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Mandamon

20190819 - Mandamon - Cyberpunk Episode 1 - 3304 Words

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Posted (edited)

Hello all! (and I'll say hi to several of you later today...)

 
This is the first part of what will be a novelette-length cyberpunk story, intended for an anthology...if I get accepted. To do so, I need to show a writing sample of 1000 words, which I'd like to pick out of this selection.
 
So, all the usual requests apply. Tear it apart and let me know what I need to fix. ALSO, please let me know what you think will work for a 1000-word writing sample. My default is to submit the first section, up to "They've got a holo-man," but let me know if you think a different section is stronger.
 
Thanks!
 
UPDATE: If you're interested about the companies or the types of personalities they employ, DM me and I can send the webpage for the universe. Not sure if I can share it publicly.
 
Edited by Mandamon
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Hello from a train! 

Overall, I’m pretty into this. Common wisdom aside, I actually think it’s often harder to launch a story almost immediately into a combat scene and make it interesting in any way that actually matters, but here I have a reasonable sense of what Y.’s personality is like and some idea of the stakes are (more on that in a moment), so nice work. Two larger issues, from my perspective: 

One is the general cyberpunk tendency to stuff a story to, ahem, the gills with gizmos that are very obviously telegraphed as, well, cool setting-establishing gizmos, which you do quite a bit of here, including one in the first line (not that there’s necessarily a way around that or needs to be, but it sure told me I was reading a cyberpunk universe right off the bat). It can make cyberpunk stories sound a little bit gimmicky, and for me this piece is nearing that line. It may land better with people who read more cyberpunk than I do, though. 

The second thing comes back to my comment about stakes. I appreciate the way the piece has several references to the bigger picture going on - the media battle between the two corps - but while you’re doing a good job of inserting these throughout the story, after the first couple of asides to this effect we’re not really getting new information and they just reiterate the corporate media battle idea. Towards the end of the piece I was getting anxious to discover a little more new information about either the corporations’ role in the world at large, or maybe why/how Y. is connected to them. I think you can probably give us next to nothing, information-wise, but I think it WOULD help to see something new as the first episode draws to a close. 

As for what to use as the writing sample, I think the first 1000 words would work. That said, I think you might also consider the last thousand words: it gives us an idea of what’s already happened AND opens up to the possibility of the larger-scale conflict in a way that the rest of the piece doesn’t. I’m just on my iPad at the moment and if Pages has a word-counting function, I haven’t, so can’t recommend an exact place to start at the moment that I know would be within the 1000-word limit... 

Smaller-scale comments:

First page and paragraph: “... he would have been an automatic target ... had he tried to access the media systems of the asteroid from the inside.” Not sure why it would be any different from the outside? Is this just a question of hacking software vs. physical hardware access or?

Also p1: “...which makes the encounter Just Like Being There In Person” - hah. Lines like this one are a great setting indicator. And I have a soft spot for characters with sardonic senses of humour. Yes please.

P2: The comment about not being able to smuggle in an EVA suit makes me wonder what protective gear he’s actually wearing. Is the implant doing ALL the work? 

P5: “He wasn’t good at breathing vacuum on his own” seems to suggest that he CAN breathe vacuum if he has to, but this is belied by the ending. 

P5: “The Holo-man flipped another pose...” Capitalized here, but not elsewhere. Flagged for consistency. 

P6: “It was so obvious Y. was far out of D.’s range before the other man could possibly reach him.” Awkward sentence structure here.

P6. I’m a little surprised Y. assumed D. wouldn’t have inbuilt thrusters, since we’ve had no indication before now that that technology is particularly unusual. 

Near top of P11: “retia match” should be “retina,” I’m assuming. 

 

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Hey @Silk! Hope you're having fun. We've now landed from the first leg of our flight, and I'm honored to be your first critique in (insert time...)

3 hours ago, Silk said:

One is the general cyberpunk tendency to stuff a story to, ahem, the gills with gizmos that are very obviously telegraphed as, well, cool setting-establishing gizmos, which you do quite a bit of here,

Yes, guilty on that. Making up names seemed like a fun thing to run with, but I may have gone overboard.

3 hours ago, Silk said:

Towards the end of the piece I was getting anxious to discover a little more new information about either the corporations’ role in the world at large, or maybe why/how Y. is connected to them. I think you can probably give us next to nothing, information-wise, but I think it WOULD help to see something new as the first episode draws to a close. 

Yep, that's one of the reasons I wanted to pass this through the forum. I feel like the back half is falling down a bit. I'm planning to expand on this in the rest of the story, but I may need to add more here as well to bring the reader in. Giving some more of why they're fighting might help.

4 hours ago, Silk said:

As for what to use as the writing sample, I think the first 1000 words would work. That said, I think you might also consider the last thousand words: it gives us an idea of what’s already happened AND opens up to the possibility of the larger-scale conflict in a way that the rest of the piece doesn’t.

Interesting...hadn't considered using the end, but that might work well. Thanks!

 

4 hours ago, Silk said:

The comment about not being able to smuggle in an EVA suit makes me wonder what protective gear he’s actually wearing. Is the implant doing ALL the work? 

P5: “He wasn’t good at breathing vacuum on his own” seems to suggest that he CAN breathe vacuum if he has to, but this is belied by the ending.

Eh, I think this part fell flat. The implant's doing basically everything so he can slip through the asteroid unnoticed. Being able to breathe vacuum was supposed to be facetious, but I may have missed that mark.

Thanks again! Looking forward to that song! ;-)

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Yes, first critique in [incoherent mumbling]. Mostly because I’m still catching up on everybody else’s stuff! (I might need a couple of weeks...) 

Navigating quote replies on iPad is awful, so I’m not going to. 

Re: the naming of all of the gizmos: I mean, it READ like you were having fun. Just keep all the names and pepper them throughout the longer story! 

Re: ‘the breathing in vacuum comment:” I thought that might be meant to be facetious, but couldn’t quite tell. The problem is we just don’t have enough information about the world yet to determine whether it’s actually possible. A little bit of tweaking and the joke would probably work. 

Yeah, yeah, I haven’t forgotten the song. :P Just gotta get home and record it first. On the other hand, there’s a guitar in the lounge of the hostel we’re currently in. How hard do you reckon one has to try to get kicked out of one of those places...?

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Thoughts As I Go: pg. 1: So it’s a cyberpunk in space. I’ve never actually seen that setting mashup before.

pg. 1 – I also have no idea what going on right now. The jargon is going to my head, and all I’ve got is the protagonist is trying to sneak in so he can post feed onto it?

Pg. 3 – He’s upgrading his competitor’s system? I really have no grasp of the plot right now, but it’s entertaining to be sure.

Pg. 6 – A zero G fight with what appears to be two news corporations itching to spin doctor things their way. Well, this will be entertaining. I like this concept. Fighting while keeping in mind how it’s going to be edited.

Pg. 8 – Poison darts? Dirty. Nano cell invasion? Well, that’s just standard operating procedures, nothing to see here, move along.

Pg. 16 – Not even sure what happened.

 

Summary: I’m not really a cyberpunk fan, my wheelhouse tends towards the hard stuff in sci-fi, but setting it in space made it a bit easier. That said, there’s a bit too much exposition of some of the concepts and far too much jargon. Context explanations works best for cyberpunk setting, and (the first page especially) you’re also rapid firing terms that aren’t explained at all. I get that you just wanted to replace words that people do know, like ‘Wi-Fi’ with the cyberpunk variant, which, sure add flavor, but when you do it to every doohickey that gets used, that’s too much flavor and is drowning out the rest.

A good trick is to use slang words. Take ‘Wi-Fi’ – it’s slang for ‘Wireless Fidelity’. So for some of your terms, consider having characters use a cyberpunk-ish slang term instead.

I kind of grasped the plot at the end – the MC is an agent for a megacorp who’s trying to make another megacorp look bad, and it turns out the first megacorp is a lot tougher and scarier than the MC knew about. If I know my cyberpunk stereotypes (which I don’t, by the way), he’s going to go rogue to track down what’s happening and they’ll be a blanket conspiracy connecting the two megacorps that he’ll grudgingly work with D to stop.

I do like the asteroid aesthetic though, even though I never asked for this.

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8 hours ago, Silk said:

On the other hand, there’s a guitar in the lounge of the hostel we’re currently in. How hard do you reckon one has to try to get kicked out of one of those places...?

DO IIIIIT!

1 hour ago, aeromancer said:

That said, there’s a bit too much exposition of some of the concepts and far too much jargon.

This seems to be a consistent critique so far. I'll look at eliminating or making some of the names a little clearer. I tried to make them all fairly straightforward.

1 hour ago, aeromancer said:

If I know my cyberpunk stereotypes (which I don’t, by the way), he’s going to go rogue to track down what’s happening and they’ll be a blanket conspiracy connecting the two megacorps that he’ll grudgingly work with D to stop.

Lol...pretty good guesses! There will be a few surprises on the way, but I'm working to make this more of a character story rather than plot so I'm not too concerned if some plot elements are easy to guess.

Thanks @aeromancer!

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I think I need to go back and re-read in order to give you helpful feedback because after one read, I was very lost. This wasn't the type of story I could pick up and read for fun before bed. It's more something I need to work to read, at least right now it is. 

I didn't mind jumping right into a fight scene. I understood there was some type of sabotage going on. I liked the gills. I didn't quite get the other devices. I think the biggest thing that tripped me up was the talk of the fight itself being broadcast. Was it staged? Was it a real fight? How quickly was some kind of news media turning this fight into entertainment? If everyone knew what one company was doing to the other, why would it work at all? Was this a real fight? Or was this actually just being staged and recorded for entertainment? 

I might be able to answer some of these questions myself if I re read slowly, maybe with a pen and paper instead of a screen. However, this was not the kind of story my brain will digest as something to read for fun. If this were a lit mag or podcast, I probably would've stopped after a few pages.

If the others aren't confused like I am, than ignore almost everything I've said in here. If I do get a chance to do a second read through, I'll post new feedback. 

 

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I'm really looking forward to this because (1) world; (2) cyberpunk; (3) Mandamon writes cyberpunk; (4) first non-D'verse fiction from Mandamon in a loooooong time (that's not a complaint, but it's just nice to have a wee change now and again.

(page 1)

- Do the gills have to be custom? Sounds a bit cheesy, like trying to hard to stress they are special tech.

- The name of the asteroid: is that canon or is that yours? It strikes me that complicated alphanumeric designations are also a bit trope-verging-towards cliché.

- "hold his breath in vacuum for twenty minutes either" - Sorry, we're going LBL: I think 'hold his breath for twenty minutes in vacuum' is more punchy, following as it does the 'crunchy bit at the end of the sentence/paragraph' advice.

- Is the reason he's not supposed to be here because (a) he's not supposed to be able to get here physically, because of the vacuum; or (b) because it's a secure facility (or whatever) and he doesn't have clearance? Unclear for me.

- The Al term is a brain buster. I spent several seconds pronouncing that until I got it straight, but suspect it will have slipped away by the time it appears next.

- Is Mag the syndicate?

- subscriber base?

- "Would have been. He was on the outside of the asteroid."  - Confused, doesn't flow for me grammatically or parse with the previous paragraph. I've forgotten what he would have been, too far back.

- I don't see that it follows he's the first to volunteer because he's top of the rankings, I mean it's not automatic, it's down to his feelings at the time. he might just as easily have not been the first, because he's fed up and can't sustain the pace he's set. So, it's 'meant' that's troubling me.

- Okay, I think I followed the logic of the rest of page one about data lines, etc., I'm not sure it's the smoothest. I'm sure it can be tidied up.

(page 2)

- Confused. He's working against Mag, isn't he? And yet his crew is on Mag's station. I guess they're covert then, or I've picked things up wrong.

- "Then again, Najima wouldn’t have sent him, either." - For me this reads like they wouldn't have sent him because he was able to smuggle a suit onto the asteroid. Actually, that sounds quite difficult. So, is the asteroid the Mag complex?

- The gills confuse me, because real gills still process oxygen and CO2 but surely there is not of that in play here, if he's in vacuum.

- "like the military squad" - This would have been cheesy as all get out, imo, if you have not plumbed in the negative at the end. Good job: that made it nice a quippy.

- "Y opened the storage port on his left forearm" - I'm not feeling that he's out in space. What about gravity / weightlessness / manoeuvring / tethering / etc?

- "without M’s notice" - clunky phrasing. Something about detection would be more cyber-y.

- "upgrade the network to the newest cycle speeds at the same time" - Ah, but (1) surely Mag would notice that elicit material was being broadcast; (2) would Mag not notice that the cycle speeds were higher than theirs, through some kind of signal check software, or increase power consumption, or such?

(page 3)

- "upgrade their plans" - Upgrade who? The customers? But surely they have accounts with Mag: they'd need to take out new account with N. Would the cusotmer not question that, like, having two Direct Debits (US equivalent) set up? If Mag haven't detected the switch, they're going to keep taking the customer's money, OR, the customer's going to cancel they're monthly payment Mag and that will get Mag's attention pretty quick, I would have thought.

- Confused, who are tN? Are they Mag? I need to go back and check, I don't want to have to do that. Oh, wait, that was N/Sp, so tN is something else again? Another rival? Brain hurts.

- "pass through the residential areas" - Not clear what this means. Could be clearer. In the sense of pass through recruit new customers?

- "size of a hair follicle" - How can he manage that manually? I don't believe that: no way he can grab that out the vacuum in his hand, even ungloved. Oh, and you mentioned freezing before; how the heck is he not paralysed with cold, frozen solid by now? I doubt the ability of the human eye to see something that small in normal conditions, let alone in vacuum with what is probably some harsh or uneven lighting. It seems to me that presently, when humans are handling very small things (not using microscopes or assisted vision), the small thing is mounted on a larger thing, and applicator or protective mount that enable said human to handle the thing in a manageable way, up to the point of its application. Yeah, I've got big problems with the follicle chip as I read on.

(page 4)

- modified glasses - surely they have to form a seal around the eye to protect it from the effects of the vacuum. If that's the case, at what point do they become goggles? If that's not the case, then how do they protect the eye?

- "By that point it was too late" - I don't understand how this line follows. The point is the system won't work without the errant chip, so it will never get to 'that point'. Confused by the phrasing, surely, or, it's already at that point (the chip being missing).

- s/Hair - I don't know what that is. I can guess some of the other in-world abbreviations and conflations, but I don't get this one.

- "tastefully colored smoke" - I don't understand what this is. Smoke? Does this mean breath? Water vapour?

- This guy's wearing goggles, in relation to my earlier comment about glasses.

- "Nano/sl" - This curse sounds a bit juvenile to me.

(page 5)

- "a new suite" - does this mean 'suit'? Context sounds like it.

- I should chip in (see what I did there? ;) ) at this point that--aside from all the detailed stuff--I'm feeling the tension. I like the pacing and being thrown straight into the story. It's not flowing yet for me because of the issues, but I'm sure it will do in due course. Character-wise, there isn't a great deal to go on, but the voice is reasonably engaging. He seems loyal to his employer and his team, he's trying to get the job done, which is admirable. Underneath that, it's not clear at all that the goal itself is admirable, as it seems to be a purely commercial deal, and tantamount to industrial espionage, so criminal, but I'm not really thinking about that.

- "thrusters" - Yeah, I mentioned this earlier. What I feel is missing is blocking and a sense of the setting/environment. This is taking place outside a space habitat? I feel like there is all sorts of sensory input that I'm missing, which would really expanded the scene and put bring it to life. The vastness of black space, the curve of a planet, the sense of the potential to draft away if one is not careful. I'm thinking of the film Gravity or Episode 11 (S1) of Love, Death & Robots (Helping Hand) which (albeit visually) put the viewer in that orbital environment. I think that's the challenge (and the potentially the comparison) for this piece. Not easy, but dropping in some details could really enlivens the atmosphere.

- The H/man is not moving very quickly. The pacing of this situation seems a bit ponderous and our hero has time to think about what's going on. Why is the h/m striking a pose? Surely he's going to attack and subdue our protagonist: would he not do that much more quickly?

- "One more step to the left" - I was confused at first what this was. I guess it's the h/m's feed? So, someone viewing through the other company's cloud of nanos is manoeuvring this avatar of an actual human in a room somewhere?

(page 6)

- "could possibly reach him" - This bit seems counterintuitive. If he's out of range, than he can't be reached.

- "his own thrusters" - It seems naive of Y that this is a surprise.

- "denouement of the episode" - Huh? What is going on? Confused. So, from Mag's perspective, this is live reality TV, and from Nat's it's industrial espionage? It's not that I can't deal with that, if that's what's occurring, I just am not getting it, yet.

- "flipped about his axis" - which one? He could have several, depending on whether it's his body axis, related to momentum, x, y or z.

- "He’d done the move" - This is a crude word, and not evocative or descriptive. 'made' the move would be more proactive, imo; or 'performed' the move, more sophisticated; or 'practised' the move, since it's in training.

(page 7)

- Where do the white nanos come from and how do they get into the other being?

- "exhaust from their thrusters" - To me exhaust is waste, whereas what thrusters produce is the intended effect. 'exhaust' sounded odd to me. Also, with all the eddies and wash of thrust in the area from these two, I would have thought the chip would be long gone by now.

- "might as well fight back" - Gah, this is horribly uncaring and passive, hopeless, surrendering: all the things we don't won't our protagonist to be!

- "most undignified manner" - This is off-tone, for me. Nothing Y has done so far suggests he cares much about whether someone's manner is dignified or not.

(page 8)

- "trying to get it to stick to his glove"  - Ah, right, I need to know this way back when he loses the chip, that there is some kind of assistance for handling this tiny, tiny thing. Or, you could just make it a bit bigger, which would be more believable for manual handling. I mean, how the heck is he going to position something the size of a hair follicle and make an accurate physical connection using only his fingers in a freezing environment in orbit? I just don't think it's believable the ways it's described.

- "damage to system" - So, the nanos are only attacking his cyber system? The use of the term white cells makes me think humans systems, be I guess it can just be an analogy.

- I like the ticking clock, that's effective.

- What's a 'ridge hand'? Was that meant to be right hand? Right hand (i.e. punch) would be way more relatable.

- "clutched the chip" - This is him just catching it, right? It's less than 1mm across, I would think. How on earth can be see it amongst a could of nanos? Okay, he's got a trace on it, but how can he 'grasp' it when he's moving and twisting and getting slugged. I can't suspend that degree of disbelief without some assistance of my own!

- 2 minute jump! Oh, that's good; well done.

- I like the cutting out of his feed, very well done. Confusion though. It was 48% chance of damage first, now it 36% chance: surely that number should be increasing.

(page 9)

- "sludge" - Yeah, again... Is this YA? This is really tame for an oath. I can imagine 12-years-olds using it.

- "disrupt communications" - Hmm, only thinking of this now? I almost thought they were going to do that first time, but maybe not.

- "haptic" - Well, that's my lesson for the day, did not know this word. It's a good word, but I had to stop reading and go look it up. That's not a reason not to use unusual or  rare words though, that's part of what reading is about, right, learning.

- I feel like there's a skip here. We go from 84% chance, to him fitting the chip. I'd like to see him closing on the bundle, maybe fending off one more attacking, one more near try/fail, almost missing the target then latching on. The last step just seems a snip too easy.

- "grew as cold as it had torn" - words one after another, what do they mean?!

(page 10)

- But, but, but the percentage chance of damage to the suit keeps dropping, it should be going up. In fact, no, it's the integrity of the suit that is dropping, not the chance of damage to the cyber systems, surely? In fact no again, because clearly damage is being done to the systems and the systems must know that, surely. If it was only the suit that was being damaged, the message would not be degrading. The logic around the degradation is not working.

(page 11)

- Confused. He's solved the breathing problem by getting inside, but his system is still infected, all that damage to his system is still real. He was all breaking up and degradation and that seems to have completely disappeared. Confused.

(page 12)

- "Mag VR wasn’t up yet" - this confused me, because I thought Mag were resident on this residential asteroid, since it has their system on it, so why would their VR not already be set up?

- "invasion was mostly gone" - why is it mostly gone? I don't understand what system intervened on his behalf when he got inside.

(page 14)

- Wha. There's a big scene break there between him speaking through the asteroid and him getting back on the ship. Also, there seems a huge disconnect to me as there is no interaction between him and his team. Surely, he would be debriefed by his team leader? We don't see that scene, and that makes this new scene feel like the one when he's alone in space, so there's not contract in the feeling of the scene. I feel like it needs something--even just a short scene sequel--to make that transition.

- "Usually h/m changed skin more than" - This confuses me. If they are vid stars in some way, changing skins will make them less identifiable between one thing and the next, surely? Stardom is so much about image that to literally change appearance will make it harder for people to identify the star as the same person, surely, and this would dilute their appeal and their image, literally.

- "the beginning of the first feed he had watched" - I thought the things he watched with D in them were other episodes, like days or weeks before. I'm confused by what's being referred to here in terms of 'the first feed'.

(page 15)

- "checked the room and the corridor outside" - This comes back to what I was talking about above when I referenced a 'cut scene' with other real people when he comes aboard the ship. I short bit of person interaction with another human or humans would help ground the reader in reality. The issue, I think, with going straight into another scene of Y in his own head is that it's hard as a reader to get a sense of grounding. All the tech words and terms and VR and feeds and nanos are disorienting. A scene of human interaction would give the reader contrast before the big reveal that Y has been set up, in a manner of speaking

Overall 

I'm going to keep this short, as I think I've covered it all in the as-I-go comments, but I think this needs a number of edits for flow and clarity. You'd expect that, I guess, from anything new, but all the technical concepts are hard to parse when they come one on another on another on another. Clarity, I think, is so important with stuff like this. Not just clarity of prose, but clarity of reader perception that all implications of the technological stuff is being picked up.

There's a lot I like about this, and I think the central idea that a protagonist who thinks he's doing one thing, but turns out he's performing a different role is prefect for this kind of set up. Another thing I would add is that, in relation to the first summary paragraph above, I think I'm lacking investment in the m/c on a human level. There's lots of clever tech that put my in world, but I maybe a bit at the expense of human interaction and investment.

Nice work though. I do not know how you managed to write during WorldCon, I just could not do it!!!

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17 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I think I need to go back and re-read in order to give you helpful feedback because after one read, I was very lost.

 

10 hours ago, Robinski said:

but all the technical concepts are hard to parse when they come one on another on another on another.

That seems to be consistent. Cyberpunk (in my experience) tends to drop you in the deep end, but seems like I need to explain some more.

 

17 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I think the biggest thing that tripped me up was the talk of the fight itself being broadcast.

Yeah, this didn't feel complete to me as I was writing. I need to find a better way to introduce the stakes without infodumping too much.

10 hours ago, Robinski said:

- The Al term is a brain buster. I spent several seconds pronouncing that until I got it straight, but suspect it will have slipped away by the time it appears next.

- Is Mag the syndicate?

The Al term, Mag, Naj, FX team, and H-Man are all existing in-world terms. The rest are ones I made up, so I can change those.

10 hours ago, Robinski said:

- Confused. He's working against Mag, isn't he? And yet his crew is on Mag's station. I guess they're covert then, or I've picked things up wrong.

That's right. Again, I think this is where I need to put in a little more explanation.

 

10 hours ago, Robinski said:

The gills confuse me, because real gills still process oxygen and CO2 but surely there is not of that in play here, if he's in vacuum.

 

10 hours ago, Robinski said:

"Y opened the storage port on his left forearm" - I'm not feeling that he's out in space. What about gravity / weightlessness / manoeuvring / tethering / etc?

 

10 hours ago, Robinski said:

"size of a hair follicle" - How can he manage that manually?

 

10 hours ago, Robinski said:

modified glasses

 

For all these tech things, I'm imagining far-future tech, where everything is integrated and there's a lot of cyberpunk magi-tech. I think changing the glasses to goggles is needed. I was going for an homage to Gibson's sunglasses in Neuromancer, but I think it's just confusing. For the rest, maybe if I set the scene a little better, the tech will start to fall into line (including the whiteCells as an antibody and innate thrusters...)

 

10 hours ago, Robinski said:

What's a 'ridge hand'? Was that meant to be right hand? Right hand (i.e. punch) would be way more relatable.

Ah, it's a martial arts term. I guess not as well known as I thought.

10 hours ago, Robinski said:

But, but, but the percentage chance of damage to the suit keeps dropping, it should be going up. In fact, no, it's the integrity of the suit that is dropping, not the chance of damage to the cyber systems, surely?

Yeah...I was trying to do something cute with this and it's not working. Sort of that the system is corrupt and keeps says it's clearing up the infection while it's obviously not. I'll make this clearer.

10 hours ago, Robinski said:

Also, there seems a huge disconnect to me as there is no interaction between him and his team. Surely, he would be debriefed by his team leader?

Yep,  probably needed. I'm going to chalk it up to writing the whole thing in a day in the back of a moving bus... ;-)

10 hours ago, Robinski said:

If they are vid stars in some way, changing skins will make them less identifiable between one thing and the next, surely?

This is from the universe documentation, that they can change appearances. I was taking it to mean they could be any star, in the sort of corporate dystopian "we just need a good face, though we don't care who you are."

 

Thanks a bunch to @shatteredsmooth and @Robinski! I think you've definitely outlined the parts that didn't work. I'm going to take another stab at this and maybe submit again. The final application deadline is Sep 10th, so I want to get something that works well for the 1000 word submission. At the very least, I may just submit the 1000 words and see if that writing sample works on its own.

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11 hours ago, Mandamon said:

Sort of that the system is corrupt and keeps says it's clearing up the infection while it's obviously not.

Ah, right. That was too subtle for me!!

11 hours ago, Mandamon said:

I'm going to chalk it up to writing the whole thing in a day in the back of a moving bus... ;-)

#wordmachine

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I actually thought the system seeming to clear back up worked pretty well. It seemed pretty clear to me that, even if it WAS truly repairing itself, that all was not yet right in Wonderland, and I thought it helped keep the tension up during the final scene when Y.  is debating whether watching this new video is safe. 

A much smaller thing, but “ridge hand” also worked for me. I’m not familiar with the term, but could pretty clearly picture what was happening and assumed it was, if not a real martial arts term, something out of Y.’s training. 

Urgh. You wrote that on the back of the bus? My stomach heaves in sympathy... 

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3 hours ago, Silk said:

Urgh. You wrote that on the back of the bus? My stomach heaves in sympathy... 

Fortunately, I'm not very affected by motion sickness!

Thanks for the alternate opinion. I'll see how I can temper this during rewrite.

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Stuff that's already been covered enough: Jargon. Unclear motivations. General confusion over what's actually happening.

Disclaimer: I've never really read cyberpunk, and I don't really know what your typical cyberpunk reader expects from the first 3,000 words of a shorter story. For all I know, this exactly what they like to see.

However, the story (so far) does not resonate with me. Part of that is because of the aforementioned issues (being bombarded with terminology, etc.) but I think most of that could remain relatively unchanged if there is any sort of emotional connection to the character, the world or to what's going on. Two entertainment companies butting heads is in and of itself pretty generic, but the real problem is that I have no idea who I'm supposed to be rooting for. Is Y a good guy? A bad guy? I have no idea. I can't even tell if he thinks his company is better or if it's just a job. Would he work with the same aplomb if he was employed by the other guys? Does he do what he does for anything more than money? Is there any moral conviction on his part? I should know the answers to these questions. At the very least I should know what Y thinks the answers to these questions are (preferably both when the two are at odds).

I don't relate to anything that's happening. I'm sure a lot of cyberpunk readers work or play in fields that help them relate to the technological side of the stories, but as an average Joe who does not work with tech, I'd like to relate to something. It can be family. Motivations. Hell, even if you described the brain dead consumers in such a way that I'd have take a look at myself and question my life choices. Love. Hate. Romance. That overbearing feeling of mortality that constantly hangs over all our heads no matter how hard we try to push it away. Something to help me grab traction so I can feel that I'm inside the story. As it is, the finger guns stand out as the most relatable thing for me.

I had trouble with the fight scene as well. Primarily with the countdown. Eight+ minutes is a long time and if you look at it blow by blow, very little actually happens in that time. Not only that but there is implied down time where nothing is actually happening. So, in my mind anyway, this fight scene is basically happening in slow motion. The writing makes it more exciting, but thinking back now all I have are more questions. Why did D come out alone? Ratings? Why doesn't he use tech like a grappling hook or something? Is he purposely drawing it out? And why does he just let Y escape? Because of the VR thing later? For that matter why isn't Y tethered to these panels in some way? Detection? Even if the reasons I named are true, it doesn't quite land for me.

You're obviously a skilled writer. There were a few sentences I had to read a couple times because they were worded awkwardly but outside that and the jargon I felt the prose were quality. The world building, while heavy, shows me that you've put a lot of thought into this and that you had a really good time writing it. 

As for the 1,000 words I think the countdown segment is your best bet because you could easily make it feel somewhat self contained and show of that you can handle beginning/middle/end.

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Overall

I spent a lot of the first ten pages confused. There was a lot of technobabble and new words to learn. The writing was smooth though and the action fast so I wasn't super bothered by it until around page 8 or so. I'm not sure how to rectify my confusion without diluting the strong voice of the first few pages though. Maybe a bit more 'dumbed down' explanation right at the start? Moving some of the techno terms a bit later? I'm unsure. I definitely liked it and would read more!

On 8/20/2019 at 7:19 AM, Silk said:

That said, I think you might also consider the last thousand words: it gives us an idea of what’s already happened AND opens up to the possibility of the larger-scale conflict in a way that the rest of the piece doesn’t

I agree with this completely. The first 1000 are a bit heavy for me, but the last 1000 pack a punch!

On 8/22/2019 at 0:52 AM, Robinski said:

but all the technical concepts are hard to parse when they come one on another on another on another. Clarity, I think, is so important with stuff like this. Not just clarity of prose, but clarity of reader perception that all implications of the technological stuff is being picked up.

Agree completely here

 

 

As I go (possibly to be interrupted to board my plane)

- pg 1: that is a LOT of new words for the first paragraph. I had to read it through twice

- pg 4: I love the description and reaction to the assault team guy. Also in reading these pages I realized this is the first new new thing I've read from you, and your voice has changed a bit! Very cool.

- pg 5: are we supposed to know what Newmans are?

- pg 8: I'm not clear what is going on or what the stakes are, but it's so well written it's taken me to here to really have that bother me. This battle is being recorded... because they are entertainers? Or because it can be used for propaganda? And what is Y's mission? I know it was stated at the start but with all the buzz words I'm still confused

- pg 15: It was a VR experience based around him—one of N’s elite, and undisclosed—agents. <-- I think this was the straightforward information I needed at the start

- I do like the ending!

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Thanks to @hawkedup and @kais!

I had a moment of panic, since I rewrote the whole thing yesterday, but I think I captured most of the things you tagged. The jargon is mostly de-jargoned, or has a better explanation. I think I made a bit more connection with the MC as well, and punched up the ending to make it clearer. We'll see it goes next week!

5 hours ago, kais said:

- pg 5: are we supposed to know what Newmans are?

It's an in-world term. Basically androids.

5 hours ago, kais said:

Also in reading these pages I realized this is the first new new thing I've read from you, and your voice has changed a bit! Very cool.

Thanks! Yeah, this was strange to write, poking my head out of the Dissolutionverse for a bit.

 

5 hours ago, kais said:

(possibly to be interrupted to board my plane)

Have a good flight!

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1 hour ago, Mandamon said:

I had a moment of panic, since I rewrote the whole thing yesterday,

Yeah, sorry about the late response. Unfortunately Saturdays and Sundays are usually the only days I have time to critique, which is kinda poopy with a group that submits on Mondays. Hopefully some of what I said will still be helpful!

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