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Nathan Scalia's picture

A Singular Insect

By Nathan Scalia in Teleport Us

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Baker celebrates the fifth anniversery of his awakening by confiding in his best friend with his most terrible secret.


Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things February 26, 2013 - 8:00pm

Just so everyone is aware, I'm impossible to offend, so be harsh with your criticism, even if you like the story. It's the only way I'm going to get better.

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee February 27, 2013 - 8:41am


I really liked it! Especially the bit where Baker shows the protagonist the conversations he's having with different people. I also like the concept of an AI recognizing their growing disconnect with those that created it.

The world you created feels interesting and believable. The party hats cracked me up!

The plotting works really well right up to the end. I have the sense you didn’t know exactly how to cap off this story—is that true? The ending feels a bit abrupt, and I don’t really get to enter into the protagonist’s internal world enough to feel his dilemma as I should.

Along those lines, I would like to know more about the protagonist in general. He feels very empty to me, and mainly just a foil for Baker. Why is he, specifically, Baker’s favorite? I know that Baker tells us that the protagonist speaks to him “like a person,” but other than that, you leave me guessing. We get to see how others treat baker through your brilliant scene with the boy, woman, and luddite man, but we don’t see much relationship between Baker and your protagonist.

A suggestion: an entity as powerful as Baker would likely modify its appearance to suit each person—you could use that to characterize your protagonist—how he prefers to see Baker will tell us a lot about him.

On a more nitty-gritty level, some bits of the story need some proofreading. For example, on page 5 we have this bit:

“After him, there were at least two other animals, one that would eventually lead to become
humans, and another that would eventually lead to become bugs. And for a while, these two
descendants were the about the same size and complexity as each other.”

Overall? The story moves and it entertained me. Other than the lack of gravity in the ending, I think you have a solid piece. Add some characterization for the protagonist and really focus in on what you want to say with the ending, and you’ll have a very fine story.

Nicely done.

Nathan (nice name by the way!)

Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures February 27, 2013 - 1:45pm

Well done story. Everything flows quite nicely...until the end. That last sentence just didnt pack the punch for me that it should have, it left me feeling a bit confused and abandoned.  Im honestly not sure how to tell you to end it (thats for you to decide) but you have a really stellar story here and you need to end it as well as you began it. 

At the end where the Protagonist goes "I closed my eyes and smiled" and then he proceeds to just let Baker do his will I felt kind of cheated. A person would fight a little more or at the very least have a sad smile, a tear, a whimper...something to show that this human is unhappy about becoming a machine. 

I like the above posters idea of giving the Bakers individual looks dependant to his person. But I also like Baker - he reminds me of Jeff Bridges for some reason? I see him as very "dude" like.

Overall, this is really well done and you have a great writing voice. This left me wanting more (in a good way)! Good luck!

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things February 27, 2013 - 5:48pm

Thank you for the thorough feedback.

Both of you brought up the main reasons why I am not completely satisfied with this story myself. Originally, this universe and character was for a book idea I planned for later on down the road, but when I saw the contest last week, I decided to try to use the premise. The problem was that I had planned on developing the characters and themes over a lot more than 4,000 words, so condensing the themes forced me to change the situation and characters enough to make them significantly different than what I had intended. So what I wrote in one sitting Sunday didn't really do as much justice to my original inspiration as I would have liked.

My protagonist does need to be fleshed out a bit. Luckily, I left myself quite a bit of room to do so. I'll be taking a look at how to do that.

Juice, I agree with you completely about the last sentence. I feel like I can make the ending work, it's just the delivery that wasn't quite as good as it could be. I found that sitting and staring at it blankly wasn't particularly helpful, so I submitted as-is, but I'm definitely going to keep thinking of a better punchline.

And about Jeff Bridges... I will neither confirm nor deny that he was the inspiration for the Baker's make-up. But if if a computer were trying to think of a friendly face that everyone could get along with, I could think of worse templates, huh?

I think it's interesting that you both mentioned that Baker probably would have come up with different faces for different people, because I thought the exact same thing when I was writing it, and that was the idea for the novel-version of this story that I intend to write some day. But after experimenting with it, I found that it was a needlessly-complex mechanism to add into such a short story, considering that I was already trying to pass off the idea that a single entity can hold an almost infinite number of trains of thought.

Again, thank you for the feedback. I will be spending a little time reviewing some stories tonight, and then probably try to get another version uploaded later.

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things February 27, 2013 - 8:33pm

A new version has uploaded to reflect your feedback. I didn't exactly change the ending, but I significantly expanded on it. Let me know if it works for you. I also worked to flesh out the narrator and Baker's relationship more fully. The biggest addition comes right after Baker shows the protagonist the other conversations he's having, if you're interested.

Thanks again for your feedback, and I would appreciate anyone else who wants to contribute.

Adam Soandso's picture
Adam Soandso from the streets of rage is reading graffiti on the bathroom wall March 1, 2013 - 1:53am

Pretty cool! I think the story gets a lot more interesting and enjoyable to read in the second half, as they begin to have a serious discussion. It's a great back-and-forth they get going that I could have even read more of. The beginning is a little top-heavy and jarring, in my opinion, and I felt the dialogue and actions needed more "breathing room" from all of the descriptors (or vice-versa). It seemed like something that was started with a sentence in mind ("I killed someone today") and it got a little messy until you found your footing. But I may just be reading into it.

I don't know what the previous version was like but I think this ending was just fine, though maybe just a little extra taste of what the world had turned into would be nice.

Thumbs up!

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 2, 2013 - 12:48pm

Thank you for the feedback. It took me a few tries to try linking the hook up correctly with the rest of the story. I found that if the protagonist was too disturbed by the killing, then it would distract him from enjoying the party too much, but if he wasn't concerned enough, then it would remove the impact from Baker's distress over the incident. I'll probably be looking at this for a while to figure out how I could have cleaned it up.

I'm pretty happy that you enjoyed the dialogue. You probably would have enjoyed the pre-contest version of the story even more, which was almost purely dialogue. I didn't like it as much because I felt that it could have taken place in a dark room with no setting, so I tried to give them something to do while talking. I'm still working on writing believeable dialogue, so knowing that I seem to be doing it correctly is encouraging.

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 1, 2013 - 7:10am

This is great work, Nathan! The start is tight, you can almost imagine it as a play. But that also means you need to double-think the use of every word - you have to convey the shock that the narrator feels with more immediacy than (say) the "When I saw" - small choices that can slow the pace even a fraction. (Try starting that line with "There was no smile or hint of sarcasm in his face" - is it stronger?)

There's a couple of minor typos as well that I'm sure you'll catch on a re-read, so lets look at the larger picture.

There's a problem here, Baker is more intelligent than mankind. How can a writer describe something more intelligent than himself? (It's the very problem Baker is struggling with). So you have to make sure that Bakers actions and deeds are crystal clear. Sharper than sharp.

OR - you need to explain why the people who made Baker, gave him emotions - gave him flaws. Perhaps because they original Baker immediately thought of humans as insects, and so this was the fix- but it transpires, a short term one. (In the same way - why did they give him a beard?)

As for singularity / robots taking over from mankind, it's a sufficiently well trod path to want your take on it to highlight the differences, the novelty of "I'm doing this for your benefit". But also the solution - it's unclear ultimately, why if Baker can map the brains he bothers with the bodies, and if he does away with the bodies why map brains individually (internet the people!) - but your protagonist can easily be the exception, the one "program" that didn't want to join the rest, not even after 1000 years, making him the "I am Legend" figure - the one thing outside the singularity...

But don't get me wrong, it's a solid piece of writing, and if I've taken overlong on the comments it's because it deserves it (or because I'm busy rewriting it in my head!)

I loved the switching through to people interacting with Baker, liked the idea that he though the man (who remained nameless?) was special, though I worry that's because the man is actually a little "special" himself. He does seem somewhat distant... Questions on whether a synthetic you is a real you (or you have died) are always interesting, and , obviously best left ambiguous.


Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 2, 2013 - 10:16am

Sorry it took me so long to respond, Liam.

Even though it's one of the things that I notice most in other people's stories, I still have to work on the "show, not tell" aspect to my own. I've gotten much better about it, but sometimes it's difficult to see in your own work.

The concept of Baker is actually based on the real theory of the technological Singularity, when we create a computer that is smarter than a human brain. The last estimates I saw for this occurance would be in around twenty years... but it's probably going to happen whether we like it or not, whether in a government lab or a college basement. So I tried to give the impression that Baker was created, but is completely self-determining and independent. If his creators had any intention of trying to control him, that ship sailed a long time ago. So he gave himself the beard and personality for his own reasons. As I mentioned, this was the kind of theme I had originally intended to develop over the course of a whole book, and I think my main problem with this story is that I tried to introduce too many different themes and problems (implied or otherwise) to solve and explain in less than 4,000 words.

I agree with you about the protagonist, in that he still isn't fleshed out enough to satisfy me. It's a lot better since Juice and otherone Nathan got to it. I had actually toyed with the idea of writing this from Baker's perspective, but then ran into the problem that you described in trying to describe a being that is definitionally too smart for me to predict or analyze. I feel that the protagonist deserved more than I gave him, but now that the deadline is passed, I feel I should commit to what I have submitted and possibly toy with it later if I ever choose to publish.

I appreciate your thorough comments. Thank you.

Cipherscribe's picture
Cipherscribe from Michigan, but all my exes live in Texas. is reading Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight March 2, 2013 - 5:00pm

I really liked this story. It had me riveted from the get-go. This was my favorite line: "Even I have a hard time wrapping my mind around that."

I thought the premise was great, I thought it was well-executed and your dialogue sounded pretty natural. The flashing through the various people was also a nice touch. The masturbating kid, the conspiracy theorist with the bat. 

Powerful story! Thanks for posting.


Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 2, 2013 - 7:06pm

Thank you much. Your story is next on my to-do list.

Michael.Eric.Snyder's picture
Michael.Eric.Snyder March 2, 2013 - 5:04pm

Thumbs Up!

Well that's kind of crazy. I mention the Singularity in my response to your post in my story's thread and here it is at the heart of your story. By the way, great tale here! As it stands now, technically, it's flawless. Great clean tight writing. But I do have one or two general thoughts for you to ponder. 

First, I'd like to know the protagonist a bit more. Not his backstory, necessarily. But I'd like to see telling details that would help to understand why he, outside of the rest of humanity, talks to Baker like a person. I didn't have a problem with Baker's explanation, what he showed the narrator, but I need more details that explain the narrator's profound empathy. 

Love the irony that Baker couldn't be more unkind.

Second, I'd like to see Baker grow the slightest edge as the story progresses. Some of the dialogue is a bit too friendly sounding, too civilized, especially as the narrator comes to realize Baker's big picture revelation. 

Nothing dramatic. Nothing melodramatic. Hmm. I think Baker's dialogue could use a bit of HAL's condescending menace.

But really, I'm just not getting a utopia/dystopia out of this. Kidding! :)

Thanks for checking out my story, and good luck with yours!

Edit: Your closing line is perfect.

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 2, 2013 - 7:16pm

Yeah, I noticed that too. I'm not sure how obscure a theory it is outside of my own head, but maybe it's just a small world.

I agree about the protagonist. Most of his character was lost in my head when I transferred him from a novel idea to the short story. I wished he had been as fleshed out as Baker was.

You might be right about Baker. I'm not entirely sure. He was never angry with people or had a desire to control them (arguably). He believes, whether or not that it's true, that he did what he did out of kindness and a desire to save humanity from himself. Given his uncontrolled power, that can still make him a rather terrifying individual. I'll have to think on it

And I'm glad you enjoyed the closing line. It took me a while to craft the right one.

Flaminia Ferina's picture
Flaminia Ferina from Umbria is reading stuff March 5, 2013 - 8:38am

Hi Nathan,

you wrote a pretty good story, and I enjoyed reading it very much. It's a new, updated take on the man vs machine conflict. Always interesting, especially in this shared consciousness version of yours. I can relate to it, I was taking a picture of a mountain in a kinda forgotten corner of my region last Sunday, when my phone yelled and showed me there were pics of the same spot on the internet. I had forgotten I downloaded google goggles days prior, and that yelling and showing made me feel small, connected in some extreme, not completely comfortable way.

That said, narration is pretty smooth. It's clear you are quite familiar with the talks of fiction writing, and some sentences really shine already. I normally do LBLs, but it was not possible with the pdf format.

Things I noted:
"I killed someone today" is a great way to start the action just after a few lines. But the description of Baker's face kept me some extra seconds thinking about how the monitor worked. Possibly the word 'loomed' is not the most suitable. Problem is, I hadn't understand enough about Baker to really be relaxed when he says he killed someone, so it didn't properly punch me in the face.

'There was a tension in his resonating voice' reads awkward, cause I get lost in that 'resonating' which clashes with 'tension' (tension evokes something rigid, resonation something flexible, waves). Either nix it or specify how it resonates.

Mind the repetitions (humans with bypeds, page two).
To help readability, specify which Baker is speaking page two/three, when we first get the revelation there's a big Baker and the personal Bakers.

The flash with different characters speaking with their own Baker is hilarious.

I'd like some more description of how the bipeds are made.
There is sometimes too much dialogue, specially toward the end so I take it's a matter of word count or time.
The end works enough, but there's a plothole: how come there are biological men while the protag did not have the opportunity to choose?

All in all, very good.


Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 6, 2013 - 7:39pm

Thank you for your comments. Good point on the PDF... I had seen some people use PDF formats, and thought it looked more professional. I'm still fairly new to the site, and wasn't aware people would actually take the time to do personal edits if I left it in Word. I'll remember that for the future.

You're absolutely correct about "resonating" clashing with "tension." I would edit it, but since the deadline has passed, I will keep it as submitted for the time being. I will definitely fix it if I ever decide to publish this.

For what it's worth, the gardener (and other people) at the end of the book were not biological. I probably need to make that more clear, since you got confused despite apparently reading closely enough to give me comments with pretty good specificity. I'll think on how to modify it.

Thank you much.

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 6, 2013 - 6:29pm

In response to Flaminia's comment about the impossibility of doing an LBL on PDF documents, I have reuploaded the document in Word format. It is identical to the original story submitted by the deadline, and was the one that I had used to create the PDF.

That portion of my LitReactor naïveté has been eliminated. Thank you.

Wendy Hammer's picture
Wendy Hammer from Indiana is reading One Night in Sixes March 7, 2013 - 9:30am

This is one of my favorite stories in the challenge so far.  The Bakers were fascinating, and I very much enjoyed all the play between multiplicity and singularity; it ties in with the Singularity concept and the questions about identity.  

There were so many details and strong lines. I have to say that the Alan Rickman narration over the Mozart was particularly funny. You mixed great humor into the darker emotions and bigger questions. 

There were a few minor typos and the occasional tense shift, but nothing major.  I think, for example, that you may need a "like" after looked in the introductory sentence about the common ancestor. 

I was initially just a bit confused about what the bipeds are, but I got it eventually, though I never quite nailed down the picture.The monitors and the Baker faces were quite clear. 

Such minor quibbles in no way dampened my enjoyment of the piece.  Really well done!

(And, I have to say how happy I was that my hunch that this was going to turn all Gregor Samsa or something was dead wrong!). 


Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 7, 2013 - 11:25am

Thank you much. Someone else I had read through this got a bit confused by the bipeds at first as well. I'll take another look.

I'm also glad you found some humor in it. I'm not used to writing "lightly", and it took me a few tries before I thought I got it down.

Thanks again.

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 7, 2013 - 5:06pm

I just went and checked, and you're right, I missed the verb "like" in that sentence. I'm a decent editor, but I'm always impressed with how many mistakes I miss. Oh well. I'll change it after the contest. Thanks for pointing it out.

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. March 11, 2013 - 8:30pm

That's two in a row that had me thinking of Spherical Tomi and potentitially another story I read a while back Recursion by Tony Ballantyne.  A solid concept and a smooth overall read.  Very nicely done!  I like the similarity between your Baker and Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen, a being so far removed from his humanity that he couldn't relate to humans any longer.

If I had to make one suggestion, it would be to tweak your ending line.  The "I" be before wondered threw me the first time I read through it.  So, something like this:

"I sat down in the grass, as I had every Singularity Day, and wondered whether I survived Baker’s solution."

Excellent work!

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 16, 2013 - 10:50am

Good suggestion for the closing line. It does read a bit smoother. Thanks for your feedback.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) March 14, 2013 - 10:27am

Really enjoyed this.  We’ve actually gone for a very similar theme in our stories - what is human?  I love the idea of the Bakers, and given that power, I think he’s developed in a very understandable way.  Your writing has a good flow to it, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.  The final solution is scarily rational, while still being delightfully over-the-top.  The only bit I’d say wasn’t as strong is the exposition paragraph (wiping out cancers etc).  I also love that the only character who treats Baker like a human is the one that can’t get over the final solution, and who remains uncertain of how much humanity he has kept.  Big thumbs up!

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 16, 2013 - 11:04am

Thank you much.

Nathalie's picture
Nathalie from France March 16, 2013 - 5:18am

Really nice job! I like your concept and where you're taking it, with the Bakers feeling disconnected to humans. 

(I only scanned through the comments so I hope I'm not giving redundant notes) Couple of small notes: when Bakers shows different examples of what it is seeing while talking to its friend, I wish there would have been more cultural diversity, so we could have felt it truly was a global device.  

Also, toward the end **SPOILER** when Baker says it took him years to find how to bring humanity to its level, it felt like a long amount of time for a 5 year-ol A.I. (it would mean that after a year or two it had stopped feeling connected to humans, but from your story I didn't get that Bakers had been struggling with its mixed feelings towards humans that quickly after its creation. Maybe I got that wrong?) 

Anyway, thumbs up to you, a lot of space to grow and develop from a strong basis. 


Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 16, 2013 - 11:07am

Jeezum crowe, you're absolutely right about the need for cultural diversity in that specific scene. I'm banging my head against the wall here, because I didn't even notice that. I guess that's one of those things that you gain from experience, and you just gave me that experience. Thank you.

Also, good note on the time issue. I almost certainly wrote that sentence without thinking too much about it. I'll have to go back and fix it when the contest is over.

Nathalie's picture
Nathalie from France March 18, 2013 - 12:40pm

cool, glad it helped :) 

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon March 16, 2013 - 11:35pm

Exquisite. Love how you put this together. I am sorry i have no harsh critisism to offer you, because i just loved this story. Going to have to give you a thumbs up.

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 19, 2013 - 5:03pm

High praise. Thank you.

Mbella's picture
Mbella March 17, 2013 - 9:48am

I think the story has promise but I found it very difficult to read and had to re-read sections multiple times.  I was hooked in with the death but found myself confused quickly.

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 19, 2013 - 5:06pm

I'm sorry to hear that. If you have any places specifically where you think clarification would be in order, let me know. Thanks for reading.

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 19, 2013 - 5:16pm

I'm sorry to hear that. If you have any places specifically where you think clarification would be in order, let me know. Thanks for reading.

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 18, 2013 - 4:24pm

Hi Nathan,

I've seen you about posting your thoughts on TU stories and in the discussion thread and you seem like a nice guy so I thought I'd pop over and read your story. And I'm glad I did, this is another one of the stories that I enjoyed so much that I can't seem to find any faults with it. This is another one of those stories that touches on the themes of what it is that makes us human and what it is that makes a robot sentient that I love so much in classic artificial intelligence and robot science-fiction novels.

If anything, there are just lots of questions I have that I wouldn't mind being filled out during the story. I think you may have considered these issues but were restricted by the word count. I was curious about how the Singularity came about and would be really interested in hearing who created Baker (like whether it was a corporate venture, a government initiative, some rich Richard Branson individual) and what was so bad about the world that Baker needed to be created. 

If you get a spare moment, I'd love you to read and rate my story at



Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 19, 2013 - 5:20pm

Hi Jess,

Thank you for the kind words. I've mentioned in other comments that this story is actually based off of an idea for a novel that I've been pushing around for a couple of years, and that I intend to write as soon as I finish up the one I'm working on now. Your questions DO have answers, and it makes me very happy to know that people are interested in hearing them. I'll make sure to drop a link somewhere when I get to writing it.

CKevin's picture
CKevin from Charleston, SC is reading Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch March 20, 2013 - 8:45pm


Nicely done. I did notice the story was marked as v2 so it's really nice to see someone taking critiques and using them, as opposed to some of the lesser submissions I've run across that appear to be abandoned. Because of this I skipped reading most of your previous reviews expecting the major issues to be resolved. I apologize if this leads me to repeat other comments.

I thought your execution was fantastic, delivering a nicely realized world with great dialog that moves the narrative along nicely, especially in the second half of the piece. 

I noticed the change in pace specifically because I had some trouble getting grounded in the beginning. You gave me enough to understand Baker as an entity, but I had some problem visualizing how it manifested itself in the physical world other than being everywhere. I wanted to know how it got to the point where there was one everywhere.

Also notice that I refer to Baker as 'it' instead of 'he'. I would think that a truly global device would need to present itself in any number of forms to be accepted at such a deep level by particular populations. Perhaps for the protagonist Baker is a male with a specific look, but to others it takes on a more culturally significant look and manner?

It's late and I'm not sure I've been able to accurately convey my thoughts above so don't think that I didn't completely enjoy the story, but I do believe it's limited in scope by the length restriction for submissions. I did see where you mention this as being a part of a longer work and think it definitely has the potential to expand into something even more awesome.

Thumbs up!


Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 21, 2013 - 3:56am

One of the most interesting things about Baker is that he chooses his own appearance, (I asked - why the beard? when I reviewed) - so while you're right that a tool would adjust to the user, Baker views himself as something higher, and doesn't need to bend that way. (Or doesn't want to...) It's one of the most arresting images, thousands of identical Baker's (party hats included...:) )

CKevin's picture
CKevin from Charleston, SC is reading Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch March 21, 2013 - 4:47am

Good point. I had realised I didn't have a satisfactory answer to having different appearances and how that would translate to the many, many public displays (and yes I would sorely miss the visual of the party hats). With a clearer head this AM I can reframe the questions along the same path as yours:

Beyond the beard, why/how did Baker choose his appearance and mannerisms? Did he actually choose them or was he programmed that way originally? Is it the face of a real person or just an amalgam of the most pleasing human features? I scanned the story and other than the beard and the long gray brown hair, I couldn't find a description so what was it about Baker that would be enough for a teenager to masturbate (I recognize they don't need much) while still appealing to a housewife?

I guess at its core my issue with Baker is the conflict between understanding him as both a global entity and a personal companion. He is a very compelling character but where is the line between him being so widely loved/admired/respected that everyone lets him control their lives to talking with the protagonist using the same dialect and slang as he might ("yeah", "nah", "man", "amigo", etc)? 

Like I told Nathan, I think he was limited in what he could explain without bogging down the story so perhaps a longer work would resolve some of these issues, but he needn't do so just for me. It's a fine story as-is.


Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 21, 2013 - 3:52pm


Thank you for the thorough comments, and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

The issue with Baker's appearance has been brought up, and I think there are a couple of possible answers.

1) I believe that Baker chose his appearance for himself. In the novel-length idea, it would have been made pretty clear that Baker was far beyond the control of anybody, so anything he did was his decision alone. I am not sure how well everything translated to the short story, but Baker's appearance is entirely within his control, not because anyone did (or can) tell him what to do. At least not anything that he doesn't WANT to do.

2) All that being said, my original idea WAS for Baker to be completely fluid in how he presented himself, and that Doctor Baker would be different than Date Baker would be different than Chef Baker, and each Companion Baker would be self-modeled to suit the individual.

While this is easily doable in a novel, I ran into some issues with pacing and space in the short-story format. I was already trying to explain that the Bakers were NOT separate robot entities, but rather different faces of one single entity that could interact in a way that made it SEEM like different entitites. That's a pretty thick concept, and I felt that trying to explain that in the midst of different faces and interactions would be tough if I wanted to have space to actually tell a story.

Just as well, I wasn't sure I could relay that sense of individual modeling as briefly as I needed to without resorting to stupid stereotypes. Should I make black Bakers for black people? Asian Bakers for Asians? Attractive male Bakers for gay men?

It was definitely an idea I tried to implement, but in the end, I thought it was better to just leave that mechanism out rather than half-ass it and come out with something more confusing than useful. The masturbating kid was an implication that Baker COULD take on different forms if he chose to, but it didn't come out quite as cleanly as I would have liked. Oh well, people still seemed to enjoy it.

As I said in other posts, this is definitely a story I want to expand on in the future. Thanks again for reading.

CKevin's picture
CKevin from Charleston, SC is reading Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch March 21, 2013 - 7:45pm


Looks like we're on the same wavelength in terms of what problems would arise depending on which direction you took in how to portray Baker and I do think you made the best choices available to you due to the short form. However, like I said above the vanilla every-man aspect of Baker in his current form makes him a very compelling character so I wouldn't recommend stretching him too far beyond this portrayal lest you water down the impact.

Let me know when you've expanded on this world. I'm excited to see what you can do with it.


Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 23, 2013 - 1:17pm

I updated the story to include the word "like" in the expression "looked like", which I had apparently missed. After the contest is over, I will go through and see what I can do to implement the good feedback I've gotten so far, but I didn't want to do anything other than the most minor of corrections until we're all done with TU.