kais

09/30/19 - kais - Queen, Chapter 4 (again), (3875 words) (L)

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Now we enter into chapters that haven't been looked at, so everything is up for movement/change/deletion whatever. Mostly I’m looking for investment in the story and whether or not you care about the characters.

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I didn't have a whole lot on this chapter. I thought it was pretty good the first time around, and better this time. Definitely more invested this time, and I'm getting to like E a little bit more. Some of the emotional exchanges with the other women here give some good support to her grief, rather than her just shouting in the desert. I didn't note anything troubling with plot/worldbuilding. I think the setup in the first two chapters supports the explanations for Queen's low resources and the whole anatomy discussion.

 

Notes while reading

pg 2: "It got turned on. At least one of us has to function."
--lol

pg 3: "M downloaded and removed the personality-free version. I’m the backup."
--okay. Why?

pg 4: "Rude, said TOPA, switching itself back on."
--I mean, I like the AI, but why does it have the function to turn itself back on?

pg 5: "with a cherry mashed into one of your delicate little circuit boards"
--I love their banter.

pg 5: "Queen only turns on satellites where it wants things seen."
--still don't understand this. Also, how does the AI know?

pg 6: "some kind of 1970s Earth pulp fiction paradise?"
--glad this still got worked in!

pg 6: “It’s not yours.” 
--That's petty, after just asking if E wanted it back.

pg 9: "E lunged again, stupidly, but before her first foot could hit the ground"
-- I thought E was lying down? She's been up an down so much in this conversation I'm not sure where she is.

pg 13: the gender explanation here works well. I think this combines most everything that used to be in the first couple chapters.

pg 13: "Which meant A knew too much about her."
--which I guess means T told A about it.

pg 14: "Hydrologists could turn anything into a joke on a dry planet."
--I get they have nothing to do, but how do they turn it into a joke?

pg 15: Great last line.

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Comments:

(page 1)

- "put their dreams into their telescopes" - This metaphor didn't gel for me. It sounds... off. This sort of thing works, I think, if it resonates at a practical level, but you don't put things into telescopes. So, for example, I'd say something like 'looked for hope in the telescopes', hence introducing the actual function of the telescope.

- "Not cockroaches" - :lol: 

- "leech-filled memory" - 'filled' kind of lame; 'infested'?

(page 2)

- "with their red leaves" - for flow.

- Confused about the leaves. Where are they the size of her head? Never seen that.

- I don't quite follow how one option gets her to T and the other away from in-laws.

- "Four split seams greater than two millimeters in length" - To me, this says the seams are 2mm long, regardless of the split, it's not saying the splits are 2mm long. 'Four seam splits greater than 2mm' would be more accurate, IMO, and there could be multiple 2mm splits on one seam.

- "started sending external visuals again" - Hang on, this is super weird. The implication here is that the suit does not have a clear screen, a window that she can see through, but that she relies entirely on the suit operating, and that the visor is not clear, but is a screen. That's severely illogical, and actually it feels inconsistent from earlier references and descriptions.

(page 4)

- "half-smile" should be hyphenated.

- "What, exactly, am I stealing from, if this isn’t Q" - I don't quite follow this line. I feel like maybe it was aiming for 'This wouldn't be Q if I wasn't stealing', but sure that's it.

(page 7)

- "dehydrated jerky or human-flavored popsicle" - I feel like this would pop better if it was slicker.

- "Her vision unfocused for a moment" - I'd say this was an adjective rather than a verb. I think defocused would be more suitable.

- "as red as the sun" - Issue: can't remember if I've flagged it before now, but if the sun is read, surely all the light is red, and things like a blue headband would not actually look blue.

(page 8)

- "like a punch balloon" - What is a punch balloon? Is it like a punch bag?

(page 10)

- "could come up with was were visions of her wife’s bloated corpse" - IMO.

(page 11)

- "tired women" - How is it they're tired? More so than anyone else?

- "hair on the top of her hands" - Weird. Backs of her hands, right?

- "Under a red sun" - Yeah. See, green looks kind of brown under red lighting, so how it is grass and maples look green (from what I gather)?

(page 12)

- "fifty percent less fish-eaten" - This tripped me up. If T is 50% fish-eaten, then E being 50% less fish-eaten, to me, would make her 25% fish-eaten. I know what you mean, but this is not how I would phrase it. Assuming of course you mean that E does not look at all fish-eaten. I just think there are too many confusing interpretations of this statement available.

- "leaving only the camisole tank" - missing word.

- "meant you had a vulva" - So, Dr. S does? But uses male pronouns? I'm sorry, I do struggle with that, not to accept it, but to be able to work it out from the information as it's presented. "So yes, they were mostly women", BUT then on previous page... "Q was an all-women planet". Now these statements are directly, grammatically, contradictory. This is the stuff that confuses me around this topic.

(page 13)

- "were way, way too soft" - word repetition for stress still needs a comma between them, or it ends up with the wrong stress, like way-way.

(page 14)

- "it’s about self-survival" - This is just survival, but I think I made this comment last time, so, if you're going to keep it, I would at least hyphenate the term.

- "A school" - I'm surprised and a little disappointed that this does take her down a thought process of wondering about the M breeding.

(page 15)

- "All red-leafed" - IMO.

- "her spaceship" - Why / how is it T's ship, when she was only there a 'few days'? Did T personally acquire it?

Overall 

I think this is better, I still have question, but I still buy in fine to E's character. I feel like A's character is a bit watered down? I feel like there was more antagonism before. A feels a bit lost in this version, to me. She doesn't feel in charge, she doesn't feel that commending, which is how I remember her, even domineering? Maybe that was my takeaway without it being on the actual page, although I don't think so.

It's good stuff. I can tell it's smoother in the reader.

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Phew, I'm back on this site but it's grad school app season (blegh) so I'll mostly be lurking around and trying to give as helpful feedback as I can for someone who doesn't have time to read all the chapters to get the full context (I've only read this chapter). On that note...

All right, so the main response point is investment in the story and whether or not I care about the characters? I'll say my main point of investment right now is wanting to learn more about how E fits into this world as an intersex woman. I remember when I was reading about the vulva requirement to be on the planet and really felt like I needed to see conflict with E fitting outside the society's defined norm. When I saw that she was intersex, I realized it was exactly what I was looking for. The conflict right now with her place in society as someone who's intersex feels a bit subtle, but I think anything else would feel inauthentic when E's life is on the line for this chapter. I'd recommend seeing if there are ways that same subtle conflict could be woven into earlier parts of the chapter (my favorite part is E bringing up on her own how she doesn't have fundamentally different equipment than the others. It shows how much she's been forced to think about that part of her identity), but mostly I'm ready to read on about the subject (actually reading on with my schedule, we'll have to see...)

One part I wasn't quite as invested in was E's relationship with her wife('s death). It's certainly possible that the work to build up that conflict was done earlier and that readers who read the first three chapters would be properly invested in this aspect of the chapter, but I thought I'd comment anyway just in case. Me not being invested in E's relationship with her wife stems from two main points. First, we don't get a lot of specific details about what T meant to E (this is the part that I'm guessing may have been fleshed out in previous chapters), so it's hard for me to get a good feeling for T. This manifests in places such as where E is talking about how she couldn't spend T's last weeks with her. What did E want to do with those weeks? What would they have meant to her? Knowing those specifics would help me understand her emotions better. Second, I'm not clear on what E really wants with regards to T's death. I can see that she's angry (and that does feel genuine!), but it felt like the story's momentum slowed a bit because without knowing E's desires/goals, it's hard for me to track motion towards or away from those goals. 

Phew! Now, onto other things I noticed.

I'm conflicted about the first page and a half. I really like the descriptions and they do a great job of setting the scene (I usually find sci-fi hard to picture but didn't have this problem here), but they don't seem to provide forward motion to the story. To me it seems like the chapter really starts when the suit first speaks to her, so maybe that could come sooner?

The back and forth between E and her suit seems to serve a crucial role in this chapter (and I'm guessing the story as a whole). The humor/banter was something I could really latch onto while I was working through a lot of the more technical details. These exchanges are times when I can catch my breath, and I'd like to see more of these dry/witty remarks during other parts of the chapter besides just the beginning to give me some space so I can process what's going on while still being entertained (maybe not during the emotional bits, and it doesn't necessarily have to come from the suit).

Hopefully that was still helpful! 

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Page 5

fifty-two R quinthropod ‘beetles.’”

The “R” part kind of sounds like a brand name, and the quotation marks around beetles makes it sound like they’re some kind of artificial vehicle that’s been given a nickname. (Who knew Volkswagon would still be around after Earth’s ecology has collapsed and humans have colonized the galaxy?) But the previous chapters made the beetles sound like biological life-forms that are, in fact, beetles. So this line was a little confusing.

 

Pages 6 and 7

“her light brown hair…Her skin was light brown”

Having the same descriptor used twice in the same paragraph feels a bit repetitive.

 

Page 10

“She offered E a plastic cup of water with defiant eyes and a shaking hand.”

This makes it sound like she’s afraid of E, but I’m not sure why she would be, given that E’s outnumbered and can barely stand up.

 

 

 

 

The descriptions of the lush landscape are great, and E’s stunned incredulity feels very believable. I also liked her anger that the M got to be with T in her last days instead of E. That was a great character moment for her.

 

One thing that did ring a little false was the apparent reverence the M have for T, with one of them saying they wanted to “honor” her. Surviving in the wilderness long enough for the M to find her, with terminal cancer no less, certainly qualifies her as a badass, but the M seem to be hinting at a more personal connection. I’m starting to wonder if T had some contact with the M before her final illness, but if so, I’m not yet seeing a good reason for her to hide that from E. (And given the advanced technology the M must have to do bioengineering on this scale, I’m wondering why they couldn’t have used something like CAR-T therapy to cure T if they respected her so much.)

 

I’m also not sure how I feel about the suit AI being replaced with the personality version. I like its banter with E, but I don’t really see any reason why the pirates would bother switching out the versions. If anything, giving E access to a more advanced AI seems like a bad idea if they expect her to possibly be hostile.

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On 10/2/2019 at 10:35 AM, Mandamon said:

I think the setup in the first two chapters supports the explanations for Queen's low resources and the whole anatomy discussion.

Well excellent!

On 10/2/2019 at 10:35 AM, Mandamon said:

M downloaded and removed the personality-free version. I’m the backup."

Hoping this makes sense later. PLOT!

On 10/2/2019 at 10:35 AM, Mandamon said:

I mean, I like the AI, but why does it have the function to turn itself back on?

The entire purpose of this little bit with the AI is to showcase what an AI is capable of, for future AI issues. Maybe it's too oblique?

On 10/2/2019 at 10:35 AM, Mandamon said:

Also, how does the AI know?

Oh this is a very good point

On 10/2/2019 at 10:35 AM, Mandamon said:

I thought E was lying down? She's been up an down so much in this conversation I'm not sure where she is.

Will fix blocking issues

On 10/2/2019 at 10:35 AM, Mandamon said:

the gender explanation here works well. I think this combines most everything that used to be in the first couple chapters.

Excellent!

On 10/2/2019 at 10:35 AM, Mandamon said:

I get they have nothing to do, but how do they turn it into a joke?

Ah yes, will make the joke more apparent

Thank you again for the excellent crit! 

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On 10/3/2019 at 10:39 AM, Robinski said:

I'd say something like 'looked for hope in the telescopes', hence introducing the actual function of the telescope.

Very good point

On 10/3/2019 at 10:39 AM, Robinski said:

Confused about the leaves. Where are they the size of her head? Never seen that.

I'm not sure where in the story this type of worldbuilding goes. The book didn't hit science as hard as some of my others. I'll have to think on where this explanation would go, of if I should handwavium it off

On 10/3/2019 at 10:39 AM, Robinski said:

I don't quite follow how one option gets her to T and the other away from in-laws.

Have clarified

On 10/3/2019 at 10:39 AM, Robinski said:

and things like a blue headband would not actually look blue.

This is a really good point. I called it out in a few places but will do so again here.

On 10/3/2019 at 10:39 AM, Robinski said:

meant you had a vulva" - So, Dr. S does? But uses male pronouns? I'm sorry, I do struggle with that, not to accept it, but to be able to work it out from the information as it's presented. "So yes, they were mostly women", BUT then on previous page... "Q was an all-women planet". Now these statements are directly, grammatically, contradictory. This is the stuff that confuses me around this topic.

That's totally fair, and one of the reasons I wanted to run it through this group. The idea is that some jerk on earth decided what constituted a woman, and made rules, and then those rules stuck. This call out here informs the reader that yes, everyone on Q has a vulva, so even if you're a man, like Dr. S., you still have one. He's still a man, just trans instead of cis. 

On 10/3/2019 at 10:39 AM, Robinski said:

I'm surprised and a little disappointed that this does take her down a thought process of wondering about the M breeding.

Oh this is a good point! Will add!

On 10/3/2019 at 10:39 AM, Robinski said:

I feel like A's character is a bit watered down? I feel like there was more antagonism before. A feels a bit lost in this version, to me. She doesn't feel in charge, she doesn't feel that commending, which is how I remember her, even domineering?

She was much more aggressive before, but it made the eventual end goals harder. I think I may need to amp her character back up in the next edit. I do want her to be... more headstrong, really the most caustic and forward of the bunch. She is staging a rebellion after all. Thanks for noting that, and for the excellent notes!

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On 10/5/2019 at 10:56 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

can for someone who doesn't have time to read all the chapters to get the full context

No worries! Sometimes out of context feedback is just what I need to see the holes in the story

On 10/5/2019 at 10:56 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

The conflict right now with her place in society as someone who's intersex feels a bit subtle, but I think anything else would feel inauthentic when E's life is on the line for this chapter. I'd recommend seeing if there are ways that same subtle conflict could be woven into earlier parts of the chapter (my favorite part is E bringing up on her own how she doesn't have fundamentally different equipment than the others. It shows how much she's been forced to think about that part of her identity), but mostly I'm ready to read on about the subject (actually reading on with my schedule, we'll have to see...)

Yeah, I'm still debating how subtle a discussion I want this to be. My original plan was to increasingly bring it to the forefront in book two and have it be a real issue in book three, but not so much one here. There's just too much else on E's plate right now to fuss about it, and my last book was a big 'Issue' book, so I'm hesitant to go down that road again. However, if the story needs it, it needs it.

On 10/5/2019 at 10:56 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

What did E want to do with those weeks? What would they have meant to her? Knowing those specifics would help me understand her emotions better. Second, I'm not clear on what E really wants with regards to T's death. I can see that she's angry (and that does feel genuine!), but it felt like the story's momentum slowed a bit because without knowing E's desires/goals, it's hard for me to track motion towards or away from those goals. 

I'm hoping this is all well covered in the earlier chapters, especially chapter one, where we get to know why E is out in the dunes looking for her wife. I'll have to go back and check though

On 10/5/2019 at 10:56 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

To me it seems like the chapter really starts when the suit first speaks to her, so maybe that could come sooner?

I'll take a look at this for sure.

On 10/5/2019 at 10:56 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

The back and forth between E and her suit seems to serve a crucial role in this chapter (and I'm guessing the story as a whole). The humor/banter was something I could really latch onto while I was working through a lot of the more technical details.

It is crucial, and I'm glad it worked! There's more later on in other chapters, but not a ton here. Humor is something I have a hard time with in writing, so I'm working on it, bit by bit. I'm really glad the AI landed so well.

Thank you for diving in! I know it was probably a bit confusing but I do appreciate the feedback.

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17 hours ago, The Kraken's Daughter said:

So this line was a little confusing.

I'll see if I can clean this up

17 hours ago, The Kraken's Daughter said:

feels a bit repetitive.

Agreed. I'll change one up

17 hours ago, The Kraken's Daughter said:

This makes it sound like she’s afraid of E, but I’m not sure why she would be, given that E’s outnumbered and can barely stand up.

yup. I'll need to edit this too

 

17 hours ago, The Kraken's Daughter said:

but the M seem to be hinting at a more personal connection. I’m starting to wonder if T had some contact with the M before her final illness, but if so, I’m not yet seeing a good reason for her to hide that from E. (And given the advanced technology the M must have to do bioengineering on this scale, I’m wondering why they couldn’t have used something like CAR-T therapy to cure T if they respected her so much.)

Ah good! I was hoping the 'something is up with T' would start to come across in these early chapters! This is excellent!

17 hours ago, The Kraken's Daughter said:

I like its banter with E, but I don’t really see any reason why the pirates would bother switching out the versions. If anything, giving E access to a more advanced AI seems like a bad idea if they expect her to possibly be hostile.

Also excellent! This should ring weird. You get the explanation in a few chapters but I'm glad it caught your attention. Thank you, as always, for the feedback!

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1 hour ago, kais said:

That's totally fair, and one of the reasons I wanted to run it through this group. The idea is that some jerk on earth decided what constituted a woman, and made rules, and then those rules stuck. This call out here informs the reader that yes, everyone on Q has a vulva, so even if you're a man, like Dr. S., you still have one. He's still a man, just trans instead of cis.

On one level, I understand this (from reading), and on another level I can't quite convince myself that I understand it. Short answer, it's me, fumbling around with questions I feel I shouldn't have to ask by now.

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1 hour ago, kais said:

She is staging a rebellion after all.

And this is a point I've made in my alpha-read notes: rebellion against whom? Because it seems she is rebelling against the rest of the 'm' as much as against the pres, by seeking to leave them on Q while she...

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5 hours ago, Robinski said:

And this is a point I've made in my alpha-read notes: rebellion against whom? Because it seems she is rebelling against the rest of the 'm' as much as against the pres, by seeking to leave them on Q while she...

I think A is due for a solid motivation overhaul next round of edits. She’s a bit two dimensional at the moment and needs more background with the mel 

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5 hours ago, Robinski said:

Short answer, it's me, fumbling around with questions I feel I shouldn't have to ask by now.

I’m always happy to answer them though so no worries!

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On 10/13/2019 at 0:55 PM, kais said:

Yeah, I'm still debating how subtle a discussion I want this to be. My original plan was to increasingly bring it to the forefront in book two and have it be a real issue in book three, but not so much one here. There's just too much else on E's plate right now to fuss about it, and my last book was a big 'Issue' book, so I'm hesitant to go down that road again. However, if the story needs it, it needs it.

My impression as a reader is that if the the vulva requirment is a continued point of discussion/plot relevance, E being intersex might need to play a large role to create conflict between her and the world at large. But if not, and if the cultural setting focuses more on the group E encounters here, E already has a perfectly good setting conflict in being an outsider to this group and the discussion about her sex might not need to play as large a role. 

I would still be excited to read E's story if she's intersex and allowed to be that way without it being a major "point."

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