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Mandamon

20220314 - Of Mycelium and Men - 2771 words - Sub 7 - Mandamon

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Hello from Iceland! We're coming back from our trip in a couple days, but I wanted to keep up with submissions. This is half of chapter 6, and I'm wondering if it may address some of the concerns that came up last chapter having to do with conflict in the colony and what the biomass is doing.

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

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Posted (edited)

I almost missed this as it had gone to my spam folder, which almost never happens with RE stuff. 

I liked getting to see through the bio matt's POV again. However, I have a limited tolerance for that voice, even though it is fascinating, and was losing interest a couple paragraphs away from the end. However, I can see other readers being fine with it as it is. 

The throwing out moldy veggies scene was cute but also sad because it is heavily foreshadowing a certain death and I am not looking forward to when it comes. 

I was pretty engaged with the last scene too, and happy it lasted more than a few pages. It leaves me wanting to jump to the meeting. 

Overall, a good chapter. 

Edited by shatteredsmooth
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This also ended up in my spam folder for whatever reason.

 

Pg 1:

I like the being’s parent/child interpretation.  Though does it think of produced subpart-beings (or however one might refer to them) as “children”?

“Likely a recessive…ring of death.”  Are these traits the being is viewing as unwanted? Or traits that it thinks the “parents” are viewing as unwanted (and therefore trying to take out as it dies)? I’d read it as the latter, but was then confused by whether the “offending” trait in the next sentence was offending the being or the “children” offending the “parents”.  Mostly just not clear on what those lines are getting at.

Pg 2:

“offensive cast” unclear what this is referring to. Probably due to the previous confusion.

“This many different forms…” What a happy terrifying planet monster.

Pg 5:

A’s name is missing the latter a in the second-to-last line.

Also, cue whining about not knowing what to do with the mystery child-rearing-conflict between A and D.

Pg 6:

“I would never leave you.” Welp.  It was nice knowing you, buddy.

Had I asked about C’s name matching the “newer” naming conventions of being similar to but different from old Earth names? Weren’t they J’s aide from the start? The name keeps making me second-guess that.

Pg 9:

When did C become a fungus expert?

Overall:

I think the only issue I had beyond the things mentioned was that J’s scene felt like it went on a little longer than necessary.  We have a pretty clear image from all of the viewpoints that fungus-monster is very quickly making their survival there difficult to impossible, so I don’t think we need that aspect of the scene drawn out as much as the plans for what to do about it.  We get a good deal of the latter, which is good, but the explanation of how horrible the situation is feels a little repetitive. 

I’m sure that J being a less engaging character for me has something to do with that as well.  I feel like she’s coming across as proactive (in that she’s at least handing out orders) but not all that competent or sympathetic.  And even her proactiveness feels a lot like it’s coming from C, who is the one who is actually providing her with information.  I see the benefit of having a pov within the admins, but I think it’s going to be stronger if we have a clearer sense of their motivation (really, the motivations of all the admins), and I haven’t gotten that from J. Sure, they all want to survive, but I’m not really even getting a ton of emotional attachment to that (or fear that they won’t survive). She wants to be the one in charge, but why? And is there anyone really standing in the way? She’s mentioned that the other admins are grabbing for power, but other than the one we assume is stock-piling weapons, we haven’t seen any actual sign of that (and really, we don’t even know if that’s a power-grab or reasonable self-defense on a hostile planet).  Even in the previous meeting scene, everyone was pretty quick to let her make the calls on who was doing what.

But I like all the other povs :) 

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Posted (edited)

Sorry for my slow reply! But yes, this also went to my spam folder... I wonder if that contributed to this being a quieter week for replies.

p1: the opening paragraph threw me for a real loop because I couldn’t figure out why fungus was talking about giving birth. It took me a couple reads to realize that this was the ships arriving. Tempted to chalk this one up to WRS as I know that the biomass has referred to the ships this way before – but it’s been a bit within the narrative too, I think, and it occurs to me there might be an easy solution: can you move the “ring of death” comment from the next paragraph up? This was what made it click for me.

“It was hoped the offending trait…” I was all set to write a spiel about why should the biomass care if it’s just going to eat everything anyway, but realized it was a stupid question, so instead I’m just going to say I’m enjoying the way its analyzing these “alien” beings.

P2 Are the stationary children plants…?

“without detrimental effects to the observing apparatus” Hah! I adore this.

“...every other subsumed entity” Ah, good. I’d assumed so, but this feels like a good time to make this explicit.

P3 WELP, after that last fungus POV, this mold seems super ominous

“...using the last of the nanotech from the ships” The dialogue is starting to feel a little as-you-know-Bob here. I think it’s because we’re seeing a level of detail from Ag that seems to be there to remind us of the bad things that have happened (and seems weird from somebody who is speaking heatedly). Maybe just cut this sentence at “injuries”? I think the rest is okay.

P6 “I would never leave you…” Welp.

P9 “but everything is a part and sustained by” should be “a part of”

“Can we just nuke at hope for the best” I have been trying SO HARD to keep my “god these people are bad at their jobs” comments to a minimum this time. I just want you to know that. :P

p10 right at the top of the page J uses male pronouns for C

Does this wall have a floor? Otherwise wouldn’t the biomass just get in from below?

Lol at the end of the chapter though

Overall: Hmm. The section between J and C feels a little long, though I can’t point to anything in particular that’s dragging it down. But in general, it seems like a lot of the time when we see J, we see her in the context of someone explaining something to her that she should already know (at least in general terms, like “maybe killing the entire planet is a bad idea”).

I also wouldn’t mind a bit more direction/movement for D and A’s scenes. I always enjoy them and this was no exception, but it does feel like they’re in a bit of a holding pattern waiting for bad things to happen.

Last thought: I recall mentioning in a previous chapter that concerns about the animals/food supply – specifically the livestock getting sick – was in the wrong part of the narrative. I wonder, could that whole reveal be moved up to here? You’ve already got a natural place for it with all the discussion of the vegetables here, and potentially it could help frame the need for the colony to move from a short-term approach of killing the biomass and living happily ever after to a long term one where they need to learn to live with it.

7 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

She’s mentioned that the other admins are grabbing for power, but other than the one we assume is stock-piling weapons, we haven’t seen any actual sign of that

I think this is a totally fair comment, She doesn't seem to have run into any real resistance, and the possibility that someone else might have illicit nukes doesn't really seem to even register with her except insofar as she can't use them to nuke the fungus (on the planet. That she wants to live on). In fact, the only time we've really seen her be proactive is in that first chapter where she's maneuvering people around, and no obstacles from that plot line have come back around. So instead we just see her fighting the same thing the rest of the POV characters are now fighting, only much more ineffectually, which I think this most recent POV section isn't quite doing it for me.

Edited by Silk
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I got this sub just fine, it just took me forever to get to it. Sorry!

 

I have to agree that the fungus POV is fun to read but got a little confusing in terms of who is who. I imagine it's a fine line to walk though, since the confusion does drive home how different this POV's concept of life is than the humans. 

The garden scene was by far my favorite. It's a nice reminder of the nuts and bolts of what's happening, and why as a reader I want this colony to suceed.

I am not a skilled gardener, but the timeline mentioned at the start of the chapter seems short for their 2nd-3rd attempt at a garden having ripe squash and full grown tomato plants. Unless the first attempts failed very quickly? Feel free to ignore, that just caught my attention in reading. 

Not much else to say. So far chapter six feels really solid. Well done!

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Posted (edited)

Thanks to @shatteredsmooth, @C_Vallion, @Silk, and @Sarah B. The current running theory is this ended up in spam because I sent it from Iceland? *shrugs*

On 3/18/2022 at 4:30 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

I liked getting to see through the bio matt's POV again. However, I have a limited tolerance for that voice, even though it is fascinating, and was losing interest a couple paragraphs away from the end. However, I can see other readers being fine with it as it is. 

 

On 3/20/2022 at 5:26 PM, C_Vallion said:

I like the being’s parent/child interpretation.

 

17 hours ago, Sarah B said:

I have to agree that the fungus POV is fun to read but got a little confusing in terms of who is who. I imagine it's a fine line to walk though, since the confusion does drive home how different this POV's concept of life is than the humans. 

20 hours ago, Silk said:

P2 Are the stationary children plants…?

Yep! Those are plants. I'm glad everyone's pretty much enjoying the biomass POV, with a few tweaks. I can make those few points clearer. It's so much fun trying to look at the colony as a completely alien thing and then dissecting it.

On 3/18/2022 at 4:30 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

The throwing out moldy veggies scene was cute but also sad because it is heavily foreshadowing a certain death and I am not looking forward to when it comes.

 

20 hours ago, Silk said:

P6 “I would never leave you…” Welp.

I think this tension is coming along well? A's arc in this book is not actually a very positive one so I'm hoping this sort of creeping uncertainty comes across well. I'm having a lot of fun with her in the second book, though!

On 3/20/2022 at 5:26 PM, C_Vallion said:

When did C become a fungus expert?

C knows many things.

 

On 3/20/2022 at 5:26 PM, C_Vallion said:

I’m sure that J being a less engaging character for me has something to do with that as well.  I feel like she’s coming across as proactive (in that she’s at least handing out orders) but not all that competent or sympathetic.  And even her proactiveness feels a lot like it’s coming from C, who is the one who is actually providing her with information.

 

20 hours ago, Silk said:

I think this is a totally fair comment, She doesn't seem to have run into any real resistance, and the possibility that someone else might have illicit nukes doesn't really seem to even register with her except insofar as she can't use them to nuke the fungus (on the planet. That she wants to live on). In fact, the only time we've really seen her be proactive is in that first chapter where she's maneuvering people around, and no obstacles from that plot line have come back around.

Agree with both of these. I think I need to put a few more problems in front of J to solve.

For the second part of this, I'm wondering how well this is coming across. This was modeled heavily on my experience with incompetent management, so J is supposed to be proactive, but not sympathetic or competent. She's in many ways the villain of this story. That said, C is almost a Mary Sue. They are (hopefully) proactive, competent, and sympathetic. It's definitely a tongue-in-cheek commentary on society, but I'm wondering if I'm going too subtle with it. Thoughts?

 

20 hours ago, Silk said:

p10 right at the top of the page J uses male pronouns for C

Doh. Thanks.

 

20 hours ago, Silk said:

Does this wall have a floor? Otherwise wouldn’t the biomass just get in from below?

Yep! It will go far beneath the ground as well.

20 hours ago, Silk said:

Last thought: I recall mentioning in a previous chapter that concerns about the animals/food supply – specifically the livestock getting sick – was in the wrong part of the narrative. I wonder, could that whole reveal be moved up to here?

That might be a good idea. I think this and the previous chapter probably need the most editing on the next draft.

 

17 hours ago, Sarah B said:

I am not a skilled gardener, but the timeline mentioned at the start of the chapter seems short for their 2nd-3rd attempt at a garden having ripe squash and full grown tomato plants. Unless the first attempts failed very quickly? Feel free to ignore, that just caught my attention in reading. 

I wondered if anyone would catch this! Yes, it is very quick. They're near the equator, so it's a year-round growing season, and they started plants as soon as they landed. I'm assuming some handwavy future fertilizer too.

On 3/20/2022 at 5:26 PM, C_Vallion said:

Had I asked about C’s name matching the “newer” naming conventions of being similar to but different from old Earth names? Weren’t they J’s aide from the start? The name keeps making me second-guess that.

C's name is actually a current Dutch name, and I liked the way it sounded ;-)

 

Thanks all!

Edited by Mandamon
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As I go:

pg 1-2. I think I need a little bit more here to hook me in. Right now this is all pretty abstract

pg 3. I'm curious what the holdup is in getting these fungicides. From the genetics side it shouldn't be too hard to identify weak points to attack with the type of data they have available, though I have no knowledge about the chemistry side

pg 4. This is more of what I was hoping to get earlier. Honestly it still reads to me like there's going to be a big resistance/revolution soon. If the point is that these people need to learn how to coexist I think we need a lot more of the admins grappling with how to achieve that since they're the ones creating the inequality here

pg 5. Maybe this is intentional but I don't really buy D's argument. Just because there will be more generational children doesn't mean they won't be oppressed

pg 6. ...I'm now expecting one of them to die after they jinxed it

pg 10. Are we talking evolutionary adaptation here? In which case meaning that it has a high mutation rate that allows it to generate new random gene variants quickly? Or is it a different mechanism?

Overall:

I like what I'm reading though from your previous comments I do think that if I were reading blind my expectations would be growing for an eventual confrontation between the generationals and admins this book--and honestly not too much further in. I think part of the reason for this is that most of the discussion of this has been on the generational side, and for that to go anywhere it feels like it needs to come to a head. The admins have the power to mediate the dispute, so if the focus were on some admins trying to change a caste system to prevent a revolution and ensure coexistence then I think I'd be on the right track. But the generationals really only seem to have the power to resist here, given that their lives are being thrown away for the "greater good" so anything they say is unlikely to hold much weight. 

 

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4 hours ago, Mandamon said:

This was modeled heavily on my experience with incompetent management, so J is supposed to be proactive, but not sympathetic or competent. She's in many ways the villain of this story. That said, C is almost a Mary Sue. They are (hopefully) proactive, competent, and sympathetic.

I think it's the "proactive" where I'm tripping up - and I think the issue is that she's been put up against a problem that she can't actually solve. J isn't positioned to do much against the biomass, so it's not all that fun to watch her try. But if we can watch her do something she's good at in order to make more bad decisions, then I think you're onto something. And if she's scrounging resources by pulling the wool over her colleagues, I imagine that conflict will trickle down to the Gens in some way or other.

As for C... Well, I'm pre-disposed to like C, as I have a somewhat more specialized version of their day job. They definitely seem competent. Proactive, sure, I imagine we'll continue to mostly see this indirectly but as long as we see J acting on the things C gives them I think that can work. Sympathetic, maybe not, since they work so closely for someone who very definitely isn't. That's definitely going to colour how sympathetic we find them, especially since they very much seem like the type who would play that close to the chest. You might be able to cast them in a more sympathetic light if we see them at least to some degree trying to save J from her own bad decisions.

5 hours ago, Mandamon said:

I think this tension is coming along well? Ag's arc i

Given the way everyone reacted here, I'd say it is! Btw, you spelled A's name out in full here, may want to edit.

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Thanks @Ace of Hearts!

On 3/21/2022 at 4:41 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

I like what I'm reading though from your previous comments I do think that if I were reading blind my expectations would be growing for an eventual confrontation between the generationals and admins this book--and honestly not too much further in. I think part of the reason for this is that most of the discussion of this has been on the generational side, and for that to go anywhere it feels like it needs to come to a head.

Yeah, I think this is a promise I'm making, and I need to make it clearer that this will happen over the course of the trilogy, not necessarily in this book. One of the parts I'm trying to highlight is that everyone knows they need to build the city or they will literally die. I hate scifi books where characters undermine the very structure keeping them alive, and I wanted to turn that on its head here. But I think I need to make that clearer for the reader.

On 3/21/2022 at 9:05 PM, Silk said:

I think it's the "proactive" where I'm tripping up - and I think the issue is that she's been put up against a problem that she can't actually solve. J isn't positioned to do much against the biomass, so it's not all that fun to watch her try. But if we can watch her do something she's good at in order to make more bad decisions, then I think you're onto something. And if she's scrounging resources by pulling the wool over her colleagues, I imagine that conflict will trickle down to the Gens in some way or other.

I think a combination of this with the above comment on the gen/admin conflict will help a lot. I think I need to add a sub-plot about that through the book which will both give J something to do and make the conflict with the Gens more obvious.

On 3/21/2022 at 9:05 PM, Silk said:

That's definitely going to colour how sympathetic we find them, especially since they very much seem like the type who would play that close to the chest. You might be able to cast them in a more sympathetic light if we see them at least to some degree trying to save J from her own bad decisions.

Very good suggestion, and that's probably where C's arc needs to go.

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Trying to catch up

Overall

A relatively easy read and only a few comments. I'm stuck on the science aspects of this chapter. Constructing the walls from the nano material doesn't seem surprising yet inevitable, so the chapter doesn't really end strong. I think we need stronger ties to this material earlier on, or something where the fungus had put down zone lines thinking the nano stuff WAS a zone line, then the scientists sorted how to incorporate it, etc. 

 

Anyway, good emotional resonance and plot movement. Got stuck on the science, but you've stumbled into my literal field of study so I suspect that was bound to happen. Onwards!

As I go

- the tenses in that opening sentence are rough to parse. I love the information but can it be written in a cleaner way?

- I'm not sure what the 'stationary' children are

- I like the intimate interlude we get. I'm assuming the stationary children are the vegetables??

It’s not techni—it’s not like a mushroom on Earth. Our scientists think it’s more like the large mycelial mats that live beneath forest floors, except this is also the forest <-- suggest science edit: It's not a mushroom. Mushrooms are fruiting bodies. Earth had fungi on smaller scales, well, mostly smaller scales. At most we had country-sized mycelial mats. This is a planetary, singular entity. And it's not just under a forest floor, it is the forest!"

pg 12: Out of nanotanium <-- I don't understand why they don't just build a wall out of melanin. Melanin, in zone lines, is a strategy fungi use to keep other fungi off their resources. It's too dense for fungal hyphae to penetrate. This would be far easier and cheaper to do (though melanin isn't structural so they'd have to pressure it into concrete or something)

 

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Thanks @kais

42 minutes ago, kais said:

something where the fungus had put down zone lines thinking the nano stuff WAS a zone line, then the scientists sorted how to incorporate it, etc. 

I'll probably need to catch up with you on explanations for this when I make edits...

42 minutes ago, kais said:

- I like the intimate interlude we get. I'm assuming the stationary children are the vegetables??

Yep!

43 minutes ago, kais said:

<-- suggest science edit:

Thank you! I'm sure I will need more of this...

43 minutes ago, kais said:

(though melanin isn't structural so they'd have to pressure it into concrete or something)

Mainly the structural component (though it's also the author ignorance component...). I wanted something that was very high structural strength and something the mat couldn't really get hold of (like a non-porous material), and also they have NO other materials available. There will be some more of this next chapter (sub 9), so let me know if it makes more sense there.

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