Monday, April 25, 2011

New Beginning 851

Transport. The white light of destruction and reincarnation, after which, nothing is the same.

Elias Carson lifted his head and spit out a mouthful of mud. He wiped mud from his face and discovered claws and fangs. New and improved, they cautioned before transport. He turned and sat in the mud. New broad shoulders, too many muscles, no beer gut, feet worthy of a wild animal and a loincloth that almost covered his manhood.

Three meters away, a hot spring bubbled and steamed. Beyond that giant ferns and twisted vines, a vast jungle filled with alien birds shrieking strange calls and crawling things with fangs. A humanoid with fur and three-fingered hands stood at the edge of the mud, waiting. Elias thought the creature's eyes enjoyed his wallow in the mud.

"Where am I?" a deeper and gravel-ridden voice came out of his mouth.

"The Pyetock province of Tau Ceti Prime. Welcome to your new home, Marshall Carson."

"What luxurious mud you have," Elias hesitated, "whoever you are."

"I am D'uhng, keeper of the Royal Excrement," the voice boomed back. "And we don't have any mud."

Opening: Dave F......Continuation: anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

"I'm Bryce, your relaxation therapist, and yes, the mud is our specialty. But wait until this evening for the full soak; it's just exquisite at sunset. In the meantime we'll schedule you for a mani-pedi on those new claws. Now if you'll step over to the shower, we have a yuzu-spearmint body wash that will remove the mud and get you all perked up for a pilates session."

The mud really was quite nice, but Elias had to wonder how much Jill had spent. She'd never splurged like this on an anniversary gift before. Then he remembered the scrap of leopard skin distended like a hiking tent between his thighs. "Oh yeah, there is that."


Evil Editor said...

It seems odd that the creature knows who Carson is, and is expecting him, but Carson doesn't know where he is. If transporting is accurate, he would know his destination; if it's random, they wouldn't know he was coming. What's the explanation?

And once he's told where he is, Carson ought to come up with a better line than "What luxurious mud you have, whoever you are."

For instance, "What the hell am I doing here?" or "Amazing, the transporter worked for a change."

Dave Fragments said...

Good points.

Elias doesn't know the creature waiting for him only that someone will be there when he materializes. He's the detective sent to solve the first murder on one of the colonial worlds (think sci-fi and outer space).

Under Elias' contract, he doesn't know what his incarnated body will be just that it is something suitable to the new world.

This is a dystopic future where the masses selected to colonize the exo-planetary worlds, do so under a contract as indentured servants. The Offworld Immigration Bureau invents the society and then just throws colonists into the roles they seem suitable for. In this case, the unknown creatures is sergeant of the police and a wolf anthromorph. The patrolmen are coyotes and beat patrol are foxes.
the jackals and ferrets are going to be tax collectors. The medical examiner and all the medical staff are rabbits and bunnies. The Wolfine patrolman's roommate is going to be an aardvark anthromorph doing civil service clerical work and there will be a joke about Hoover, both J. Edgar and vacuum.

What's a dystopia without daily humiliation? Especially when they can use these same people in different bodies on different worlds? Now that's a contract that's dystopic.

Elias' contract is different because he has restrictions on what they can do to his reincarnated body. However, they have violated his contract in that they woke him from his R&R period before the proper time to solve this murder. However, Elias has 12 lifetimes of memories and three living incarnations on other worlds. All are Detective inspectors.

Like I said, it's a murder mystery and the only humans are royalty (Lords and Ladies, Dukes and Duchesses and their hangers-on) and they are the corpse and the suspects.

Dave Fragments said...

What's a dystopia without daily humiliation?

And I forgot to say, The Offworld Immigration Bureau deliberately landed him in the mud. Just for fun.

I agree, those lines aren't strong enough to be his first words. I'll flag them and think of something better.

usually anonymous said...

Had issues trying to post this the first time. Please ignore if a dupe.

There could be a story here, but I'm afraid I'm getting hung up on the grammar, the POV issues and some of the world-building "huh's?".

The claws and fangs are the ones doing the cautioning.

The "Beyond that" is a true sentence frag (not the stylistic kind).

The creature's EYES are sentient.

Both of Carson's dialog pieces are improperly punctuated.

Why even have a loincloth at all? Did it incarnate with him?

Can Carson see the crawling things with fangs? If not (which I think is likely), this is a POV shift.

Why three fingers for the wolf? Wolves have five digits just like dogs. An anthropomorphic version wouldn't have fewer digits, would it? What are the world-building rules for that?

And "exo-planetary world"? Isn't that like saying "exo-nitric nitrogen"? Sorry, just hoping that phrase doesn't appear in the actual story.

Dave Fragments said...

I want the residents to be in loincloths because the human tourists (the rich and spoiled royalty) do not wear them. They have other clothes. It's a caste thing on the colonial planets. Think Bellatrix Lestrange as Lady BigShot playing a nymphomaniac in a whorehouse and her subjects wear loincloths. But not that cartoony.

The Offworld Immigration Bureau says that its employees or the immigrants will find themselves on new sand strange worlds with their bodies adapted to survive. Then they take them into a room and electronically strip out their memories and literally dissasemble their bodies atom by atom until nothing is left. That data is stored in a computer until transmitted and reincarnated in the Transport Beam. It is a form of indentured servitude.

It's all in the contract if you read the fine print. the really, really, really fine print.

As for the rest of "Usually Anonymous" comments -- the three fingers, the POV change. I can fix all that. Thanks for the comments.

St0n3henge said...

If they can do everything you say, why don't the Big Shots there throw a large animal in the machine, pick a body template, program the new brain (say, generic store clerk) and skip all the legal problems inherent with an indentured servitude system?

If you make people from scratch they can be your slaves and you can make them want to be. There are no contracts involved.

I appreciate your creativity, but if your characters have technology that is nearly godlike, then they can do almost anything and the contractual system they've set up seems ridiculously complicated. Almost any system involving anyone's free will would be too complicated as well as a moot point, especially when you can change or manipulate their memories before returning them to the brains.

I think believability relies largely on there being a lot of limitations- things that can't be done. Otherwise, you've got people like me reading the story saying, "so why don't they just...?" through the whole thing.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Dave: You seem awfully dismissive of the mechanical problems usually anon points out. That's a lot of issues in just 150 words (in addition to a couple UA didn't mention). Maybe you're happy submitting to and getting published in a lot of small "for the love" markets. But if you want to get published in paying markets, you really will need to up your game.

I'm going to be honest and say that I've seen many openings from you over the years, and you haven't really seemed to figure out grammar or POV during this time. Yes, you might be able to fix the issues specifically pointed out here, but what about the next 3000 words? Real editors aren't going to rewrite problem POVs and fix tons of grammatical and concept-building mistakes. And if the work is put out there raw, it's certainly not in your best interest to point professionals to it. If you only care about friends and family seeing it, of course, that's different, and you can ignore me completely.

But you going indepth about the story and then waving your hand and saying, "Oh, all that 'other stuff' can be fixed," kind of makes it feel like you're trying to work sleight of hand: See my cool gimmick! Stay focused on that and don't pay attention to that inconsequential stuff behind the curtain.

Dave Fragments said...

I understand AA comments and yours. I'm not trying to minimize them but the story isn't finished. I'm still working through all of the characters and plot points. I see AA's comments about restrictions and I have to have all the story in order to completely answer AA's comments.

Let me say something else that bothers me about what I see with lots and lots of anthologies or markets for short stories. I am not aiming this at you personally. I've never submitted to you that I remember or was aware of... So this isn't me versus you. This is what I see going on.

A little spleen venting...

a) They want the perfect without working for it. I know what it takes to put a book together an print it. I did it for technical books in Coal Liquefaction. I did it for training purposes for ISO 14000. I wrote instruction manuals for experimental units with 1000 valves and reactors. It's hard. But editors who want the absolutely perfect don't want to do their job. A clerk and a copy editor can assemble a book of perfect writing.

b) I know that I need a copy editor. Everyone needs a copy editor. That's human nature. We all know that but I keep seeing editors of fiction demanding perfection. The most prestigious journals in Chemical Engineering - FUEL, the AICHE Journal, and Industrial and Engineering Chemistry (three volumes) - all copy edited and then edited for STYLE, not just grammar, but style. I know from personal experience. No fiction editor would dare to do that.

c) I had 15 short stories out for three years and got at least thirty rejections. I keep a list in Excel. Some never replied to even follow up emails after six months. Many came back with six words - "not for us at this time." I can tell you that means nothing to the author. Waiting three to six months to hear 'not for us" is a waste of my time. The editor who broke the chain said "I like the idea and I see the point but you lost it in the middle." That was enough for me to figure out what he or she saw wrong in the story.

d) I won't submit to a journal that says - "We don't send rejections. We only reply to stories we accept" - That's beyond arrogant. When I read that in submissions guidelines, I don't even bother. I have too many submissions that I marked "Abandoned" after six months of waiting.

Dave Fragments said...

Much less spleen venting:

I really am worried that this dystopic focus will ruin the story. I think that so much associated with my idea can turn cartoon-like and childish. That's the essence of AA's comment. We put up with the Road Runner and Wyle Coyote in a parody and not a what is supposed to be substantial spec sci-fi.

And I do see the POV problem in the opening. I may be saying too much in the opening. I won't be able to tell until I finish the story and re-read it all at once. I CAN fix it this moment but once I get to the end of the story, I will most likely come back and revise to match the story's climax. So I made a note of AA's comment and I can assure you and AA that I will address it.

I want to say something else. I tried to write a story for "Extinct." I started a Sasquatch story. I even got about 1500 to 2000 words and a nearly complete story. But IT SUCKED. When I started over, it turned into a story set 100 years in the future and Sasquatch was far from extinct or ever having been extinct. It didn't fit your anthology. I feel bad.

The last thing I will say is that maybe where I should be is a lot of "for the love" anthologies. Maybe spending a few years at that will improve my writing. Maybe that is the logical development. I don't know. I certainly didn't create Dave Fragments back in 1997 to write short stories. I created me because I was forced to write fast for work. A research engineer can get away with writing 250 in four hours but I had to do work that wasn't doing research and I needed the money to eat. Hard to be a slave to a job when your boss is an ass-kissing weasel.

And I feel bad for all this venting. No one here has ever given me bad advice.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

That's fair, Dave. And I understand your frustration. We ALL need to vent.

I can tell you that I spent many hours doing more than a copy edit on the antho I put out. There were a handful of stories that I barely touched at all, but I still read through them twice -- slowly -- to be sure I caught the little things. Then there were ones with very strong concepts that needed a bit of extra oomph. There was one by a non-native speaker that I worked with for two full days because I believed in the story they had to tell. I requested revisions from many of the authors to strengthen the middle or the ending. I paid out a very nominal amount to the authors (and many reverted the monies for marketing efforts) and, who knows, there may be royalties in the future, but in the end, my effort was little more than "for the love."

Knowing how dismal antho sales generally are (and although I've been lucky enough to have been included in a couple that have earned some decent royalties, I know that's the exception), I can't see an editor who's in it for the compensation spending much time on the editing. Where's the return on investment for them? And really, with the number of submissions most receive, an editor has the luxury to cherry pick. That's why we all need to be top of the game.

I spent over 20 years writing and editing for Fortune 500 companies. My job was to turn prose written by people who couldn't write but knew the subject matter into readable and understandable text. That's a whole different ballgame than soliciting short stories from people who profess to be writers and want to make money at it. For the time I spent putting Extinct together (not including the time I spent reading through the submissions and commenting on them), a corporate employer would have paid me about $3200 in salary (plus pro rata benefits). Add in book cover costs, production costs, overhead and advances, and costs somewhere have to be trimmed if the publisher is going to stay in business. That either means less time spent editing per product or smaller advances.

If I'm building a car to sell and you have a part that has to be re-machined to make it fit and it takes 2 days to do the work and your competitor has a part that just needs a coat of paint that can be applied in 30 minutes, all else being equal, which supplier makes the most business sense to do business with?

And, you know, there's nothing wrong in going "for the love." I'm proud of the quality of stories in Extinct. The authors should be proud too. As should you be when you're pubbed in those venues.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

And now that we've both had a vent, let's be friends, 'k?

You do an amazing job offering advice here -- for as much as you have and for as long as you have.

Dave Fragments said...

We were never anything but friends. I know how hard it is to get the words right on the page.

Everyone needs a little venting now and then.

_*rachel*_ said...

I wouldn't use "hesitated" in that context; it feels like said bookism.

Other than that... I didn't quite get it, but I'm leaning towards that just being me.

Dave Fragments said...

Thanks Rachel. Elias is too much in the mud puddle in the opening 500 words. "Hesitated" is a symptom of that problem.

none said...

Yes, it is a waste of the author's time to wait six months only to get a form rejection--if all the author does in that time is wait for a response.

It's equally a waste of the editor's time to wade through thousands of unsuitable stories (of which yours is only one). If you want feedback, join a critique group. Editors don't have time. They don't have time to rewrite your story for you, either.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention it's a waste of an employer's time to wade through hundreds of unsuitable resumes, and a waste of a prospector's time to sift through sieve-loads of worthless grit and a waste of a salesman's time to call on people who won't end up buying anything and...

No feedback is owed, but sorting through the chaff to get to the wheat is surely part of the job.

none said...


Yes, having your time wasted in slush is definitely part of the job. It's even voluntary, just like submitting.

What isn't a waste of time is the three copy-editing passes, the to-and-fro's with authors trying to shake out solutions to what doesn't work, the repeated attempts to fit everything you've bought into a pleasing order where no similar themes are together, no similar POVs follow each other, there are 'just enough' poems together but not 'too many' (for indeterminable values of 'just enough' and 'too many'), the waking up in the middle of the night wondering, 'Did I do X?', the gritting your teeth and being polite to authors who send you a complete rewrite at the last minute, the hunting down of artists who have apparently vanished from the internet before submitting the hi-res version of their art that you need for print, the....

All this being then dismissed as not working for perfection just because you didn't provide feedback on submission 232 of 1736!


Anonymous said...

You can't "hesitate" words. You say or reply or maybe yell words, and VERY infrequently you snap or sigh or murmur words, etc.

You might have meant "Elias said hesitantly"....but I can't help but think a writer as seemingly prolific as you should understand by now how to explicate dialogue. It's not that hard.


St0n3henge said...

Haven't you heard the new rules, enya? Characters are no longer allowed to "say" anything. They may mumble, scream, thunder, yell, screech, deny, explain, cry, sob, roar, whisper, whine, sneer, smile, laugh, spit, gurgle, grumble, grimace, coo, whimper, fume, interrupt, interject, exclaim, protest, giggled, opine, reason, intone, sing, echo, or postulate their lines, but they may not "say" them.