Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Beginning 809

Doctor Johnathan Harker fastened the couplings on the government issue gloves he had been given. There was a subtle hiss as the suit pressurized. He sat still and inhaled slowly, as he had been taught, to avoid oxygen deprivation while the suit switched over to its internal supply.

Harker made a conscious effort to avoid looking out the twin portholes on either side of him. It was ironic. He had counseled dozens of men on the stresses of space-agoraphobia and yet he had somehow developed an acute fear of it himself. It all boiled down to a fear of the unknown.

That’s a healthy fear, Harker thought as he thumbed at the screen mounted on the back of his glove. The ISA logo illuminated within the polished black surface. Government jobs tended to pay the best. They also tended to be the most full of bureaucracy and bullshit.

The logo on the glove display faded and was replaced with the message: Please key in your employee ID. Harker fumbled the 12 digit number twice on the tiny keypad, and got it right the third time.

The display faded and then provided another message: IMPORTANT: Do not use this interface device while in motion (REG 1.34.5542.3)

Obviously. He tapped the 'OK' button.

Contacting host...

Harker waited while his wrist-con registered with the central mainframe to authorise his sojourn outside.

IMPORTANT: You training records indicate you are authorised to undertake class 1, 2 or 5 maintenance work only (Reg 1.34.8854.5823).

This was a class 2 job. Simple. 'OK'.

Confirming authorisation...

Harker double-checked his tool belt.


Downloading work instructions...

Pages of text and diagrams scrolled across the tiny screen. Although he'd undergone hours of intensive training for this task, it was deemed important to have the manual to hand.

Ready to Proceed.

Please confirm the airlock door is clear on both sides before opening (Reg 1.34.9981.4334).


Requesting lock release. Please stand by.

Yeah, yeah. Standing by.

Lock release authorisation granted per Reg 1.34.5542.5549.


Ready to activate door release mechanism. Please ensure once more access area is clear.

Duh, it's clear. Still. 'OK'.

NOTE: You are responsible for the safety of yourself and others when carrying out external maintenance work (Reg 1.34.7769.0112). Remember: Safety First! (Reg 1.34.7769.0113)

Yes. 'OK'.

WARNING: Suit oxygen supply dangerously low! Aborting mission!

Fuck it.

Opening: Nick Berggreen.....Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

Take the committee that had planned this mission; a collection of second-string characters if he'd ever seen one: Bhob Cratchit, Ben Ghun, Mihles Archer, Belle Whatling, Whinthrop Paroo, Hoofy Prosser and Cedric Dhiggory. At least they had to draw the line at Winnie the Poohh.

--Paul Penna

Evil Editor said...

Either Harker is going to meet up with vampires on his mission, or you need a new name for your astronaut.

Presumably he hasn't developed a fear of space agoraphobia, he's developed a case of it.

Government jobs tended to pay the best . . . seems to come out of nowhere, i.e. it seems to have nothing to do with the paragraph it's in. If you can't show the connection, move it elsewhere.

none said...

This isn't where the story starts. Try again.

150 said...

Word ver = fecklete, which can be taken in so many wonderful directions

Anonymous said...

Agree with Ms. Squirrel. Author is worldbuilding when s/he needs to be getting us into the story.

Re the fear of agoraphobia, I just assumed Dr. H knew he had nothing to fear but fear itself.

Anonymous said...

You can take out "It was ironic." And I had to back up because of the way you use "illuminated." How about "lit up"?

Dave Fragments said...

If you use the name "Johnathan Harker" then the peril is a vampire.

So three words into the story we know the villain and at the end of the first paragraph (50 words), the reader knows that the story is set in outer space.

The agoraphobia is filler. Everyone astronaut overcomes agoraphobia and the government stuff is a dreadful, predictable bore.

Harker doesn't have to float out of the airlock and into the arms of a vampire but he does have to do something interesting and revealing.

Anonymous said...

alaskaravenclaw deserves a haha.

Anonymous said...

Too much wandering attention, like we're following thoughts of someone sitting at home at the computer drinking coffee while they ponder various matters on a theme of spacewalking. We suppose a guy on the verge of his first trip out would be focused and intensely engrossed in his task. Plus, like they said, we wonder if this is starting in the right place. Maybe a bit later would be better.

I don't read vampire books so I don't know about this Jonathan Harker connection. Maybe that's not intended. It's always a good idea to google possible names of your main characters and if they're already in use as major characters in someone else's fiction, maybe choose something else for yours. Both to minimize confusion, and to avoid potential trademark issues. Writing a mystery series about a police detective in Ohio named Harry Potter, for instance, would cause a lot of confusion about your intent for the book. But if you decide to name your boy wizard Harry Potter, everyone will throw your queries straight in the trash.

vkw said...

So has Johnathon Harker developed a healthy fear of agoraphobia or fear of the unknown? Because, they are different phobias. Your good doctor should know this.

The part about the government jobs is predictable, (and untrue in the real world. Government pay is usually awful compared to the private secter. Compare Barak's pay with the CEO's salary of any major corporation.)

Anyway, I don't think you want to start your story out with a cliche or myth.

I like the idea of vampires in space. Throw in a dragon, (or magic, but no fairies, I hate fairies), and you'll have sci-fi, fantasy and horror covered. And, under no circumstances make the vampires good or have any redeeming qualities at all. I believe monsters are monsters and never teenagers in angst.

(I make it a point never to have any sympathy for serial killers or mass murderers. It's a thing.)


Ellie said...

vkw: I think Peter Watts already did vampires in space with Blindsight. :)

Anyway, I agree with the others. The story may have a lot of promise, but it doesn't start here.

Anonymous said...

Depends on the job. If President is your line of work, then yes, you're much better off dollarwise being prez of a major corporation than of the USA. (To say nothing of the hours, and the personal security issues.)

But if you're a teacher, at least in the US, you can expect to halve your salary if you go from the public sector to the private. (I looked into doing so at one time.)

I think you make less starting out with FedEx than with the post office, too, though not quite to that extreme.

We can all agree it's not a very intriguing story hook, though. Seems like filler. Bring on the vamps already.

150's link was very illuminating.

Anonymous said...

Even if this were 2010 America, which I'm guessing it's not, Space and Defense government contracts can be very lucrative, so the idea that they tend to pay the best is not at all unbelievable. Not that I need to know about that in the first 150 words.

I think it's less about "this isn't where the story starts," and more about concetrating on the details that are interesting and compelling, rather than "meh". No reason at all why the story can't start here in the airlock and still provide a hook.

If there's a danger of suffocation in the time it takes to suit to switch to its internal air supply, I'd say that's a pretty big design flaw right there.

Word Ver: bitties
Oh, so close...

none said...

Not reading vampire books is one thing, but the level of cultural ignorance you need not to know JH is the protagonist of Dracula is pretty boggling, tbh. Better check your genre credentials!

fairyhedgehog said...

I seem to be in a minority of one but I liked this. It could do with a bit of tidying up (e.g. the agoraphobia section) but it seems like the start of an interesting sci fi story.

batgirl said...

I would argue that Dracula is the protagonist of Dracula, and Helsing etc. are the antagonists - but that's because I'm feeling contrary.

Also, why the misspelling of Jonathan? Otherwise I'd cut you slack because Connie Willis used all the Dracula names in her WWII novel whose title I forget.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

"It all boiled down to a fear of the unknown."
Spoiler for me. Agoraphobia is a fear of open spaces. No such thing as space agoraphobia. Sorry,

none said...

Quibbles about who's the protagonist aside, my point remains valid.

No such thing as 'space agoraphobia' maybe, but there is such a thing as space phobia, which is a pseudo-agoraphobia, kinda, maybe?

_*rachel*_ said...

This could have a some cuts here and there. One that stuck out was "the government issue gloves he had been given," which I thought would have been better as "his government-issue gloves."

Sorry about the tardiness in replying.

Stacy said...

I don't see that we heard from the author on this, so I'm holding out hope that this will be a vampires in space story. As for the anonymous commenter who missed the Harker reference all together, I had the same reaction as Buffy. You would have to be someone who hardly reads at all to miss that.

For some reason, the notion that DRACULA is a "vampire book" broke my heart a little.

NB said...

Hey guys, author here. Sci-fi is not my genre--I'm dabbling. That said, I really appreciate the feedback.

To clarify: The Harker moniker is an allegory of sorts... hard to explain without telling the rest of the story.