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Folcro
June 7th, 2013, 01:40 AM
Shortly after my good fortune to have found WF, I submitted the first chapter to a book I was editing for market. The feedback I received was invaluable. An e-publication, the book can still be edited, but it's about time I moved on. Still, I want one more crack at the opinions of my fellow writers. A few mixed opinions so far--- the narrative and style take a sharp turn in this chapter. This is the last piece from this particular novel that I will submit.

Reading the first chapter is not necessary to critique this one, but the description may help:

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A virus stole fertility from many people long ago, ending society over several generations. The United States became the Seven Cities of America.

Chicago, cut off from the other cities, ruled in darkness, is home to the scientist who created the virus. Hateful of humanity, hateful of himself, the dying scientist passes his knowledge on to his apprentice, who he believes will use it to damn all life to everlasting misery.

The apprentice, Harold, his own past stained with unforgivable acts, does not share his master's hatred. But he wants this knowledge, and would shamelessly kill innocents to get it. But to what end, he struggles to realize--- all the while wondering if humanity, worthless as it seems, deserves compassion more than he deserves omniscience.

As Harold struggles with his future and his identity, Chicago's ruler, the host, learns of the knowledge he has. Harold has to flee his home.

The host, Grakus, is on a journey of his own--- to prove that humanity should never have existed, to guide it to its destiny of self-destruction. He will not allow Harold to thwart his delicate plan to do so.

But Harold will not allow the host to steal his decision before he's had the chance to make it.

The Last City of America is a character-driven epic touching every corner of America, exposing every level of its beauty. The individual emulates humanity, and humanity's faults are written in the individual. The two walk with one another into the final decision. Cities fall one-by-one to man's ignorance. The world is ending. This time forever. Good and evil are reaching out to save it.

This is the story of how we will be remembered.


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BARNABAS



Power. It's a funny thing. People look down on the people who desire it. “Everybody wants it,” everybody says. “I'm looking for something better.” Nobody ever seems to stop and think about what power is anymore.

I was born forty years before the Hephaestus virus became noticed by society. That makes me over a hundred and thirty years old. Impossible? I'm a scientist-- the kind that generals used to employ for secret experiments. I can do things to human DNA; push it to its limits, like overclocking a computer. But, silly me, you don't know what that is either, do you? What's that...? Oh, you mean you're in no position to tell me what is and isn't possible in the world of genetic manipulation? Then why don't you stop trying to wrap your tiny mind around a big concept and just accept the fact that I'm an old fucking man.

There are things good people simply have no business knowing. Sometimes they need to stand aside and let nature take its course.

My name is Doctor Barnabas Vulcum. My nature is science; my science, nature. Does it not please a scientist to observe the reactions of the dependent variable? Does he not become attached to these reactions that he alone caused? As in all things, every scientist is different. But I took it to the highest extreme-- I made the world my variable. I created the Hephaestus virus.

Now where was I? Oh yes, power...

You see, Hephaestus was never important. I know, I know, it sounds insane. But this is because your mind is simple: it's influenced by little more than headlines on news papers and the leading story on the six o'clock news. “Hephaestus” this and “Hephaestus” that, all the prime-time specials bumping off my soaps. So try as hard as you can to sink your dull cerebral teeth into this... the most important thing I ever did was realize who I was. What I truly wanted. When I did, I had the power to mold, shape and create on a scale you can't imagine. But since you're probably still self-confined in the prison I put behind me years ago, let me describe my passion in a manner you may understand...

Fucking the world.

When my team arrived at this city in the year 2010, we already had the foundation set to send humanity down a never-ending whirlpool of chaos. We began very slow. And very small. In 2016, we began with Hephaestus.

Your empire imploded after a few short decades. You ran to your seven cubbyholes. Bowed to the skylords of the East and of the West. To the host of Chicago.

Things changed too fast. Yet not fast enough.

Don't you see? You pathetic fucks destroyed yourselves before I even had the chance. I hope you're happy. But there were other things I did. Things that just haven't had the time to develop. And maybe that was my fault. But when Harold takes over, you'll see it. I just wish I could hold on a little longer to see it with you.

Would you like to know why I'm writing all this down-- why a man as smart and crafty as I would openly confess these horrid crimes? I'll tell you. And before you try and guess, no-- it isn't guilt.

In my hands, on this page, in these words that you will never know exist, is truth. It is closure to all the madness you've suffered these past hundred years. It is a piece of human history more important than the gospel. And I produce it now so I can throw it in the fire later, and piss on the ashes after that. Just like I did to the Constitution, to Gutenberg's Bible, to the remnants of the Magna Carta, and to every painting in France. Just like I did to you. All your history, all your art-- ashes swimming in my yellow soup. You see, the life's work of Dr. Barnabas Vulcum has been casting the glorious human empire from grace, deforming it to something ugly.

And when I'm done pissing on you, Harold will piss on you.

As I've said before, Hephaestus is only the beginning. You've heard about the Wizard of Seattle. He lives in a magical tower far to the north of the Western Government. It was I who gave that man the right to call himself anything other than a dirty old man.

I could go on another thousand pages describing the things I can make your body do-- not all of them you'd enjoy. I've done it before. I'm doing it now.

You were lucky. You've only seen a fraction of my work. Your generation will never know that the reason your newborn slid into this world with its genitals in the right place is that I allowed it.
You think Chicago is such an awful place? How awful can it be? You created its becoming. And you're not very creative.

Kansas City. That was art. The very sound of it should have you scrubbing your wife's fear-feces off the mattress. But no. I chose Hephaestus instead. That was my greatest mistake. Harold will rectify it in time. All in good time.

Wanting power, truly wanting power, is not a common thing. Wanting protection is a common thing, wanting an escape, pleasure, good sex. Power can provide these, it's true. But when the soul yearns for power itself, the soul will find a way to take it.

Soon I will be gone, and Harold will take my place. You'll like Harold, all of you. He's very special. He'll screw you all far worse than Hephaestus ever could. And he'll live far longer than I have.

So there it is-- a historical milestone worthy of a showcase in the Library of Congress-- or framed in any of the world's most prestigious museums. Oops. My prostate's acting up again. Time for a spritz.

Clnow3088
June 7th, 2013, 07:53 AM
I really love this. And would LOVE to read the entire thing. I see I've got another writer to add to my list of *to read*. I'm sure I'll end up finding a lot of inspiration from you and your works.

InkwellMachine
June 7th, 2013, 08:58 AM
Hahaha, fun stuff. I enjoyed reading it, and I can imagine it would make an excellent audio-book. Have you ever read The Rise of Ransom City, by Felix Gilman? That's what this reminds me of, only rife with anger and furious expositions.

While I enjoyed reading it and it's already in the late stages of production, I can't help but offer my criticisms as a fellow writer, constructive or not. I have a hard time understanding the audience Barnabas is addressing. He doesn't seem to think anyone will find the document, so it feels a bit strange that he's writing it as a letter of sorts. I could certainly understand if he's just venting all over a piece of paper, but in that case it may serve you well to go a it bit further in his ramblings, talk a bit more about his emotions and hatred for particular things, etc. Consider the things you might do in front of an audience that you knew would never see you perform.

I also like that he referred to his piss as "yellow soup." How very Harlan Ellison of you.

Folcro
June 7th, 2013, 03:59 PM
Thank you very much Clnow, I'd love to have further insight from you concerning the book entire.

Inkwell, thank you as well. And yes, I've had a similar concern from another friend on the nature of Barnabas. What I was going for was someone so full of hate, that he'd take the itme to write a letter just to revel in it... or perhaps a part of him feels angry that nobody will ever know it was him, even though he doesn't want them to know. His character develops further in the story, and he alone is not a huge part of the book, just a launch point for some of the evils in it. So don't worry, won't be all angry rambling lol. I'mm meditate further on what you said, and see if there's anything I will change. Thanks again.

And Ransom City seems very interesting, from its description. I'll have to check it out.

Pelwrath
June 8th, 2013, 02:17 AM
Very well done. Barnabas coms off as a anti-hero and to me his audience is who ever the manuscript and the expository style comes to me as the actual manuscript he is writing. He just talks it out, to an imaginary reader, as practice before putting words to paper.

Al D
June 10th, 2013, 03:57 AM
Folcro, that's one of the best screeds of contempt I've ever seen. I love how rationally Barnabas expresses himself and the conceit of his revealing all only to destroy it later. A real piss-take.

BobtailCon
June 21st, 2013, 10:07 AM
Creepy

Pluralized
June 30th, 2013, 09:27 PM
Hey Folcro -

I'll save commenting on the general premise and the opening description, as I will be commenting on the companion piece to this shortly.

You've done a good job coming up with an interesting character, this old scientist. He's got some intriguing aspects, and I want to know more about him and his plots, but the narrative keeps getting in my way.

I'll admit being rather cynical when it comes to second-person POV, and I don't like the writing to ask me, the reader, too many questions. Both of those things are going on here, and I felt like this whole Barnabas sketch could use an aggressive "hack and whack"-type revision.

Some specific things I've pinpointed here:



People look down on the people who desire it.
The repetition reads funky.



“Everybody wants it,” everybody says. “I'm looking for something better.” Nobody ever seems to stop and think about what power is anymore.
Again, we have repetition. Additionally, this is where the narrative carries a lot of noise, in my opinion, and not much substance. I'd go at this opening with a machete.



But, silly me, you don't know what that is either, do you? What's that...? Oh, you mean you're in no position to tell me what is and isn't possible in the world of genetic manipulation?
I tend to bristle when the writing starts to question me, and it pulls me from the story. The entire thing could be tightened by pulling this questioning aspect out of it.



I'm an old fucking man.
This is kind of funny, in a way. It's worded such that "fucking" becomes an adjective. By all means, go for Free Indirect Style, but here I think it fails you.



There are things good people simply have no business knowing. Sometimes they need to stand aside and let nature take its course.
Here again, this guy is spouting off rhetoric, and it doesn't do anything to further the purpose of your tale. Also, I don't know how to properly judge the statement "good people" coming from this sociopath.



Does it not please a scientist to observe the reactions of the dependent variable? Does he not become attached to these reactions that he alone caused?
Again with the questioning. I wouldn't point it out specifically, but in this instance I find myself wondering exactly what you're going for introducing lingo like "dependent variable" and alluding to "reactions" that are as yet undefined. Use some of this first five-hundred for something that places a hook and gets a smooth stasis under the reader before going off on tangential ramblings.



I know, I know, it sounds insane. But this is because your mind is simple: it's influenced by little more than headlines on news papers and the leading story on the six o'clock news. “Hephaestus” this and “Hephaestus” that, all the prime-time specials bumping off my soaps.
I like the Hephaests idea, and I like the evil nature of this whole thing. I don't think you should insult the reader in this way, because it turns them off. Just my opinion.



Fucking the world.
The gerund doesn't work here. I'd simply say "Fuck the world."



send humanity down a never-ending whirlpool of chaos.
There's a vagueness to this sentiment that leaves me wondering what exactly the "chaos" is. I know you go on to describe it, but it's rather cliché in this setting.



Things changed too fast. Yet not fast enough.
This sort of hyperbole cancels itself out, and feels superfluous.



But there were other things I did. Things that just haven't had the time to develop.
I read a tense problem here, specifically in the word "haven't" as it relates to "did." Maybe it could be correct, but it still smells funny.



In my hands, on this page, in these words that you will never know exist, is truth.
With the statement "you will never know exist," you sort of shoot the whole thing in the leg. What's the point? I feel like I'm missing something here.



deforming it to something ugly
I wanted an image or some kind of simile here.



was I who gave that man the right to call himself anything other than a dirty old man.
There's repetition here, and a lot of words. Condense and tighten this when you revise.



I could go on another thousand pages describing the things I can make your body do-- not all of them you'd enjoy.
I think by 'not all of them' you leave the door open that 'some' are going to feel good. Like he's going to do things to my body, some of which will feel good. I would make it more sinister, like "none of which you'd enjoy," or even more evil than that.



Your generation will never know that the reason your newborn slid into this world with its genitals in the right place is that I allowed it.
Read the end of this sentence again. It's funky. I got your meaning, but this wasn't a smooth sentence for me.



You created its becoming.
This sentence needs to be reworded. Something like "It's your creation." Something simple and to the point here.



The very sound of it should have you scrubbing your wife's fear-feces off the mattress.
One of several brilliant lines in this piece.


Ending this with "time for a spritz" felt like a non-sequitur. Comedy to follow something that wanted to be rather sinister and nasty just didn't resonate.

Overall, I think with tightening up the writing, you have a manifesto from this scientist that could stand on its own two legs. I'll try to get into the companion piece to this as soon as possible.

Hope this isn't too nit-picky or harsh, just helpful.