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lspieller's picture

Gizmo

By lspieller in Teleport Us

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Once you have read this story, please make sure you rate it by clicking the thumbs above. Then take a few minutes to give the author a helpful critique! We're all here for fun but let's try to help each other too.

Description

DecisionMakingDevices...never leave home without one!

Comments

Tom.Brewer's picture
Tom.Brewer from Cincinnati, OH is reading Cities of the Plain February 19, 2013 - 9:48pm

This was a fun read. The dialogue was crisp and the characters' use of the DMD as a crutch was well-written.

I don't think the story delivered on the dystopia part of the prompt for the contest. The characters seemed too willing to hand their lives over to the DMDs. I think if you developed this into a longer story, you could develop the dystopian angle.

Shannon Natsuko J's picture
Shannon Natsuko J February 19, 2013 - 9:52pm

Love the idea of the DMD! Seems like we're already attached to such devices in our lives now.  

hilbertspaces84's picture
hilbertspaces84 February 19, 2013 - 10:45pm

I thought the dystopia angle was subtle and well done. Its a world where humans are dependent on tech to the point where human interaction is almost secondary. Nicely done.

leah_beth's picture
leah_beth from New Jersey - now in Charleston, SC is reading five different books at once. February 19, 2013 - 11:09pm

Well done!! I love techie sci-fi and this was a nice blend of high-tech, feasibility and a glimpse of where we could be headed.  

Trying hard to comment without spoilers....but the end was surprising, in a great way. 

Dialogue was tight, writing was tight - you have a light touch, which made this a lovely story. 

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Dark Places by Gillian Flynn February 19, 2013 - 11:59pm

What a cool, sneaky little tale! I love your voice; it has a very playful quality about it that allows the surprise ending to creep up on you and shake you. Really dig your dialogue too, especially in the beginning. Well done!

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading Stay God, Sweet Angel by Nik Korpon February 20, 2013 - 1:52pm

Nice story, a world where even the simplest decision revolve around what a piece of technology suggests sounds completely dystopian, and god-damn awful ~ great job :)

 

Harlem Snape's picture
Harlem Snape February 20, 2013 - 1:57pm

Overall. I liked the story.  The formatting and font, however, made it very hard to read.  There were also quite a few grammatical errors (As notated by the squiggly underlines in the document). 

 

I think with a few revisions you could have something great!  Until then, it is just so-so to me.

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles is reading LEVIATHAN February 20, 2013 - 2:58pm

For the most part, the grammatical issues are purposeful -- it's an effort to keep the entire story in the voice of the MC, Marix. People don't speak with perfect grammar, and sometimes prose (in my opinion) benefits from a looseness that you can't get with perfect speech. On the font side -- I have no idea what you mean? It looks like basic font and formatting to me and everyone I've asked. You might want to check your settings. :)

I'm honestly surprised that a formatting problem and a few grammar issues earned this story a thumbs down from you :(

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee and loving it! February 20, 2013 - 1:58pm

This was a lot of fun! Oh the good old bathtub...

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles is reading LEVIATHAN February 20, 2013 - 2:54pm

I'm so glad you guys are enjoying it!

 

Andrew WK's picture
Andrew WK February 20, 2013 - 4:04pm

Great dialogue! You write characters very well! Clever idea as well with the DMD, certainly rings of dystopia to me (course I still don't own a cell phone...).

Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures February 20, 2013 - 6:16pm

This was a fun little story for sure (hit a bit close to home too for all of us on our smartphones!). The end was a bit surprising only because I felt the majority of the story was light and than the ending kind of hit you. I didnt dislike it though, it was a groovy way to surprise the reader. Well done and fun!

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 20, 2013 - 6:28pm

Loved the story! It had a theme not unlike one I tried to portray in my story, but I must say you managed to pluck my heartstrings with more finesse in the 'CALL MOM' segment than I managed anywhere in mine. 

Tightly told, but still moving where it needed to be. 

The idea of actually obeying our phones like a master hits a sore spot, which is a perfect defenition of dystopia and a (very) credible future. 

If I had any critisism, it would be the very last line. It does not deliver quite the punch as the ones before it, and I'd just let it hang after he gets the bad news - especially since he was culpable. Also - there is a bit of a disjoint in that his mom is totally new to a DMD when he gives it to her but that she then immediately takes it to her bathtub.

That she dies, alone, while he is away at the behest of his gizmo, is IMO tragic enough. 

Great read!

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles is reading LEVIATHAN February 20, 2013 - 7:21pm

thank you! I always struggle with final lines. I thought that ending with the credit card question would put the reader smack back in the middle of the tech-as-master theme (since that's the question he's asked when he's at the DMD store) but i can completely see what you mean about it undermining the OOMPH of his mother's death. I'll keep working on it!

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 21, 2013 - 5:00pm

As always, your writing gets us immediately into the story, and great dialogue, clever concept. No clunky exposition, everything is delivered in the story without a hiccup. Love the twist at the end. I gave this a thumbs up.

Matt L.'s picture
Matt L. from Texas is reading Tenth of December: Stories February 28, 2013 - 12:02am

Wow, really enjoyed this! You have a great voice and the piece flowed nicely. One of those thoughtful allegories that hits a little too close to home (in a good way). Makes it painfully clear how we allow technologies that are meant to bring us closer together push us further apart.

My only criticism would be the last line as I've seen others mention. I got what you were trying accomplish with it, it certainly got the point across, but I would like to see something more powerful, yet subtle - like the rest of your story! But I'm with you on how hard it is to close a story just right.

Would love to see this story developed even further. Nice job!

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. March 3, 2013 - 2:23pm

Definitely worth the read! I wonder just how far off from the DMD we are. The writing and flow of this story left nothing to be desired. My only complaint is with the way the story ended. It does feel like it falls a little flat in comparison to the res of the writing. I would expect him to have a reflex to ask his DMD what to do. Maybe if there was some reason he couldn't trust it or the device were broken?

Great Work!

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles is reading LEVIATHAN March 3, 2013 - 11:22pm

I'm definitely going to have to figure out a new ending, b/c everyone seems to agree that this one leaves a little to bit to be desired. HmmMMmmm...

 

thanks for the read!

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland March 4, 2013 - 12:16am

First of all, I'll just say wow. I've read a dozen or so stories in this comp so far, and yours is the best display of scientifically plausible technology I've read yet. Your characters and dialogue were great, and you executed the theme without flaw. I really, really enjoyed this story.

Now, this wouldn't be a workshop type challenge if I didn't offer a little bit of helpful criticism and if it doesn't work for your story just ignore it:

An earlier reviewer mentioned that this didn't feel like a dystopia, I on the other hand think that you did a great job setting up a potential dystopia of astronomical proportions, reminiscent of Sky-net in "The Terminator." I feel like your story was pushing in that direction, leading the reader to assume the potential danger of letting technology make our decisions for us until, we humans are the robots performing tasks for the A.I.So in a very subtle way, you really nailed the dystopia aspect of it.

I almost wish we had a little more.

At the DMD store I felt like the sales man was pushing the upgrade on Marix. O.K. so maybe it was just a typical salesman trying to make extra cash, but with all the new questions about religion and the new devotion stuff, I felt like this is the beginning of when people are so dependent on decisions being made for them they start to agree to upgrades that they don't need that are going to be the main component of "enslaving" humans to technology. Or maybe I am just reaching way too far and this is just simply a parallel on how dependent humans have become to technology, so much so that a simple oversight = imminent death. That's really good too. I'm just really curious about the scene at the store. I'm not sure I know exactly what the new questions and upgrades are about, and could be as simple as you answered it and I over looked it or maybe you wanted it to be left up to the reader to decide.

All that said, I love this story so much if you ever decided to write more scenes I could easily read another 5000-10000 words of this story but it also works perfectly as a stand-alone short.

*Edit*

Oh, also, I just remembered. There was a section where you mentioned three missed calls, but then you nararate four missed calls. DId I miss something or was that a slight oversight?

And as far as the two calls from the mother, I assumed she was calling to ask if she could take it in the bath with her and he ignored/missed the call so she did. Am I right? Perfect!

Thanks for posting this one Lauren,

Jonathan

 

 

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles is reading LEVIATHAN March 4, 2013 - 3:07am

Jonathan! I love everything you said! I'm going to turn this short into a novel, and I absolutely want to expand on the religious aspects of the DMD. Perhaps I can convince you to be a CP...hmm... :)

 

As for the missed calls -- thanks for catching that. It was a total oversight!

Matt L.'s picture
Matt L. from Texas is reading Tenth of December: Stories March 13, 2013 - 3:54pm

Yes. This. Novel. Do it.

Ian's picture
Ian from Texas is reading Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne March 6, 2013 - 6:34pm

And now I know where the "What sound is made when you sit in a leather chair?" question came from! "Squelching" is a perfect choice. This is a very good story. I love, love, love the premise. I'll echo what others have said above... The DMD is one nasty piece of completely believable technology that's quietly more dystopian than anything in most of the pieces I've read in Teleport Us. Solid dialogue and pacing. I would actually love to see more of the DMD and the ways people interact with it. I also really dig the "DMD as God" angle you're beginning to tackle. Dive in! That's the good stuff. Expand this. Please.

Also, I loved Raj Mahoney. That's awesome.

Here are the only issues I saw:

When Marix and Amanda first meet, she asks "What about your family?" His response seems wrong - "My mother lives in a home near here." Maybe change her question or flesh out his answer? Her response - "My father died last year." - works regardless. Not a big deal. It just jerked me out of reading this for the briefest second.

I like that you used the "bump" as a way to sync the devices. I think its fine that such a thing has been in use for several years here in the real world and is still being used in your story in 2045(ish). What I didn't think worked was having him say "Bump it with mine and it'll give you my address." I say just describe the transfer. Just a thought.

On Page 11, there's a line of the mother's dialogue that reads, "No, dear. No for years and years." I think that should read, "Not" instead of "No".

As JR noted above, the DMD alerts Marix to three missed calls but there are four. One tiny heads up... The calls are described as "1st Missed Call", "2nd Missed Call", "3rd Missed Call", and "Fourth Missed Call". That last one should be "4th Missed Call", right?

This is great stuff. I hope the above helps. Thanks for sharing this!

 

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles is reading LEVIATHAN March 6, 2013 - 7:01pm

Good catches. I haven't changed this doc b/c I don't THINK i'm sup to at this point...or can I??

I definitely want to expand the religion angle. I'm actually thinking about turning this into my next book :)

Nathan Scalia's picture
Community Manager
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 6, 2013 - 11:19pm

I really don't have much more to say than has been said. It was definitely one of the more professional pieces I've read in this contest so far. You definitely picked up how to "show, not tell" already, which meant there was no need for out-of-context backstory, which is awesome. It was much easier to read than a lot of what I've read so far.

I'm not sure I agree with the comments above about this not having a strong dystopian theme. I just read that a machine told a woman whether or not she should have drunken sex with a complete stranger she had met online. That seems pretty horrifying, and altogether not at all unbelievable. The machines don't have to be sentient to have enslaved the human race.

Definitely good work.

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles is reading LEVIATHAN March 7, 2013 - 1:18am

Thank you, Nathan! :)

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading To Kill A Mockingbird March 8, 2013 - 12:52pm

I certainly think you are one of the more talented writers to have attempted the contest.  The central concept is great - I really want a DMD!  The characters are believable, and while the ending may hit slightly the wrong note, the moral of family over career shines through.  I'm not sure this fits perfectly within a short story.  Other than how it ends for his Marix's mother, there is little in the way of conflict or tension.  It's a fascinating read purely for the way in which the DMD works, and how it virtually runs the owner's lives.  There is no story arc to hold on to though.  This feels like a segment of a longer story, and I love the idea of this world being turned into a longer piece. 

Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep March 8, 2013 - 4:01pm

I do love this concept, and I enjoyed this story quite a bit. The overdependence on technology is a concept I'm fascinated with, and I think you hit on some good points (religion being one of them).

I also think you can push this idea even further than you had time to in this story, so I'm happy to hear that you're gonna pursue this.

For me, the end is my issue--not because it's sad or depressing, since that's a completely appropriate ending. I didn't really work for me because his mother dies from electrocution. I don't feel this serves the point of the story as much as I had hoped. Personally, if it's so technologically advanced, I'd assume the DMD would warn against exposure to water. Now, it's not like you didn't warn us ahead of time of what was going to happen, so your ending does fit in that sense. But this makes the ending all about the main character's negligence (and perhaps his DMD's failure to remind him to remind his mother to not take it in the bath). I would have prefered to have the death be caused by a decision the DMD recommended to the mother.

Ultimately, that's a minor thing, and it's entirely possible your ending is better. Just a thought I had when I was done. I wanted to see the real consequences of trusting the DMD, not an accidental death by proximity to the device. She could have died because she dropped her DMD and got hit by a car when she chased it into the street, and I'm not sure it' would have been fundamentally different than the way it is now.

Please take all that as me just throwing an idea out there and not criticism. I'm not even sure if I have a valid point! :) I really liked what you wrote.

My friend told me to go read your ScareUs story, so I need to do that still...

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles is reading LEVIATHAN March 8, 2013 - 11:04pm

Quite a few people agree with you on the ending, and I definitely feel where you're coming from. Ultimately, I don't see the DMD as the big bad wolf of devices, it's just one more thing that humans are putting their trust in instead of making decisions for themselves (cough religion cough). My thought was that Marix's mother dies b/c of his negligence as a son -- he fails to warn her (as you pointed out). However, I definitely can see how a DMD related death would be more satifying.

Thank you for reading. I REALLY appreciate it, and I hope you like my Scare Us story too!

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland March 9, 2013 - 10:40pm

I did! I did!

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 9, 2013 - 12:18am

Hey lovely lady,

Thanks for sharing this story with us, it was a pleasure to read. You delve into a gorgeous level of description, your writing has this sensory appeal that's kind of sumptuous. I think my favourite eample of this comes early on with this excerpt: 

Amanda took a small sip of something amber and bubbly, her eyes on Marix.
“What are you drinking?” he asked.
“It’s rosewood-infused gin with a splash of champagne.” She swirled it around her martini glass. “It tastes like an effervescent Christmas tree.”

So pretty and it so appealing. I feel like I'm there watching, tasting, smelling with her. 

Your dystopian element was, as someone mentioned above, nice and subtle. I feel like it's not too far off what we're going through right now, and I think I felt a tad guilty for how I use my iPhone! The DMD concept and Taral character was spooky cool - it's like Siri on steroids with super awesome artificial intelligence.  I also chuckled imagining a posh sounding Taral advising Amanda to get laid.

I'm trying not to overlap with other suggestions, but I have a couple of small ones:

1. I'd really like to empathize with Max's life a bit more. When his mother dies, I feel bad for her, not him. And given he's our protagonist, I kinda want to side with him! But I disliked him from the moment he decided Amanda was a few kilos heavier than her profile suggested. Then I disliked him more for this: "Marix took her hand. She had a small widows peak and her eyes were a bit too close together. She smiled, her eyes sad, and he saw that one corner of her mouth went up higher than the other." Then I disliked him even more for bailing on his mother, just after she thought he'd bought her a way to communicate with him. This line made my heart hurt: Her eyes lit up. “Can we use them to talk?” [though, I like how in one line, we see their relaitonship for what it is.] Is there a way to make Max a little more likeable? It seems hackneyed to give him a pet he dotes on - but I'd like a little more humanity for him so I can empathize with his loss.

2. The end jarred me purely because I've dropped my iPhone in my bath and both it and I survived to tell the tale! Can you think of another death related to the DMD? Maybe you could imply (if it's not already implied and I"m not being daft) that she consulted with the DMD about ending her life... or something like that?

These two small issues aside, this has definitely been one of my favourites. :) I've got a story up, if you get a chance at all, I would love to hear your thoughts on it!

Jess

 

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading A Clash of Kings March 13, 2013 - 4:33pm

Lauren - 

Great read! This was thoroughly engrossing, and I like that the DMD culture is just a short hop away from "Mac" culture (as a dedicated iphone user, I TOTALLY get it!).  I also like the subtle way you showed that these people have completely given up on making their own decisions.

Other than a few spelling errors and that sort of thing, my only complaint is the last line. Why would he ask if they take credit cards when he said (twice) earlier that the previous "emergency" call was because his credit card had expired. So, if they take credit cards for her care, why wouldn't they take them for her burial?

Well done, and a big thumbs up from me!

--Christa

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles is reading LEVIATHAN March 13, 2013 - 6:09pm

that's a VERY good point. I was trying to be clever, but the end of the story has been universally panned haha. I think I have some rewriting to do! :)

Ramon Ballard's picture
Ramon Ballard March 13, 2013 - 6:32pm

Fun read. Dialouge flowed well, I can tell you that I don't want a DMD. overall-B+ (just sayin I make Simon look like a pussy-cat)

Wonder Woman's picture
Wonder Woman from RI is reading 20th Century Ghosts March 15, 2013 - 6:08pm

What a concept! Yes, your dystopia was subtle, but thats a good thing. Readers don't always need to be hit upside the head with ideas...it's nice to be given 2+2 sometimes and let us figure out it equals 4. The DMD sounds wonderful to Marix and Amanda, but we get the idea pretty quickly that they rely to heavily on these devices.

Your writing is enticing and light, so I felt as though the end packed a bigger punch because of that. I thought it worked with Marix thinking this DMD was a great gift for his Mom because it illustrated how disconnected he actually was from her. He's so reliant on this DMD that he lacks the common sense to warn his mom about exposing it to water (not to mention that he doesn't explain to her how to use it & then tells her to take it everywhere she goes). Ultimately, he wants the DMD to make her life easier in the same way he perceives it's done for him. When in reality, it's stripped him of his courtesy and common sense which leads his mom to her doom. I think his negligence just drives the dystopian theme home more because he chose to listen to the DMD and go to the tavern instead of using common sense to realize he should stay with his mother, (who is clearly lonely), and explain this gift he bought for her. Someone mentioned that they wished the DMD was responsible for her death and not just her proximity to it, but the way I read it, it already is to blame.

Anyhow, just my take. I love the idea of the world being too reliant on their tech to be able to function normally. Nice work!

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles is reading LEVIATHAN March 15, 2013 - 8:50pm

This is how I feel reading this response:

Thanks, wonderwoman :)

Wonder Woman's picture
Wonder Woman from RI is reading 20th Century Ghosts March 15, 2013 - 11:57pm

I'm a Disney gal, so that makes me smile! 

Sarah Cannon's picture
Sarah Cannon March 18, 2013 - 4:06pm

I really like this, and agree that over-dependency on our devices is a terrific and subtle dystopia. 

My only criticism is that I felt like there was a setup in the store that didn't pay off. They mentioned the bathtub, but when they were asking all these personal questions about faith and depression for a device for an elderly woman, I was expecting to find that the devices reduced heathcare costs by encouraging the elderly toward death, or something like that. And while I understood that answering questions was stressful for a character who was accustomed to asking them instead, his intense physical reaction also led me to expect a more high-intensity payoff. ITA that the idea of his mom dying while he was interacting with his device instead was great, though.

Overall, a very enjoyable story that was a fast-paced read, which I think is tricky to do when all your characters are indecisive!

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! March 20, 2013 - 5:23pm

The technology you feature here is scarily believable. Like many people said already, I don't think we're too far away from DMDs (and I don't like that prospect).

I really enjoyed your relaxed exposition - there isn't a single information dump, and yet the reader learns enough to never be left guessing. Marix, to me, read as an everyman of that world - which is probably what he was intended to be, neither too good nor too bad, facing the usual challenges a regular human does on a regular day. I sympathized with his detachment issues as far as his mother was concerned. And I liked the little moment when he decided to, basically, screw DMD's wisdom and have a date with Amanda regardless.

Plot-wise, I agree with the commenters who said that there was build-up for the spiritual aspect of DMD that didn't really get addressed. Not unlike Jess and Sarah, I was expecting the story to end with the mother's suicide, courtesy of well-meaning DMD advice (in her situaiton, it would make perfect sense). Perhaps having her die for technical rather than human reasons was subversive - but I still feel like that thread was left hanging.

Overall, a great read. Thank you for posting it!
Maria

Wendy Hammer's picture
Wendy Hammer from Indiana is reading Ancillary Justice March 21, 2013 - 8:45pm

This was a good one! The technology was believable and I really thought you nailed the whole corporate culture, advertisement style diction.  The hints of what may come are juicy and I can also see how insidious a move it is. 

I especially enjoyed how you introduced the system--the description of the drink was vivid and her response added some humor.  It made me like her. Other details also worked, the mileage comparison, the calendars.  Now whenever I watch people walking along or sitting in groups or whatever, glued to the screen of their phones..I'm gong to think of your story. 

Many of the relationships really resonated too. I kind of wish that there had been a stronger tie or something to the Marix and Sandra relationship.  There was the missed call, but maybe a line or two that cements the comparison/contrast with his mother and the news.  Just a thought.  I didn't need closure, really, but it seems as if there is an opportunity there. 

Like others, I think the ending needs a little tweak, probably back when he's talking to her?  I'm not sure.  Endings are hard.  

(See?  I totally failed at that one). 

 

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles is reading LEVIATHAN March 21, 2013 - 9:08pm

baha, thank you! I'm so glad you liked it, and I totally agree with you about the ending :)

Kiersi Burkhart's picture
Kiersi Burkhart April 1, 2013 - 3:50pm

This was... wow. The ending really hit me upside the head. So devastating. Great job, Lauren.

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations April 22, 2013 - 12:44pm

Hi,

Congrats on winning a author review - and I'm also playing catchup on any I didn't get to read!

Snappy start, fun. A few small typos that (I find!) reading your work aloud would help catch :

"tipped this glass" - presumably "his"

And I'd be careful with "and Marix had nowhere else to go." - makes him sound desperate. "Nothing better to do" might be closer to the mark?

I wonder if the tech of the DMDs (not the programming, but the hardware) seems a little antiquated? CAPITAL LETTERS and voice readings - and presumably these are tablet sized devices. This is 2045 +, so should we expect more? In the store, I'd make the pamphlet (for example) appear directly on a DMD device, go paperless! And maybe everything else-less - have the DMD BE the phone, not sync to a phone?

I wonder if in the DMD store you can play UP the more powerful power source, but play down the waterproof ness. Maybe mention "be sure to read the safety instructions" - which he never does. Can it made more a twist? Also, you leave a question unanswered - why was Sandra calling him? And was she calling him from the bath? Maybe, the DMD she had, should record her thanking him for the DMD, something poignant?

The religious "upgrade" makes me wonder a bit, it's not strictly necessary to the story, perhaps (though it indicates a bigger aspect of letting them make your decisions for you...) but it feels a little disconnected, and a little like you could lose it, without fundamentally changing the story? Something to play with, perhaps!

Finally, and yes, I know you are only 5 words from the limit, I want a slightly better paced ending - it's a tad abrupt. But I really do like the story, so I want this to deliver the full potential! Good work,

Liam

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles is reading LEVIATHAN April 22, 2013 - 1:25pm

Thanks so much for the feedback, Liam! I'm definitely going to take another look and think about your suggestions!!

Kat Howard's picture
Kat Howard May 1, 2013 - 11:00am

The first things I'm going to address is how well the story matched up with the contest prompts.

Explore a utopian/ dystopian theme:

To be frank, I didn't see this. This is a world that seems very much like a near-future version of our own. I think the DMD technology could have been a dystopian element, but to do so, you would have had to make more explicit the role that this tech has in people's lives.

Feature a technology that's scientifically plausible:

This was present, and well done. The DMD seems very much like a logical extension of current smart phone tech, with the addition of web-tracking of behavior. I really liked that you did not fetishize the technology - it was just present, a part of everyday life in this world.

Feature a non-human character:

This is another element that I didn't quite see. Amanda refers to her device as Taral, which leads me to believe that the DMDs were supposed to be the non-human characters, but it doesn't seem that much different that having Siri. It's a smart technology, but doesn't quite rise to the level of being a character in the story.

The reason I started here is that, if you are writing towards a specific prompt - for example, you're submitting a story to a themed anthology - you need to make sure you incorporate all of the elements. Otherwise, no matter how good your story is - and you have a lot that's good - your story will be rejected.

As to what worked and what didn't on the level of the story - your dialogue is good, and your sentence level prose is very smooth, and a pleasure to read. And you have the beginnings of some really good ideas in here - I think you're saying some interesting and potentially chilling things about our relationship with technology. But what I think you need to do is push further into the emotional core of the story. Think about the relationships between the characters.

So, with Marix and Amanda, the thing that really struck me is that there is basically no chemistry between the characters. Yet, because of their devices, they hook up, and seem to start a relationship. This made me wonder - can people in this society disobey their DMD? What are the consequences if they do? Does the device actually change their behavior, or does it just offer suggestions? You might try using their meeting as a way to give your reader this information about the technology and society.

With Marix and his Mom, I got the feeling that they weren't actually that close (he couldn't answer a lot of the questions at the DMD store, and it turns out he was wrong about his answers.) So I wanted to know why he bought her the device, which seems like an expensive gift. Guilt, because he wishes they were closer? There doesn't seem to be a true emotional connection between them, so that when she dies, there really isn't an emotional reaction from the reader. Yes, it's sad that she died, and especially as a result of his gift, but there's nothing unique to the story about this sadness. Give us more of a connection - maybe the DMD is him trying to rekindle their relationship? - and then we'll have genuine emotions about her death.

One minor thing - I think the title could be stronger. "Gizmo" seems like an afterthought. If you want to stay simple, maybe, "The Device"?

I think if you can get that depth into the story, it will be really strong. It's a believable world, and the tech is well-integrated. The characters read like people, rather than just names attached to words, and you've got good detail and flow to the story.