allow it to perform complex functions?

9 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

Also it's not like organisms on earth can choose to splice out DNA regions they don't like (so far as I know), but some fungi do sometimes directly "intentionally" create lots of mutations in parts of the genome that are likely to be viral so it's not the craziest idea for a creature to have fine control over their genome like that. Though this is all me spitballing.

I love this as well! My intention is that yes, this organism can splice out parts it doesn't like.

As long as it's cool enough and at least passes a squint test by someone familiar with genetics, I'm good.

9 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

I think if this is the goal there's room for the characters to be more explicit about this because the way I read the generationals is that they're so trained to accept the power structure (even if they complain about it) that they can't imagine another way of living, not that they are actively choosing to depend on the admins

Cool. Yes, this is sort of the case. The Admins and Vagals are almost mythical, so there is a sort of reverence that will have to play out before the gens actively start resisting. I'll keep this in mind for further edits.

Thanks again for the extra help!

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2 hours ago, Mandamon said:

I'm fine with some handwaving, since this is alien DNA, so maybe there's a different sort of virus recombination, a bit more complex than RNA, that could actively edit the DNA to allow it to perform complex functions?

I think this could work to a degree though it has to be used in a specific way. Basically:

-It would be difficult to create functions out of nothing from this, but modifying or breaking existing functions is reasonable, as is inserting external functions 

-Doing this in short time periods is unlikely. But if it's been curating this over many years (I'm thinking thousands or even higher) then yeah it's possible 

-If we're going over long timespans, the fungus doesn't need to directly control what's going on here so long as it can react to it (and even that's optional). Almost anything's possible over macroevolutionary time

Again, maybe some of this is obvious but I want to be thorough. 

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In regard to the PoVs:  It doesn't bother me much in this format (weekly submissions already break up the flow of reading as it is), but I think if I were to read this in book form, it would be distracting. I read a lot of multi-pov books, and like having a bunch of different viewpoint characters, but jumping back and forth in such short scenes makes it harder for me to get settled into one part of the story before we jump over to another place/time/character and have to reestablish our sense of place. 

Overall, I like this string of scenes, but it doesn't quite feel like a single chapter.  I don't know if that's because the jumping from pov to pov makes it harder to feel the cohesive through-line of it or if my mind just gets too stuck on the "One pov per chapter. Or maybe two on rare occasions if you're desperate" idea that I tend toward more.  My biggest issue is just that I don't buy that An forgot about the "bite". Especially because the events were so clearly detailed in the previous chapter. Maybe if there's a little confusion about what was going on at the time (He feels something, and sees the damage to his glove, but is too busy trying to keep people alive to pay close attention to a little pinch), this forgetfulness would be a little easier to accept. As it is, something about having it clearly observed in his pov makes it stick as something he actively remembered. 

Pg 1:

“itching inside the skin.”  *shudder*.  Did he not get that checked out? Do they have the resources to do a thorough medical inspection? It’s odd to me that they’d overlook any potential contamination when several of their supersoldiers were liquified the day before and things are sort of falling apart.

Pg 2:

“carven” -> cavern

“The big woman…” The clarity of who is talking to who and waving who away could be better in these sentences. Is either this Vagal or this Generational present enough through the chapter to be named?  Even a reminder that “the big woman” is H. 

“Someone” A Generational, I assume? The same Generational mentioned in the previous paragraph?

‘thrower looks funny to me every time I see it.

Pg 3:

“Any soldier…” this seems like a pretty thorough viewpoint change from his lack of concern about the fungus the day before. It’s odd for it to come up now when we’ve seen A torching fungus in every scene he’s been in so far without too much concern.  And I hadn’t gotten the impression that he’s skeptical of the admins until now.  I feel like the former can be excused by the rather traumatic experience of the day before, but the latter seems like it should have come across more strongly early on.

Pg 5:

Did they have dogs onboard? Or lily pads?

I don’t think wide-open needs the hyphen

What happened to the water purification systems they were using on the ships? Can river contamination really be that much worse than purifying/recycling water from human/animal waste? Though I guess if they’re chemically purifying the water on the ships, they know what sort of contaminants are there to treat/filter out, whereas they wouldn’t know how to deal with the contaminants in the river water.  Part of me says that should be called out here. The rest of me knows most people will probably take him at his word, and it’s probably fine to go into the rest of it on Pg 6 like you do.

Pg 6:

It’s hard not to see “binged” as the binge-watching sort of binged.  Maybe italicize to signal the onomatopoeia? Or use a different word?

“At first he’d thought the water was perfectly clear” Is this referring to his first glance at the test results? Or what he’d thought before testing it?  Either way, if he’s only recognizing the contaminants now, then why was he concerned about how they would purify it on page 5—if he hadn’t yet known how fungus-filled it was?

If the water on the ships was being treated for various bacteria/mold/etc., isn’t there a possibility that the same chemical treatments would work here? I don’t know enough about how universal fungicide chemicals might be. If it’s the sort of thing where you can just bleach everything or not.  Most of what I know about fungi is that they are really strange and do all sorts of odd things. But even if it’s not something that would actually work, it seems like something Al might suggest.

Pg 7:

Well, I don’t know if it’s a common opinion, but I like watching poor Al try to figure out a water purification system.

Pg 8:

Again, I don’t know anything about fungi, but I do enjoy watching F do science.  Also, ten points to @Ace of Hearts for the genetics 101 lesson.

“…and he usually was” Snort. Not the most humble of scientists, are we?

Pg 9:

One of the frustrations I’m having with the PoV switches is the moments when one PoV character is referring to another section’s PoV character, who we know by name, but the current PoV character doesn’t.  Usually it’s been in reference to something that just happened, and there’s enough context to put it together, but there have been a couple points when it hasn’t been entirely clear.  Is this the Generational we were just hanging out with? Or some other one with a similar job?  And same at the beginning of F’s PoV.  I assume the “nervous little processor” is Al (because story), but it wouldn’t surprise me if every single processor involved with this whole disaster of a landing isn’t also rather nervous about the whole thing.  

Finding a way to slip the names in might make it easier for those struggling with the PoV jumps to make those transitions a little more smoothly.

“At least the balcony…” this is a really long sentence.

I get that it’s important to see what J is actually hearing and what she’s reacting to here, but F repeating what we just learned on the page above is a little repetitive.  Especially when he has already explained it to her off-page.

Pg 10:

Things like this text from C are the sort of thing I think need to come right at the front if we’re seeing a known named character in a section where the PoV character doesn’t know their name.

“I’m still waiting…” Yeah, everything up to here is a little repetitive after we saw F figure it out above.

“air typed”?

Pg 11:

Well, if they can consume it, that fixes their river purification issue.

“sounding”?

“back calculation” should probably be hyphenated.

Pg 12:

Might be helpful to mention the thumper and soundings in the first paragraph on this page.  Right now we get the “sent her …to find other caverns.” But what does that actually look like? What’s the “thumper”?

“gestate children” this raises questions about their reproduction system.  I’d figured they had to be managing that somehow on the ships to keep populations in order, but wasn’t sure what it meant beyond that. Is it possible for them to have kids via …traditional means? Or are there technological things preventing that?  I recently read a fantasy book that had a sort of magic-bullet birth control thing that didn’t make any sense from a biological standpoint, but was a major plot point (and therefore irritated me to no end). I’m not sure if I would be wondering about the world-building here otherwise or not.

Pg 13:

The potential lack of communication about children between Ag and D still bothers me. I know you’d mentioned in one of the other chapters that it becomes clear eventually, and I don’t think we need to know the specifics answer to when/if she wants kids or why, but I do think we need to know if D is aware of her opinion on the matter.

Almost every scene where the two of them are conversing, something about the question of kids comes up. And overall, they’re presented as having a close, trusting, supportive relationship.  But either D is ignoring her concerns/hesitation by pushing the matter (which is rude, and Ag’s patience with it is saintly) or she has never told him about her concern/hesitation (which shows that they’re not as close and trusting as they would otherwise seem). And I think that is an important character detail we need to have early on.

It’s an interesting conflict, and one that works well in the setting. Starting a new civilization. What’s the legacy? Will our people survive long enough to even pass a legacy on to anyone else? The conflict fits the overall conflict of the story well, but having a better idea of where the matter stands between them is going to be helpful in getting a stronger picture of who Ag is.  Especially if she’s a primary character.

Pg 14:

“oozing…” Well that’s not good. He didn’t think that might be something to have checked out?

“I can’t see anything wrong” … “but just about everyone else who came into contact with the mushroom that bit me is dead now.”  There just seems to be an odd lack of concern about this.

Pg 15:

Yeah…I’m not quite believing that he would have forgotten that.

Pg 16:

Might want to be sparing in the use of “palpate” It’s a good word (especially for this sort of medical prodding), but is definitely unique enough to notice when it appears twice in a few pages.

Gross.  Though I do like this turn of events.

 

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Thanks @C_Vallion! Great feedback.

12 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

My biggest issue is just that I don't buy that An forgot about the "bite".

Yep, this was bugging me as I wrote it, so I'll add some support to either why he forgot it or some other reason to make him think it wasn't a big deal.

12 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

What happened to the water purification systems they were using on the ships? Can river contamination really be that much worse than purifying/recycling water from human/animal waste?

I can make this clearer. I was intending to show that they brought down their own water, but are planning on having losses since they're not in a contained environment (the ships) any longer and that along with an expanding population means they will need more. For instance, just watering crops will consume most of their water stores.

12 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Might be helpful to mention the thumper and soundings in the first paragraph on this page.  Right now we get the “sent her …to find other caverns.” But what does that actually look like? What’s the “thumper”?

Will do.

12 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

“gestate children” this raises questions about their reproduction system.  I’d figured they had to be managing that somehow on the ships to keep populations in order, but wasn’t sure what it meant beyond that. Is it possible for them to have kids via …traditional means?

There's a lot more on this later.

12 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

But either D is ignoring her concerns/hesitation by pushing the matter (which is rude, and Ag’s patience with it is saintly) or she has never told him about her concern/hesitation (which shows that they’re not as close and trusting as they would otherwise seem). And I think that is an important character detail we need to have early on.

A little bit of both. This will get explored more, but I can also make it clearer earlier.

Thanks!

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P1 “were the start of the new infection” that being what And’s colleagues experienced the last tim they were in the mushroom hole?

P2 good sense of tenseness from And here. Makes me realize that this was largely missing in the last scene.

Are the Gens also in containment suits, I hope? (This question could also be phrased as “exactly HOW evil are the Vs/Ads?”)

P3 “The person flailed until another began…” It feels like there’s a missing word here. Another person? Another V?

P4 “Five fellow v soldiers” V should be capitalized, I think

“First step was to clear out this cavern.” Since this is not going well for them, and since the cavern opened up from underground (I think?) would it not make more sense for them to try and seal it off? Silk-the-SFF-reader knows this won’t work, but they don’t seem to have considered this option.

 “partially sterilized by the ships landing” meaning that some bacteria etc would be cleared out? Otherwise I’m not sure what’s meant here. Does this planet even have bacteria, or is it mostly mushrooms?

“Hoping there were none of the mobile fungal animals around” this seems pretty understated, since I don’t think this is something we’ve actually seen on screen yet. We’ve seen F mention them, and we’ve seen the fungus eat animals, but I don’t think we’ve seen fungal animals yet, unless I’m suffering from a particularly acute case of WRS here?

I ADORE the phrase “hateful lily pads”

“…they would have known the Kh was unstable…” I definitely agree with Al on his complaints, but this paragraph is a bit jumbled as he jumps from complaint to complaint – first that they didn’t know the ship was unstable, then that untrained people had been running drone herds, then that it had been landed improperly to begin with (I think?). They’re all valid complaints but they seem to come in no particular order.

P7 “dunking ten more vial in” should be vials

F’s scene mostly seems to exist to reveal that the fungi are all connected. I think something to connect it back to the larger story – an emotional touchstone, or something that gives us an idea of what this actually means for the colonists – would be helpful.

P10 “Think like someone who is very busy…” Okay, this interaction between J and F is helpful, as the first interaction between the Ads and the Gens, because it really drives home what we’ve been seeing sideways so far, the unhappy relationship between the two groups. Also, it’s the first evidence we’ve seen of J herself actively being a jerk.

“…start rationing the flamethrower fuel.” They haven’t been doing that already?! These people are – yeah, you know the rest.

F is using the word “plants” when he actually means mushrooms. The rest of this scene is so very “scientist talks to the laypeople” (which I am enjoying, btw! I have a secret weak spot for scenes like this) that the him saying “plants” seemed off here.

Also, the way F so casually references fire propagation also seems off – that seems like it would be a much larger concern, since they have been pretty liberal with flamethrowers and, you know, ship engines and general burning things so far. Unless they have pretty solid evidence that fire propagation doesn’t happen with this biomass, I think It’d at least be worth a mention that “hey setting them on fire could actually be helping them reproduce.”

…Is C about to suggest eating the fungi? They’d better not to be about to suggest eating the fungi.

OMG EATING THE FUNGI IS A BAD IDEA C NO

Again, F at least seems to somewhat get the gravity of the situation, but the “as long as the mushrooms don’t keep growing and eat us from the inside out” seems kind of understated here

Wait, Ji is back on-screen? Obviously she’s out of the hospital and at least somewhat recovering? I didn’t realise there’d been such a large time jump. The “back to the cavern” scene in particular led me to think that this was pretty immediate (since I assume they would have wanted to tie up that particular loose end promptly).

This section with Ji ends on a more optimistic note than I would expect, given that she nearly got pulverized by a falling spaceship last time we saw her. I could see it making sense given the way she’s been presented so far as a character with big-picture ambitions, but might be worth hanging a lantern on.

P13 “but Amin had insisted” should be Adm I think?

“We poured it specifically instead of printing it” great detail here.

“I’ll make sure we’re both remembered” Oh no ☹

P14 “Vs didn’t get distracted” I know that And is distracted because of his hand, but the “other Vs were shifting, around him” (and I think the comma there is extraneous by the way) suggests that they are ALSO distracted, so I had to read this a couple of times.

I’m assuming this is the same hand that got the mushroom bite. Might be worth confirming that somewhere in here – though might be equally worth being subtle about it (noting it had healed over, or whatever).

The last “muux” should be capitalized, yes? Start of a sentence.

“getting taller and eyes growing noticeably larger” good idea, but remind me how long they’ve been travelling again – how many actual generations has it been, I thought it had only been four hundred years or so? I don’t know if that’s enough time for evolution to really take its course that noticeably – at least on the eyes. I think the lack of gravity actually can make a relatively immediate difference in terms of height (probably not that noticeable in general, but over several generations it might be).

P15 “And you forgot about it?” Glad you hung a lantern on it, because I was also scepitcal of this. That may come from me being a person who knows she is reading a science fiction narrative, though.

P16 “I’m going to palpate this a little…” She’s already done this. Could just change to “again” if she’s trying to squeeze mushroom out of his hand. (which, ew.)

P17 “I fear it may be a losing battle…” This seems like a large/abrupt jump, especially since we’ve had no indication other than the hand that And is all unwell. This might make more sense if she starts asking him about whether he’s  experiencing alarming symptoms – I feel like we need more of a ramp up to this.

Oh, they do have MRIs. Good.

The definite no on “anti-fungal medication” also seems abrupt, since it was a quite logical question on And’s part. I think we need a bit more explanation here – no anti-fungal medication strong enough/nothing that would respond to this specific fungus? Anti-fungal medication takes too long to have an effect given how quickly they think it’s moving? Actually seeing the fungus reaching for important organs on the MRI?

…Okay, now I’m just having fun at your expense and should probably stop.

Overall: Still enjoying this, but I'm starting to feel a bit antsy for - not for things to happen, because things are happening, but more for a better sense of the bigger picture. We're getting lots of little slices of the different challenges people are facing, but I'm now looking forward to seeing how things really start to come together.

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Thanks @Silk!

11 hours ago, Silk said:

Are the Gens also in containment suits, I hope? (This question could also be phrased as “exactly HOW evil are the Vs/Ads?”)

Lol. Yes, everyone's in suits. I'll make that clear.

11 hours ago, Silk said:

would it not make more sense for them to try and seal it off?

Ah. Maybe I need to add something here. I was intending, since they need to build all sorts of infrastructure for a city, both above and below ground needs to be cleared, to a certain depth.

11 hours ago, Silk said:

“Hoping there were none of the mobile fungal animals around” this seems pretty understated, since I don’t think this is something we’ve actually seen on screen yet. We’ve seen F mention them, and we’ve seen the fungus eat animals, but I don’t think we’ve seen fungal animals yet, unless I’m suffering from a particularly acute case of WRS here?

Nope. Another good catch. I realized later in the book I hadn't showed enough of the biomass. I'll add more in on the next edit.

11 hours ago, Silk said:

F’s scene mostly seems to exist to reveal that the fungi are all connected. I think something to connect it back to the larger story – an emotional touchstone, or something that gives us an idea of what this actually means for the colonists – would be helpful.

Yes! Great feedback and that helps me with what's missing through here. The emotional layer usually comes in the second draft for me, so this is a great place to add in that interconnection. 

11 hours ago, Silk said:

Also, the way F so casually references fire propagation also seems off – that seems like it would be a much larger concern, since they have been pretty liberal with flamethrowers and, you know, ship engines and general burning things so far. Unless they have pretty solid evidence that fire propagation doesn’t happen with this biomass, I think It’d at least be worth a mention that “hey setting them on fire could actually be helping them reproduce.”

Another good point and something I need to clarify sooner.

11 hours ago, Silk said:

…Is C about to suggest eating the fungi? They’d better not to be about to suggest eating the fungi.

OMG EATING THE FUNGI IS A BAD IDEA C NO

Lol. I'm sure it's fine.

11 hours ago, Silk said:

Wait, Ji is back on-screen? Obviously she’s out of the hospital and at least somewhat recovering? I didn’t realise there’d been such a large time jump. The “back to the cavern” scene in particular led me to think that this was pretty immediate (since I assume they would have wanted to tie up that particular loose end promptly).

This section with Ji ends on a more optimistic note than I would expect, given that she nearly got pulverized by a falling spaceship last time we saw her. I could see it making sense given the way she’s been presented so far as a character with big-picture ambitions, but might be worth hanging a lantern on.

Good comments. I need to add in more here to connect this with the last section and show healing injuries. Per my outline, this is only about 3 weeks later, so she's definitely still going to be feeling things. I may need to move this around.

12 hours ago, Silk said:

I don’t know if that’s enough time for evolution to really take its course that noticeably – at least on the eyes. I think the lack of gravity actually can make a relatively immediate difference in terms of height (probably not that noticeable in general, but over several generations it might be).

Yeah, I was going for a combination of genetics and environmental pressures from space. It's been about 14  generations. Don't know if that's accurate or possible.

12 hours ago, Silk said:

The definite no on “anti-fungal medication” also seems abrupt, since it was a quite logical question on And’s part. I think we need a bit more explanation here

Good catch. I'll add a bit.

12 hours ago, Silk said:

Overall: Still enjoying this, but I'm starting to feel a bit antsy for - not for things to happen, because things are happening, but more for a better sense of the bigger picture. We're getting lots of little slices of the different challenges people are facing, but I'm now looking forward to seeing how things really start to come together

I think this is going to be a big part of the next edit. I'm writing the second book now and starting to find some setup lacking, so I'm going to go back to this one and edit as I find more spots like this and get more feedback.

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Overall

This one was rougher than the previous ones. I felt like the start wasn't really contributing to the narrative, but the chapter finished strong. Maybe trimming or just cutting out some of those earlier, redundant scenes and really getting into the arm fungus? Keep that tension going up. Also can we check in soon with our sentient fungus please??

 

As I go

It felt like I have recently learned that this is considered a POV slip, and that it's better to reword to something like The inside of his skin crawled

- those first two paragraphs don't have the oomph I'd like them to have. Could we maybe get a sentence or two about crawling skin then move right in?

- I kind of want this chapter to start on Light em up

- pg 2: Were the spores small enough to get through the filters? Oh my friend. You'd better believe they are

- 'sparkling explosion of sparks' reads weird

- pg 3: I feel really distant from our protagonist, almost like I'm being told things instead of experiencing them. 

- pg 5: Whatever lubricated the fungal bodies <-- we should discuss

- pg 6: These six pages have felt very redundant to me. I feel like we're in the same place, narratively, as last chapter

- pg 6: fungi cannot grow on water. Or in water. They'd need to be growing on some sort of mat or something. So the river being completely clean with just fungal dust doesn't track for me

All were made of similar hyphae <-- suggest using more specific language, like he measured skeletal hyphae diameter, etc. Are there clamp connections??? I'd assume so since it likely reproduces sexually. What shape are the spores? That's a big morphological ID characteristic. Color too, and smell.

- top of page 8: since this is hard sci fi, I'd suggest a discussion of cell walls. Animals don't have cell walls, plants do, fungi have chitinous cell walls. Maybe there is a mixture of cell wall types? 

- mostly I'd say this discovery here needs SCIENCE

- Armillaria should be in italics since it's Latin

three samples show signs of connection with each other <-- suggest instead: three samples are clamping to one another, showing genetic compatibility and sexual reproduction. This indicates at the very least, the same genus. But the sequencing shows the same species, exactly! That wouldn't happen even if I compared your sequence to mine. There's always some variation.

- pg 9: there's only one mycelium here <-- inaccurate. There's only one individual here

- pg 10: well clearly this is how Ardulum came to be. You're writing its origin story. Excellent

- pg 11: as long as our stomach acids can break down the mycelium enough to keep it from growing  <-- fungi can't actually grow inside you unless you are deeply immunocompromised. Acidity is wrong, O2 levels are wrong, etc. I'd be more concerned about any weak individuals, the sporulation upon cooking, and that a smart fungus would just develop itself into a toenail fungus and slowly drive humanity bonkers. Take out one toe at a time until they couldn't walk. Laugh maniacally. 

- pg 12: I feel like we are long overdue for a fungus POV

- pg 14: I like how this section starts much better than this guy's last segment. 

- pg 16: grossssssssssssssssss but also I have questions because fungi are obligate aerobes so growing like this doesn't make sense. They can't grow under skin. 

- yeah they will definitely have to remove that hand. But also I think you will have to add in how it was getting air. Maybe he has an open wound that won't heal, and that's how the fungus is keeping oxygen in the system?

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Thanks @kais! Excellent feedback as always.

3 hours ago, kais said:

This one was rougher than the previous ones. I felt like the start wasn't really contributing to the narrative, but the chapter finished strong. Maybe trimming or just cutting out some of those earlier, redundant scenes and really getting into the arm fungus? Keep that tension going up. Also can we check in soon with our sentient fungus please??

Yeah, I think this is one of the weaker ones. And don't worry--the biomass is the POV at the top of the next chapter!

3 hours ago, kais said:

- pg 3: I feel really distant from our protagonist, almost like I'm being told things instead of experiencing them. 

Check. Probably the lack of the emotional layer editing.

3 hours ago, kais said:

- mostly I'd say this discovery here needs SCIENCE

I actually had notes in the text to ask you about this part, so...

3 hours ago, kais said:

smart fungus would just develop itself into a toenail fungus and slowly drive humanity bonkers. Take out one toe at a time until they couldn't walk. Laugh maniacally. 

Ha!

3 hours ago, kais said:

- pg 16: grossssssssssssssssss but also I have questions because fungi are obligate aerobes so growing like this doesn't make sense. They can't grow under skin. 

- yeah they will definitely have to remove that hand. But also I think you will have to add in how it was getting air. Maybe he has an open wound that won't heal, and that's how the fungus is keeping oxygen in the system?

Okay, so this and all the notes on the fungus are excellent. I'll probably need to send specific parts your way for error checking.

That said, there's also stuff I want this to do that fungi can't do (like growing on water, and potentially in people) since its not actually the same as terrestrial fungi. Maybe we can devise some handwavy things that still make sense scientifically. I'll ping you about it when I'm doing edits on this one.

Thanks again!

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