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Maria Stanislav's picture

A Song For My Brother

By Maria Stanislav in Teleport Us

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Description

To save the life of his twin sister, N'iel broke the sacred law of their race and condemned both her and himself to exile. Their wanders had led them to the land of Matdhuil, where they found acceptance, safety and happiness. But even the wisdom of the advanced civilisation that became their new home is not enough to save N'iel once he succumbs to the disease that has been the bane of the Singers ever since the time of the clouds. It is L'iume's turn to see how far she will go in saving her brother.

Comments

Sandra Taylor's picture
Sandra Taylor February 12, 2013 - 1:37pm

A dark but moving story. Very well written, brilliant.

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! February 15, 2013 - 10:56am

Thank you!

jewishprincess's picture
jewishprincess February 15, 2013 - 7:08am

Very well written!

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! February 15, 2013 - 10:56am

Thank you for reading!

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. February 15, 2013 - 10:20pm

Very smooth read.  I liked the way you interspersed the L'iume's memory of the past with her actions in the present.   You have a very interesting world here, do you have any plans to do more with it?

Great Job!

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! February 16, 2013 - 11:51am

Thank you very much! This is the first time I went to play around in this world, it being the youngest of mine so far - so who knows, maybe the muse will guide me there again. If I learned one thing about my muse, it's to never say 'this story's over'.

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 16, 2013 - 12:29pm

EXCELLENT. So, so well written. Captivated me immediately. Inspired formatting. 'Do you remember' returning in cycles - beautiful. 

If I had any critizism, it might be that in painting this beautiful picture, the story kind of gets lost sometimes. But because you paint the picture so masterfully, that is easy to overlook. 

Inspired work. Solid thumbs up. 

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! March 20, 2013 - 9:28am

As far as losing the story in the picture goes - I do plead occasionally guilty of the 'forest for the trees' problem, especially in short-form writing.

Thanks so much for your kind words!

mattymillard's picture
mattymillard from Wolverhampton, England is reading Curse of the Wolf Girl - Martin Millar February 17, 2013 - 3:20pm

Maria,

I enjoyed the story and the style it was written in. I thought your descriptions and scene building was excellent, and I found it really easy to picture things in my mind.

In terms of what I thought could be improved, I lost my way a little bit at times in that I could see all of the detail, but I struggled to relate it back to the main storyline as easily as I wanted to (I am a bit dopey sometimes though!). Had I read the description paragraph before the story this wouldn't have been so much of a problem!

Overall, this has got lots of potential - you've got a great story here and a very interesting world created.

Good stuff :-)

Matty

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! March 20, 2013 - 9:34am

Thanks, Matty! As I wrote to Klahol above, I can sometimes get wrapped up in weaving the story around the plot rather than following it directly. I was aiming for each transition to the memories to be related to the present-day snippets - the mention of the eyepatch preceding the story of how it appeared, the first name-drop of Matdhuil going before the story of how the two got there, etc. Nothing works perfectly every time, I guess!

Thank you very much for reading, and for your kind feedback.

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 18, 2013 - 12:02pm

Wow, some of the finest writing I have ever read. And I don't drop such praise lightly.

I can see this as part of a larger story. Well done.

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! March 22, 2013 - 5:23am

Thank you! Having read your beautiful story, I appreciate your praise even more!

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle March 22, 2013 - 5:04pm

This made me smile. Thank you!

WonBlackGuy's picture
WonBlackGuy from Tulsa, Oklahoma is reading Between the World and Me February 18, 2013 - 10:20pm

Beautifully and descriptively written. Best story I've read thus far. Great job!

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! March 20, 2013 - 11:57am

Thank you very much!

Harlem Snape's picture
Harlem Snape February 20, 2013 - 9:09am

I won't even post my critique becuase it is so fantastically written.  Great job,

Essel Pratt's picture
Essel Pratt from Indiana is reading Too many to name February 20, 2013 - 9:10am

If/When you turn this into a novel/novella, I will buy it!

lspieller's picture
lspieller from Los Angeles February 20, 2013 - 11:17am

lovely prose.

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! March 20, 2013 - 10:00am

Thank you!

Laura Keating's picture
Laura Keating from Canada is reading The Aleph and Other Stories February 20, 2013 - 11:19am

Subtle and moving and lovely. There was something dreamlike and compelling about the way the story unfolded line by line. I suppose my only critique is that I did not quite feel a sense of a dystopic or utopic world (athough I felt you were going for utopic in Matdhuil I could not be sure given the scope of the story). 
Very nicely done.

- LVK

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! February 20, 2013 - 11:40am

Thank you, Laura! As far as dystopic/utopic goes, the numerous mentions of clouds (of various colours) were intended as an allusion to a nuclear explosion, followed by a nuclear winter and some fallout (hence the increased frequency of throat afflictions).

Thank you for reading and for your comment.

Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures February 20, 2013 - 1:10pm

Wow. This made me tear up a little at the end. This was stunningly beautiful. STUNNINGLY. It was dark but full of light and love at the same time. It is the gorgeous story of life after death and song and oh my gosh...I seriously have no words to adequatly describe my experience reading this. I want to print it and read it over and over again. Gorgeous. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! March 20, 2013 - 9:22am

*blushes* Thank you so much. I'm deeply moved that my writing caused such a strong emotional response. Thank you!

Rob Pearce's picture
Rob Pearce from Cambridge, England is reading Lots of unpublished stuff and short story collections February 28, 2013 - 10:20am

Of its type, it's well written, I suppose. Trouble is it's not a type I like.

I found the "allusions to nuclear explosions" a bit... well, I think simultaneously predictably obvious and too obscure to have worked if they hadn't been.

I found the mix of occasional technology references (circuit board) and fantasy/magic (the Song, which Has To Be Capitalised, the living metal) a bit... incongruous. I guess it's "crossover" but to me that just means trying to appeal to both audiences and ending up neither one thing nor the other.

I have an innate (and quite strong) dislike for post-singularity upload-the-human-mind stories, so going there didn't win me round.

But for all that, my objections are mostly "I don't like this style" rather than defects in your execution, so I'm not going to thumbs-down it. Well done.

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! March 1, 2013 - 9:13am

"Crossover" might work. I like the term "science fantasy". I'm happy if any audience is pleased, but don't set out with that goal in mind. Else, I would've written slightly harder sci-fi for a challenge titled 'Teleport Us'.

Thank you for your time.

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee March 3, 2013 - 12:37pm

Maria,

Wonderful work. Beautifully written, evocative, and perfectly styled. You capture the mood of remembrance very well indeed. I enjoyed every bit of this story—I can’t imagine why someone down voted it.

A few minor nitpicks:

Losing an eye in a river (while very possible) seems a touch unlikely compared to alternative ways to lose an eye. I know why you chose the river (one of the two great metaphors for human life—the other being a garden, at least according to Ann Lamont), and it works, but I did find myself pausing there trying to think how someone nearly drowned in a river loses an eye.

The very ending where you reveal the location of the story to be the “center of knowledge” comes as a surprise; I don’t have context for why the character has broken in, or what the consequences might be. I don’t know why they need to be there as the memory chip seems easy enough to install. Did I miss something?

Both of these are so minor that I almost decided not to write them. I hope you find a home for this piece—you’ll need just the right sort of magazine; as you said, it’s “science fantasy” and not likely to find a home with one of the larger sci-fi magazines (who have a stick up their backsides when it comes to stories like this). However, it deserves to find a publisher and to reach a wider audience than LitReactor.

Kind Regards,
Nathan

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! March 5, 2013 - 6:02am

Nathan,

Thank you very much for your comment, I'm glad you liked the story!

As far as two of your concerns go. In the first case, L'iume's injuries were caused more by the rocks in the river than the river itself (since she lost not only her eye, but some flesh off her face and the use of her right arm).
In the case of the 'center of knowledge', it was actually the place she stole the mind chip from, to take back to her workshop, where she was working on the unicorn. She would've had to steal it earlier that night, before she started on the part of work that's described in the story.

Thank you for pointing these things out; it'll be easy enough to clear them up with a minor edit to avoid unnecessary confusion.

Cheers,
Maria

Adrik Kemp's picture
Adrik Kemp from Sydney is reading Parable of the Talents March 4, 2013 - 1:43am

I read this without reading your synopsis and loved it. I was surprised at the end that L'iume is a sister as I had read her as a brother. I love the unicorn (particularly the horse-specific terminology used to describe it), the sinous metal and the Singing. Beautiful.

I can see what some of the other comments are saying about it not quite fitting into sci fi or fantasy but in my opinion, the best work doesn't fit the mould.

I am chuffed that you consider us to have some style in common. Thank you.

Adrik

Bonaldi's picture
Bonaldi from São José do Rio Preto/Brasil March 4, 2013 - 9:11am

Sweet, delicate and well writen!
I agree that it's not quite what people consider sci-fi - but that really counts as a positive quality.
And I definitely would love to read more about this universe you presented.
Thumbs up, for sure.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) March 4, 2013 - 9:20am

I very much enjoyed reading this.  Not only is it exceptionally well written, it also feels a little like a legend being passed on generations later.  I'm not going to worry if it's strictly sci-fi or not - I enjoyed it so it doesn't matter to me what the genre label is.  I like the idea of remembrance, and I like to think the Song has the memory within it.  Brilliantly done!

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! March 22, 2013 - 4:46am

Thank you, Adam! I've actually read your submission, just today (currently composing my comment in the next window), and found that you also chose memory as the theme for this challenge. That makes me all the more glad you enjoyed my story!

Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep March 13, 2013 - 4:26pm

I read it twice, because I felt I needed to give your story a fair shake. You won me over on my second read-through! While not necessarily in my personal comfort zone, you are a talented writer and I feel this story is well written. You painted the world in broad strokes, and that was enough for me.

Personally, I had no problems with being more poetic when referring to the ruined world. Iwas totally on-board, and knew what you were talking about.

The way you chose to tell the story gives it a fable-like aura. In fact, with only a few changes, and the addition of a moral, I could see reading this written in a sci-fi fairy-tale book. It really reminds me of native-American folklore tales. You, of course, have infused this with some cool stuff--a mechanical unicorn, etc.

I would suggest taking a hard look at the story and see if anything feels alienating. Describing things in broad strokes, and using imagery to paint a nuclear holocaust runs the risk of making your characters appear simple and not fully capable of describing what happened--even though I'm sure they do actually know the details.

I'm glad I read your story. Thank you for sharing it!

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland March 13, 2013 - 6:48pm

I gave you a thumbs up because I loved this story.

I'm one day removed from reading it and haven't yet thought of anything valuable to offer in way of constructive criticism. I hope I have time to come back to it before the competetion ends or even after it does, to give it a second look and hopefully find some helpful advice to offer. 

Things that usually bother me, such as passive voice and adverbs, are used in your story, yet sparingly and they seemed to work and flow right along, so much so that I barely noticed them.

I thought this was really beautiful and in response to Ethan's comment: I'm really not sure how much your characters would know or be able to explain, they seem to react exactly the way I'd think they would. I honestly don't know how you did it with such honesty and realism in this magical world you've created.  

Thanks for the great read, this is on my short list of extra-favorites in a field of many wonderful stories. Kudos.

--Jonathan--

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! March 26, 2013 - 8:21am

Jonathan,
Thank you very much for your kind words. I really appreciate your feedback!

All the best,
Maria

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 18, 2013 - 4:32pm

Hi Maria,

Thanks for sharing this story with us. You write beautifully and I enjoyed the cross genre worldbuilding here. A lot of contemporary writers are using an almgamation of science fiction and fantasy lately and I really enjoy it. People like Catherynne M Valente and Ekaterina Sedia come to mind. 

It was a little difficult discerning what was dystopic about this world (these were the lines that indicated to me that the world was a dystopia "They spoke of the time of the clouds, and the time before them. We listened and understood very little. The clouds were the only sky we ever had."), but I think for the purposes of submititng this story for publication, that doesn't matter at all.

Great story, thumbs up from me!

Jess 

(if you have the time to look at my story, that would be much appreciated -- http://litreactor.com/events/teleport-us/gravidism)

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! March 26, 2013 - 8:26am

Thanks a lot, Jess! I'm really glad you enjoyed the story and the style. This is actually the first proerply cross-genre piece I've written, and I'm happy to see it being pretty well-received so far.

You're right about the dystopia and the clouds. That was me being poetic about some nuclear trouble.

Also, I've checked out your story, and am getting over to your page to comment on it right about now.

Thanks for reading!
Maria

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 25, 2013 - 4:13pm

Ahh... a bit of fantasy ... Personally, I'm not big on Unicorns. I'd kind of prefer a straight horse, and you might then justify the building of a horse, as these are the skills this craftsman has. But thats just me... :)

This is an elegant piece, a  world that feels distinct, but well constructed. Thumbs up.

I'd like to know why a break in was necessary at the centre of knowledge, why N'iel has mere hours, and i'd like to see the illness given a longer breath.

Other things that need treatment for this to be a complete short, why did N'iel raise a hand to the Wiseman, how did L'iume end up in the river? What is the purpose of the ritual of the final uplink, if the stored memory was not to be used/accessed?

The compass as eyepatch that is too precious to replace is a nice touch, though you could add extra emotion to that resistance to it being replaced. And the idea of singing to the metal - the questions this raises might only be answered in a much longer piece, but are worth considering - are different people able to sing different types of metal? What do these songs sound like? 

Good work.

 

 

 

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! March 26, 2013 - 7:58am

You know, you're the first person to call me up on the unicorn thing. :D

Originally, it came from my friend's drawing (check it out - http://dft.ba/-robot-unicorns), and the rest of the world was built up around it. My in-story explanation is that a) unicorns are pretty; b) the horn is an elegant solution for an antenna; c) if, while telling stories, you can't amuse yourself on the side, then what's the point? Okay, that last one was less in-story.

As far as the issue of the centre of knowledge goes... Memories and knowledge transferred during the final uplink are definitely used and accessed, but as data and facts, rather than memories of a person. L'iume broke in to look through the most recent uploads and get N'iel's knowledge before it was properly depersonalized. The time constraint after her data theft was all about how long she had before the break-in was discovered and she'd get arrested.

N'iel's confrontation with the Wiseman was about the latter declaring L'iume an abomination, because of the metal now embedded in her flesh. As for the river - it was an actual accident, she fell and went over some rapids and possibly a small waterfall.

As far as the rest of the worldbuilding goes, including the song mechanics, the current state of the planet and the illness (mostly radiation-induced throat cancer, really) - you're right, it would take a longer story than this to address those. More importantly, explaining these things are not what L'iume has time for at the moment of the writing. I feel that going into detail about the world here would take away, for one, a lot of the immediacy element, and for two, the intimacy. The title says it all - this song is for her brother.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to read and comment! I'm glad you liked it.

Maria

P.S. When I try to imagine the Song in my head, it's somewhere between Yma Sumac and a dolphin. Incredible range and inhumanely perfect pitch.

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 27, 2013 - 3:47pm
Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! March 27, 2013 - 4:13pm

...MOCK ME, WILL YOU. XD

Joseph Nassise's picture
Joseph Nassise from Phoenix is reading Too many books to list May 13, 2013 - 9:00am

Maria,

A well-written, lyrical piece, as has been pointed out by others.  Of the three requirements of the exercise, however - exploring a dystopian/utopian theme, featuring technology that's scientifically plausible, and featuring a non-human character - I'd say that you managed one out of three.

1) I picked up on the references to the clouds noting a nuclear past, so I pegged the story as exploring a dystopian setting without much difficulty.

2) While I found the memory upload to be scientifically plausible, I think this aspect of the story was highly overshadowed by your focus on the character's ability to Sing.  So, yes, the required element was in the story but it wasn't the main focus, which lost you some points in my overall view.

3) Unless you intended L'iume to be the non-human character, I don't see the tale featuring one at all.  The metal unicorn is a shell for the brother's consciousness, but the brother is still human for all practical purposes.

That said, it was an enjoyable tale.  Your style is quite nice and fit the kind of tale you were trying to tell, your characterizations were strong and believable as well, and you nailed the basics like setting, point-of-view, and basic story structure.

Overall, a well done tale.

-Joe Nassise

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. May 13, 2013 - 9:23am

A question on this one ... are you asserting that anything starting as Human is always human?  To me that is an area of potential exploration within the confines of the event.

Joseph Nassise's picture
Joseph Nassise from Phoenix is reading Too many books to list May 14, 2013 - 5:58am

Not at all.  Just that there wasn't enough exploration of how he might have changed after the fact to determine if he was still human or not...

-J

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. May 14, 2013 - 7:38am

That makes sense.  In the story, all we see is a change in gross physical form, but no exploration of what that implies.

Thanks for the clarification!

 

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! June 13, 2013 - 4:02am

(Much belatedly) thank you very much, Joe!