Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New Beginning 371

She had expected disbelief. She had thought she would deny everything and find every reason to doubt her senses. But everything told Imogen the truth of it all. The sun was smaller and more yellow, the moon was tiny and had a completely different face.

Around her the noises of animals was nothing like anything she'd heard on a hundred field trips. And the plants: one had leaves divided on horizontal and vertical axes with the horizontal leaves green and the vertical purple. A clever way to maximize photosynthesis on a world with a weaker sun.

And the plant had to grow quickly. It was browsed by large quadruped herbivores. Their dung hatched small creatures like an eight legged beetle. The chitinous armor glistened in the sun with hues of red unlike any insect or arachnid on Earth.

Purple stems sent up transparent flowers which sweat something that small flying creatures feasted upon.

In the distance were huge flying creatures which seemed to defy any Earth-formed categorization.

“Welcome to my home planet,” said Steve.

Okay, now that was strange. The moon was one thing; the eight-legged beetle was another; but this guy (and he was just a regular guy, and rather hunky now that she got a look at him) was speaking English. On this "alien" planet. And he identified himself as Steve. Not Klrg'wphth, or El-dur-Blathonal, or even Gort, but Steve, for cryin' out loud.

Imogen chuckled. Those clowns running the trans-warp chamber. It was to be her first solo off-world space-shift, and this was the best they could come up with for her hazing? A weed patch on the outskirts of Barstow or someplace? A few plastic plants, an animatronic bug or two - how cornball could you get? The sun and moon weren't bad, though, she had to give them that. She'd have to worm that secret out of them when it was over.

"Come, I'll transport you to our capital city." Steve gestured to a three-wheeled contraption nearby. As he turned, his metallic tee-shirt stretched tight across his rippling abs. Hmm . . . this escapade might hold some interest after all.

Not surprisingly, the capital city consisted largely of commonplace commercial districts and strip malls. But as they traveled the streets, Imogen felt a growing unease; something wasn't quite right. Then it struck her: block after city block, building after building - there wasn't a Starbuck's in sight! Incredible! She really wasn't on Earth!

Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: Paul Penna


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

He waved. “Come on in.”

Steve’s prototype shelter was small, but matched the practical cleverness of the plants. The exterior was yellow, mottled with amber markings that resembled the native soil. The roof, however, was a tall cavernous pyramid, which maximized ventilation, and its deep red color absorbed sunlight that was then converted into electricity by the spiral-shaped solar cells embedded in its surface.

Imogen was no less impressed by the interior. Although it startled her to find that Steve had employed a juvenile quadruped herbivore as an end table. Steve smiled and spread his arms wide. “So? What would you like to do today?”

Before Imogen could respond, there was a flash and a high-pitched bow-bowwwwrrrrrr sound that caused her to flinch. When she regained her composure, she saw a kind of hologram hovering in front of her. It consisted of four small ovals with a larger blob shape underneath.

“Oh!” said Steve, eyes wide. “Great idea.” He pointed to the hologram with both index fingers. “We can play Blue’s Clues to figure it out.”


"Like, whatever," Imogen said. She pulled up her halter top to show a little less cleavage and sighed as her dainty, pointed shoes picked through the unfamiliar mulch on the ground. It was her so-called friend who sent in the application to Beauty and the Geek, and this was only the season premiere. Bitch.


Imogen laughed along with the rest of the class. Coming to the natural science museum was only fun with Steve and his special "candy."


"Far out," Imogen replied.

Her fingernails gleamed, hues of fuschia unlike any flower she'd ever seen on one of those boring nature walks with Sister Cornice. Steve's voice became a creature that licked the sweat from her upper lip. Minute flying creatures circled around her head, their wings puce on the top and lavender underneath.

"Isn't this like the grooviest acid you've ever tripped on?" Steve said.

The plant grew again, to be browsed anew by cetapods wielding axes that flashed rainbows into the sky. "Gimme an 'F'" the shaggy one shouted. "Gimme a 'U'."

"Welcome to Woodstock," said Steve.


Imogen scratched her forehead. "This isn't what I signed up for."

Steve's hand landed on his hip. He sucked in his cheeks then whipped out a brochure from his too-tight jean back pocket.

"Look," he said slapping the fine print."

Imogen squinted at the wording. "Global warming? So shouldn't there be more sun?"

He sighed with exasperation. "Look, little-MidWest-tourist-woman, global warming screws everything up...we aren't responsible for the weather."

Imogen wouldn't let Steve intimidate her--even though his eyebrows had a perfect arch.

She pointed to the air. "What about those huge flying creatures, huh?"

"Hello?" He pointed to the brochure again. "Octoberfest in Key West--our trannies fly."


pacatrue said...

I liked the beginning overall, but was thrown by this line: "It was browsed by large quadruped herbivores. Their dung hatched small creatures like an eight legged beetle. " Until that point, she is in a foreign world and is quickly figuring things out. She clearly has a lot of knowedge of botany to so quickly notice the veins on the leaf and a likely reason for it. However, I just can't think of any way she could figure out what's in the quoted line. If it was currently being browsed by large herbivores, ok, but wouldn't even a botanist describe the herbivores perhaps first, since they have the potential to attack? And then the rest would seem to need time and investigation to know, about the hatching locations of the beetles.

In short, I liked it. There's clear world-building going on; our heroine is educated and intelligent; but I think in the quoted bit, you slip out of the right POV for a bit.

Robin S. said...

Hi author (and, continuator)I like this - both the beginning and the continuation.

Jason- I was surprised to see the name Steve- it kind of threw me. Maybe it's supposed to?

The first two paragraphs of the opening read very smoothly and I like them. I was slowed down a little by the third paragraph and I didn't quite know why - maybe paca's reason. I'm not sure. But I like this a lot: "The chitinous armor glistened in the sun with hues of red unlike any insect or arachnid on Earth."

What background does she have that she knows so much about the plant and insect life of this place? I'm guessing there's a good one that we simply don't know yet, as it's, as they say, only the beginning.

I'd read on.

AmyB said...

I like the content of this opening, but I found it a little hard to follow.

First, "She had expected disbelief." That makes me think she's talking with someone else, and she's just told the other person something, and expects the other person not to believe her. Then we got to "She had thought she would deny everything" and I thought, okay, two female characters are having a conversation. But then it turns out to be just the one person. Maybe it be more clear if you started with, "She expected not to believe."

I agree with Pacatrue that the third paragraph feels like a POV leak. How would she know those things?

I like the details of the new planet, but I think you might have too many of them. I only need a couple of examples to get the idea.

The "Welcome to my home planet" line is a nice hook. I'd read on.

GutterBall said...

Ha! No Starbucks. This truly is an alien and frightening new world.

Author, ditto the Pac-man. I was buzzing right along, enjoying the almost clinical detachment of her observations, and then WHAM. POV leak. If those things are currently happening before her, that's one thing. Or even if she'd just been standing there, staring around and trying to get her mind right, and watched them develop, I'm all for it.

But that's more of a time-lapse detail than a "I am a scientist and I will not freak out" detail.

Otherwise, I'm in. I love a good other planet story!

WouldBe said...

I liked it, but the opening lines threw me and added little. I think it would be better to begin with the last line of paragraph 1, merging it with paragraph 2. I'm a little POV-challenged, so the POV-shift didn't bother me until a re-read after seeing the previous comments. I'm sure it can be patched up. For (artless) example: And the plant had to grow quickly, evidenced by the constant munching by quadruped herbivores and small, eight-legged beetles with....'

The continuation was awesome.

blogless_troll said...

Coupla weeks ago, a significant number of people here were begging EE to comment on the openings. Ooohh, EE, tell us what you think, they said. Create some thumbs up/thumbs down clipart, they said. Then, shortly after he started, a couple of malcontents complained and he stopped. It seems like it takes a groundswell to get a good thing going and only one or two detractors to derail it. If that is why he stopped, I understand. Customer's always right sort of thing. Happens all the time. It's usually only one or two bozos who ruin it for the rest. So, using that logic, I'd like to register my complaint, and suggest that EE stop not commenting on the openings. Hopefully, this way it won't take a grassroots movement, only another complainer or two. Anyone?

Robin S. said...

You know, blogless,I've been wondering the same thing for the last few openings.

I really miss EE's comments. I liked having them.

And I don't feel inhibited about having my own opinion, if it differs.

OK, EE? Are you gonna comment again? Please?

Evil Editor said...

Okay, okay. Commenters are an important part of the blog, and commenting is the only way some peple participate, so I hope no one decides not to comment simply because I've said what they would have said. As I point out in the FAQ, one person's opinion is no better than your own, but a consensus may indicate that there's a problem.

(I was originally talked into commenting by someone who was supposed to send lots of openings, but so far has sent only one.)

jjdebenedictis said...

I liked this beginning too--it drew me in rather nicely.

My main complaint is that it carries on too long with the descriptions of the world. The story is in how the protagonist suddenly came to be on an alien world, so I'd recommend saving some of the details about that world for later. Instead, concentrate on getting us embedded in the plot.

I loved the detail about the plant's leaves, by the way--please keep that. The science geek in me had to pause and think about why that would aid photosynthesis, and then I was quite delighted with your cleverness when I did sort it out.

Like the others, I'd suggest chopping the bits about the bugs. If paragraphs 3 and 4 were removed (or saved for later), I think the opening would be more engaging because it would move more quickly.

There are some really interesting bits here. I'd keep reading! Good luck with this novel.

McKoala said...

Hm, did not realise that the Evil Genius had stopped commenting altogether. Yes, an end to that Evil One! Jump right in.

Another vote to fix that third para here; no description of the herbivores and how did she know about the beetles?

One suggestion: that you take a moment to locate her. Kneeling/standing/by a branch (the leaves)/hiding/in the middle of a paddock. To me, it felt a little as if she were floating about.

Parallel universes? Church Lady had something about those on her blog a couple of days ago.

Dave F. said...

I did miss EE's comments but I didn't say anything.
EE has a different style of comments than most people. I like it.

Phoenix said...

First off, I'm in the minority here, so take what I say with the proverbial grain.

I wasn't drawn in at all. The first three sentences don't ground me in what she's feeling. Plunked down on a strange new world -- even if you're expecting it -- has to cause some reaction. Even if it's just retreating into logic.

And I thought there were too many generalized word choices:

deny everything
But everything
was tiny
were nothing like
large quadruped herbivores
small creatures like
hues of red unlike
sweat something
small flying creatures
huge flying creatures
defy any

None of the list above gives me a concrete example of what the world is like.

The detail of the sun and the plant are good. After that ...

Is the moon half the size of our moon? A quarter the size? A tenth? Large enough to see features, so what's tiny?

What kinds of noises are the animals making? Singing? Croaking? Snuffling? Braying? Wailing? Screeching? We humans usually try to make associations when faced with the unfamiliar.

Large quadruped herbivores the size of apatosaurs? the shape of giraffes? gathered in herds like buffalo? fenced and tamed like horses?

It's a yellow sun, so colors would appear close to those on earth, and there are lots of red insects here, so what kind of red is she seeing that's so very different?

Small flying creatures like winged worms? gnats? bats? tiny pteradactyls?

huge flying creatures like flying pigs? gryphons? chimeras? with feathered wings? leathery wings? no wings?

I'm sorry. I just don't get a clear picture of much except the plant and the sun on this world. If you're going to give us this much info right up front (and I'm not advocating you need to), I'd much rather see it detailed and concrete. Real world building.

Of course, Paul's continuation made the world sound simply too fantastical to be believable at all.

Another vote for EE comments, please.

Lightsmith said...

I liked the underlying story, but not the storytelling. I found it very stiff and off-putting.

Overall the writing is clunky. For example, "Around her the noises of animals was nothing like anything she'd heard on a hundred field trips" is very awkward.

Too much time is spent describing the planet in microscopic detail and not enough time is spent getting us invested in the main character.

But, as I said, I do like the basic story idea behind it all.

Anonymous said...

I found the opening interesting and I'd read on.
I would have liked a bit of a hint of how old the 'she' is. The comment about field trips made me think she was young, maybe a young teen, but someone that young wouldn't have the vocabulary or botanical knowledge that follows. But if info about the she comes soon after this passage, that's okay too.

LOVED the continuation!

BuffySquirrel said...

mea culpa

more on the way!

writtenwyrdd said...

My sense on reading this was that it didn't set a scene and was a bit too generic. Most importantly, no hook.

If the hook is going to hang back from the immediate opening, the scene has to catch the readers' attention.

If I picked this up off a shelf, I wouldn't have read past the first paragraph, to be honest.

Bernita said...

I like the idea. It's good.
But I'm with Phoenix and Lightsmith.

BuffySquirrel said...

That first line could easily be fixed to "She had expected to feel disbelief". Even at that, though, I think it's not as strong as I might expect someone's reaction to be on finding they've been translated elsewhere, unexpectedly. I'd expect more denial, tbh.

Anonymous said...

First of all - I want EE's comments on everything! Remember that, EE, when you post the Noelle opening, as I am the author.

I liked the feel of this different world, but agree with those who said it is too descriptive. I need more of a hook to grab me. The POV shift also threw me off a bit.

To nit-pick, I have to state that the sentence previously mentioned by lightsmith, "Around her the noises of animals was nothing like anything she'd heard on a hundred field trips," really bothered me. Awkward mainly b/c of the verb agreement. Or, disagreement (change was to were).

I think the comments on the opening sentence are very good and I would make a small change there too. Overall, I liked this and would keep reading to see what's going on here.

Kanani said...

So the issue here is to try to find a less less melodramatic voice for a more natural one.

"She had expected disbelief" makes one pause: well, if she expected disbelief, then why is she so dramatic about it?

You have a lot of little details, but I'm not being pulled into the story or the setting. I feel plopped into it without any sense of who Imogen is or why she's there.

Go back. Start with Imogen, don't describe what she "had" expected, delve into where she is now, what she's feeling, thinking, and seeing now, and also how she's judging it all. Remember, your characters do have opinions.

Robin S. said...

I don't think this is melodramatic at all.

I think this is simply a style choice that needs an edit.
Two different issues altogether, for my money.