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This was a lot of fun to read! I like that we see humans and dogs through the pov of a creature unfamiliar with our planet: "Sometimes these delicacies came in large, smooth, soft husks like Mrs. Waterstone's, standing and moving upright on two stems that forked down from their thickest parts." I think you might replace the dog's "bark" with something less familiar. Small point, but it stood out against the excellent description of Mrs. Waterstone's human body.
You switch over to a larger picture, and while I like seeing what this invasion is doing to the entire country, it would be nice if we saw more of the creature once in a while. I was excited to find out what these "fruits" were, but then the pov switched and the question was left unanswered. I'd also like to know more about the "staff" memeber who is speaking in the second half. the last lines were very effective, but I want to know a little more about this person before they die. I think a feeling of sadness is the only thing missing here in terms of emotion: it doesn't need to have a heartbreak scene, but we could connect w/ these people a little more.
One more thing: the breeding scene? Disgusting! :)
Ha! This is fantastic. I love all the vivid descriptions of the traveler and the looks on the people's faces right before they are sucked dry.
Oh Jane Jane Jane, I have thus far always enjoyed your writing and you don't disappoint here. That darn Lauren girl gave the exact same praise I was going to give, I loved those descriptions.
I think you got kind of hamstrung by the 4000 word limit. I could see this unfolding into a much larger story with some gross details and more evolutions of the creature. I think it's perfectly fine as is, I just see there's potential to make it even bigger.
I really liked the echo at the end of your story to the beginning of your story. Really, really liked it, but I think you could end at "It sparkles." It just makes the story end nearly exactly how it began which would give us the impression of the cycle being endless.
Apart from one technical detail, I enjoyed this story. That detail being how quickly all the other little spore-thingies arrived. The spore bemoaned how far it had to travel under harsh circumstances, then suddenly all these other ones come floating in as a response to some kind of signal she sent out. It might work better if the one just multiplies, or a sentence or two is used to explain how they travel so we know how the first one came across our planet and how the other ones were able to arrive as quickly as they did (although some may complain that's an info-dump). Relatedly, I think the phrase you used, "so far across vast distances," is one of those I always see writer-types complaining about. I can't remember what they call it, but it's apparently one of them writing no-nos.
Thanks for the feedback, everyone. The main thing I want to fix is the dreadful mess I made with point of view, as well as any sentence- level atrocities on the order of "so far across vast distances." Please say I didn't make any other ridiculous writing mistakes like, "She dropped her eyes on the table." hmmm. Now there's an interesting premise for a scary story. . . The horror! The horror!
Very enjoyable read. This was a lighter tale with a degree of humor in it. I really liked the gliter little creatures. Tales of aliens have a special place in my heart since I cut my teeth reading science fiction. I would watch some of the word choices though. (liquefaction being the process of turning something into a liquid rather than a liquid itself. . . .) I do have a feeling that there are some missing comma's in there, but I'm absolutely horrible with comma rules. I just remember feeling like there were missing pauses in the story.
Yeah, doesn't it really gall you that "The Trouble With Tribbles" was apparently lifted straight out of Heinlein's novel (forget which one of them) with the "flat cats" in it? I hope someone at least paid him (much as I grew to dislike him as I got older). I love aliens, too. I love all that a lot more than I love horror.
Anyhow, thanks very much for the suggestions. I'll certainly rush to check all the commas. I usually do well with commas, and I will have a professional meltdown if I missed any. As for liquefaction, I actually really did mean liquefaction. What I should probably do is clarify how the critter digests her prey. Brown recluse spiders use this method and so, unfortunately, do some Tanzanian poachers who have discovered a new and grisly way to kill elephants. One more bullet point on my revision checklist!
Hi Jane. This is a good story and your writing style is almost impeccable. I can always find a few nits to pick, though – and they’re scattered through my edit.
There are two key elements to the story that I think you must address. First, your point-of-view appears to be flawed. It isn’t until halfway through the text (unless I missed it), that any indication is given that this is a first-person narrative. Meanwhile, passages throughout the text describe thoughts and actions that the first-person wouldn’t be privy to. Effectively this is a first-person-omniscient story, which is… weird.
Second, rows of soldiers march straight into death when they enter the town – but helicopters and crop-dusters fly over it unscathed. I would think that their pilots would die just as easily as anyone else in the kill-zone.
Your writing style is significantly different from mine. I realize I have a tendency to try turning other people’s work so that it matches my style. That said, you use a lot of adjectives and adverbs, which is alright. But at certain points I felt that you piled them up too high. I think that’s something you might find worth considering.
Also, stylistically, there are several “shown vs. told” moments. This isn’t always such a bad thing, but it’s something else that I think is worth some consideration.
Thanks for the great read, Jane!
Hmm, I think I was supposed to hit this reply button to reply to your post, and instead, I just put it in the thread. But anyway, thanks, and I've said more in the main thread.
Good edits! Thanks, Joshua. Yeah, the pov problem is a biggie. I've been working on that. I guess you're right about the crop dusters. Gotta figure that one out, too, but the pov problem is BIG. I wish we could post revisions in the contest, but I don't know that it's allowed. I've always believed the real writing happens in the rewriting.
You can edit your post and re-upload a fixed file. I've done it with my entry.
Good to know--thanks
I had a ball reading this story. Nice to see cool monster.
The only thing I might change are the President's quotes. I doubt even JFK would have had a handle on the situation, and the quotes implied (for me) that a smarter President might have made a difference.
On the other hand, I'm kind of a moron, so feel free to ignore me.
I, um, had a particular president in mind, and one of the quotes is taken pretty directly from his actual words during a particular actual disaster, but. . . I don't want to specify, in case you'd like to insert your doofus president of choice.
Thanks for the great feedback!
Really enjoyed this Jane. You do well with this genre. I loved the graphic detail and the way the story built up. I think I liked the subtle humor best, though. This seemed to be satire infused with horror.
The end was great with the president's staff in the bunker watching the cities blink off the map.
Other than the aforementioned POV stuff, I've got nothing to say but Great job!
Thanks, Chris! I posted a revised version that fixed the pov issue, but I didn't know how to overwrite this version with it, so it's in its own separate, lonely little post.
I really enjoyed it (so much so that this is my first review)! I loved the initial descriptions of the humans and the dog, and the image of thousands of empty human husks just lying about.
One thing that I noticed while reading was the switch in POV, but I see you're aware of that already. Also I didn't really get what the "fruits" were that the visitor favoured. Adding something to make that a bit clearer would be much appreciated by slower folks like me!
EDIT: Just seen that you've already uploaded a revised version and now I feel silly! The new one seems much improved, well done!
Thanks for the good words! Yes, I did revise it, but I'm so new that I didn't know how to replace the old version with the revised one. So. . . really confusing, sorry.
I love that you're currently reading Lovecraft. In my mind, the creature in my story reminded me of something from one of his stories (though not nearly as well crafted...pun intended), and yours gave me that same feeling. Funny how our current reads influence what we write!
I also really enjoyed the descriptions of the traveler and the pacing was very well done (considering you did it in like 2500 words...bravo!). My only complaint is that you give us the perspective of the traveler and include details that the staff member narrator couldn't possibly know. It starts out as an omniscient pov but then shifts into a first person plural type deal. My suggestion is if you want to keep the pov of the traveler (which I think you should because it's great) you should stick with an omniscient narrator. I mean, suspending disbelief is one thing, but having a first person narraror know things he couldn't just mucks it up. Now if you were writing a novel or even breaking the story into sections, then you could shift perspectives without it creating problems.
Other than that one thing, and perhaps a few minor gramatical things, I thought this was great!
I hope to get mine revised once more and submitted in the next day or two. Mine also has a strange gelatinous type creature (though mine isn't nearly as beautiful as yours!)
Ha! I misspelled grammar in the above post. That's funny.
I enjoyed the story. You have a wonderful way of describing objects from the eyes of someone who hasn't seen them yet. This seems something that would be wonderful to extrapolate on and make into a full novel.
on the word susurration: Best word to use. The word itself is almost an onomatopoeia of the scene it's in.
on POV: Going with the other comments, What might work if say you try to keep the omniscient narrator is to have a scene at the end where the narrator is explaining the last survivor and what he/she is doing. If it's writing a letter, or typing on a screen, whatever works. That way the amount you need to change would be minimal.
on alien hermaphrodites: This may only be a personal preference, but if the traveler has asexual reproduction, then I wouldn't choose to have a "he/she" descriptor. It makes better sense in my head to just describe the traveler as "it".
Wonderful story. Thanks for all the words.
Thanks very much for the comments. I have posted a revision that addresses some of these concerns, although at the time I didn't understand how to replace this version with the new one. So (confusingly, awkwardly) I have two separate posts.
Woops, just read this and then saw your comment that you did another post addressing the POV thing. Just wanted to say brilliant monster concept...in a way I thought the monster was actually the main character, and it was neat that we got to see its point of view sometimes. Will be interested to see how you resolved the two POVs. Did have trouble with a few sentences, but sure you can clean little things like this up:
"Almost instantaneously afterward, a raw scream instead wrenched itself from her throat."
"Her body involuntarily engaged in an escalating terrible shudder..."
On the whole, I don't know that I was scared reading this -- more entertained and appreciative of your skill at unfolding such bizarre events. In a way, it almost has the tone of a YA novel. Thanks for sharing this.
Very nice. I particularly liked the opening, the gentleness and beauty never seeming to let up, even when ****SPOILER**** Mrs Waterstone is being sucked, eyeball first, against the window ****END SPOILER****.
I also very much liked the description of humans as 'fruit' and the utter innocent disregard for the lives that were being ended. There was something creepy about the lack of malice in the creatures' onslaught, and the nice thread of humour when describing the President and the irritation of the populace about having their reality tv interrupted almost made the destruction feel, well, just.
haha, thanks, Scott! I'm glad SOMEBODY understood the humans are the fruit. I had to do a lot of work on this story, though--there's a revised version posted somewhere too.
I will go and track it down. I enjoyed this one, so looking forward to the rewrite.
I had a big pov problem with the first version--I think I've solved it with the second, but I'm sure the second needs work too. One of my friends doesn't like it as well as the first version, in spite of its pov problem. I'll be interested to hear what you say. I see you have a story in the contest, too, so I will try to find it and read it.
Some beautiful ambiguity Jane, and a ripper ending! Well done!
thanks for the kind words! Big point of view problem, though--I MAY have fixed it in the revised version posted on here someplace.
I am not experienced, but from what I have read of these stories, this work is a stand out.
For one, from a strictly format perspective your layout is interesting. I hate reading books or shorts with 100s of identically lengthed paragraphs.
Also, with the content, you score nicely. You covered a huge amount of material, and did it in a way that was flowing instead of overwhelming.
It took me a few moments in the beginning to buy in, but from there it was fairly smooth sailing.
Good story! Good fun to read as well. Hmm, I wonder which Prez this guy was baded on hmmmm. So awesomely (if that is a word) described icky scenes...fantastic.
Giggle--I'll never tell!
Enjoyed this and its premise--all too easy to imagine bureaucrats dawdling while we get our guts sucked out, ahem. And of course, that Reality TV would go on, even as the world ended.
Kudoes for taking on a tricky POV, with narrator needing to imagine the bits he/she did not directly experience. Even in this short a piece, you could tell the first bit from the alien viewpoint, then switch over to the aide's--extra creepy, that, with the alien seeing humans/canines purely as chocolates in big brown boxes.
Thank you for sharing!
Dang, that was really good! It reminded me a lot of horror movies from the 50's and 80's that were that perfect mix of horror and sci--fi, like Them! and The Blob. Pretty much perfectly fits within the confines of the short story format, too. I loved it!
thanks! I loved The Blob--now if only I could fit Steve McQueen in there someplace. . .
I also got the "fruit" bit, immediately... I think the whole story would have benefitted from the POV of the alien. My opinion is that if you're going to start out with the reader having to be subjected to the way that the alien thinks about its new environment, a short story wouldn't have enough time, necessarily, to shift dramatically from it. The Prez could have been a sideshow, instead of being a somewhat important character.
Your depiction of the alien's mentality was fantastic. It was immersive, but lost its weight on the droll humans that lost their lives. Whenever I watch a horror movie, I like the deaths to mean something. Cloverfield was a waste, to me, because I couldn't care less when each character was slain. If you have time, go back into the mind of the alien for the entire story. Your story started out strong because the reader had to understand how the alien thought about its surroundings. A short story wouldn't beat that trope to death.
Thanks for your comments. There's a revised version of Hatch somewhere in the contest story pile too, although I'm still working on stuff like the pov problems.
Really well done! I like how the end tied to the beginning and your descriptions were very poetic!
Really enjoyable story here! I loved the descriptions, the eerie alien & the dopey President. I liked Sancho's comparison to Them! & The Blob, too. Makes me want to revisit those flicks. ;)
The eyeball against the window definitely did it's job and I pictured it immediately. I liked the story. As mentioned throughout, it did remind me of a couple different monster stories I grew up with, including the blob.
I am by no means a professional writer, even though I would like to be... but the only thing that really threw me was the story shifted pov too much. It started with the pov of the first victim, then the monster, then staff members, etc..
Good point about the pov. There's a revised version around somewhere in the contest--tried to fix it in that version. Thanks for the comments.
My reply posted twice. Wish we could delete.
great story, jane! i'll have to hunt down the other version - but i think in the amount of time you had and this being the first version, wow you really churned out something horrifying yet witty yet...elegant and an ending that satisfied. great job!
That was fantastic! Such an effectively visual read I loved it.
Thanks for the encouraging words!
I thoroughly enjoyed your story, descriptive and constantly moving, changing.
The basic plot is very reminiscent of a Dean Koontz story... I think (don't quote me!) that it was "Seed" in the Short Story compilation Strange Highways.
I really like the ride you took me on, and the conclusion was right up to the door. :)
Thank you, Jane.
Thanks! I have to admit, I've never read anything by him. Guess I should!
“Its fragility hovered just at the edge of vision as it drifted …”
I see what you’re getting at here, describing something that flickers at the edge of one’s vision, something fleeting and unidentified. But who’s vision would this be, exactly? And is this thing hovering, or just it’s fragility?
And when you describe something shimmering and sparkling as it falls from the sky, I immediately picture the sky being dark, so as to give contrast/visibility to the sparkling/shimmering thing, though you say it’s early morning. That could just be me… solicit some other opinions on this. That nitpicking aside, these two opening graphs are really enchanting.
“She didn't think. She just acted.”
This is clear by her following actions; these two sentences could be nixed without the larger meaning of this graph suffering at all.
“Almost instantaneously afterward, a raw scream instead wrenched itself from her throat. Her body involuntarily engaged in an escalating terrible shudder as she tried to snatch her hand back from the pane where of its own will it had pressed itself.”
“Almost” and “instantaneous” run counter to each other, verging on oxymoronic; the “almost” doesn’t add any significant meaning to the “instantaneous.” Moreover, they both serve to telegraph the forthcoming scream, announcing its arrival and robbing it of its immediacy.
Consider something like:
“Her lips formed a delighted exclamation. And then a raw scream instead wrenched itself from her throat.”
Just a ‘frinstance, not to be taken as gospel.
Likewise for the second sentence in the above citation. “Her body involuntarily engaged in an escalating terrible shudder…” Shudders are, by nature, involuntary; and saying that her body engaged in the shudder is akin to burying the meaning of this clause—her shuddering—in packing foam. As with the above, it loses its immediacy. Lastly, if you tell the reader that she’s trying to snatch her hand back, then it’s implicit that she’s struggling to do so, thus also implicit that she’s struggling against herself.
I do love the descriptions of suburbia and its inhabitants via the third person limited of the traveler… these are priceless.
“People in the town went about their ordinary business of living, until suddenly they didn't any more.” Beautiful, as is the whole graph that follows.
You manage to say in the third person while artfully shifted your limited omniscience. This is really, really tricky to do, and you pull it off with invisible effort. So, yeah, bravo to that… not something I see very often.
“When the photographs made by helicopter flyovers started coming in, the Rapture turned out a lot uglier than many had imagined, what with all the piles of loose skin left lying around the city streets to stink up the place in the summer heat.” Another gem.
“Let me be clear, though.” This was the first time I was really thrown out of the story. As I said above, you artfully shift POVs while maintaining omniscience, but now there’s a “me.” And who is this, exactly? A little later, it seems he’s part of the White House staff, but the introduction threw me.
And you use “myriad” correctly. Thank you so much for that.
Curious… you refer to the travelers as female, but they multiply asexually. Is this common parlance when discussing non-gender life forms in the scientific community? I ask for reasons of grammar and syntax, and also because I’m a complete nerd.
Lovely ending, with a beautiful full-circle nod to the opening graphs. Still, I’m perplexified by the point of view, issue. How could this staffer know so much about the goings-on of these travelers? That’s my most vexing concern; aside from my semantic quibling above, I love your style and tone.