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View Full Version : Umpqua's Decalcifier - 500w, ramble



Pluralized
December 19th, 2013, 12:07 AM
Leaves crunched underfoot like the shells of desiccated insects. I looked down at my wrist-clock and noted the hour. Since cutting power to the perimeter fence and poisoning the two tower watchmen, I studied the sky and estimated how long it would be before the Helisects were dispatched and I would be liquefied.


A shaft of sunlight cleaved the forest and melted the frost from the valley floor. Massive hardwoods looked down upon my progress as if to mock my natural vulnerability and protest my animal mobility. I trudged on, climbing the ridge toward the mechanism. I reached the rusting hulk of iron and stood before it, breathing through my mouth and trying to calm the adrenalin pumping through my bloodstream. This was it, just where he’d indicated. Thoughts came to me rapidly, one after another. To secure it, analyze its dimensions would have to come first, then I’d escape through the northern edge of the property. A sigh inadvertently went out of me as I thought of the way he’d described the northern plague fields, and how the tar was rumored to stick to a man’s boots, then soak right in through the leather and all, infecting him with the Weakness. These days, ways to catch it were everywhere, and I would have to move quickly to avoid the tar. Cold temperatures and a hard ground meant it was just possible, but only if I didn’t linger and let the sun heat the earth.


I pulled the camera and imager from my backpack and assembled them together. A 3D-printed model of the mechanism would be waiting for me when I returned to my quarters at the monument, and I smiled at the novelty of it all. I stepped carefully around the monolith, taking careful photos and measurements for nearly half an hour. The earth swallowed the lower portions of the decalcifying apparatus, so there was no way to know what it really looked like. But I trusted the imager. Infrared and ultrasound could do things the human eye could not, but still I felt nervous.


I struggled with thoughts of guilt, and fear for what the mechanism’s function could mean for us all. The illustrations had frightened me, but looking upon the ancient device with my own eyes excoriated my calmness and reduced my instincts to primal decision making. I had to do this for humanity, for the beautiful souls I’d met and loved, and for Ransom, who fell victim to pineal calcification early in his second decade. People were losing their souls and had been for a long time.


It had been there for sixty years, abandoned by the Corps during the revolt. When it had been relocated from Umpqua, we found out about it through Plank and his crazy rants about calcification. The “Seat of the Soul,” or so it had been called, we all had a pineal gland. The machine would take them, but with them, our regrets, sadness, loss. Death would mean nothing.

escorial
December 19th, 2013, 02:41 AM
odd name Umpqua...other than that the first paragraph had me interested and the way you describe the outdours is so very real....when the sci/fi started I kind of lost momentum..but that was me not your writing..enjoyed the realism more than anything.

Gavrushka
December 19th, 2013, 04:58 PM
I'd sum it up as intriguing and engaging, and it asked far more questions than it answered. - It was enjoyable, but I did have to pause to Google words, and that was a shame (just my lack of intellect.)

It was, however a little too short. Where I expected to see a good wholesome description, an adverb was thrown in far too often which reduced the impact. - I feel that 500 words, if expanded to 550 or 600 would have made it beyond good and into the realms of a very good read.

There were a couple of lines that felt out of place. - He's filled with adrenalin and he's likely to be liquefied, and yet he 'trudged' - trudge (to me) suggested dispassionate and uninterested. - I think there could have been a better word used.


Thoughts came to me rapidly, one after another.

I don't know if it is the word rapidly that destroys this sentence, or one after another, but together they don't seem to work.


I stepped carefully around the monolith, taking careful photos and measurements for nearly half an hour.

Careful employed twice in the same sentence- I think the adverb is redundant considering the photos were taken carefully already. - Unless he was just been really cautious! :P


I did enjoy it, and it fulfilled the prime need of any piece of prose, and that wass to fill me with the urge to read on, and I hope I get the opportunity to do just that! :)

Pluralized
December 19th, 2013, 08:54 PM
Hey, thanks for reading guys. I'll be working to expand this thing a bit, as I have some more crazy ideas about what the machine can be used for. Thanks for your input!

Mat
December 20th, 2013, 07:29 AM
I loved the idea of this, 500 words was plenty to hook me in and want to read more. I wasn't sure about the opening phrase, 'desiccated insects'. Maybe it's a reflection of the character of th narrator, but so early on it kind of sticks out. That was the only criticism I could think of though! More, please!

qwertyman
December 20th, 2013, 11:34 AM
Hi Pluralised, I am not a follower or even an occasional reader of sci-fi and these comments might be best ignored. But as you helped me with my punctuation problem(s), here are my opinions for what they’re worth.


Leaves crunched underfoot like the shells of desiccated insects. I looked down at my wrist-clock and noted the hour. Since cutting power to the perimeter fence and poisoning the two tower watchmen, I studied the sky and estimated how long it would be before the Helisects were dispatched and I would be liquefied.

‘Since cutting the power…’ a bit clunky to read. Consider, ’I looked down at my wrist-clock it was forty minutes since I had cut etc’



A shaft of sunlight cleaved the forest and melted the frost from the valley floor.

The image is more accurate with shafts of sunlight.


Massive hardwoods looked down upon my progress as if to mock my natural vulnerability and protest my animal mobility.

Awkward, the hardwoods are angry that he can walk? I'm not sure about that, and it doesn’t seem like the thoughts of somebody who has just killed two guards.


I trudged on, climbing the ridge toward the mechanism. I reached the rusting hulk of iron and stood before it, breathing through my mouth and trying to calm the adrenalin pumping through my bloodstream. This was it, just where he’d indicated. Thoughts came to me rapidly, one after another. To secure it, analyze its dimensions would have to come first, then I’d escape through the northern edge of the property. A sigh inadvertently went out of me as I thought of the way he’d (Consider a name or profession, give him an identity, something the reader can grab – the cripple – the ferryman –the Countess)
described the northern plague fields, and how the tar was rumored to stick to a man’s boots, then soak right in through the leather and all, infecting him with the Weakness. These days, ways to catch it were everywhere, and I would have to move quickly to avoid the tar. Cold temperatures and a hard ground meant it was just possible, but only if I didn’t linger and let the sun heat the earth.



I pulled the camera and imager from my backpack and assembled them together. A 3D-printed model of the mechanism would be waiting for me when I returned to my quarters at the monument, and I smiled at the novelty of it all. I stepped carefully around the monolith, (Monolith is normally understood to be a stone monument, the reader is thinking mechanical apparatus)
taking careful photos and measurements for nearly half an hour. The earth swallowed the lower portions of the decalcifying apparatus, (Awkward, decalcifying means to remove lime scale etc. Is it a machine for that purpose? Or is it a machine that is in the process of being decalcified?)
so there was no way to know what it really looked like. But I trusted the imager. Infrared and ultrasound could do things the human eye could not, but still I felt nervous.


I struggled with thoughts of guilt, and fear for what the mechanism’s function could mean for us all. The illustrations had frightened me, but looking upon the ancient device with my own eyes excoriated my calmness and reduced my instincts to primal decision making. I had to do this for humanity, for the beautiful souls I’d met and loved, and for Ransom, who fell victim to pineal calcification early in his second decade. People were losing their souls and had been for a long time.



It had been there for sixty years, abandoned by the Corps during the revolt. When it had been relocated from Umpqua, we found out about it through Plank and his crazy rants about calcification. The “Seat of the Soul,” or so it had been called, we all had a pineal gland. The machine would take them, but with them, our regrets, sadness, loss. Death would mean nothing. (why would death mean nothing?)

I realise these are early days with this work and you have set yourself the difficult task of info-dropping into an action scene.

The conflict in this scene is 'time'. Consider, at the next edit, restricting this section to action, and drop the majority of the ‘info’ later when the task has been completed. It's 'time' that will get him killed either from the Helisects or the rising sun. You might also consider mentioning how long he has to complete it and counting out the minutes until the heat of the sun or the helisects arrive.
‘… taking careful photos and measurements for nearly half an hour’. has a different emphasis to 'Twenty-six minutes later…' which would indicate he was really worried about getting the job done and getting the hell out of there.

Good luck with it....qwerty

aj47
December 21st, 2013, 05:10 PM
Okay, I'm going to speak to two things that are the same--the language. You shift from everyday-type language to "vocabulary" words and it makes it harder to read.

If you told me you took a vocabulary lesson and used all x words in this piece, I wouldn't be a bit surprised. I don't think that's the impression you want to leave.

What I mean by going back and forth is using casual words like "carefully" and not vocab words like "meticulously" while at the same time, using what my mom calls "higher language" for other word choices. Even "cleaved" felt like it was intended as a show-off/vocabulary word in its use.

This is not about the concept or idea--which I liked overall except for the presentation.

thepancreas11
December 29th, 2013, 09:42 PM
For the most part, I loved it. It paints a sort of post-apocalyptic world, and I felt tense from the moment you mentioned the poisoned watchmen. I never lost that feeling, which is, of course, an important way of hooking the reader, so good job on that.

If there is one thing that I could change, it would be the amount of information. It's one thing to create mystery, and it's another to leave the reader without a foot to stand on. There are so many things that you introduce in these first 500 words that this almost feels like the first chapter in a sequel. Try to narrow down the focus so that there are one or two things that the reader does not yet understand, and I promise, it will make them want to read more to find out what they're missing. Also, if you're going to introduce something, you want to do it as soon as possible. Putting all that information in the last paragraph sounds like you've lost a little focus.

All in all, a little polishing, and this will be a great book.

Pluralized
December 29th, 2013, 11:17 PM
Hey, thanks everybody - really appreciate the insights and helpful comments. I'll post up the expanded version once I feel like it's clean enough. Initially this was going to be just a 500w short, but the machine's function intrigued me enough to expound upon its cultural value. It's supposed to be a decalcification device, created by antiquity (the final throes of the industrial revolution) and unearthed by this intrepid narrator some time in the distant future.

Glad you all took the time to read and comment.

Mat - I'll share more when I can, thanks so much for stopping by.

qwertyman - all valid points - I've taken all your commentary on board and will hopefully present a better draft next go 'round. Thank you for the help.

astroannie - Not sure why, but that's how a lot of my stuff comes across. In fact, my vocabulary isn't all that great. I just write, and whatever word presents itself and sounds good, I use. Sometimes I select different words to convey a more concise meaning, but I don't possess a tremendous mastery of the language. I do, however, like to sound pretentious whenever possible. :) Seriously though, thanks for your comments. I think you're right, a simpler language at times (or more consistency in the prose) is warranted. Many thanks.

pancreas! Welcome to the site, and so glad you commented on my story. It's kind of a short sketch that poured out of my head one day, and I would really like to turn it into more of a proper short story, somewhere around a few thousand words. In writing exposition, I tend to stomp all over and squash all the mystery, just as you've stated. I'll work on that, and maybe pull back some of the blatant telling in favor of some nuanced hints and hooks. Thanks for your help here.

~Plur