Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New Beginning 910

They told him it was a psychological condition.

Of course they were very sorry, but they were unable to continue employing him in his current position. There were other opportunities available: the company sponsored a racing team and ground-based branches of the company always needed flyers. If he preferred to seek employment elsewhere they would be happy to give him a very nice separation package and a stellar recommendation. Or, if he wished to retire, they would pay all fees associated with the PDT.

They told him that too.

He returned to his company-owned apartment which they would graciously allow him to use for two more weeks. After activating pre-set queries on the terminal next to his bed, he slept for sixteen hours. When he awoke he examined the results: low-density population centers sorted by price of living and correlated with his savings to obtain a short list of planets where he could live comfortably for more than eighty years. The planet farthest away would take anywhere from four to nine months to reach depending on riftquakes and how well the ships were piloted. More importantly, the trip would require transfers at low-tech space ports -- opportunities for him to disappear.


"This is very interesting, Lenny," Dr. Schmaltz encouraged her patient. "It's so good to see you expressing yourself creatively. But sixteen hours of sleep is much more than you need, and you still seem preoccupied with this idea of 'disappearing.'"

The psychiatrist set Lenny's journal on her desk and picked up a pen. "I'm increasing your Prozac by another 20mg per day," she said, scribbling down the prescription. She tore off the top sheet and offered it to Lenny with a smile. "I look forward to seeing what you write for next week."

Opening: Faceless Minion.....Continuation: Tamara Marnell


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

And they told him he could disappear if he wanted to. In fact, they would say and they would do a lot of things during the rest of his life in the psych ward of Stellar's Hospital for the mentally insane. But on the bright side, he had the slowest computer in the world to help him pass the time.


Evil Editor said...

Get rid of "They told him that too."

The reader assumes everything in paragraph 2 is what they told him. Thus it's not clear what "that" is in paragraph 3.

Otherwise I like this, though I'm not clear on why he's looking into planets where he can afford to live if he's planning to disappear on his way there. If disappearing is the goal, he can do that on his way to planets where he can't afford to live 80 years just as easily.

Anonymous said...

I'd assumed "disappearing" was a risk, not a goal...

150 said...

Man, I'm willing to put up with one unattributed pronoun in the first sentence, even two, but three is just too many. Can you do something with that "it"? Is there any good reason not to name "him" or "them"?

Faceless Minion said...

Thanks for the continuation and the comments. This is still very much a work in progress but the queue was empty so I thought I'd sneak it in :)

Disappearing is both a risk and a goal.

The 80 years is because he created the query when he realized what would eventually happen to him and wasn't certain how bad his mental condition would be that point. If it was bad enough then he would have a nice place to retire for the rest of his life expectancy -- if he was lucky enough to make it there and no one came after him. As is he's better off than he thought he would be so he doesn't plan on leaving things to luck.

I'll take another look at attributing one or two of those pronouns.

Adele said...

I don't know what PDT stands for.
This is DMC.

My mind wandered when you started listing the other opportunities - I didn't know what job this guy was being bounced from, and I didn't have enough info to infer it by backtracking from the list of other things he could do. Plus, why a ground-based branch of this unknown company needs one flyer (let alone lots of them) has me buffaloed.

I think you're trying to pique my interest with all these vague references but instead I'm getting confused and frustrated.

Then in para 2 I realize that he has seen all of this coming and has already made a plan, which makes para 1 less emotionally important. I was sympathizing with someone who didn't see his dismissal coming, now I realize something completely different is happening.

Suggestion - open with a scene and show what's going on. Start with the dismissal or start when he gets home - but do some showing and let us see this man and what he's thinking about.

PS: I deliberately didn't tell you what DMC stands for so you understand the frustration. Driving Me Crazy.

Anonymous said...

Paragraph 1's mystery acronym annoys. PDT or whatever. Meaningless gibberish. Code talk. Yes, I dislike acronyms as a class and think they are overused. But using one like this in paragraph 1 really makes it look like readers can expect a manuscript filled with inexplicable nonsense where you really needed widely understood words. Never discount the value of clarity.

Dave Fragments said...

I would take paragraph 4 and make it the first paragraph. I think that the important and involving aspect of this opening is that he is going to run away and possibly disappear. You might need to adjust the paragraph slightly but I think the switch would help the story.

With the paragraphs in the 4,1,2,3 sequence, you can bring up the running away aspect in paragraph 5 or 6 again without it sounding like saying the same thing.

It's interesting when it gets to space travel.

Evil Editor said...

If PDT were defined, people would call it an info dump, in that the narrator and the employer both know the meaning, and if they commonly refer to it as the PDT without defining it, they should do so here. I made the assumption it was Planetary Departure Tax, paid whenever you retire and move to another planet. Perhaps I'm wrong and it's Plutonian Deed Transfer. Clearly it's some bureaucratic red tape involved in retiring.

Anonymous said...

Using three words to name whatever-it-is in paragraph one would be less cumbersome than this, even if it is later referred to via acronym. Giving it a name the author doesn't feel needs shortening into an acronym would probably be even more clever.

Laurie said...

I liked this one. I do agree with EE on getting rid of that one line. I'm of two minds on the pronouns - if you're writing a short-short and never give the MC a name at all, it can work. But if we're going to know his name and refer to him by it, it'll be jarring when we make the switch, so better give it to the reader right off.

But otherwise, I think this is a strong beginning. It raises a lot of interesting questions, tells me the genre and sets the stage very well.

Adele said...

Evil - The trouble is that when PDT is used I have no frame of reference. I don't know we're not on Earth at the beginning of the 21st century. Maybe the author lives in a land where PDT is a common acronym for some kind of retirement scheme. If it stands for planetary departure tax, spelling it out would be a good way to tell the reader that there's sci-fi stuff a-happenin'

Evil Editor said...

Using three words to name whatever-it-is in paragraph one would be less cumbersome than this, even if it is later referred to via acronym.

First of all, it's paragraph two. Second, "cumbersome" is hardly an adjective I'd use to refer to "PDT."

That's like saying "IBM" is more cumbersome than "International Business Machines."

If PDT will be coming up frequently, at some point someone who doesn't know what it is can ask someone who does know, what it means.

Evil Editor said...

The trouble is that when PDT is used I have no frame of reference. I don't know we're not on Earth at the beginning of the 21st century.

It's possible PDT would tell you where you are. But if it stands for Partnership Debt Tariff, or Population Decampment Toll, does that confirm that it is or isn't 21st century Earth (possibly alternate history)?

We do find out a mere 4 sentences after PDT is mentioned that interplanetary travel is available.

Dave Fragments said...


It's one of two things in my mind: the name of the disease that's going to kill him, or the bureaucratic acronym for the relocation agency.

I didn't see it as a hindrance to reading the rest of the story or novel.

I just bought a paperback with a glossary in front to explain how the names are pronounced in Gaelic. It didn't stop me or phase me in the least.

Anonymous said...

It's almost the holidays. People are winding down and things are getting slow. Clearly we need something to get our panties deftly twisted over.

Faceless Minion said...

Thanks again for the comments. I've made notes for when I do revisions. Now I just need to finish the story.

none said...

Whatever PDT stands for, it's not an acronym. Acronyms are abbreviations that can themselves be pronounced as words. Like SAT. Or SAM. Or PIN.

Anonymous said...

Whatever PDT stands for, it's not an acronym. Acronyms are abbreviations that can themselves be pronounced as words.

How very anglo-centric of you.

none said...

So, Anon, are you subscribing to the idea that everyone but us anglos is ignorant?

Faceless Minion said...

I love comments that get me curious enough to do some research:


batgirl said...

Does this mean I'll have to stop referring to them as TLAs if I can't pronounce them?

To re-establish my pedant cred, I will mention casually that I do know the difference between a monogram and a cipher.

Anonymous said...

No, BuffySquirrel; quite the contrary.

none said...

Ah, I see. You mean you're the ignorant one. Got it.

Anonymous said...

Wishing you a blissful Christmas.


D Jason Cooper said...

Slight disagreement with Evil Editor. If I say, "I'm going to the store," I can count on a bit of time before anyone thinks to look for me. If I say, "I'm going to a brothel," people will notice ans ask me what the hell I think I'm doing.

If he's going to disappear, it will be easier if he's looked at many places he might go and set out to one of them. If he looks two places and buys a ticket to somewhere he can't afford, somebody's going to notice.

I take it from the text that he's being watched.

D Jason Cooper

Evil Editor said...

Maybe, but the fact that I can't afford to live in Hawaii for 80 years doesn't mean I wouldn't go there for a year or two after retiring.