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Mandamon

20190826 - Mandamon - Cyberpunk Episode 1 V2 - 4500 Words

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Here's version 2 of the cyberpunk story. It got a little longer, of course. Let me know if things make more sense this time, including the cyberpunk slang and the situation between the two syndicates.

If it works better, I'm interested in which selection of 1000 words you think works best to submit as proof of writing chops. Below are some options, or feel free to suggest another!

Option 1: from the beginning until “Access hatch on your six!”

Option 2: From “We’ve got their feed,” to "It was done."

Option 3: from "All his systems" until the end of the piece.

Option 4: ???
 

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I had a much, much easier time following the story this time. I'm leaning towards option 1 because I think the first couple paragraphs make a great hook. I made a few notes as I read, but for the most part, I think the only major critique I have is that I had trouble feeling invested in the mc. Maybe it was personality or voice. I also felt like I didn't know what was at stake for him, personally, when it wasn't just life or death, anyway. 

As I read:

This time around, I had a better idea of what was going on during the first couple pages. However, the following line was a little unclear : ". Can’t entice consumers into your newest ...if you can’t even post a feed to the local node."

"Not just for the corporate bonuses it entailed, tough that was an added perk" I kind of want to know what the bonuses are, but more than that, I want a better idea of what is driving him to keep the streak. Right now, I'm not sure how much I care about him keeping the streak. 

"...agent in the complex he'd accidentally..." Not sure if this was there last time or not, but between this and the other parts where the tourist cover comes up, I like the little detail about how he got in. 

"...get demotion points..." What are demotion points? What personal and professional consequences do they have for him? 

"The voice of the holo-man’s—D's—FX crew was tinny with whatever worm S had attached to the channel" On this read I understood what was going on with the filming. 

"...his team would have a good recording...next...he compromised" This made me think that it wasn't life or death, even if he lost the fight, which lowered the stakes. I'd be fine with that if I had an idea of what the stakes were for him, personally, regarding his streak and demotion points.

My interest is piqued near the end. If I was reading this as a serial in a zine or something, I would want to read the next episode. 

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Overall

I think the battle is the strongest section for your 1000 word cut, maybe ending around the finger guns? Those are a delight. 

This rewrite is very good! The narrative is much more clear and I have a better idea what is going on. With that said I am still confused. So...D hacked Y so he could give him a message that D's corporation could take out Y's? And Y's plan was to steal, more or less, from D's? The ending doesn't land for me because I'm unclear about the plot twist at the end. I think by page three I had a feel for the stakes, although the 'when are we in VR and when are we not' is a constant confusion for me in this piece. 

I'll be curious to see what others think, but I think maybe one more comb through on this and it'll be quite set!

 

7 hours ago, shatteredsmooth said:

I was reading this as a serial in a zine or something, I would want to read the next episode. 

I would as well for sure. On its own though I'm not sure the ending hits hard enough.

 

As I go

- pg 1: still a bit technobabble heavy in that first paragraph, and I had to read twice, but it's a lot better than last time for sure

- pg 2: so I've read the first two pages twice now and... what is he doing? He is touristing but also spying? What is his motivation? I'm still just not clear

- pg 3: okay, plot on page three. He's installing software to steal bandwidth and when the company gets complaints they have to renegotiate something and his company comes out on top of that? Yes?

- pg 6: so wait, are they really in space or is this VR?? Like a holodeck with the safeties off?

- pg 7: the whiteCell paragraph bugged me before but I couldn't quite figure out what. I think I know now. It comes off as...too easy, when the narrative has been pretty difficult this far. It seems like an easy way to keep the battle short, like author convenience maybe?

- pg 18: too many new curses now standing out. Maybe reuse some of the previous?

- pg 13: having just finished the finger guns part, I think that section, however you cut it, should be in your 1K word submission. It's definitely my favorite part

 

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Comments :)

(page 1)

- Half way down the page, it's already a good deal better, imo. Clearer, so much clearer.

- "had a swarm of drones" - Words like 'had' are not our friend. It's so bland and none descriptive. 'Had' does not pull its own weight, even in orbit. For example, here, I suggest 'operated a swarm of drones', but there must be various words that would be more involving in this context.

(page 2)

- "cannon loomed. It was why he’d taken the stairs" - ROFL.

- "would have been be turned" - can be more immediate, to increase conflict.

- "the sound wouldn’t travel anyway" - Slightly unclear, I think. I wonder if all readers will get that this is because of the vacuum. The default is probably imagining a pressurised spacesuit with a helmet, in which sound would travel to a mic and therefore be transmitted to his team 'audibly'.

- "he intended to keep maintain his streak" - I don't think you 'keep' a streak. You keep it going, but I think 'maintain' is the 'righ't word.

(page 3)

- "100 exabyte cycle speeds" - a speed, of course, would be measured as 'per second', unless it was a frequency in hertz, which has the time factor built in. I get that, likely, professionals would abbreviate to avoid using the full cumbersome unit of measurement, but it reads odd to me to see a speed without the time factor in the unit. It would be like saying 'the car speed forward at 100 miles'.

- "Not even one chip was sacrificial" - Something about the grammar here is tripping me, but for once I don't have a suggestion what it is! Also, I wonder if the word is 'redundant' instead of 'sacrificial'. I know 'sacrificial' can apply in engineering terms, particularly in physical manufacturing, but I think 'redundant' is closer to the pure meaning in this context. Sacrificial implies the system coming under attacks, whereas redundancy is more of passive or default thing, imo.

(page 4)

- "they got your intel" - isn't it their intel? I.e. their intel about the fact that Naj would be there.

- "passed all the checkpoints" - to me, this sounds like he successfully went through them all, but then his comment is that he avoided them all.

- "HUD mapped its trajectory" - yes. I was just about to moan about the chip still being too small the reader to believe it can be handled manually, but I like how you fixed that.

(page 5)

- "Gleaming" - This did make me think of the use of 'shiny' from Firefly, but it's sufficiently different, logical and appropriate that I have no problem with it.

- "now a good ten meters from him" - Now, to me, 'a good ten meters' implies that the distance is a positive, but is it not that case that this is uncomfortably close? I think it should be, in which case I suggest rephrasing (Now only ten metres from him).

- "Radiation... glinted" - I know it sounds more SF, but it's light, and I think 'light' will always be more evocative of the image than 'radiation'.

- "caught the light dramatically" - What colour is the light? I think there's an opportunity with few additional words, to invoke a stronger mental image for the reader, if you want to.

- "almost without outwith his control" - imo. (p.s. In Scotland, this is one word.)

- "should be able to swipe the wireless" - to me, this phrasing is slightly unclear. What does 'swipe' mean here? It sounds to me like 'take over control'.

- "flipped another pose" - 'struck a pose' is the more typical phrasing, of course. 'flipped another pose' makes me think of 'flipping the bird', which makes me think the h/m is doing something with his hands/fingers which in turn is less about posing and more about gesturing, I think.

- "spun out to the media" - 'their media'?

(page 6)

- "Fast movement would decrement the time even faster" - Repetition of fast.

- "trouble N went to" - 'had gone to' sounds clearer and more precise to me, in terms of phrasing.

- Y dived for the chip, be we didn't hear if he got it. Next thing they're chasing around the planetoid. That sounds like going a fair distance around. What happened to the chip?

(page 7)

- Is an eye flick in fact a blink?

- "N sludge" - still think some of the swears are rather lame. I forget what age this is aimed at.

(page 8)

- "pushed off course" - 'pushed is a bit weak', how about kicked or butted or booted: something a bit more violent?

- "shaking from the effects" - so he got infected with the kick? Not completely clear.

- "trying to pin it with two fingers" - I thought he had special 'sticky' gloves for handling the chip. Wasn't that mentioned before?

(page 9)

- "His cloud of drones" -  unclear whose 'his' is until further into the sentence.

- How would spinning in a circle in full G knock him out? Don't get it.

(page 10)

- Why does he only have one chance to place the chip? Is it because of the air, or the damage or the infection, or all three?

- "Something contacted his shoulder" - I guess it's subverting expectation to say 'contacted', but I feel like the line still would land better with 'slammed' or 'hammered into his shoulder'.

(page 11)

- Oh, that flurry of contradictory percentages is MUCH better. Good job.

- "finger gun gesture" - This feels cast adrift from the original line and didn't work here for me.

- "...hit him with?" And for me, this line would be better before the line that precedes I.e. 'What had D hit him with, and who attached a weapon to a finger... anyway?"

- "made him let go" - Rather weak again, compared to "almost broke his grip" or "tore his grip apart" or something.

- "His foot snapped down onto(?) the asteroid’s surface" - word missing,  imo. Also, how does this work? Because of some really high iron composition in the asteroid's materiel, or is there metal plating / construction here? Unclear.

(page 12)

- Why would D's ship be cloaked? Okay, for the element of surprise, I guess? Seems redundant now, as they are the establishment, are they not? How will Y deal with it later? Surely they'll be getting the heck out of Dodge now?

- "defeated D's?" - He seemed normal when back in the station, and yet his system was fried. This seems inconsistent, or certainly an unrealistically quick turned around, imo.

(page 13)

-  "but not past beyond what Y could handle" - IMO.

- "which his HUD was insisting insisted it was" - repetition of 'was'.

- "The station took three hours to traverse" - 'He took three hours to traverse the station', imo. Otherwise, it sounds like the station is doing the traversing, imo.

(page 14)

- "The lack absence of more system failures" - 'lack' sounds like its  something he wants to happen, imo. 

- Hmm, I'm surprised that he's in charge of the mission. It wasn't that way before, I believe, but fair enough.

- "his goggles' HUD fixed"- possessive, I think.

- "HUD on his arm display" - kind of confused by this. I've also taken Heads-Up Display to be something viewed through an optical device whether that is glasses, goggles and windshield to even in-eye optics.  How does that work with an arm?

- His assessment of the potential threat from this supposedly inert material seems naive to me. Surely he would consider the possibility that it was a sleeper system, designed to take over his system at a critical time that suited Mag?

(page 15)

- "pixelated" - I thought it was his goggle feed that got pixelated. I may be miss remembering. Was it A that reported the pixelisation? Maybe is was.

- "REPLAY VIDEO" - confused. He's going into the system with the intention to playing video footage, so how is REPLAY FOOTAGE not already an option on his menu.If it's not, how was he planning to watching the footage?

- How can the 'symbiotic' system be inert if it's fooling his system? That seems to me to be contradictory.

(page 16)

- If they sent him to deal with D, they may not have known about the plan, but they knew where D was at a any given time. Is that the thrust of what he's thinking? I think it could be a bit clearer.

- "A ping alerted him that a new" - missing word.

- "the fight was sufficiently in their favor enough to go public" - flow / phrasing.

(page 17)

- "couldn’t have stolen their drone’s drone feed" - the way it was presented before, there was a cloud of drone, not just a single one. So, grammar here would be more general, I think.

- "Looking To Take Taking On The Massive..." - more immediate and involving, I think.

- "the crew was at their stations" - singular / plural disagreement. 'crew were at their stations', because 'crew' here is short for 'crew members'.

(page 18)

- "His D's voice was as smooth as the skin the holo-man was wearing" - this is D speaking right?

- "before their stocks tank stock tanks" - corporation stock would be referred to as singular, I feel. If you refer to someone's stocks, that's more likely to be their (personal) investment portfolio.

- Ooh, I don't like the last line. I don't think he's startled, surprised or nervous enough: I don't feel like it's a satisfying emotion payoff. It's too cocky, it doesn't make me want to read on as much as it should, because it doesn't speak of conflict.

Overall 

Much better than the first run, many good fixes there. Not sure I've got much to add over what's noted above. I more invested now than I was before. I don't get much character from Y.  What does he want? What are his motivations other than just to do his job? I think the internal logic of his thoughts in the last couple of pages can stand a tidy-up, and tightening up. Otherwise, this is a good, solid leap forward from the last version.

As to the most suitable 1,000 words for submission...

Option 1: from the beginning until “Access hatch on your six!” - I think this is my favoured of the three 'preset' options.

Option 2: From “We’ve got their feed,” to "It was done." - I think this section's a bit confusing on its own, because I'm not sure the reader could pick up easily whose eyes they were looking out of.

Option 3: from "All his systems" until the end of the piece. - I don't think bit has enough context (from what precedes it) to work on its own.

Option 4: Actually, I think this is better: From "We’ve got three clouds..." to 'Y thought D gave a tiny nod.' I think there's good action there and it sits well enough logically that the tails can be exptrapoloated. It's 1,016 words, but I'm sure you could cut 16 words out easily, if you felt that was necessary.

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Thanks to @shatteredsmooth, @kais, and @Robinski!

Sounds like this is coming along. Since the deadline is Sep 10th, I'm going to focus on picking the 1000 word section and applying corrections there first. Sounds like something in the middle around the fight will work best for the submission.

On 8/27/2019 at 7:02 PM, kais said:
On 8/27/2019 at 11:30 AM, shatteredsmooth said:

I was reading this as a serial in a zine or something, I would want to read the next episode. 

I would as well for sure. On its own though I'm not sure the ending hits hard enough.

Yes, this will be the first of four "episodes" (following the VR show format). I'm guessing the final version would have them all together, so no waiting for the next part.

On 8/27/2019 at 7:02 PM, kais said:

- pg 6: so wait, are they really in space or is this VR?? Like a holodeck with the safeties off?

He's actually in space.

On 8/27/2019 at 7:02 PM, kais said:

- pg 2: so I've read the first two pages twice now and... what is he doing? He is touristing but also spying? What is his motivation? I'm still just not clear

 

3 hours ago, Robinski said:

I don't get much character from Y.  What does he want? What are his motivations other than just to do his job?

This will start developing a lot more in the next episode (Y and D go shopping!), so I'm not too concerned about it here, but I'll try to add a few more pieces.

 

Thanks all!

 

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Okay, sorry for the delay on this. The flight home/return to work hit me much harder than I expected.

Overall, I second the comments that this is a much stronger and cleaner draft. It has entirely lost the "gimmicky" feel that I was experiencing in the first draft.

I do think @shatteredsmooth is onto something with the comments about what's at stake for Y. personally, in terms of demotion points, keeping his streak, etc. I'm willing to wait to find out more details, but I think it would still be helpful to have at least some sense of what Y.'s investment in the corp is. Money? Professional pride? Or is this a straight-up dystopia where this is literally life or death?

Actually, now that I think about it, I think it's the sense of how important this is to Y. that really matters to the reader (or at least this reader). The details can wait.

I had no trouble with Tourist Y. and get what he's doing there, but I think @kais is spot-on in saying that the ending doesn't pack the punch it could, because we're still not entirely clear on the plot twist. I get the gist of it--that the one corp has better technology than Y. expected and that the one Y. is attached to himself seems to be holding out on him--but I don't know why or why it matters. And while I don't mind waiting for the details, I do think it robs the ending of some of its impact.

Finally, re: which 1000-word section: I do think the beginning is a stronger contender now (though I'm not convinced that "access port" is the line you'd want to end on) but I'm still leaning towards something early-ish in the fight scene. I'm leaning towards either the section @Robinski has pinned or the Option 2 you identified above. Option 2 is pretty strong, but I think Robinski is correct in saying that the first bit of text from the hijacked feed would be hard to identify for readers with no other context.

As I read:

P1: "Sending an A. spy like him..." I suspect this is one of those shared-world terms that may or may not make sense to readers based on whether or not they've read other shorts in the anthology that may explain it, but without that context, since the term isn't explained in the text of this story it's impossible for it to do any real work.

P1: "He'd used several of N.'s innovations..." If he's passing as a tourist, why does he need tech innovations to move through the inhabited sectors? Or is he already bypassing systems at this point, not just people?

P3: "...N. would retain some of M.'s most loyal customer base..." This seems like a high-risk strategy for what is apparently an opening gambit for N (or close to it) or at least one with a somewhat dubious chance of success. Not sure this needs to be dealt with now, but I'm certainly curious to see what other strategies N. has.

P4: The first one comes up on page 4, but just in general I'm having a hard time with the curses. These may be a shared-world thing and out of your hands, but pretty much all of them throw me for a loop when they appear. Partially it is because many of them are rather lengthy, whereas actual curses tend to be short and percussive.

As I read through the fight scene, custom nanos, etc., I find myself wondering how much of this tech is wearable vs. how much is actual implants. When we talk about compromising systems, are we talking about compromising suits that come off? Or tech that is integrated with the person?

P8: "He was already getting warnings from his HUD..." I know a comment was made about the "he might as well fight back" line, but I think this paragraph actually made more sense with it.

P11: "The jerk up his leg..." This sentence took me a couple of tries to parse.

P16: "Supernova smile" is a great description, btw. Also a strong contender for the title of a love song.

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Thanks @Silk! And thanks for the LBLs as well.

9 hours ago, Silk said:

Finally, re: which 1000-word section: I do think the beginning is a stronger contender now (though I'm not convinced that "access port" is the line you'd want to end on) but I'm still leaning towards something early-ish in the fight scene. I'm leaning towards either the section @Robinski has pinned or the Option 2 you identified above. Option 2 is pretty strong, but I think Robinski is correct in saying that the first bit of text from the hijacked feed would be hard to identify for readers with no other context.

As usual, @Robinski is correct! I'm glad you agree on this. I ended up submitting the one he suggested, which I think nicely avoids some of the stake problems for Y at the beginning and some of the other problems with the ending.

9 hours ago, Silk said:

If he's passing as a tourist, why does he need tech innovations to move through the inhabited sectors? Or is he already bypassing systems at this point, not just people

Ah. Need to clarify this. It's a residential area but also very tightly controlled.

9 hours ago, Silk said:

As I read through the fight scene, custom nanos, etc., I find myself wondering how much of this tech is wearable vs. how much is actual implants. When we talk about compromising systems, are we talking about compromising suits that come off? Or tech that is integrated with the person?

I was thinking more implants, as cyberpunk tends to go more that direction, but I can flesh (ha) this out more.

Thanks again!

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I had an awful lot to say about the first version of this, but since I see that this is a redo, I'll just post the comments on this one and skip the other. 

 

So, this is better, but it still has a lot of the same problems as the first version for me: namely, that I'm being hit with a lot of made-up words and little context for them. There's more context than last time, so at least I have some idea of the setting, but it's still a little much for me. I have setting, but I'm still missing personality and character, and a decent amount of plot is just plain buried under all these fake brands, made-up jingoist slogans and oddly-capitalized compound nouns.  

If he's in vacuum why does he have to subvocalize? 

I'm still getting close to nothing on Y's personality. He's dystopia-average cynical, and he leers at D. I'm not engaged with cynicism, jingoism, and sexual references as a personality, so I'm also not feeling much tension with this last flubbed install. D is literally a cardboard cutout posing for photos. Why do I care what he's doing at all? 

And I'm skimming again, at about the same point as last time (the fight). I simply don't care enough about faceless corporations and generic-feeling characters to be invested in this conflict. 

The new ending, the one that's mostly story and has finally lightened up on the jingo and fake brand names, is interesting me again. I like the mystery of it, and I can almost get more of a sense of personality out of Y. I think I still prefer A as a character, little as we've seen of her, and that should say something.    

If I was picking a section, I'd go with some of the back half, with Y figuring out what's wrong with his interface. It gives flavor of the world, personality, and a reasonable amount of made up words. Second choice would be the fight, I suppose. Everyone likes action and sex. 

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Thanks @industrialistDragon!

Great points on the personality. I'm going to have to find some other places to punch this up in the first section. It's going to be developed a lot more in the next few parts, but it sounds like it's just not working here.

2 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

I simply don't care enough about faceless corporations and generic-feeling characters to be invested in this conflict. 

Some of this may be the cyberpunk genre, but yeah, I'll work on the personality. From what I've read of this universe, a lot of it focuses on how bad and dystopian the corporations are.

2 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

The new ending, the one that's mostly story and has finally lightened up on the jingo and fake brand names, is interesting me again. I like the mystery of it, and I can almost get more of a sense of personality out of Y.

That's good, as this will lead into the next section. There's hope!

Speaking of hope, the submission period ends on the 10th, so after that I'll be waiting to hear if anything actually comes of this...

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31 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

From what I've read of this universe, a lot of it focuses on how bad and dystopian the corporations are.

I've definitely read my share of cyberpunk, and while it's not my favorite genre undiluted, I can usually get into it.  Usually it's the 80s fear-of-japan and orientalism that gets me, though. Is this a tie-in thing? I missed that part. 

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1 hour ago, industrialistDragon said:

Is this a tie-in thing? I missed that part. 

It's for a shared-universe anthology. The key part of it is how the syndicate corporations fight each other.

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6 hours ago, Mandamon said:

The key part of it is how the syndicate corporations fight each other.

I feel like there has to be a better way to illustrate that than just flinging all the corporate slogans at each other. I know I've seen "protagonist is a company man fighting other company men" that I've enjoyed. I think even my beloved Telzey battled some scifi company men back in the '60s... I think the key is going to be humanizing the protagonist a lot more. What are corporations but their people, when you get right down to it? 

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I think I mentioned this before but I got a Borderlands vibe from this when I first read it and now with Borderlands 3 out and revolving around warring entertainment/militant corporations and insane streamers doing anything to get viewers, I thought I'd mention it again lol

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12 hours ago, hawkedup said:

I think I mentioned this before but I got a Borderlands vibe from this when I first read it and now with Borderlands 3 out and revolving around warring entertainment/militant corporations and insane streamers doing anything to get viewers, I thought I'd mention it again lol

Ha! cool. I've been seeing ads for it, but now I'll have to go look at it.

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