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Mandamon

20220509 - Of Mycelium and Men - 4455 words - Sub 15 - Mandamon

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This is the second half of part 10, and we're getting close to the end of this book! I'm actually under the word count for once. As a reminder, this starts up right after Al goes out dancing in the last submission, and this part largely focuses on building the colony, again.

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

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This was a slower section for me.  Almost all of the previous sections have really held my interest and had a lot of tension, but for some reason the "Biomass is now infecting our building material", which logically SHOULD be a REALLY big deal, came off as a bit mundane?  I have reflected a lot on WHY it didn't come across as a big deal, because I was really struggling to explain it.  Some thoughts on that topic:

  • Characters mention they all knew it was just a matter of time so there is not much surprise on their part, and they already kind of have a plan of attack.
  • The initial "incident" had a VERY minor impact of redoing some construction (compared to the ship falling, supersoliders getting killed, biomass tree falling into the square, etc)
  • The short term resolution of using other capping mechanisms is arrived at and confirmed fairly quickly/easily without a lot of failed avenues or set backs (or at least comes off that way).
  • The threat itself feels like a "we will miss our deadline" threat rather than a "the world is in peril" threat.  Logically the implications are much larger than missing a deadline, but the characters seem mostly focused on what a pain in the behind it is going to be to redo a lot of their construction with the new version.  It might have more oomph if there was an Admin perspective talking about how they will have to burn down people's homes or dismantle the day cares or whatever preventative measures that would have huge impacts on the colony's survival if a bunch of infrastructure needs to be destroyed to keep the biomass out (if you accuse me of just wanting another Ja section because she is my spirit animal, I won't deny it ;) )

Maybe part of the issues with the slowness is that we have multiple contiguous sections that deal almost exclusively with this one issue.  Primarily F and Ji perspectives on just this one issue until the very end where there was a smidgen of A, who was mostly trying to convince herself to have some work life balance.  I think A's section would be a great step back from the intensity to focus on a private issue she is struggling with if the average tension level had seemed higher throughout.  In most of the previous sections I felt like we had more variety in perspectives and each person was addressing their own issues so multiple issues were being moved forward in quick succession so it felt like there was more action.

Pg 11 - probably an autocorrect to "acropolis"

Pg 12 - I thought adding a "2" onto the end of the construction material name sounded odd.  I was thinking "2.0" would be a better fit since it implies a new improved version.

Pg 13 - "moulder" should be "molder"

 

Maybe this section just didn't click with me for some reason.  I will be interested to see how others perceived it.  Looking forward to seeing how the book ends and what kind of cliffhanger we are left with!  This is quickly becoming my weekly series I look forward to :D

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This is a continuation of my other crit, since this is a continuation of that section. 

p. 7

I like the balance in this scene with the persona;/family life and the fungus advancing like we knew it  would based on the fungus pov scene

p. 9

Also like the balance in this scene, 

p. 13

I feel like I missed something here and would need to give this a second read to really get what Frank wants to do. But then I tend to struggle when this book gets technical about the materials, and think it's more of a me problem than something you need to fix. 

p. 19

Jiow needed her to pull her weight.[A1] 


 [A1]With work?

She would spend more time with her son just as soon as she could.[A1] 


 [A1]In terms of character arc this is a decent note to end on, but it also isn’t something to propel me on into the next chapter.

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Not much to comment on in this section, per usual it is very well written :-)

I do agree that this section did feel like a slow down from previous sections. Perhaps I'm just missing the visceral threat/gross-out feeling that usually accompanied sections about unexpected BM (hehehe, my inner four year old couldn't resist). This time the event seemed common place with no real danger, which makes sense with how long they have been dealing with it. 

The personal drama/suspense was great. I loved seeing F interacting with his child/not child and the suggestion that he is not going to stay satisifed being 'uncle'. And poor A. That last line really makes me worry for her. 

Thanks for sharing!

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Thanks @Warmacky, @shatteredsmooth, and @Sarah B!

Sounds like this one reads slower, so now I'm wondering what @kais will think of it. I know they enjoy the sciency parts more.

On 5/12/2022 at 2:43 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

I feel like I missed something here and would need to give this a second read to really get what Frank wants to do. But then I tend to struggle when this book gets technical about the materials, and think it's more of a me problem than something you need to fix. 

I'll see what Kais says. It might just need some edits.

 

On 5/10/2022 at 1:07 AM, Warmacky said:

The threat itself feels like a "we will miss our deadline" threat rather than a "the world is in peril" threat. 

Good point. That will help me figure out what to change.

On 5/10/2022 at 1:07 AM, Warmacky said:

(if you accuse me of just wanting another Ja section because she is my spirit animal, I won't deny it ;) )

You'll get a big one next chapter!

On 5/10/2022 at 1:07 AM, Warmacky said:

Maybe part of the issues with the slowness is that we have multiple contiguous sections that deal almost exclusively with this one issue.

Makes sense. Maybe I need to stagger the first and second parts of this chapter a bit.

23 hours ago, Sarah B said:

The personal drama/suspense was great. I loved seeing F interacting with his child/not child and the suggestion that he is not going to stay satisifed being 'uncle'. And poor A. That last line really makes me worry for her. 

Glad this worked! I really like writing these characters!

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Overall

The changing of the biomass was neat and I enjoyed it. Notes below, of course. I'm starting to feel, however, that a greater plot is missing from this book. I love the characters and I love the science. I think I want more biomass POV, and needs more...I don't know. Clear direction? Is the purpose of the book merely to survive and thrive? I think there's a B-plot maybe that's missing, some sort of undercurrent, like a traitorous person working in league with the fungus, or just wanting to kill the colony so they have to go back in space, or the biomass maybe splitting off into two and one part helps the colonists and the other doesn't. Something like that. Tension should be doubling or tripling by now, and it's not that it's not going up. It's just not exponentially going up, like I would expect this far into the book. I keep waiting for the chapter where the stakes double, but that hasn't happened yet.

Otherwise though, I love this, as always. Great maternal tension and understanding of the horrific balance between work, duty, self, and parenthood.

 

As I go

- pg 1: I'm not sure a new daycare would report on three year olds acting out. Anyone with child knowledge would know that it'll take a good six months before kiddos that age even start to calm down in a new environment. And three year olds are jerks to begin with, so I'm not sure what 'acting out' would entail. Even hitting and biting would be normal behaviors at that age. My kid stabbed another kid with a fork at four and no one thought it was a big deal (except me. I thought it was a big deal).

- pg 5: The Generationals were as trained with the ‘throwers as Vagals were, by this point, but the ... <-- this section is redundant. We already know all of this

had tried to take all the writing chalk for himself. J said she’d talk to him about it. <--- this is deeply typical three year old behavior and wouldn't even ping for a parent discussion. Now, if the kid had eaten the chalk so all the other kids couldn't have any, that might do it. Or they, I don't know, shoved it in their underpants or ooooh, flushed the whole pack down the toilet. Then it would be a 'you need to pay for more chalk and talk to your kid' issue. But straight up taking from other kids is part of that age development

- pg 7: Something that isn’t supposed to happen <-- the great tension here is spoiled by the use of 'something.' I'd like a more specific reaction, like this fungus does not follow the rules. At least, not the rules Earth fungi follow. They can't digest plastic. This isn't right!

- pg 9: the birthday gift scene is adorable but now I want the fungus to come out of the toys and infect the kid but it's a good symbiosis and now kiddo is our new overlord

- pg 10: I'd like more specifics here. How is it digesting plastic? That is a specific enzyme it needs, but unless it's eating the plastic, it's doing the enzyme as a secondary metabolite, not a primary. That has a big growth cost that would slow the biomass a lot. So it would be worth having someone debating this--is it actually eating, or just dissolving?

- pg 12: I don't understand what 'capping' is or does

- 'weathervane' samples would just be called 'site research plots' or something akin. It's common for fungal decay tests to do this

- pg 13: I feel like we're overdue for a biomass POV

- pg 18: oof, kid guilt

- the last interlude is nice, but the tension slows again. 

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In which I pick at you about little things, apparently. Sorry. 

I think these last few scenes go some ways toward addressing my comments last week about not being sure what holds all these scenes together as a section, but not all the way. This sub helped ground things, but it still feels a little like we’re going back and forth between “things going well – things going poorly” without an overall shape. I think you just need to lean more into the feeling that you want more in the endcap throughout – even if things change along the way.

As I read:

P1 “…who she thought of as her adopted son” this stood out considering the attempt so far to avoid gendered language—and, unless I’m misunderstanding, gender isn’t assigned until someone makes their own decision. Unless P is just precocious and has chosen his gender already?

                Edit: I see this addressed later on, so nevermind!

P2 “…when the had dinner together and Ji gave P back, which wasn’t as often as she would have liked.” The dinner or the handing P back? Maybe both? I wasn’t sure if this was ambiguous on purpose.

P3 “literally crawling” welp

“growing from the very center of the rplast” WELP

“There was a spare ‘thrower…” Starting to get the impression that Ji is the only one who’s noticed this infestation? That doesn’t can’t be the case, surely?

“More construction workers were showing up…” Ah, here we go. Maybe a reference to her getting there between construction shifts or whatnot (early for her shift doesn’t necessarily mean nobody’s around). It just seems odd that nobody has noticed a building literally crawling with fungi.

P4 “…as it seemed every third or fourth day was… before Ji left for the day.” Within these couple of paragraphs I wasn’t sure whether it was a summary of them defending against a long fungal incursion or this was all happening in the moment. I think this is all happening in the moment, but “every third or fourth day” at the top of the paragraph was what made me wonder if we were going into montage mode.

P5 “but I’ve seen this before…” Oh. I thought this was something new, in line with the “time to stop passively observing” bit from earlier in this section.

“They can, but they won’t be happy about it.” premature close quotes here as the dialogue continues

P6 “If you hadn’t noticed [it] tunneling through…” I stumbled here, because I thought this was really obvious, enough that Ji spotted it from a distance. And the foreman made a point of asking her to check the rplast, isn’t this what she would be looking for?

Also… is this just the fungi drilling through the rplast sheets, right? If it started sprouting spontaneously that’d be a really big deal – which seems kind of understated here.

Edit: Ah, this is addressed a bit later on. Maybe just a bit more of this anxiousness from Ji sooner to remind us that this really is A Problem.

P8 “He’d known it would happen eventually… he’d assumed he would have five or ten years…” Given how aggressive this stuff is, WHY would he assume that? Maybe just a bit about his reasoning, if not here than in an earlier section. Because before it was (as I recall) presented as him being pretty confident about it – which you’d need to be given the aggressiveness of the fungi – so hearing this now just sounds like he’s been taunting fate this whole time.

P10 “…he would need to prepare as if it was the second option.” Oof. I do not envy F right now.

“…Ad would take all the Gens would give. And F was about to add to that problem.” I get the intent but the wording here is awkward enough that I stumbled. I think because “that problem” doesn’t, technically, have a clear antecedent here. Maybe “that burden” instead? would smooth this out without changing the rest of the sentence?

P11 “F also knew…” I don’t think we have a corresponding “F knew” before this line.

“It was like he’d never worked in R&D before…” lol

P12 “After more bickering and infighting between Ad and scientists, Ad and Ad, and scientist and scientist…” My first thought here was  “I actually want to see this.”

“I don’t want to voluntarily expose more measures that the biomass might evolve around” ooh, I like this added danger. Is it worth foregrounding this a little more maybe?

“…implement when it happens” – missing the close quote right at the end of the scene

Oh good. It’s fireproof now.

P17 “D’s name wasn’t on it…” Didn’t D get involved in a different disaster than the Kh one? The Kh disaster was the one really early on where Ji was hurt, right? 

P18 “But Mommy Ji works too” Oh no ☹

“he and Ch were fast friends” should be capitalized “He”

“Just as soon as she could.” Heh.

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