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Sarah Cannon's picture

Hiram Wakes

By Sarah Cannon in Teleport Us

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In a future where microbial life is a scarce commodity, Hiram Wakes is looking for his missing lady-friend, a fellow biologist. No good deed goes unpunished.


William Russell's picture
William Russell February 27, 2013 - 12:03pm

Very intriguing storyline here, and I like how the vernacular is used in the introspective/narrative as well as in the dialogue.

Sarah Cannon's picture
Sarah Cannon February 27, 2013 - 12:23pm

Thanks, William! I wrote it in first person present tense specifically because I was trying to capture Hiram's voice and learn more about what made him tick.

Marnie Ann Joyce's picture
Marnie Ann Joyce March 3, 2013 - 8:17pm

i was completely sucked in by the end of the first sentence. i fell absolutely into the rich and believable world, and was startled to look around me at the end and realize i was still in my living room.


Sara Homan's picture
Sara Homan March 3, 2013 - 10:47pm

My only complaint is that I wanted more! Well done. 

12thkey's picture
12thkey from Richmond, VA is reading Cards as Weapons by Ricky Jay March 4, 2013 - 3:56am

A fun read with good flow, it's rich and believable. Maybe I'm just dense (or it's too early in the morning and I need more coffee) but I feel I've missed something of import.  Hiram and Mirth  brought the coughing rot with a plan to sell the cure?  Is that right?  And our protagonist, whom we had assumed was innocent, we discover in the end is far from it? 

Sarah Cannon's picture
Sarah Cannon March 4, 2013 - 5:47am

I'm struggling with pacing here, so I'm glad you brought this up. No, what I'm trying to communicate is that Mirth took off, telling him she'd found some work that paid well, and she didn't come back. The town is blaming the circus for bringing the illness, but Mirth arrived with the circus, so the outbreak coincides with her arrival, too. Since she headed straight up to the dome, the implication is that the domer was the person she was supposed to make ill (and hopefully kill), but she only succeeded in widowing him, and was likely found out and killed.

I'm definitely looking at how to make this more explicit...walking that line between being so obvious that it's uninteresting, and so oblique that it's confusing. Thanks for your comment!

12thkey's picture
12thkey from Richmond, VA is reading Cards as Weapons by Ricky Jay March 7, 2013 - 3:56am

Gotcha!  The fact that I couldn't keep up might be my fault in this case, who knows?  Know what I do?  I give my stuff to the wife.  I trust her judgment, and she's not a reader who has patience with obscurity.  She tells me when I'm being too obtuse and suggests ways to pull my stories out of the weeds.

Kurt Vonnegut was exaggerating a bit when he offered up Rule #8 in his 8 rules on how to write a shortstory: "Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages."

Vonnegut's advice is especially relevant to Sci-Fi because the reader is already working hard to imagine the time, the place, and the scene.  The human brain only has so much bandwidth, and figuring what is going on more easily overloads the servers in a Sci-Fi yarn.


NewsCannon's picture
NewsCannon March 4, 2013 - 9:40am

I really enjoyed this. Ready to read it again.

Megan Wilson Klemm's picture
Megan Wilson Klemm March 4, 2013 - 12:55pm

Really great story!  I'd love to read a more expanded version of it! 

Sancho LeStache's picture
Sancho LeStache from El Paso is reading Hunger March 6, 2013 - 3:57pm

Glad I finally got to read this, it's really great! I don't know if I missed it, but I think I would like a little more description of what the Darlings look like, because they sound terrifyingly awesome and would like more of a picture in my head. The world you created is really interesting and it sounds like you have potential for a much, much larger story.

Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures March 7, 2013 - 12:54pm

I really liked this! You've created a vivid, rich world here. Did you ever see the HBO (I think it was HBO) show 'Carnival'? Your story reminds me of that world they created (if you havent seen it check it out, there were only 2 seasons but they were great) in that show. 

My only concern is that it is a little unclear how the coughing rot got there but I suspect on further readings I'd pick up on that subtle aspect of the story and honestly, its such a good story that didnt even bother me.

My one complaint? That it ended too soon! I want more!

Great job!

Sarah Cannon's picture
Sarah Cannon March 7, 2013 - 2:21pm

Wow, what a nice comment! I haven't seen Carnival, but will check it out.

As you can see, you're not the only person who'd like that to be more explicit. I have got some tinkering to do, that's for sure.

Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures March 8, 2013 - 8:52am

Well if you upload a tinkered version of this let me know because I'd love to give it a read. I really enjoyed the world you created and the voice of Hiram. Nice job!

Rob Pearce's picture
Rob Pearce from Cambridge, England is reading Lots of unpublished stuff and short story collections March 7, 2013 - 3:00pm

This is good! Atmospheric, dark, slightly freaky, believable... really well written. The narrative tone felt just right (I know some people don't like vernacular / introspection in narrative but you do it really well).

I see one of the other reviewers was confused by the plot, but it seemed clear enough to me (and I've been utterly baffled by some of the other stories here). To my mind any lack of clarity on the source of the "rot" was inherent in the story line - the characters' uncertainty showing through - rather than a problem for the reader. At least, it wasn't a problem for this reader ;)

So yes, congratulations, this is one of the very few stories I've felt unequivocal about giving a thumbs up.

Sarah Cannon's picture
Sarah Cannon March 7, 2013 - 4:12pm

Wow, tremendous thanks for all the praise. I'm so glad you liked it, and that the storyline was clear to you. I'm enjoying letting Hiram out to play. He's a fringe character in a novel-length manuscript, and I was trying to get into his head, while exploring the form of a short story. Successfully delivering an enjoyable story to someone feels wonderful!

CKevin's picture
CKevin from Charleston, SC is reading Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch March 8, 2013 - 11:28am

Very nicely done Sarah. The story comes alive through vivid depictions of a what I perceive to be a dreary and monochrome world. A few places I couldn't perfectly follow what was going on and also there are a number of commas that can come out but those are minor complaints compared to my enjoyment of your submission. Definite thumbs up.

Sarah Cannon's picture
Sarah Cannon March 8, 2013 - 11:34am

Thanks! If you get a chance, I'd like to hear more about the parts where you got lost a bit. 

CKevin's picture
CKevin from Charleston, SC is reading Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch March 8, 2013 - 12:24pm

Can do, but it may be a while before I do a more in depth critique. I came somewhat late to the game and am trying to read and comment on as many submissions as possible. For each I hope to make some mention of what works for me as well as what doesn't. If there is a lot gone wrong (in my opinion of course) then my comments will be much more in depth but in the case of Hiram Wakes it was: Finished reading. Good story. No big problems. Thumbs up! On to the next. :)

Plus, I'm reworking parts of my own submission and feel guilty if I neglect it for too long.

Sarah Cannon's picture
Sarah Cannon March 8, 2013 - 12:30pm

Gotcha! Off to check if I've read yours yet...

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 10, 2013 - 5:59am

Hi Sarah,

I'm guessing this is part of a larger project, given it ends the way it does. Should be a good one.

Some of the issues with a short piece won't therefore apply, but I can only comment on what I have to see, so here goes!

Gotta love the darlings. I assume these are the alien element, and boy are they a doozy. You've captured their ethereal nature well, and also the fact they give people the creeps. Though if they do, then I wonder how successful they are as the main attraction in the big top...

Saskin's a great piece of work as well, I can imagine him, snake oil and all. The fact he's effectively infirm is a nice touch to, though he seems able enough once set alight.

It's an interesting world, but one that demands a better explanation. Especially as your narrator is the one person perfectly placed to do that explanation. I guess most people's ailment is autoimmune, but the coughing probably isn't. Immune system responds to virus and bacteria, so a non-fatal virus might be as good as the crobes they are looking for. I'm slightly lost then, what people feel they need. Also, while I can get that the planet isn't supporting many crobes, people do - unless there was an earlier disease that only broad spectrum anti-biotics could tackle.

A couple of things - terms and phrases, while giving a good "this isn't earth" background, could do with some explaining. What exactly is a Crobicide? What is "ag"?

Otherwise, there's a few minor edits you could do, the paragraph describing "Poke" has two sentences starting "Poke's" which is a tad too much echo.

Final point. Your narrator, who never actually gets introduced as Hiram, is a bit of a sap. Especially for a frontier planet. Maybe have him armed at the start, or some other defence, that Cullin's either knows about and circumvents, or otherwise bests him, after which, Cullin has the upper hand all the way to the carny.

Good work. Am envious that I won't get to meet the domers on this visit...


Sarah Cannon's picture
Sarah Cannon March 16, 2013 - 1:42pm

Liam, many apologies that it has taken me so long to get back to you! 

Hopefully you won't be disapponted to find that the darlings are not, in fact, my non-human element. They are human, just very, very broken. Their worldview is, in a word, unique. They are, however, wildly talented in the ring, where having no fear is an advantage. The microbes are my non-human character, as their presence/absence is extremely important to every other character. 

Auto-immune illnesses are just about inescapable, and people in this world handle that realization in various ways. There are, however, still viruses, nasty adaptive bacteria, and various little holdfasts of good bacteria, including both extremophiles and lab-grown 'crobes. The world of my story experienced a major die-off, but microbes are so numerous I find it implausible that anyone could ever kill them all, and viruses cannot be neatly classified as alive or otherwise. There is, however, some evidence that people with healthy internal flora are better able to fight off viruses, so in all circumstances, but particularly during an illness, they are the candy everybody wants. 

I had hoped that words like crobicide and ag (which should maybe be capitalized?) would translate, but I will think on that. As always, I'm trying to use the words that would be most natural for the character while not leaving the reader out of the loop...

And yes, I agree that Hiram could have been a bit more gun-totin'. I'm thinking about how to rework that. 

Thank you so much for your detailed comments. I find them very helpful, and appreciate your time!


ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. March 16, 2013 - 12:54pm

A wonderful read! I finished it before realizing just how much of the story I had actually read. You can put me squarely in the camp of wanting more!

Excellent work!

Sarah Cannon's picture
Sarah Cannon March 16, 2013 - 1:45pm

Thank you so much!

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) March 18, 2013 - 5:46am

Very absorbing, the story really carried me along.  I enjoyed the noirish tone to it, and the character is fun to follow.  The fear of sickness really comes through, and there is a lot of desperation here.  Good writing, good story!

Sarah Cannon's picture
Sarah Cannon March 18, 2013 - 7:35am

Thanks, Adam! Hey, do you mind hitting the thumbs-up button if you liked it?

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles March 18, 2013 - 8:54am

Hey Sarah! I really enjoyed your story (thumbs up!). I agree with Marnie--that first sentence is killer. You did a great job with the dialogue throughout, and I really enjoyed your prose voice.

The only thing I'd like a bit more of is physical description, in particular of the Cullins. We get that they're locals and uneducated/uninformed, but are they poor, dirty, living on the street? Or are they farmers, tan from being outside all day, and wearing work clothes? Just a few details to really solidify them might help.

If you'd like to check mine out, it's here. I'd really appreciate any thoughts you have :)

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep March 25, 2013 - 10:04am

Sarah - 

Great story, or at least, the start of one :)  The ending seemed a little rushed, though, like it didn't really resolve the story. However, I liked the narrator's voice and the setting seemed very "Firefly" to me - kudos to both of those elements. As others have mentioned, I also would have liked more detail, overall. But on the whole, it's pretty darned good.  Thumbs up!


Sarah Cannon's picture
Sarah Cannon March 27, 2013 - 7:34am

Thanks, Christa! I agree, it is a bit rushed/compressed. Hiram is a secondary character in a larger work, and I needed to know more about him. When I did sort out his story, I had trouble telling what I needed to tell while still coming in under the word count...I'm glad you like it, though. 

Do you have a story in the contest? I'm starting to lose track of whose I've read!

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep March 27, 2013 - 8:25am

Yup, it's at: The Space Bar

Dana Fredsti's picture
Dana Fredsti April 22, 2013 - 10:43am

Loved this story.  The world-building is immaculate woven into the ongoing first person narrative, completely without info-dumps, and the pacing never slows.  I love the narrative voice, which is distinctive and believable, and completely agree with an above commentor re: a Firefly "feel" to the setting combined with a hint of Something Wicked This Way Comes.   I'm glad to see this is part of a larger work as my only complaint was the cliffhanger ending.  Really well done!

Sarah Cannon's picture
Sarah Cannon May 9, 2013 - 4:04pm

Hey, Dana! Sorry it took me so long to reply to this. I actually wasn't sure it was my critique at first, it was so positive. Thanks for all the atta girls! This short is set in the same world as my current WIP, but won't be in the manuscript, which is written from someone else's POV. You're welcome to see it when it's ready, if you like.

Thanks again!