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roberto's picture

The Mission

By roberto in Arrest Us

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Description

Rachel thought she was going to be a pioneer, one of the first human beings to reach Mars.  She hadn't planned on being one of the first murder victims in outer space.

A sci-fi crime drama.  I hope you like it.

Comments

Bret Fowler's picture
Bret Fowler July 1, 2014 - 9:03pm

I'm a big sci-fi fan and I've got to tell you, you've got a really high bar to clear with this story. "Space Madness" has been done to death, so if you're going to do the same thing then you've got to bring something really extra special. Unfortunately, there isn't enough that's unique about this to make it stand out just yet. 

By setting this in the near future, you miss a lot of opportunities. First off, gravity. There is none, and there's no way for us to "make" it. And it's nowhere near necessary for the story, so why force it? The horror of murder and gore in weightlessness could be fantastic. 

Something else to be aware of is that astronauts and cosmonauts have now spent an extraordinary amount of continuous time on the International Space Station without psychological problems, so the premise has passed you by, a little. Most problems are physical ones due to prolonged weightlessness that have to be constantly fought. And sailors on submarines have gone much longer in much more stressful circumstances. Again, without anyone going crazy. 

That's not saying the story is dead, it's just that "prolonged time in space makes you crazy" just doesn't logically work by itself anymore, there's too much evidence to the contrary. Start with your characters and do some research, look at some of the things that are truly bizarre and terrifying about spaceflight now that humanity has so much more experience with it. 

roberto's picture
roberto from New Jersey July 2, 2014 - 7:04pm

Well, I guess I have to read more Sci-fi short stories because I never realized this was such a "done to death' topic. Can you point me to any similar stories?
I though it would be a good topic for a 6-7 page short story, which is why I went with it.  It's not very easy to do a full story with introduction, story and climax in 3000 words. I actually submitted two stories, and I think my first one was a bit too ambitious to cover in short story format, which is why I did the second story which I thought was better suited for the format.

Thanks for the feedback.

Bret Fowler's picture
Bret Fowler July 2, 2014 - 7:12pm

Hey, Roberto. There are lots of them out there, one was the first ever episode of the Twilight Zone. I actually wrote almost the exact same story back in the nineties, (though mine were solar miners). It's got its own listing on tvtropes. 

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SpaceMadness

Again, you can still start with the story you have, just find an angle to make it unique, something beyond "space makes people crazy".

 

 

 

Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures July 3, 2014 - 8:55am

Hi Roberto!

I applaud you downloading a story and it is a story with a lot of potential. It left me feeling a little flat though for the following reasons (take all of these with a grain of salt):

1. Rachel is weak, I detest weak woman, instead of jumping into the fray between the two characters, she stands idly by with her weapon. She's not a fighter and that bored me a bit. But this is just MY preference.

2. I saw the ending coming before the reveal - I think there might be other ways to make this a twist ending or to possibly build the suspense a bit more. Perhaps more details about Rachel's discovery and journey to the answers.

3. I did, however, enjoy the way the story ended. I thought it created the right mood for this type of story.

I think overall, this is a good story but it could be a great story with some edits and tweaks. I hope this isn't to vague and please, if you want more clarification, let me know. Either way, I wish you good luck!

Jason Choi's picture
Jason Choi from Hong Kong is reading The Goldfinch July 3, 2014 - 4:21pm

Hi Roberto,

I thoroughly enjoyed your story!

The fact that this story begins in media res had me hooked from the start, and the setting of this story definitely sets it aside from a lot of Arrest Us entries.

Unlike some of your commenters, I have actually never encountered this "Space Madness" subject before, and was definitely surprised. Your ability to create a haunting mood (by repeating the beginning lines throughout the story) simulates the sense of claustrophobic madness - I really found myself engrossed. The ending line “Mission Control, you have a problem.” is chilling.

 

A short note on the exposition: the few paragraphs on the NASA selection process seems a tad labored. Maybe incorporate it in scenes of flashback, or leave it to the reader's deduction using fewer words? Just my opinion, genuinely hope this helps.

One minor logical point of contention in "she had gotten used to the jolts and bumps from traveling at 4,000 miles an hour in deep space". Maybe instead of "jolts and bumps" you could use "vibrations" or "shudders" or "trembles"? Not sure if you will get jolts and bumps in vacuum - but then again, you're the engineer here, so your technical knowledge is probably more than sound.

Again, great story overall, could work a bit on the exposition to perfect it! Hope to read more sci-fi, crime or a fusion of both from you - would appreciate any critique/rating I can get for my story too!

Happy Writing!
Jason

 

Bret Fowler's picture
Bret Fowler July 3, 2014 - 11:27pm

Jason, 

I was pretty harsh, so I just wanted to pop back in and second you on some of the positive aspects you point out, and I do love the conceit of the "first murder victim in space", just not so much how Roberto got there. 

I really want to like that final line, "Mission Control, you have a problem." I think it really works, but the only problem is that it's been used before and kinda ruined by being a big, stupid, melodramatic moment in Armageddon. Maybe (hopefully?) I'm the only one for whom that line reminds me of a stupid, stupid moment in an astonishingly stupid movie. 

Bret Fowler's picture
Bret Fowler July 3, 2014 - 11:27pm

Jason, 

I was pretty harsh, so I just wanted to pop back in and second you on some of the positive aspects you point out, and I do love the conceit of the "first murder victim in space", just not so much how Roberto got there. 

I really want to like that final line, "Mission Control, you have a problem." I think it really works, but the only problem is that it's been used before and kinda ruined by being a big, stupid, melodramatic moment in Armageddon. Maybe (hopefully?) I'm the only one for whom that line reminds me of a stupid, stupid moment in an astonishingly stupid movie. 

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 5, 2014 - 11:53am

Nice idea, and the story kept me reading. The details and world you built were interesting, but the twist was unfortunately very obvious. I got it as soon as you mentioned her husband, here:

It was fifteen months into the mission to Mars and someone finally cracked under the pressure.  But who was it? There were eight crew members, Rachel and her husband plus six others.

I was hoping to be surprised. Maybe it's just her on a ship full of bodies, and eventually she figures out that she did it. Or maybe it was the doctor. But I always expected the husband, it is a standard in this type of story.

Two other things weren't quite explained. Firstly, in space there's no gravity, and 'gravity drives' are far from realistic. Wouldn't they be floating about, no staircases or anything? Secondly, if there are no weapons how come there's so much blood?

The initial exposition was a little heavy all at once, perhaps spread out amongst the story would work better. Not a bad effort at all.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 12, 2014 - 1:52am

I’m sorry to say, but I think my issues with this one are similar to my issues in your other story. I think you cleave a little close to the tropes. There are no surprises here. Less than 200 words into the story I knew it would be either her (and she’s mad so doesn’t remember) or her husband who was the killer. There is little new brought to the table here, and I think that’s a shame because you clearly have a decent level of craft.

I would consider stripping out the backstory. You start this in a very tense way, but then slow it back down and drain the tension you’ve built by going into the exposition. We don’t need to know why they selected these people, or what they went through to be selected. Most of them are dead, or very soon to be dead, so it’s not as if building them as characters is necessary. Stick with Rachel. Build the tension as her fears grow. Make us feel every step through this ship, jump at every little sound. Make us feel how scared she is for her husband. That ending should be devastating.

Best of luck with your future edits.