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Mandamon

20220321 - Of Mycelium and Men - 3328 words - Sub 8 - Mandamon

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Here is the second half of chapter 6, in which thoughts are thunk, fruit is investigated, and connections are missed. Note, the first half of this, which went out last week, might have ended up in your spam folder?

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)

P1 “More resistance to infection…” heh.

“Supposedly it had been thousands of years in real time…” This reads like And just being ignorant about how much time has passed, but flagging in case that’s not the intent because I thought it was only about 400. Or is he talking about relative/absolute time?

P2 “He’d continued his fungal extermination duties in the meantime…” Wait, they were sending him out to flamethrow mushrooms without a hand?

P2/3 “It was like there was an unsaid stigma about discussing it” bit of repetition here with the “unspoken agreement” bit above

“…not an enemy like any he’d fought…” Do the Vs have actual combat experience, generally? I thought they’d been upgraded and then shipped away right after.

Bottom of p3 “in one radians” should be singular, I think

“There might be mental issues with staying alone…” This is an interesting observation coming from And. It caught my attention because he seems so detached – in general, but also here specifically, despite this being the first time we’ve seen him since he lost his arm.

Also, this scene is another one in which someone thinks about all the possibilities for fighting the fungus, but doesn’t actually do anything. Spaced farther apart from the scene with J, it’d probably be fine, but here it stands out.

The description of the “apple” on p5/p6… remind me not to eat lunch while reading your stuff.

“recognize any pattern to the hybridization” I stumbled on this, since my first thought was “isn’t it just hybridizing with everything?” I think “it seemed to be a crapshoot as to what resisted” is much clearer.

Serves you right for planting all of the coffee, now, doesn’t it.

P8 I’ve been wondering about F and J’s relationship. Never got a romantic-partner vibe from them and this scene makes that clear. Are they friends? Siblings?

P11 “He took an open seat… about her age.” I think the first “he” should be “she,” as in Ji? Otherwise I’m very confused.

Another one: “Only opening he could think of” near the bottom of the page

For a moment I thought Ji was going to end up flirting with (someone who may or may not actually be) C…

Overall: I enjoyed the scenes as individual scenes - as always! - but I’m definitely starting to feel antsy. I think part of the problem is that we’ve had a lot of scenes in the last chapter and change that seem to hit similar notes: J, at the end of the last chapter, trying to come up with ways to fight the fungus. And, in this chapter, thinking about his V implant but also thinking about ways to fight the fungus. F… thinking about ways to fight the fungus.

And then we have Ji’s little strikeout, which I enjoyed because it was different, but she also didn’t have a chance to move forward. Which makes perfect sense as an introduction to the romance (?) plot, and I think I would have been okay with her not making progress if we’d made progress elsewhere, or vice versa.

Edited by Silk
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Pg 1:

“All military personnel…” the list here could be smoothed out a bit. Also, ending with “any other benefits one could imagine” seems vague after the detail of the rest of the list.

“rushed through certification…” sounds fine.

“His index finger wasn’t closing…”  This paragraph feels off to me, though whether that’s a problem or not probably depends on how central An’s amputation/prosthetic are going forward.

Having user adjustment capabilities at that level on a prosthetic device itself seems like a bad idea from a design standpoint. Especially if these are some sort of shelf-model that they brought with them and have been sitting around for a while, which would be intended as a more one-size-fits-all solution than a custom prosthetic (where you might have specific ranges allowed for the user to make adjustments).

I’m sure there’s a certain amount of sci-fi hand-waving that can come into play here, but I spent a solid year or so testing prosthetic ankle prototypes, and can say that when we had to adjust joint tension or sensor sensitivity/response time, it was an extensive process, because there were electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic systems all working together, and it could be really hard to tell which part of that was off. Working with an ankle prosthetic, we only had to adjust one joint, and it still took time. I can only imagine the amount of effort that would have to go into making minor adjustments to several finger joints. And “fiddling” seems like very much the wrong term because there are multiple factors controlling the movement.

If it’s not vitally important that he’s capable of making the adjustments himself, it might be better to show the Vagal capabilities/awareness by making him frustrated with the subtle timing differences/force differences of the individual fingers but unable to do anything about it because the engineers never trust the end users to do anything without breaking their devices. Some of those differences he’s noticing could even be built in to make common grips more energy-efficient. Otherwise, the device is wasting battery power on movements that don’t have any practical use.

You may also want to think about what general physical/device maintenance looks like with the prosthetic. What’s the limb/device interface look like (how much sensor input does the user actually have? Is it based on residual muscle signals? Or is there tech that’s allowing it to be controlled directly by whatever parts of the brain would be controlling those movements if it was still a natural hand)? How often does he expect to go without it? If he’s wearing it all the time, he’s going to end up with hot spots, pressure sores, blisters, and bruising on the stump, and the fit is going to change as muscle deteriorates around the residual limb. 

They also would have had to wait for the wound to be fully healed before doing basic fitting (can’t remember how that fits with the timeline), as swelling and inflammation would have affected fit, and poor fit (and overuse while getting used to the fit because callouses haven’t developed yet) accelerates the rate that those pressure sores and the like would show up.

How often does it need to be charged, and how is it charged? I know a lot of our product testing volunteers (mostly active, formerly military) mentioned that their main frustrations with their prosthetics weren’t the mobility limitations of the limbs themselves, but that they were tethered to civilization by battery life. There are huge challenges in prosthetic markets related to battery capacity vs. wearable weight, because powered prosthetics are getting nearly-constant use, but added weight is a physical strain on the wearer (which then leads to more overuse injury and not being able to use the device at all until things heal). You can argue some of that away with future tech, but when the settlement’s power shortage is a bit of a time bomb, it’s worth considering why super-efficient batteries in prosthetics aren’t being extracted for use elsewhere.

But anyway.

Pg 2:

Related to the above the word choice of “fraction of a second different” seems odd, when being a fraction of a second faster or slower would make more sense as something he’s trying to adjust.

“eight weeks” I’d check with someone on the medical side of things about whether that seems accurate.

“installation” so…is this more of a physical augmentation than a prosthetic? If so, there will probably be different things from the above rambling to consider, but the power detail becomes even more important because he’s not swapping out the powered prosthetic that he uses for precision work-tasks (and charges when it’s not in use) for an unpowered one. Chances are, a prosthetic designed for precision work isn’t going to be as sturdy as something designed for more rugged tasks. 

On the lower-body side of things, a lot of the amputees we worked with had a knee/ankle for everyday use (usually powered, and therefore limited by battery life) and one for running (usually very basic, mechanical, designed pretty much just to bear running loads). I’m not sure what the upper-body parallels would need there, but doubt you should be lifting weights or doing any sort of grappling/combat training with the same prosthetic you’re using for precision tasks. There’s a strength/dexterity trade-off there that would make something designed for both an inconvenient choice for either independently.

Pg 3:

“came back to the same patch…” this is information we’ve gotten in other sections.  Having him acknowledge it briefly so that we know his level of knowledge is helpful, but too much more than that is going to get repetitive.

Pg 4:

“Perhaps he’d name…” this thought seems to come out of nowhere.

I like the mental association comparing the adaptation of the implant with the adaptation of the biomass

Pg 5:

I really like the description of the not-apple through here.  It is quite effectively concerning and disgusting.

Pg 6:

How many of these plants are transplants from the ship, and how many are being grown from scratch? Because we haven’t been here all that long. Growing new plants until they’re large enough to produce test-fruits is going to take quite a while.

Pg 7:

“What they needed was a way to fight…” Another spot that borders on repetitive.  Especially since F doesn’t exactly read as a fighter. So having him speaking in these terms seems odd.

 

Pg 10:

“want parents to raise their own children.” Curious what this means in regard to childcare for workers or social norms for family structures in that regard.

I think part of the back and forth here plays into why I want A and D’s conflict spelled out a little more early on. I see more of the clear dichotomy of wants kids vs. doesn’t want kids in fiction these days, especially as compared or contrasted with the “expected biological response” to such things.  And while presenting the “This person is ‘supposed’ to want kids, but doesn’t” perspective is a good thing, I’d like to see more of the middle-ground. The “I don’t even know what I want.” Or the “I like little kids but am terrified of them being older.” Or “I like bigger kids, but the tiny ones terrify me.” Or “I love the idea of leaving a biological legacy of children, but the thought of actually raising them is terrifying.”  Or “All I’ve ever wanted was to raise kids, but biological factors prevent it” Or any other number of the possible in-between perspectives that don’t line up with a clear wanting or not wanting kids.

I think seeing A and D’s conversations early on, I was hoping to see a more complicated (and, to me, more realistic/relatable) perspective dug into a bit, so every time it’s glossed over, it bothers me. Because understanding A’s uncertainty on the topic better would be extremely helpful for my engagement with her character.

Pg 11:

“He took an open seat…” J is referred to by he/him a couple times on this page.

Pg 12:

“real pushy…” dang. Jerk.  You deserve better, J.

“synapses” asked is used here, but the second half of the dialogue isn’t a question.

“fungus alcohol.” Oh boy.

Spoiler

This Is Fine GIFs | Tenor

Pg 14:

Aww. Poor J. 

Overall:

Ramblings comments aside, I enjoyed the individual scenes of the chapter.  My only real concern is what I mentioned with the repetition of some of the fungus details.  I know some of that is important so that we have a sense of when characters are up to speed, but when there are so many povs, that repeated information really makes things drag the third or fourth time we see it.

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With A's inner dialogue, I'm getting a strong sense that this is a person not well and not aware of it. As a big fan of the 'slow decent into madness' trope I am hoping I am reading this right :-)

Along that line, I noticed that A repeats himself frequently which I tool as a symptom of what's going on with him. It seems like you are hinting that he is himself possibly contaminated by the fungus and just interpreting the changes as symptoms of his implant? I may be way off, but in case I'm on target I wanted to mention it so you knew the hint landed.

This might be weekly reader syndrome, but is there a reason they aren't using all the super cool hydroponics/future tech they used on the ships to grow food until they sort things out?

Crappy coffee?!?! They are now officially doomed.  The fact that they are still drinking it even though its been infected seems like a very bad idea... can't say I wouldn't be tempted after a couple days without caffeine though. 

I really liked the conversation between J and F and J's approach to the problem. Yes, I have a socially based problem, I will fix it with blunt force effort! This chapter endeared J to me as a reader a lot, whereas before I had no strong feelings for this character. 

And more people are drinking fungus biproducts.... nothing can possibly go wrong!

This chapter really leveled up the impending sense of doom.

Thanks for sharing

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Thanks to @Silk, @C_Vallion, and @Sarah B!

On 3/22/2022 at 8:30 PM, Silk said:

P2 “He’d continued his fungal extermination duties in the meantime…” Wait, they were sending him out to flamethrow mushrooms without a hand?

Gotta keep the colony protected!

On 3/22/2022 at 8:30 PM, Silk said:

“…not an enemy like any he’d fought…” Do the Vs have actual combat experience, generally? I thought they’d been upgraded and then shipped away right after.

I can't remember if it's before or after this, but I have a statement with some of the experience he had fighting on Earth. The were upgraded right before they left, but were soldiers before then.

On 3/22/2022 at 8:30 PM, Silk said:

“There might be mental issues with staying alone…” This is an interesting observation coming from And. It caught my attention because he seems so detached – in general, but also here specifically, despite this being the first time we’ve seen him since he lost his arm.

Also, this scene is another one in which someone thinks about all the possibilities for fighting the fungus, but doesn’t actually do anything. Spaced farther apart from the scene with J, it’d probably be fine, but here it stands out.

 

On 3/26/2022 at 4:13 PM, C_Vallion said:

I like the mental association comparing the adaptation of the implant with the adaptation of the biomass

 

20 hours ago, Sarah B said:

With A's inner dialogue, I'm getting a strong sense that this is a person not well and not aware of it. As a big fan of the 'slow decent into madness' trope I am hoping I am reading this right :-)

Along that line, I noticed that A repeats himself frequently which I tool as a symptom of what's going on with him. It seems like you are hinting that he is himself possibly contaminated by the fungus and just interpreting the changes as symptoms of his implant? I may be way off, but in case I'm on target I wanted to mention it so you knew the hint landed.

Great thoughts on A! I don't know if this section came off as well as it hoped. It is a bit rambly, and was sort of an experiment anyway. But the hints about mental stability and the implant seems to have landed. It won't be a descent into madness, but A will definitely see some changes. I don't think I've followed up on the theme with the other Vagals, so that's something I need to work on in the edits.

On 3/26/2022 at 4:13 PM, C_Vallion said:

Having user adjustment capabilities at that level on a prosthetic device itself seems like a bad idea from a design standpoint.

 

On 3/26/2022 at 4:13 PM, C_Vallion said:

If it’s not vitally important that he’s capable of making the adjustments himself, it might be better to show the Vagal capabilities/awareness...

Great that you have some experience with prosthetics! Thanks for all the detail. I'll tweak this section a bit so he's not self-adjusting as much. There is a scene later in the book where another person works on it. Good information about the timing as well. Some I can chalk up to accelerated healing with nanomedical procedures, but I'll look at the timeline closer.

On 3/22/2022 at 8:30 PM, Silk said:

P8 I’ve been wondering about F and J’s relationship. Never got a romantic-partner vibe from them and this scene makes that clear. Are they friends? Siblings?

More will be made clear in the next chapter!

On 3/22/2022 at 8:30 PM, Silk said:

And then we have Ji’s little strikeout, which I enjoyed because it was different, but she also didn’t have a chance to move forward. Which makes perfect sense as an introduction to the romance (?) plot, and I think I would have been okay with her not making progress if we’d made progress elsewhere, or vice versa.

20 hours ago, Sarah B said:

I really liked the conversation between J and F and J's approach to the problem. Yes, I have a socially based problem, I will fix it with blunt force effort! This chapter endeared J to me as a reader a lot, whereas before I had no strong feelings for this character. 

Good point. It seems J's sections work, but maybe not back-to-back with A. I can adjust that. I really enjoy her story here...

On 3/22/2022 at 8:30 PM, Silk said:

The description of the “apple” on p5/p6… remind me not to eat lunch while reading your stuff.

I believe I've gotten that comment before...

On 3/22/2022 at 8:30 PM, Silk said:

P11 “He took an open seat… about her age.” I think the first “he” should be “she,” as in Ji? Otherwise I’m very confused.

Another one: “Only opening he could think of” near the bottom of the page

 

On 3/26/2022 at 4:13 PM, C_Vallion said:

“He took an open seat…” J is referred to by he/him a couple times on this page.

Thanks!

Great comments, and thanks again to everyone. Looking forward to how the next chapter is received...

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Overall

This chapter segment dragged a bit. I think it needs some tightening and it will be fine, but there are a few places I flagged that are particularly slow. I'd have liked more large plot progression, even if just a hint. I like the emotional beats a lot but we seem to be in feast or famine more than a general integration.

 

As I go

- quick peer review makes my arm hair stand on end

- pg 3: this character's thought process is jumpy, but I don't think it comes off as showing his changes so much as failure to connect actions to thoughts. 

- I think the first four pages need tightening. The last bit felt like the kind of skipping topics I was expecting, but before that it was deeply disjointed, which made it hard to connect to the MC while reading

- shook it out...the hand or the desk?

- hahahaha the coffee. I'm not a coffee drinker so I find this hilarious

- I think you could easily end the segway here on the coffee. The bit after it is redundant with other parts we have had already.

- pg 8: aww trios yay

- LOL kids are fungus. True

- fungus alcohol will definitely end well. Yup

- pg 14: Likely non-binary, from their clothes and appearance <-- I think we need some world building expansion here. Do they gender type by clothes? How has this culture evolved to show us gender based on clothes and appearance? Even one sentence explanation would work

- the chapter doesn't have a very strong ending. I'd like to see this MC have a exit plan for the future here. Either rally towards dating or swear off dating or something strong that will just be subverted later

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4 minutes ago, kais said:

I like the emotional beats a lot but we seem to be in feast or famine more than a general integration.

Definitely. I'll need to rearrange this book somewhat on the first edit.

5 minutes ago, kais said:

- quick peer review makes my arm hair stand on end

As it should!

5 minutes ago, kais said:

- pg 3: this character's thought process is jumpy, but I don't think it comes off as showing his changes so much as failure to connect actions to thoughts. 

- I think the first four pages need tightening. The last bit felt like the kind of skipping topics I was expecting, but before that it was deeply disjointed, which made it hard to connect to the MC while reading

Yeah, I need to edit this section, and I know I need to. I was hoping feedback would help me figure out where, and I think it has. Thanks!

6 minutes ago, kais said:

- hahahaha the coffee. I'm not a coffee drinker so I find this hilarious

Heh. Me too.

6 minutes ago, kais said:

- pg 14: Likely non-binary, from their clothes and appearance <-- I think we need some world building expansion here. Do they gender type by clothes? How has this culture evolved to show us gender based on clothes and appearance? Even one sentence explanation would work

Good catch. I'll elaborate.

6 minutes ago, kais said:

- the chapter doesn't have a very strong ending. I'd like to see this MC have a exit plan for the future here. Either rally towards dating or swear off dating or something strong that will just be subverted later

Noted. This is only half the full chapter, and this will be addressed in the next one, but I agree this ending is a little weak.

Thanks @kais!

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Better late than never, right?

As I go:

pg 1-3. I'm liking A's voice but not sure how this is going to move the story along

pg 4. Hmm I wonder if the fungus is influencing his thoughts? Or he could just be kinda like that. Either would make sense to me

pg 5. An additional note F could make here is that apples tend to store (I'm assuming these are apples from storage and not the field but it also doesn't hurt to clear that up) very well to the point that storage industry and research is apple-dominated. So it's extra strange that they would be the problem crop here. 

-hybridized? That's also surprising in itself since earth pathogens would just infect the thing rather than breed with it. Especially since it's not like apple fruits really have sex cells iirc

pg 6. Oh we are looking at field apples

-I think that for me the comparison of the apples to the mold growing on other crops is confusing since they're fundamentally different things

-Imo the fact that it's a crapshoot isn't really surprising since what's happening here isn't really a disease or infection (in the conventional sense for fungi at least), so I don't think it should be a surprise to F either. Tbh the most surprising part of it being a crapshoot for me isn't that it's uncorrelated with disease resistance, it's that there's so much variance in how well it works across plants in general

-If I were F I'd be really scared for animals and humans. Plants should be much harder to invade the cells of and mix DNA with due to their cell walls

-Overall I think the easiest comparison point here are earth viruses since they do the inserting DNA into other organisms thing. From a genetics perspective it makes more sense for the fungus to be inserting entire genes/protein sequences than for proteins to be riddled with biomass DNA

-Another easy comparison point with viruses here is that burning crops to the ground is sometimes what you have to do in the case of viral infections. My plant pathology prof said that telling a farmer about a virus infection is the hardest part of the job and the worst outcome since there's no way to treat it and you tell the farmer they just have to get rid of all of it (and since farmers are on such thin margins it's quite possible that it totally ruins their livelihood). Earth plant viruses are rare, and if they were more common it would be a huge issue for agriculture. Having F ground his observations in some of that knowledge could help anchor it maybe.

-So yeah overall my suggestion is to compare what's going on to a viral infection rather than a fungal one. And if it behaves more like a fungal infection in terms of stuff like breaking into the plant maybe we need to know more about that. 

-I guess another question here is when did the fungus insert the DNA into apple cells? Since F is talking about hybridization my first thought would be before the seed that the tree comes from is even formed but that can't really be the case here. 

pg 9. Not that I'm a history buff but besides the sciencey mixing DNA stuff there is quite a bit of precedent for communal living and raising of children in this kind of circumstance, right? Since they probably don't have resources for each household to have everything we do in a 21st century capitalist world I'm surprised that everything isn't more communal out of sheer necessity. 

pg 11-14. I like the dynamic of J feeling isolated from her own social group of people but I think that needs to go somewhere besides "oh she failed and she's going home for now" for it to be satisfying.

Overall:

As usual I was engaged by the writing though I think I need more help seeing how this all connects to the plot. My current idea is that the alien fungi are going to start mixing with human cells for people like A (given that we know it can do so for plants and A is being even weirder than usual and his response to his tech is changing in a way that none of the other Vagals have mentioned), but if that's the point I think we need more to work with and if it needs to be a surprise we need plot threads to keep us moving in the meantime. If the direction is heading somewhere else, I didn't catch it. 

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Thanks @Ace of Hearts! As usual, great comments on the sciencey/DNA side. That will help a lot with edits. I think you have a great idea there--I need to make the "virus" aspect clearer from the biomass rather than fungal, even though that's more what it looks like.

7 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

there is quite a bit of precedent for communal living and raising of children in this kind of circumstance, right? Since they probably don't have resources for each household to have everything we do in a 21st century capitalist world I'm surprised that everything isn't more communal out of sheer necessity. 

I thought about that as I was reading this over. I think I might need to add a bit more at the beginning about family life on the ship to justify this. That would also give A&D a little more time at the beginning of the book.

7 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

I think that needs to go somewhere besides "oh she failed and she's going home for now" for it to be satisfying.

I agree. I'm not quite satisfied with this chapter arc. I'll ponder on what to add.

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I'm very late, but here. 

As I read:

"...what had happened to the original research" Yikes! I would have so much anxiety about that implant, and would also be so curious.

"He could concentrate on all the avenues at once." Jealous!

"A hoped he would catch the idea by the tail before he got to Lieutenant N." As in stop himself from telling it or figure out what it was first?

"They needed to take the fight to it, clear out the radian, and create a safe base of operations to continue building the arcopolis."Yes, they do. Since they are stuck there. Though I actually feel bad for the biomass.

“You’ve just described fungus,” I love this discussion of kids in this section and how different J and F feel about kids.

 "...and ate the last bite of steak in the colony." This is quite the ending line. RIP steak.

He [A1] took an open seat next to an attractive man about her age.[A2] 

 [A1]She?

 [A2]A line or two of description would be good here

“You’re…you’re drinking fungus alcohol?” This sounds like a terrible idea but I think it’s either consume it or be consumed, right? Might as well get drunk off of it.

"Likely non-binary, from their clothes and appearance. Were they just as put off by all the noise and people as she was?" What marks someone as nonbinary in this world?

In this whole party scene, the description feels lacking and vague. 

"It would give her something to do instead of moping." The ending for this section feels a little anticlimactic.

 

Overall this was a decent section. You almost lost me with the A section, but I get the need to be stuck in his head with him for that one scene. And I liked how the rest was so focused on F & J. Even though it switched between their POVs, it felt like one coherent section instead of little fragments. I'll try to get to the next section tomorrow. 

 

 

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Thanks @shatteredsmooth!

9 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

"Likely non-binary, from their clothes and appearance. Were they just as put off by all the noise and people as she was?" What marks someone as nonbinary in this world?

Good catch. Need to fix this somehow. Probably either adding more to it, or just saying "non-binary."

9 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

In this whole party scene, the description feels lacking and vague.

I'll add some bits to it.

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On 4/2/2022 at 9:55 AM, Ace of Hearts said:

stuff there is quite a bit of precedent for communal living and raising of children in this kind of circumstance, right?

 

18 hours ago, Mandamon said:

I think I might need to add a bit more at the beginning about family life on the ship to justify this.

I wonder if this potentially could be another culture clash between the Gens and the Admins? Just a thought.

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On 4/2/2022 at 8:37 PM, Mandamon said:

Thanks @Ace of Hearts! As usual, great comments on the sciencey/DNA side. That will help a lot with edits. I think you have a great idea there--I need to make the "virus" aspect clearer from the biomass rather than fungal, even though that's more what it looks like.

Happy to help! Most of my comments were in the moment and now that I've thought about it a bit more I want to clarify/expand. As usual I'll try to be more thorough than is maybe necessary given how you seem to have a good grasp of this stuff, so apologies if any of this comes off as obvious. 

In terms of infection by inserting DNA into a hostile cell, viruses are indeed the easiest comparison point from earth, and I think a lot of theory about viruses could be useful here. One thing to keep in mind with this though (that I initially didn't consider) is that for viruses, the "purpose" of this DNA insertion is to make the cell create more viruses, which also gives it a mechanism to expand after infection. Right now, it's not clear if the fungus has this. How does the fungus spread once it's infected?

This sort of ties into how the chapter deals with hybridization. Right now, there are some limitations in how this concept can explain what's going on. Hybridization implies that the apple plants are the offspring of the biomass and an apple that mated together. If this is the case it's 1. not really an infection and 2. shouldn't really appear in seeds that were taken from earth. Unless of course the fungus has some way around this which is fine but F needs to note that. 

Overall, I think the most important thing we need clarity on is how the apple tree ended up the way it did. Hybridization makes sense from the perspective of all the cells being part fungal since the zygote it started from is half-fungal, but if that's the case the story needs to explain how it hybridized in the first place, and shouldn't discuss it as an infection per se (though it can still have qualities similar to that of an infection). If it's a pathogen and spreads by infecting more cells, why insert DNA into apple cells? Sounds less effective and more resource-intensive than just killing cells and stealing their resources like many conventional pathogens.

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