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scifiwriterguy's picture

Corporate Person

By scifiwriterguy in Teleport Us

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Description

Avonna, a synthetic "Corporate Person" created to embody and help market the Avonna brand, has done something horrible. Recorded by Avonna's own cell phone, the video has gone viral and Lotus, the company which created Avonna, must determine if she can be salvaged.

Comments

Anthony M.'s picture
Anthony M. from Michigan is reading Girl With Curious Hair by DFW February 27, 2013 - 11:53am

Hey, I really enjoyed your story. The bit about TC made me truly break into laughter. The sharp wit tied in really nicely with the underlying sense of sadness and emotional confusion. I'm a little disappointed we didn't get to learn a little more about the unconventional relationship between Jenny and the narrator. Overall, there's nothing I'd expect to need revision. I noticed one or two very minor typos, so if you're a nitpicker about that stuff you could from through it and fix those. Very interesting vision, excellently executed. Good work.

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee February 27, 2013 - 1:27pm

Anthony,

Thanks for the kind words--it's great to know someone enjoyed the story. I played around with the idea of showing more of Lewis and Jenny's relationship, but thought it might distract from the pace of the story or get a bit maudlin. I might try adding a few more lines near the end of the piece as that story interests me as well.

Nathan

Joshua Russell's picture
Joshua Russell February 27, 2013 - 3:10pm

Amazingly good story. I'll be keeping an eye out for more of your work. Very well done!

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things February 27, 2013 - 5:50pm

So I thought the story was well-done. The concept of corporations being the main users of this type of technology is completely plausible, and I think it's interesting how they're used. Here are a few notes:

There are several typos, most of them that probably wouldn't be picked up by a spell-check. For instance, you used "sever" when I'm fairly certain you meant "severe." Or when you say, "Avonna turns of the drier and sets in on her dresser." It's not easy to do that level of proof-reading from here, but you might find someone who can do that for you to catch that sort of stuff.

I think you could probably relay a lot of the backstory a little more organically than just having Smith tell us about it. You did a good job of creating a setting, so work on showing that to us, rather than just telling us about it. The "show, not tell" aspect of writing is something I struggle with myself on occasion, but it makes the story vastly more interesting.

As a bit of a nit-pick, I laughed a little at the "nine-hundred million dollars" bit, because I think that would be an insane amount of money even for as advanced of a robot as you describe. The iCub is a robot we've already developed that can learn emotions, and it's less than $300,000. It's your story, but I would think that a company would much rather pay a computer artist a few thousand to make a CGI mascot than spend $900,000,000 for a robot that fulfills the same role. Unless I missed some crucial aspect that the Corporate Person provides.

Overall, I thought that you did a fairly good job with the story. I thought that you did a good job of building the world and getting us inside the head of your protagonist. It needs a little polish, but not much.

 

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee February 27, 2013 - 6:57pm

Nathan,

Good catch on the typos. To be honest I was up too late last night finishing up the story and got a bit careless. I've updated the draft to correct a half-dozen or so mistakes. There may be more--I'll have one of my friends give it a once-over later this week.

Also, thanks for your thoughts on the price--I sort of pulled a number out of my backside and apparently it stunk! I’ve updated the draft to reflect an ambiguous price so the reader can decide for themselves.

Regarding showing and telling: in a narrative told from a first person perspective, a bit of telling is inevitable. Without a full blown flashback (which I’m not a fan of in stories this short), it’s very tough to not have Smith tell us about Jenny. I could go with the old “He remembered how…” or some variation of it, but that always feels so obvious to me and annoys me in other people’s stories.

I’ll muse on that a bit and see what percolates.

Thanks for the feedback. Much appreciated!

Warmly,

Nathan

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things February 27, 2013 - 7:49pm

No, I totally understand the necessity of telling on occasion, especially in first-person. But certain areas felt very prologue-y to me, where it sort of pulled me out of the story a bit.

For instance, take the storyline of Jenny. It's told almost entirely through memories and him telling us what happened. If you removed all non-dialogued references to Jenny, then the "I let you keep Jenny and look what happened" line would actually still be enough for me to guess who Jenny probably is and the idea of what role she serves in the story.

I'm not saying you should cut the Jenny stuff out, but stuff I'm told about has a tendency to be read "blurrily" while stuff I'm shown and have to imagine happening tends to be read "sharply", if that makes any sense. I like Jenny's story, but I also feel like despite spending more words on describing her, I understand Jenny less than Avonna, even though Smith's relationship with Jenny seems to be more important than (and influential in) his relationship with Avonna.

Does that make more sense? Like I said, I thought the story was great, truly, but I find myself wishing somewhat that he had taken the call from Jenny so I could have seen them interact. I think it would be stronger to see their crazy interaction (and therefore surmise why he tried and failed to avoid it) rather than for him to explain why he's avoiding their crazy interaction. Jenny seemed to be the crux of the story, at least to me.

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee February 27, 2013 - 8:12pm

I think you're right. They need to interact a bit. I will work on that. Thanks for the follow up comments, I "get" what you're saying this time around.

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon March 1, 2013 - 4:16am

Love the story. Few typos, as pointed out. I would have loved it if it felt more complete, less of a first chapter. Overall nicely done, especially good work with the characters. Fun, fast, engaging. 

 

Nice! 

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee March 1, 2013 - 5:46am

klahol,

I tried to model the story off those I see getting published in Clark's World, Lightspeed, and the like. Most of those are short, move fast, and don't have incredibly drawn out conclusions (usually they're a bit of a downer to be honest). I tried to pack enough into this story for the final few lines to cause the reader to question their assumptions, and so see the protagonist in a different light than the hard-charging, semi-asshole salesman. I might not have succeeded in doing so--I'd love if you could tell me a little more specifically what I should add: more scenes? more explication?

Thanks! I really appreciate your comments.

Nathan

Patty Keyuranggul's picture
Patty Keyuranggul March 1, 2013 - 8:47pm

I think it's great as is and that you achieved your goals for the story.  What makes the ending so satisfying is the sudden questioning of assumptions that comes so late.  As a reader, I couldn't believe you packed that much into so few words.  It's like when you watch a three hour movie and it only feels like one. 

Michael.Eric.Snyder's picture
Michael.Eric.Snyder March 1, 2013 - 4:50am

Great story! 22nd century marketing? haha. Enjoyed it very much but... not getting a utopian/dystopian feel, which is a bit of a disappointment. Perhaps I read it too quickly!

Thumbs up? Thumbs down? I'm torn and therefore making no decision yet. Will revisit later. Outside the contest parameters, thumbs way up indeed! :)

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee March 1, 2013 - 5:41am

Thanks for your comments--I appreciate the kind words.

I thought the concept of corporate owned synthetics seemed sufficiently dystopian on its own. Dystopian does not apply solely to mass wars / starvation / predatory governments. A society that endorses a sort of slavery all to make more money feels (to me at least) dystopian indeed.

Dystopian has a scale. Maybe my world is a 3/10 not a 10/10 on the intensity level, but I feel it does have a dystopian theme.

 

Michael.Eric.Snyder's picture
Michael.Eric.Snyder March 1, 2013 - 8:37am

Oh all right, you twisted my arm. Thumbs up it is! I really did enjoy this one.

Christopher Molina's picture
Christopher Molina March 2, 2013 - 9:37am

I really enjoyed this story.  Great idea, well-executed.  Very visual.  Love the world you created. While reading it, Asimov's 3 Law of Robotics came to mind -- just replace "humans" with "brands" and "harm" with "losing market share".  ;)

Steven Zore's picture
Steven Zore from Brooklyn, New York March 3, 2013 - 4:14am

Ive been trying to download this story for days and i keep getting a damn error message.

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee March 3, 2013 - 5:46am

Steven,

Do you have a .pdf reader installed? Try right clicking on the download link and selecting "save." If that doesn't work PM me your e-mail address and I'll e-mail it to you if you like.

Nathan

Steven Zore's picture
Steven Zore from Brooklyn, New York March 3, 2013 - 6:12am

Im on an iphone  

Szore2013@gmail.com

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee March 3, 2013 - 6:55am

I sent it to you. Thanks!

Steven Zore's picture
Steven Zore from Brooklyn, New York March 3, 2013 - 7:24am

Technicaly it was adequate though the narrative felt strained and a bit 'cloying'. I thought the actual story was uninspired, pedestrian and dull. Thumbs down.

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee March 3, 2013 - 11:16am

Steven,

Sorry you didn't like the story.

I'm disappointed in the way you chose to review it--stringing together "uninspired, pedestrian and dull," without a shred of explanation about what didn't work for you feels like a hack job.

The point of this challenge is to improve our writing. Simply saying "You know what, your story sucked" doesn't encourage improvement, provides no solutions or suggestions, and doesn't challenge me to improve. If you have specific reasons you should lay them out: what about the plot seemed pedestrian? What part of the writing cloying? What did you find dull?

I have no issue with someone disliking my work--it's happened before and it will happen again--but unlike the "real world" where folks vote with their wallets and either buy your story or don't, LitReactor exists to create space where we can offer constructive feedback. I feel like you've violated that good faith.

Please do post any sort of elaboration on the elements of the plot, characters, or style which you didn't like. I'm interested in hearing them.

Kind Regards,
Nathan

Steven Zore's picture
Steven Zore from Brooklyn, New York March 4, 2013 - 1:25pm

I was invited to give detailed critique im on iphone ill be brief

it starts with clever psychological insight with the running to/from comment

the boss is introduced as well as compay

global warming is mentioned and it seems like an agenda it sniffs of propoganda 

the cocoa pops refrence rt after the gw comment makes me feel the style is cloying

like your trying to cram in as many culturural refs as possible 

the panties comment seems voyeuristic and juvinile

fine after that

mesty palm comment does not work should be moving plot now not using expressions like 'meaty palm'

should go rt to dialogug

again more brand names your starting to sound like a corporate shill yourself

more name dropping.    Tom Cruise? Seriously? Lance armstrong oh we'er so topical

more i apropriate sexual references

stilted dialogue about nothing i care about dialogue does not move plot in fact the is no plot just a girl in panties

more exposition that acomplishes nothing

more name dropping  and corporate refferences (sp).  Whoppers

Nathan at this point i couldnt care less what happens

it could be Tolstoy from now till the end and u would have a brilliant dada piece other than that this is not my idea of writing. Im srry

 

Steven Zore's picture
Steven Zore from Brooklyn, New York March 4, 2013 - 1:26pm

I was invited to give detailed critique im on iphone ill be brief

it starts with clever psychological insight with the running to/from comment

the boss is introduced as well as compay

global warming is mentioned and it seems like an agenda it sniffs of propoganda 

the cocoa pops refrence rt after the gw comment makes me feel the style is cloying

like your trying to cram in as many culturural refs as possible 

the panties comment seems voyeuristic and juvinile

fine after that

mesty palm comment does not work should be moving plot now not using expressions like 'meaty palm'

should go rt to dialogug

again more brand names your starting to sound like a corporate shill yourself

more name dropping.    Tom Cruise? Seriously? Lance armstrong oh we'er so topical

more inapropriate sexual references

stilted dialogue about nothing i care about dialogue does not move plot in fact the is no plot just a girl in panties

more exposition that acomplishes nothing

more name dropping  and corporate refferences (sp).  Whoppers

Nathan at this point i couldnt care less what happens

it could be Tolstoy from now till the end and u would have a brilliant dada piece other than that this is not my idea of writing. Im srry

 

Steven Zore's picture
Steven Zore from Brooklyn, New York March 4, 2013 - 1:26pm

I was invited to give detailed critique im on iphone ill be brief

it starts with clever psychological insight with the running to/from comment

the boss is introduced as well as compay

global warming is mentioned and it seems like an agenda it sniffs of propoganda 

the cocoa pops refrence rt after the gw comment makes me feel the style is cloying

like your trying to cram in as many culturural refs as possible 

the panties comment seems voyeuristic and juvinile

fine after that

mesty palm comment does not work should be moving plot now not using expressions like 'meaty palm'

should go rt to dialogug

again more brand names your starting to sound like a corporate shill yourself

more name dropping.    Tom Cruise? Seriously? Lance armstrong oh we'er so topical

more inapropriate sexual references

stilted dialogue about nothing i care about dialogue does not move plot in fact the is no plot just a girl in panties

more exposition that acomplishes nothing

more name dropping  and corporate refferences (sp).  Whoppers

Nathan at this point i couldnt care less what happens

it could be Tolstoy from now till the end and u would have a brilliant dada piece other than that this is not my idea of writing. Im srry

 

Perry Marshall's picture
Perry Marshall March 3, 2013 - 2:42pm

Great story.Two great hooks: the one about the Cubs not winning a game in two centuries and the other one about fake Michelangelos. Both brilliant. The future past predictions are especially fun. And life 100 years from now is still about selling shampoo. 

Rebekah Tribble's picture
Rebekah Tribble March 4, 2013 - 4:02am

Humorous, eerie, and a little sad...and in so few pages an intriguing concept unfolded with just enough detail.

Admittedly by the end I was a little attached to Avonna...I kind of want to find her and hide her somewhere, and let her live out her programming, play with her hair and enjoy all the Chinese food she could want. 

My only critique is that I felt the boss' kind of cluttered your character developments. Because "boss" can pretty much summarize his existence, and because he is somewhat of an antagonist, and his overshadowing actions are the highlight of his existence in the story...I don't think the reader neccessarily needs to hear him speak, or see his face, or be present for his interaction with the main character.  A few key descriptions of him (nix his appearance), and the pre-recorded messages near the end were sufficient for me. Although...I kind of love a character who smokes away at a cigar even after he goes through pair after pair of replacement lungs. :D

I had the most fun reading when the mc was finally in the taxi cab with Avonna. And Jenny's plot...creepy...eerie...loved it. 

Entertaining! As usual, Nathan.

 

Kate Bosco's picture
Kate Bosco from Natick, MA is reading The Passage by Justin Cronin March 4, 2013 - 5:21am

I like this story quite a bit. I think its closer to the beginning of something longer than a self-contained story, but I can't knock it for that. This reminds me a bit of "The Girl Who Was Plugged In," by James Tiptree Jr, in a good way. It would be cool to see your story expanded into a novella as well.

I definitely want to know what exactly a Corporate Person is composed of. They're programmable yet have some organic parts (they eat and have flesh). Using "decomped" rather than the more roboty "decomissioned" suggests that something needs to be broken down rather than just switched off.

A nitpick: the boss's name switches between Conner and Carson a couple of times. It was clear to me that they're the same person, but something to watch out for during your next edit.

As for the "Is is dystopia?" debate, I would say yes. But I'm of the opinion that once businesses start creating life to serve themselves, humanity has become even more devalued than it already is. That's just me though.

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee March 4, 2013 - 6:38am

Shoot! I can't believe I missed the Conner / Carson thing. I'll fix that.

I sort of wanted to leave their composition a little vague as we're talking about a future technology more sophisticated than anything that currently exists. I do see them as hybrids with robotic skeletons and synthetic flesh / maybe even real flesh.

I didn't want to write something longer and wanted this story to be self-contained. A few people have commented as you have--I might have to rethink how to make the story more conclusive.

Thanks for the feedback!

Nathan

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! March 4, 2013 - 11:26am

This story is a lot like what I'd expected and wanted Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? to be when reading it after watching Bladerunner first. Less grittiness than the film, so much more heart than the book. I liked all the things that have already been mentioned before - the premise, the humor/irony, the emotional aspect.

(From a purely technical aspect, there seem to be some misplaced spaces, which probably went wrong in the conversion between formats.)

My only critique is that I would've really wanted some sort of closure - not necessarily a resolution, but something that would indicate where the narrator (and/or Avonna) goes next. (In my mind, I'm just craving a Bladerunner-style open-ish ending.)

I would definitely read this as a novel, too. Thanks for a great story.

Cheers,

Maria

CKevin's picture
CKevin from Charleston, SC is reading Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch March 14, 2013 - 12:59pm

Nathan,

Finally getting around to your submission after our back and forth on mine. I'll try not to repeat items from previous critiques.

From the very beginning, I really like how you're able to set each scene with a minimum of exposition. You build a solid framework with just enough detail to enable me to picture the world you've created without adding in a bunch of clutter. However, there are a few specifics throughout the work that caused me to step back from the story as I read to ponder the feasibility. For example:

  • Would the communication feature of the Jag really be a hovering avatar in a HUD? I know you cover this during the boss' call with the auto-control feature but it seems like a distracting recipe for disaster if driving somewhere busier than an empty desert road.
  • I understand that the action is taking place almost 100 years in the future, but many of the brands and names being mentioned are very Now. I found myself wondering if they would really be relevant a century from now but I get this is somewhat of a catch-22. How to present a densely packed brand-related corporate culture without having to waste the reader's time by explaining each and every company? In other words, I don't need to know the details of Lotus or Avonna since they are incidental to the story but replace Lubriderm and Trojan with made up products and you risk losing the point. At the same time, much can be inferred about a culture by which brands/products are currently in favor and in your world while the field of robotics has obviously exploded exponentially I feel like the consumer world hasn't moved much beyond 2005.

Switching gears:

Your dialog is natural and insightful. I get to see who the characters are by their own words and I don't get the feeling you are just narrating the action through them. 

Also, I'm rather conflicted with your portrayal of Mr. Smith and Jenny's relationship, and that's not a complaint. I can't tell if he cares for her or not, wavering between thinking about her frequently as though he misses her to only responding to her many communication attempts with a coffee recommendation. While I would like to know more about their relationship, I think the current situation is better for the story since it preserves Jenny's role as an enigma to everyone.

I am not conflicted over your portrayal of Mr. Smith himself, however, which does lead to the following problem: according to one of your earlier replies above, you state you are trying to show another side of him other than as a "hard-charging, semi-asshole salesman." Problem is, I don't see him as that at all. He seems rather cool and placating, beginning with the first conversation with Connor: "Good morning, Connor...I'm sorry, Connor...Shit Connor, I'm sorry." Plus, what hard-ass salesman drinks a gin fizz? None that I know and I know plenty. The martinis on the plane are fine but otherwise get a whisky or double vodka on the rocks into that man's hand, stat! Now, I don't have an issue with his personality being what it is and perhaps I read your statement wrong but if you were going for contrast I don't think it worked very well.

There are a few spelling errors are pointed out above (e.g. "and or" instead of "for", which drew my attention to the gin fizz thing) and one glaring pronoun swap ("my ex and I") but those will be caught during editing so I only include them for fairness. Overall, in spite of all my comments above I really enjoyed the story and even if you don't change anything based on them it's a solid piece. Thanks for sharing it!

C.

*Edit: forgot to spellcheck.

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee March 17, 2013 - 2:23pm

Ckevin,

That's some stellar feedback! Thank you for teh detail and thought you put into it. I plan to revise a few things based on this--really, really helpful. 

Quick Question: What makes you think the action is over a hundred years in the future? I meant to convey roughly 40 years (The Cubs last won the world Series in 1908, so at maximum the present year is 2097). I know that's obtuse to non-baseball fans. I'll have to mess with it a bit to make the context clear.

I chose the products I did because they represent products I can see a continual need for: skin lotion, fashionable brands, condoms, shampoo--I guess I thought those were fairly ubiquitous and quite possibly around 40-50 years from now. You did hit the catch-22 on the head though. I thought A LOT about how to handle that aspect of the piece. All solutions seemed to have their own problems so I simply went with known brands.

Thanks,

Nathan

CKevin's picture
CKevin from Charleston, SC is reading Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch March 17, 2013 - 6:10pm

Nathan,

To answer: Note I stated "almost 100 years" in my original review. Based on the 1908 stat I assumed around the 2097 date as you mention. That's 84 years from now. Even rounding to 80, that's still closer to 100 than it is to 40-50. I don't want to argue arithmetic though, since it was the advances in robotics which led me to feel the timeframe was definitely more than a few decades. I only looked up the baseball stat to confirm.

Wendy Hammer's picture
Wendy Hammer from Indiana is reading One Night in Sixes March 14, 2013 - 11:36am

Excellent story!  You hooked me right in.  I love the concept and I like the details--the brands, the lingo, all of it worked for me. I liked the main character, especially his voice. 

As others have mentioned, there are some typos, some minor, some a little more awkward (though I kind of like that she misspoke the name of a competitior: Suave), nothing too out of control. 

Really, what I want is more.  I think this could be developed into a longer piece and it would be much more satisfying.  This is more of a teaser.  There is a slight sense of resolution, sure, but I kept scrolling down, searching.  

If you do expand on this, I hope I'll stumble upon it.  I'd like to see what you do with those big questions, those relationships, and that world. 

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. March 16, 2013 - 6:52pm
Now that's a nice one!  I'm sorry it took so long to get around to reading this story.  Its easily one of the gems of the competition.  That last line is dead on the mark!
 
A few minor editing things you might want to fix:
 
  • page 5: "... for the lounge bar and or a gin fizz."  ??? is that order a gin fizz?
  • page 7: "... we would offer and a refund ..." looks like an extra and.

Excellent work!

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee March 17, 2013 - 2:42pm

Thanks for the kind words and for pointing out the typos--I fixed both.

Kind Regards,

Nathan

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 17, 2013 - 2:56pm

Hi Nathan,

I decided to download your story and email it to my kindle so I could read it while I was in the bath. I enjoyed it so much that I forgot to get out of the bath until I'd finished your story and my fingers went all pruney. (Err, sorry if that's all too much info!)

There was so much I liked about this story -- the dystopia was subtle and the reader got hints of it from things like the boss dude acting so blaise about getting his lungs replaced and refusing to quit smoking, your non-human characters felt like an homage to the classic science fiction writers like Dick and Asimov and the themes about sentience and what it is that makes us human were emotionally compelling. I also liked your general overall world building. I worked in the corporate world from the time I was old enough to have a part time job while I was at school, so I was jaded about office life, branding, marketing etc before I was even 18 (sad, I know). 

I don't think there's any constructive feedback I could give that doesn't already overlap with what people have already said.

If you get a chance, I'd love you to read my story -- http://litreactor.com/events/teleport-us/gravidism

Thanks,

Jess

(P.S. That's a great photo for your avatar. Is it a professional author shot?)

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee March 17, 2013 - 5:15pm

Miss Jess, 

Thanks for the kind words. I worked for a corporation for about 7 years before leaving to fight the good fight.

The photo was done by a good friend of mine who may not be a professional but knows how to weild a camera! Nice to have tallented friends, that's for sure.

I'd be more than happy to read your story. I'll do so tonight.

Kind Regards,

Nathan

Tim Needles's picture
Tim Needles from Port Jefferson, New York is reading Stories edited by Neil Gaiman March 18, 2013 - 4:47pm

Hey Nathan, Really enjoyed your story and it was one of the easiest to read because the characters hook you in and I was really interested in their dynamics.  I loved some of the cultural reference and the need for the AI spokespeople is right on (Japan will probably be doing this sometime in the near future). 

This story has a good plot but for me it's really all about character and I was hooked in quick and found myself wanting more at the end (even though you have a wonderful closing line).  I'd love to see some play (directly or indirectly) between Avonna and Jenny and I agree with some of the previous (and very eclectic?) comments that it would be great to expand into a longer piece or a screenplay.  There are still a few typo-o's (missing spaces ex. "Avonnaturns" page 2 & "If he wantsAvonnadecomped" page 9) but that's no big deal just giving you the heads up. 

If you haven't seen it also check out the film Robot & Frank, an indie that came out last year with a similar thread that goes in a very different direction. Overall well done, I guess I'll have to check out Clark's World & Lightspeed!

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee March 19, 2013 - 3:31pm

Tim,

Thanks for the kind words. I don't see the typos you mentioned--weird. I wonder if the file somehow got corrupted during upload?

NMB

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) March 19, 2013 - 12:25am

I enjoyed this. The corporate persons are a great concept, and I like the setup for these.  These are plausible given how quickly companies drop their spokespersons in times of scandal.  You also have a nice vein of humour running through, even in a story that is not at overtly amusing.  In fact the best thing you do is to anchor this with heart.  Smith and Jenny's relationship is just fascinating.  I'm torn between wanting to read more about them, and thinking that keeping it like this is perfect.  I would have liked to have seen more closure.  It feels a little incomplete.  It's an ambiguous ending which I like - will he / won't he go through with it?  It's a great line you end with, but it left me hanging, and I'd want to see more.  Despite this it most definitely gets a thumbs up from me!

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee March 19, 2013 - 3:35pm

Thanks Adam.

I've thought a lot about making the ending more robust but each time I do it feels like it slows the story down. I think it's pretty clear Smith isn't going to go through with it (which is what I think he'll do) but forcing that on the reader feels manipulative to me for some reason I have a tough time defending--gut feel. Although plenty have said the same thing as you, meaning I likely need to make it more explicit to make the piece marketable.

Kind Regards,

Nathan

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) March 20, 2013 - 12:56am

Actually I liked the ambiguous ending, and I'm happy filling in those blanks myself (I didn't think for a second he'd go through it). The closure for me is necessary just because you introduce that killer concept right at the end. The Corporate Persons know they are creations, and are created to sell brands, yet she knows enough to question her own brand. That is quite human. Then you have her question how much of her is real, which is a theme I'd like to have seen expanded a lot more. It is taking that self-awareness on a further step, which is fascinating.

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations April 26, 2013 - 6:17am

Hi Nathan,

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

Beginnings are important, to establish voice, so go easy with overdescribing - 220 KPH, 63 Degrees... (followed swiftly by 70KM!)  how would he naturally describe this? 220 (without the KPH) and simply "air conditioned cabin" perhaps?

"Her avatar hovers replaces the instrument panel" - just "her avatar replaces"? Or if you want hover, then "her hovering avatar replaces"?

I pay attention to starts because that is what drags people in, so any bumps that aren't conscious and deliberate should be avoided!

"viral marketing campaign designed by Avonna’s marketing department" - I got confused, because this is for a hair product, not for Avonna as a product, right? But Avonna the Corp Person and product are synomous, so maybe for those who have never heard of Avonna, some clues, as It's a bit vague as is!

“I’m sorry, Conner.” - a salesperson wouldn't apologise if it wasn't his fault. He'd agree, but not apologise. (Even if it might be laid at his feet, which this couldn't!)

I think you can (and should) sell all angles of the advantages of Corporate persons as well as the "not having a breakdown" - especially as that is what Avonna did. 24/7 representation, never in a bad mood, always professional, never wants a payrise, etc, etc. This is necessary to establish why they exist at all - given they are not stars in their own right.

LAX is not Las Vegas Airport? (LAS is... Thanks google!)

I'd lose the "and then pay Avonna a visit at her Soho penthouse." - because it makes the appearance of her in the limo more confusing, and so, less of a surprise.

And when he discovers himself in a limo with a deranged CP, does he fear for his life? He has - or had - a stunner. Does he still have it?

Can we have the limo heading straight for whever the decomp is to take place? That gives it a nice immediacy. Conner doesn't get a choice - things are already in action.

I'm a wee bit disappointed that they CPs have real names. I liked - was intrigued by - them as brand names. And "The King Knows" doesn't work unless the audience agrees...

Ultimately, I love the setup, and there's a big puzzle in here, but you don't crack it - not quite. I'm guessing it hinges on what Avonna / Jenny think they are. (Can an android be raped? And does it know what that is? Does Avonna suddenly doubt the corporate message she is created to project? Does she wonder is she is in fact human, and therefore the hairdrier to adomen is a curious experiment, do I feel pain? (Am I human)) ?  I think you need to deliver a little more as an ending - especially as a decomp (why decomp? decomm for decommission?) is hanging in the air.

Good stuff though, enjoyable read!

Liam

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee April 29, 2013 - 8:30am

Liam,

Excellent critical feedback. I've not looked at this story for a number of weeks--it's great to re-engage with fresh eyes. Your feedback is very useful. I agree--the nut is half-cracked at best. I plan to take the review from the professional reader and then go through and make final revisions.

I appreciate you taking the time to read the piece.

Kind Regards,

Nathan

Brenda Cooper's picture
Brenda Cooper from Washington State is reading Abundance by Peter Diamandis April 29, 2013 - 7:09pm

Hi Nathan,

First and foremost, great job.  I enjoyed this story and I think it works.  You might be able to market it as it and sell it with no further changes. 

A few things you did really well -- your opening paragraph was chock-full of sensory detail and action.  You ended the paragraph with a bit of a mystery.  "Jenny would say I'm running away.  Maybe I am."  So I immediately wanted to read more. 

Your pacing was nice - as was your information flow.  No really painful infodumps, a good job of showing me the story, the action, and the protagonist.

I liked the end.  A quick scan of the comments above shows that there was varied reaction to whether the ending worked or not.  I think that's good.  Stories that engender comments and differences of opinion are usually stronger stories than those that get a uniform reaction from readers.  

A few suggestions (and these are exactly that - since the story works, they are not things you need to do to market this story - you could do that right now, and perhaps you should since dinking with a story too much can harm it):

  • The opening mystery - is he running away and from what - might be echoed a little more strongly in the end. Perhaps show me more of his emotional conflict about Jenny.  Perhaps he could want to call her, be lonely for her, but be ,ad at himself.  Kind of the way an alchoholic or someone additcted to cigarettes feels. 
  • Try a different title that doesn't give away so much (and which is more interesting).  The reference someone made to "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" was a good one as I thought of Bladerunner.  Either of those titles were stronger.  Obviously you need your own, but you can find a stronger one.
  • Consider adding more sensory detail.  You did a great job with it on open, but then you chose to use less.  I don't want setting infodumps, but just a few specific details that I can taste or feel or hear.

And one serious bit of advice...you are using a lot of celebrity names and brands.  Be very careful.  I am not an attorney, but I believe you are skating the grey area of the law (yes, it's satire, but some references might be disparaging enough to get the legal attention of people with tons of money and lawyers).  For example, the reference to Tom Cruise might get you in trouble.  It's hilarious, but I'm not sure it's safe.  Ask an attorney.

Thanks very much for the opportunity to read your work and good luck placing it.

Brenda Cooper, author of The Creative Fire and The Diamond Deep (forthcoming) from Pyr.