kais

06/10/19 - kais - Queen, Chapter 6 (redo), (4858 words) (L)(S)

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Again, S for implied past acts, nothing actually on page. 

Take two!  I turned some of the info dumps into dialogue and moved some of the plot forward to give the chapter more momentum. Also tried to clarify the interaction between A and E, and make that fight more understandable. Also tried to get the landing to end better, and more solidly. A few bits stayed the same. Curious about the E chapters, I sent the first six chapters to a few lesbian friends of mine who review books (main SFF, but lesbian SFF). They uniformly HATED the N chapters and found them boring and slow, and loved the E chapters and wanted her to do a bit more wallowing. 

SO, while I appear to have succeeded in writing a Very Straight character and a Very Gay character, they’re bouncing off the non-target demographics. I’ll need to either bring them both closer to the middle or bring out the cues more for the outside demographics in each chapter. Please bear with me as I try to figure this out. It’ll probably get worse before it gets better.

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@kais Definitely an upgrade! Let's get right down to it:

I only had a few comments this time around. Anything I suggested last time that wasn't addressed, I'm going to assume you consciously didn't take my suggestions (I am not hurt by this don't worry) so I won't be mentioning them again.

1
- Even knowing what I know about the ship, and seeing the rewording compared to the last draft, the first paragraph was hard not to skim. 
- Second paragraph is much better and really should be the opening hook. I could see dropping a few of the ship details here and cutting the whole first paragraph.

2
- “It’s the only resource we have in excess.” Good line!

3
- A insisting E stay here helps initiate a direction for the chapter that the previous draft lacked this early.
- "breathes" breaths
- Both A and E pop off the page better in this draft and E doesn't annoy me nearly as much.

4
- "Nothing on Queen is fair." Another good line.

5
- “Just outside the door, at the start of a day..." I'd like more specificity than "a day" here.
- I like that the flashback is changed to dialogue here.

6
- I like that E messes with A here a bit, but there are a few problems with it. It implies a slyness I haven't seen from E before or after and I think E might keep some of the more intimate details to herself and cherish them. The "giggling about the delight of lesbianism" works way better as dialogue, though.
- Is the information about T's brothers important at all?

7
- What was the point of the other two women at all?

8
- I don't really need her lack of knowledge about ships repeated.

9
- The "Everyone remembered..." paragraph feels much tighter now and you didn't have to make any cuts. Kudos.
- However, the page long info dump it transitions into is a bit much. Had to fight the urge to skim.

10
- The flow of the chapter is stalled at this point.

11
- It's a testament to the draft that I didn't cheer when A punches E. The action is still a little too cat fight for me. 
- “Your arrogance is obnoxious and trying...” Literal LOL. 
- I want the dialogue to happen during the meat of the cat fight.

12
- The transition from thinking AI-T is an auditory hallucination to the revelation that it's the ship needs to be more gradual and have more oomph. Also, considering the chapter completely switches tracks after this, I think this revelation would be a really good place to break the chapter.

14
- E being perfectly fine with the ship being named T seems very out of character.

15
- I think the line between whether or not the AI is or isn't T should be darker. You can have a moment where it's unclear (probably back where I mentioned the chapter breaking) but the ambiguity doesn't work for long.

18
- Yes. Everything after page 12 feels like a separate chapter. 

Overall:
Very good revision. My one biggest gripe is that I feel like you over corrected by getting rid of ALL the flashbacks. I definitely want at least one, something very personal, that shows us that E was different with T somehow. Something intimate that E wouldn't disclose in dialogue.

 

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I agree with @hawkedup that this is a big improvement.I still have some confusion about how much E actually knows/suspects about Earth, and why we didn't know any of this in the previous chapters. There's some opportunity to put in some more foreshadowing.

 

Notes while reading:

Pg 2-3: This is a better buildup for an argument.

pg 5: "The next thing the M needed to steal was definitely paint."
--Lol

pg 5: yes, the infodump works a lot better as a conversation. There's a reason for E to be saying it.

pg 6-7: The second introspection here still reads a little long. I think it's needed information, but is there a reason the whole story is coming up now?

pg 7: "waving the two lingering women away as she did so. They left with quiet nods,"
--Wait, so why did they come in in the first place?

pg 9: This is still a pretty long introspection. Maybe E could ask A about some of the event she didn't know about?

pg 10: the fight works better now.

pg 12: "E’s hand found the hatch release panel and the electronics whirred to life for almost a full second"
--Is this where E's plotting to disassemble T? I'm not sure where T's objection came from in the next paragraph.

pg 16: "Sure, she and T had talked about licensing and imports and spreadsheets but those were mundane aspects of E’s job. They could dream about an Earth that never died but that didn’t refute cold, hard facts."
--Ok, I'm not completely following how this means E knew Earth was still alive...

pg 17: "Two projects ago they wanted trees..."
--This paragraph starts to make sense as to how E would know. Can it come earlier so the reader isn't as confused?

pg 17: "debate E and T had started long before the cancer diagnosis"
--If they argued about how Earth might be alive, this would be a good hook to seed into the first few chapters.

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Overall:

I was fine with this chapter the first time around, but now it is even better. You almost had me crying at one point. I liked the build of emotion better. And this time, I did notice a more significant change in E from the begining to the end.

As I read:

"It never comes out in my favor." This line struck me as odd. Something about time coming out  didn't make sense to me.

"Despair won." Everything in this interaction was really tense and set up for the later fight.

"...Imagine her  dying in joy." This whole scene almost had me in tears. 

"Information on sex talk..." The first time I read this, I was thinking it was referring to what came before it, and was searching the conversation about E meeting T for innuendo and wondering what  I was missing. When I read on I figured out it was setting up for the next thing E said.

I love the AI! 

On 6/10/2019 at 1:56 PM, Mandamon said:

why we didn't know any of this in the previous chapters.

Within this chapter, I think the revelation about Earth was well set up, but I agree with @Mandamon that it should be hinted at a little in the previous chapters. 

 

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This flows much better, and the emotions are clearer. I still had a bit of trouble over why the fight happens, but this time it's not as much coming from nowhere. You could probably split it at around the AI reveal if you needed to, but I don't think it's super necessary. I could still use a little more varied emotions from E, but this is a definite improvement. 

 

"and a grey interior that could seat " -- for the sake of rhythm, I'd suggest maybe "an interior (also grey) that could seat" because lists look better in odd numbers. But this is much better to parse even as-is and read fine. It didn't skew weirdly for me at all. 

Thank you for using soap. It takes forever to get soap smell out of stuff, even when I wash it two or three times in a row with detergent, bleach, and vinegar, so I'll believe this much more readily. (I'm pretending T washed the chairs fabric before re-covering them, because that's the only way soap-on-upholstery would work. Incense burned in an enclosed area, or perfume spilled on fabric, now, that's different...Or a little jar of potpourri... Or... ) Soap is also not as creepy-stalker as before, even if that's how human memory associates the scent. 

The sex references seem more organic and integrated, and less stalker now. I appreciate the weaponized embarrassment, but I feel like if you wanted, you could dig in a bit more on it. A turns awfully red just for the mention of the existence of sex. 

A reads less as having a thing for T now, though it's still there a little to me.  

It's a much better reveal at the end, with less gotcha shock, but I agree with @Mandamon that I would really have liked to have had some of these depot/old Earth anomalies seeded in earlier. It would be such a great moment for the reader to go "oh yeah, that WAS weird!" 

 

 

 

 

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More comments: hurrah!

(page 1)

- "to create utopia rules" - utopian?

- "Those that didn’t have enough voices" - Those what? Individuals only have one voice, of course. Those groups?

- "There was a pocket door" - Is this a door with a pocket or a pocket with a door? I'm still not sure I get this.

- "T was wrapped around her" - suggest, for clarity, or 'The essence of T wrapped around her' - better given what comes next.

(page 2)

- "the pod. Smiling in the sun that didn’t burn. Breathing the air that didn’t choke" - To me this is one sentence.

- "I hate time. It never comes out in my favor" - good line: doesn't come out in anyone's favour, to be fair.

(page 3)

- "Her voice turned critical. Accusatory." - Again here, not "Her voice turned critical, accusatory"? - It's part of the same thought.

- "three deep breathes" - typo: breaths.

- "Whether that would end up being rage" - Same as 'anger', surely?

- "E stood in shattered pieces and could glue memories together forever" - this could be clearer. I do sort of get it, just not the best flowing metaphor.

(page 4)

- "A held her hands up like a in surrender" - There can't be any doubt what this is, surely.

- "She should have been with her family There where she could have had medical care" - I presume?

- "saw T with a picc line" - Don't know what this is: confused.

- "hospital crushed around her" - I think you have a crush a thing. This is like saying 'crushed towards her', I don't think it works.

(page 5)

- "Two other women entered the ship" - redundant.

- "She died here" - Is still feel this is going on too long, being repetitive. We've been going round this circle since Page 2.

- "working on an impossible project they’d only ever seriously discussed" - Wait, T and E discussed getting a ship and leaving Q? That's never been mentioned before, and I don't think E's been behaving in this chapter as if this'd been a thing between them.

- "The next thing the m----" - Typo: missing a capital?

- "How did you meet her?" - I still don't like this backward looking stuff. Nothing has happened in this chapter:  we've been stationary, now we're going backwards. Now, I know I've said before that I don't need 'action' on every page, but I feel like all E thinks about is T. That's fine, it's a recent loss and now she's losing T again, but I just do not find it compelling reading.

- "sex talk made people damnation uncomfortable" - Some people, not all people.

- "Yeah, it started as conversations" - comma needed.

- "delight of lesbianism on an all-woman planet" - I still don't get this, surely it's an inevitability?

(page 6)

- "Did she know about this?" - Unclear here. Clearly, T knew about it. She worked on it. The question is did she know about it before she left the dome to join the M, I think.

- "T had two brothers" - Is this relevant? I'm not really interested, I just want to get through the flashback.

- "seemingly pointless experiment after another" - Why would they be doing portliness experiments? How could a scientist motivate themselves to do something that was pointless, when resources are so scarce?

(page 7)

- "E had been so damnation sure upon signing to Q" - What's the purpose of all this navel gazing?

- "She built this for you, I think" - This is it. This is the chapter here, on Page 7. I really think the last page or more of introspection contributes nothing, just takes longer to get to something that is motivating and engaging.

- "the lilac essential oil, natural, the last cargo" - is this not redundant? Surely essential oil has to be natural, does it not?

- "E when he tried to flirt" - Can you try to flirt? You can flirt badly, flirting can fail, but it's still flirting, isn't it?

(page 8)

- So, the T-dr--- is the same as hyperdrive, I guess? I like the emotional punch of this discovery. Again, I've had to read through so much, well what felt to me like padding to get to this bit.

- "one giant exhale" - If it wasn't you, I'd stop reading at this point. I loathe this form with a passion. The noun is 'exhalation', 'exhale' is a verb. Merriam-Webester, the most popular dictionary in the US, does not list 'exhale' as a noun. Unfortunately, Wiktionary does, but it defines that noun as 'an exhalation'.

(page 9)

- "sixty-eight" - Typo.

- "There were two hundred children on Q in a good year" - It occurs to me here that we've never seen the inside of the dome, so I've got very little impression of the scale of the settlement. That's a lot of children. I guess you've said how many people are on Q, but it's doesn't to come to mind here.

- "destroy another in-progress experiment with birch saplings on the way down" - wouldn't the experiment have been destroyed when it reached the floor and broke?

- "The m----" - Quite noticeable inconsistency in capitalisation in this chapter.

- "A missing T-drive" - CAPS again.

(page 10)

- "This time she inhaled the smell" - Did she take an inhale :P 

- "U of F Y" - Funniest line I can remember in weeks. I wish M-o-t-h had said it.

- "as gingerly as one would a head of lettuce" - Huh? That is the weirdest analogy. I would not be especially gentle with a head of lettuce, compared to like a feather, or a flower. Or, is this supposed to be ironic? I didn't get that.

- "...so damnation important" -  great line.

- "The spell of T lifted" - Why now? How?

- "didn’t give a damnation about any of you" - and this... what is the basis for this statement? Sounds like E just made sh1t up.

- "Your arrogance is obnoxious and trying" - This line weirded me out. In that one line, A goes from being powerful and single-minded matriarch (possibly played by Glenn Close) to evil Bond villain (possibly played by Ben Mendelsohn). The backhanded slap contributes to the same transformation, compared to a front-handed slap, which in a weird way, is more noble/honest, imo.

(page 11)

- "her her" - duplicate word.

(page 12)

- "A fax. A fax" - Why is fax repeated italicised? I don't get the message here.

(page 13)

- "Okay okay" - comma required between repeated words, surely. Never seen it not comma'd.

- "growling under her breath" - missing word, I think. Sounded weird otherwise.

(page 16)

- "and you know that, or at least, you guessed it" - I'm not saying we need to see this 'on screen', but I remember nothing in the first five chapters that suggested E thought Earth was anything other than a ruin. So, this came out of the blue for me.

- "stamp a box of tree seedlings" - Again, this is not foreshadowed. The implication is that E knew this and dismissed it before the book starts, but I feel we need something, a completely throw away line while she's thinking back to something else, that shows her in the lab stamping boxes of trees seedlings. I don't remember any comment about Q exporting trees, all I remember was E failing to get trees to grow here, i.e. they all were imported to Q. This is important: it's the whole driving force for E's motivation to get off Q, it seems to me, but as I said, not foreshadowed, imo.

- In light of the recent report by the UN (I think it was) that it would take the Earth 3M years to recover from loss of species (I know, not the same thing, but still...) I'm going to be on the lookout for any unrealistically short recovery periods for terrestrial ecosystems like oceans.

- "No one knows how to get to Earth" - This seems spectacularly unlikely on one level. if I stop and think about it for five minutes, maybe I can convince myself. It just seems that the whole of Earth's astrophysical knowledge probably could be stuck on one hard drive, so why would they not send a copy with every single ship?

- "because it was a pipe dream" - I remember nothing of this dream being reported in the first five chapters. We need some foreshadowing of that, unless you tell me it's WRS.

(page 17)

I basically never do this but, theory on the 'twist' coming up:

Spoiler

- "Every couple years they make me box a few bins" - The scale we are talking about to 'rejuvenate' areas of Earth... There is no way that one woman in a lab can make any kind of meaningful impact on that in the timescale, surely. Now, how may colony worlds are there, how many 'lone' scientists crating up a gross of tree saplings. This is very interesting... it's Silent Running in reverse!!! Oh, I really hope it is, that's clever.  I'll say again though, better foreshadowing / hints required earlier, not enough to draw a conclusion, but just to mention before getting to this point that some of these things/conversations/stamping of crates happened in the past.

- "This is ridiculous" - And yet she's just witnessed something very similar in relation to Q. Does that not warrant a little bit of doubt about Earth? Interested to see where the chapter ends.

- "it’s been half a century since the first ships left Earth" - Good, I wanted that info right about now.

- "The slip of electronics" - what is 'slip' in this context? I don't get it.

- "like a measured exhale" :angry: 

- "Earth is fine" - This is such a throw-away line, so dismissive of the whole conspiracy involved in misleading millions of settlers, it's too light a touch here, I think. 

-  Big last line, but "by extensions" fouls it up and it loses its impact. "You can argue all you want, but this ship and I are here to take you home". Yup, please cut the comma'd bit, it just confuses the message, imo.

Overall 

Not much to add really, it's all up above. I got bored in the middle when the chapter just stopped. I need foreshadowing of some of the simple actions that lead into the reveal in this chapter, but a big bucket of flashback--for me anyway--is a pace killer, and I didn't see what it was for. I didn't feel it Brough anything. We know E misses T and we've known I t from Page 1, and every other page in between there and now. It's been the sole focus of every one of E's scenes, so dropping in pages(?) of flashback to minutiae really didn't work for me, and it's too late to foreshadow the samples and the mundane little clues to the reveal in the same chapter the reveal happens, imo.

There's a really strong, inciting chapter in here, but I don't think it's there yet. I like where it's going, but it feels like the reveal doesn't delivery the punch I wanted in terms of Earth being fine after all, and how that came about. I think somehow there is both too much information and not enough. 

<R>

Edited by Robinski
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Guten tag Kais,

Sorry, kind of a light critique. I think this revision is most definitely an improvement. E doesn't seem like she has a hair-trigger temper anymore, and her interactions with A feel a lot more organic, including the retained "U of F. You" line. Some of the expository stuff, even though it's been cut down, still tempers the pacing. Though you've established that your prose is loose and your dialogue is a bit more stiff, I some of it goes beyond being stiff to sounding cheesy. Especially the romance-related stuff. I would at least reconsider some of the interactions between characters and try to revise the dialogue to make it seem more natural. 

Notes below:

(page 2):

“I hate time."—I'd leave that out. E sounds like a little kid.

(page 4):

Right now all E wanted was to get off the T funeral barge.—Ooh, I like that line. 

She should have been with her family There—You have a missing period there. 

(page 5):

sex talk made people damnation uncomfortable.—What part of that last paragraph was sex talk? 

Yeah it started—Missing comma

(page 7):

made great concrete but was—Missing comma

(page 11):

“T didn’t give a damnation about any of you.” —I don't believe that this would kick off a fight, but I find it at least more plausible than the 'good will' line from the last submission.

With her head still spinning she shot up—Missing comma

“You have no right to anything of hers, not even her memory.”—I'd leave out the memory part. I can't imagine a real human being saying something like that. 

(page 12):

Don’t follow. Don’t what-if. I just want to live like this, in you, forever.—I don't buy this line. It feels evocative of Twilight to me. I would consider replacing this with something that sounds more real-worldly, something actual couples might say to each other.

(page 15):

probably very wisely—The very is unnecessary. 

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STANDARD DISCLAIMER: For demographic information, keep in mind that I am a white male nearing his thirties, married, with two young children, and come from a background of being LDS, conservative, and with a long history of chronic depression, so these things may color what I say during review. I try to be as open-minded and unbiased as possible.

Okay, diving back in. Sorry for the late reply, I've been swamped with stuff at home, stupid OSHA training at the office, and prepping my own submission. Better late than never though. Haven't read anyone else's comments.

Pg. 3 - "E took three deep breathes" << breaths

Pg. 3 - You could stand to reduct down on the T mentions. Any time she's brought up it's like T this, T that, T would have liked...just a lot of T. You can reduce these to "her," "she," or "her wife" to break up the repetition.

Pg. 4 - "picc line" << had to look this up. Catheter might be a more accessible word for the average reader, since almost everyone knows what a catheter is.

Pg. 5 - the first few sentences are a bit choppy and telly. I feel like these could be reworked more organically.

Pg. 7 - "through shipments, about the lilac essential oil, natural, the last cargo pilot had given E when he tried to flirt" << This sentence is really confusing. It'd be clearer to say "...through shipments, about the natural lilac essential oil the last cargo pilot had given E..." and remove the extraneous parenthetical.

Pg. 8 - "It flys. Dr. S made sure of that before. Before." << flies and still have a double before. Not sure why it's there, since there's nothing to clarify why it should be.

Pg. 8 - I feel like one of these T-drive lines (probably the second) should be emphasized to help communicate E's shock or excitement over it, like "It had a T-drive. It had a T-drive, welded..."

Pg. 9 - "Malfunctioning computers, hardware, whatever, flew ships into stars, defrosted their colonists without the food on board to sustain them, and any number of other horrors." << Waayyyy too many commas here. Break this sentence up, or give us something to satisfy the massive dependent list you've given. For example, the previous sentence talks about the lucky ships--you could continue this list as a tacked on thought, like, "passengers in stasis; the unlucky ones could have any number of other horrors: malfunctioning computers, hardware failure, or whatever caused ships to fall into stars or defrost their colonists without food to sustain them." Something like that.

Pg. 9 - "This ship" << That ship, since we're referring to the one that crashed, not the one she's standing in?

Pg. 13 - "E pivoted then turned back" << "E pivoted, then turned back" OR "E pivoted and then turned back"

Critique:

Overall, solid revision. There wasn't anything that threw me out of the story or was a glaring error, which is good, but I feel that in an effort to adjust things in this revision, some of the impact was lost. There's a lot here about the AI that I think could actually be cut out and returned to in the next chapter, and part of that is because there are a couple of big revelations in relatively quick succession. It stalls out the pacing a little bit for me, and it feels like its too much release of tension too quickly.

I also didn't really get any sense that A was crushing on E at all (which was something you mentioned in the first submission for this chapter), so I feel like if that is supposed to be the case we're going to need some more overt evidence. I'm not shy about reading a potential romance between A & E, even if potentially only one-sided, but I feel like there needs to be more indication of its early stages. If that makes any sense.

As for the N/E distinction, I tend to appreciate more internal conflict and political-style tension (i.e., slower build, more intricacies, more focus on perception and feeling than on action and external conflict), so I never really found E's wallowing a pain. If I were to say anything about E's wallowing in the first few chapters, it's that it's very one-sided--she grieves through anger, and nothing else. I'd want to see more wallowing, but from different angles--despair, depression, bargaining, the whole thing. It's definitely a tricky topic to get right.

That said, however, I never really found N's chapters boring either, but if there is one thing I'd want to see more of, it's deliberation on N's part. She seems to act first, think later, which is kind of a weird approach for a scientist. It's like she acts for the sake of moving the story along (she only grabs a helmet when she knows she's going to the cold side, for instance), rather than considering potential ramifications and throwing them out anyway. More internal conflict on her part would go a long way toward more interesting content for her, I think.

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