Monday, December 27, 2010

New Beginning 817

The photograph on the screen was simply astounding in scope and beyond any physical anthrpologist's wildest hope or dream. Julie Bachman spilled her coffee over the table she was working at. Her hands were shaking. She shut down the laptop and took off out of the library and into the night at a run. She didn't believe it but there it was, on her computer in glorious color. Blue, green, brown and gold. She couldn't be sure however until an expert checked it.

In another building on campus Dr. Ted Harbinger, head of the Anthro Department for the past twenty odd years, clicked on an assortment of photos a student sent in from some field work that had been underway for several months. One photo snapped him to attention. He sat upright and stared into the possibilities. As soon as he thought his way through the implications he googled real estate companies in a country, that until this moment, he had not the remotest interest in. It was a small country with a short list of realty firms. He dialled and quickly engaged in an animated conversation about

a) The color of underwear the young lady on the other end was wearing. Being somewhat absent-minded, Ted would tend to automatically dial the 900 number that gave him comfort in the evenings.

b) The extensive estate in Nigeria that, due to the death of its owner, is held up in copious red tape that can be freed only by passing funds through a US bank account, use of which will attract a healthy commission.

c) How it is, indeed, a long distance from Philadelphia.

d) No idea. Not a clue. Don't leave me hanging there, just a few more words, put me out of my misery for God's sake! Okay, okay, I'll read on already!

Opening: Bibi.....Continuation: anon.


alaskaravenclaw said...

I can't stand when a writer withholds information deliberately. And this writer promises to do it all through the book.

Evil Editor said...

We seem to be getting a lot of openings lately in which the author, instead of hooking us with a fascinating topic, tries to hook us by not telling us what the topic is.

Whatever it is, it's astounding in scope, beyond any anthropologist's wildest dreams, blue/green/brown/gold, and capable of causing Julie Bachman to spill coffee and Ted Harbinger to buy real estate in Uruguay. Eventually I start to think you're not revealing what it is because you've hyped it so much it's sure to be a letdown.

Not that this is a big deal. Opening with a little mystery that will be solved in a few paragraphs isn't necessarily bad. I just feel like I'm more likely to be hooked knowing the Holy Grail has been found than knowing someone looked at a screen and spilled coffee. People do that just reading Evil Editor.

I think if you want to hook us with a mystery, the first paragraph could just be:

Julie Bachman spilled her coffee over the table she was working at. Her hands were shaking. She shut down the laptop and took off out of the library and into the night at a run.

Wed get the idea without all the astounding, beyond, unbelievable.

"anthropologist's" and "dialed" are misspelled.

It wouldn't take any more space to name the country Harbinger dials. In fact it would save space, as you wouldn't have to tell us it's small.

Anonymous said...

That's a fun start. More clue what the fuss is over might be good, especially if it's a million year old skull with gold teeth. So many things physical anthrpologists get excited about, you need a master's degree to know by name, or sight. Also, try to pay a bit more attention to your spell checker.

Accurate counts are important to science people generally and physical anthropologists are all over time, so "twenty odd years" does not recreate their orientation toward the world as tellingly as a more precise number like "twenty-two".

Dave F. said...

If I'm guessing right, Julie Bachman and Ted Harbinger are going to meet in their quest for this THING.

That's the story and the THING is merely a tool to get them together. Think of the Indiana Jones movies (the first three, the good ones)... The Romance between Indy and Marion is the story beside the Ark. The Sivalinga stone was the source of the next adventure but the real drama on the screen was saving the kids and taking beer bets on Willie Scott's screaming. In the third, the Grail is only important in that it brings father and son together again.

Or the Biship's Bird Stump in "To Say Nothing of the Dog" an object so obscure it needs no real explanation but it moves the story along.

If you put the phrase: "The gold and gemstone studded collar of King Tut" after the first sentence of the first paragraph, that would make that entire description work.

OR in the second paragraph you might say this after He sat upright and stared into the possibilities.

"The murals of the house were obviously Picasso, a treasure trove never before seen or cataloged."

That would do it. That would complete both paragraphs and set into motion the journeys or meeting of Julie and Ted.

BuffySquirrel said...

I would cut that first line. Seeing Julie's reaction to the photograph is much more emotive than the bald statement about how wonderful it is. Srsly, we get told about astounding etc stuff all the time; we're practically immune by now.

Also, the student had sent in their photos. If they're the same photos, why not say so?

Eh. as soon as he had thought through....

srsly, need those 'had's sometimes.

alaskaravenclaw said...

All right, I have to also add that if the lady is herself an anthropologist, what's she need to find an "expert" in?

DaveF, I actually found the 4th Indiana Jones movie quite enlightening, in that it sent me online to find out if there's really such a thing as a lead-lined fridge. Turns out there is: they are used in labs for storing tissue samples that have been irradiated. Wouldn't do you a durn bit of good in a nuclear blast, of course.

Khazar-khum said...

I can't possibly be the only one who thought the photos were porn of Julie & some guys at a keg party.

Dave F. said...

As for Indy Jones #4 - it didn't fit the message I wanted to relate. And no, a lead-lined refrigerator would not have saved Jones.

I keep all those naughty thoughts to myself.

Jo-Ann said...

Just a few points....
Firstly, Julie's in a library that allows users to bring in hot beverages? I wish....

Secondly, the guy's so thrilled with something that may yet prove to be a hoax that his first move is to buy real estate in what sounds like a small, developing country? Not an airline ticket or a hotel room or a hire car? Sure, I understand that you're trying to show the reader that Ted plans to be there for a long time, but wouldn't his priority be to just get there in the first place? Besides, it's easier to hurry along any realty transactions with cash.... in person.

Sorry, author, but this opening's straining credibility.

Anonymous said...

Evil, Thank you and all who commented very much. MC is preparing for her PhD but needs an expert ornithologist to confirm what she thinks is in the photo. Her husband is the bird expert. It could be a moa, believed to have died off 100 years ago from NZ's S. Island. Sure looks like one though, maybe. Her husband can't confirm the existance of the bird with 100% accuracy. The photo is shadowy, the light was fading but it is possible.

I thought tipping it too soon was the dreaded "spoiler". Sorry Alravclaw didn't mean to hiss anyone off. The moa comes out next few sentences.

The moa is one of a species of flightless bird. This one is 13+ feet tall. The eggshells were so thin no current anthro/orni expert can figure out who hatched the eggs or how. Because much of NZ is unexplored a few members of the jury are still out. No sighting usually equals extinction but a few hopefuls think there may be a chance.

Thanks for great comments, appreciate it so much.

PS - A generalist (Physical Anthropologist Julie) will never know what a specialist (Ornithologist husband PhD.) knows so researchers make good field partners when each has a different area of expertise but both have common areas in research. Like an astronaut team. All capable, each a specialist.

Dave, your right.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jo-Ann,
Western Union is the fastest money mover I think these days. Bank transfers take longer and the receiver bank can hold your funds for a while if they choose.
There are rights of first refusal, short or long term land leases, options - 1 year, 3, 5 year - real estate is creative these days. Maybe rent, or my favorites: subject to financing, engineering report, real property report, or inspection to be conducted not later than six months from date of offer to purchase.
Tying up a chunk of real estate no one wants or cares about can be simple and cheap.
Thanks for the comment,

Anonymous said...

Julie's in a library that allows users to bring in hot beverages? I wish....

Actually, on many occasions the butler has served us hot tea in the library.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anon<
At University of New Brunswick where I studied anthro the librarians were happy to get us coffee> thanks<

alaskaravenclaw said...

I have been in libraries where drinking was allowed. At my undergrad college, even eating was allowed, within reason. But I agree it's not common.

Bibi, now you've really confused me. An ornithologist studies birds. An anthropologist studies people. Birds aren't a specialized form of people.

Anonymous said...

Birds is the female form of peoples. 'Less they hot, then they's chicks.

Anonymous said...

There are a few major categories cultural socio is one there is physical and archeological and so one> getting computer fixed tomorrow _ sorry for the rotten mistakes _ bad memory board I think

There is also business anthro these days> its a big area covering many subjects>


Anonymous said...

Anthro has several categories/divisions> there is cultural socio (religion< linguistics come in here) physical> archeology and so on> Today there is even business anthro>
(Sorry for the rotten mistakes here computer repair tomorrow bad memory board I think)
Anthro is a vast umbrella with many spokes hence the need to engage cross specialists in the research


Anonymous said...

Hi again Jo_Ann
Dr T will go bUt on Julie"s expedition adding cost and annoYance>
as the dept head he can do WhAt he wAnts> his bad knee slows the expedition down>
sorry last gaspS out of my mAchine

Anonymous said...

evill mAy have put in two similar Comments machine so terminAl cant tell> feel free to delete one if you got both thanks your comments were so welcome.

Jo-Ann said...

Cheers, Bibi
Hope your machne's recovered. My comments sounded bitchier than intended, sorry bout that.

Ok, real-estate transactions are more creative than ever, but I'm sticking with my comment that purchasing or renting land is still an odd choice for his first action, before even confirming that the student's next email won't be "Ha Ha - gotcha!" Most academics aren't rich enough to chuck cash around so rashly.

Yes, Western Union can move cash around quickly, but my comment about "cash in person" was more about making the bureacratic hold-ups magically disappear - not to mention confirming that the land in question was bona fide, not a trap for the gullible buying from Overseas.

Nevertheless, it's an interesting start, but I would have preferred more content, just to see if their excitement was warranted. I was guessing fossilised UFO and ET remains, but a Moa's good. Is that start for the submission for Phonix Sullivan's anthology?