To read this story or to participate in this writing event, you only need a free account.
You can Login with Facebook or create regular account
To find out what this event is about click here

Matt Hebert's picture

Devils in the Detail

By Matt Hebert in Teleport Us

How It Rates

Voting for this event has ended
Once you have read this story, please make sure you rate it by clicking the thumbs above. Then take a few minutes to give the author a helpful critique! We're all here for fun but let's try to help each other too.

Description

Like most people, Dallas wants to fit in. That's especially hard in college. But for Dallas, trying to find a balance between following desires and meeting expectations could end badly.  Really badly.

Comments

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday February 1, 2013 - 7:22pm

Well written.  Dallas was a unique character that never quite seemed to get a fair shake but was quite like able. 

Matt Hebert's picture
Matt Hebert from Vermont, originally, now in Dublin February 2, 2013 - 6:45am

Thanks for reading and commenting, Grant. :)

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. February 2, 2013 - 6:13pm

The story had a very smooth flow while reading it and there were no grammatical or spelling issues that caught my eye. (Of course, I'm not the best at those ;)  Dallas 413 was an interesting character to say the least. I couldn't help feeling a touch sorry for the slug.  One thing that bothered me, why let him take that first epigenetics course if they were going to keep him away from that field?  It looked very much like he was forced into a field completely unsuited to his biology by a group that should have understood it would be a bad match.  I was also surprised to find he released a mutating agent of the nature he did.  His response to almost certain death seemed to a good deal more restricted than I would have expected.  Maybe humans developing characteristics similar to his own?  Still very well written!

Frank Chapel's picture
Frank Chapel from California is reading Thomas Ligotti's works February 4, 2013 - 10:18pm

Im unclear on the "utopia" part of the story, was that incorporated? I havent voted yet.

Matt Hebert's picture
Matt Hebert from Vermont, originally, now in Dublin February 5, 2013 - 2:35am

I probably should have put my response below as a reply.  Sorry, I'm new to all this. :)

Matt Hebert's picture
Matt Hebert from Vermont, originally, now in Dublin February 5, 2013 - 2:32am

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, ArlaneEnalra & Frank.

In trying to be subtle about the dystopian element, I failed to be clear. I tried to describe how Dallas was offered no choice about actions and was abused in order to convey that element. There was the veneer of freedom, because Dallas did not know better; this was just life. Perhaps saying that Dallas "comes from" Dallas Containment, with a number for a name, isn't clear about Dallas' position. I imagined it to be like a controlled substance, farmed for the benefit of industry without regard to the needs, desires, or suitability of the aliens.

It occurred to me that making Dr. Baines as clueless as I did might dilute the relationship of masters and slaves. That might need revisiting, too.

It's interesting to read the reactions of others on these points. :) Thanks for the questions!

Frank Chapel's picture
Frank Chapel from California is reading Thomas Ligotti's works February 5, 2013 - 3:44pm

I like subtle, if its too obvious it can sound silly. I really like the world and story. The characters biology really came to life on the page though some parts, regarding dallas' sex, were confusing, but that was prob. me.

Good job.

Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep February 6, 2013 - 10:03pm

**SPOILER WARNING**

You know, I was just thinking the other day that there just aren't enough stories that start off with a slug getting raped.

But no longer! You, good sir, have remedied that.

So yeah, that's quite an attention-getter of an opening scene. You win big points for that. Your main character is as interesting as they come. I've got a place on my shelf for Dallas 413, right next to Sparkle Bear and a main character from this story.

I did feel the entire time like I was struggling to interpret what was going on. It is possible it's a little on the too-subtle side, but the just-right subtle is difficult to hit. I did have to reread quite a few sections to make sure I understood what was happening.

I think another pass at some minor grammar issues will help make the story flow more smoothly (in the end you say that "his body lost coherence," but I think you were going for "cohesion."

There were several times where you refer to Dallas as a "she." I think you should pick he or she and just use it throughout--regardless of what sex Dallas is mimicking. It's confusing to have it shift.

I think your story is better off titled "Dallas 413." That's who the story is about. I'm not 100% positive how the current title relates to the story, and I like titles to have a direct, powerful correlation to what's happening.

In the end, I think you should be very proud that you are able to make your readers feel sympathy for a slug. Well done!

Matt Hebert's picture
Matt Hebert from Vermont, originally, now in Dublin February 7, 2013 - 6:04am

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Ethan! So helpful to have good writers make suggestions.

Sorry I made you work for the story. As a reader, I generally like to be allowed to connect dots for myself, but as the writer I should make sure I'm placing enough and the right dots. I will make a few more passes over it and see what I'm able to smooth out. 

I cut, rewrote, and condensed a lot for this piece. I think a lot of people felt squeezed by the 4000 word limit. :) No excuse, though. I could easily have had more going on in my head than I had on the screen.

Yipes, thanks for pointing out the issue with my word choice. I don't have my preferred dictionary at hand, but in the places I've been able to check quickly, the difference between those words seems subtle enough. But as it's an actual, tangible body I'm talking about, probably cohesion would have been a stronger choice.

Yes, the he/she question. :) I'm surprised it took so long to show up. I reworked the opening a few different ways, and finally settled on what you read. I felt that during the rape, the effect would be stronger with the feminine pronoun. I didn't want to cloud the issue with suggestions of homosexuality, although that technically would not have applied. I debated making the principal female throughout, but it wasn't how I saw the character and was confusing me as I wrote. Also, I thought it added to the character to show how far it was willing to go to do what it was told. You make an excellent point, though, and it would have to be resolved in other drafts.

As to the title, I see your point there, as well. I try not to be too fussy about names of places, characters, or even stories. Maureen Johnson made a good point about characters' names, and it sticks with me. The "devils" element is clear, I think, by the time I finish, and "the detail" was meant to refer to the genetic code that Dallas manipulated to show them for what they really were. I thought that playing on a well known phrase might add some depth, but it was perhaps a too subtle comment on the story and a distraction.

I'd be just as happy with Dallas 413 as a title. Not that this story is going anywhere, but I would be more than willing to use that in future. [By the way, I thought your suggestion about Little Green Men was perfect and obvious, and I would have suggested that, too. :) ]

Thanks again for the read, and many more for the comments.

Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep February 7, 2013 - 8:08pm

Also, after some conversation with my friends: "A Slug's Life." Think about it. ;)

SamaLamaWama's picture
SamaLamaWama from Dallas is reading Something Wicked This Way Comes February 14, 2013 - 9:04am

Great story. You made me really feel for the guy and I usually can't stand slugs. I love the name Dallas, as that's where I'm from. I had to reread the first part to understand it a little better and am still wondering why he had sex with the professor--what did he get out of it? How did the professor know he could change sexes? Why did the secretary give him a dress? Seems like a lot of set up for one minute of sex that the professor didn't plan on having again.

Other than that I loved the story though I'm much more of an OU fan than an UT fan.

Great job! Sam

Matt Hebert's picture
Matt Hebert from Vermont, originally, now in Dublin February 15, 2013 - 11:25am

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Dallas doesn't really get anything out of the sex scene.  In this setting, everyone knows about these aliens and that they can take on different shapes.  I thought I got that across, but I should go back and see why you couldn't get any tracktion at the start. It think it says nice things about you this sort of abuse of power doesn't make any sense to you. :)

jewishprincess's picture
jewishprincess February 15, 2013 - 7:12am

What did I just read...?

Matt Hebert's picture
Matt Hebert from Vermont, originally, now in Dublin February 15, 2013 - 11:27am

Thanks for taking the time to read and, I assume, vote.  Sorry it didn't work for you, though.  Maybe another story will work better.

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 20, 2013 - 7:50pm

Hey there,

A very cool concept and your writing is very clean and engaging. The opening was awesome, pretty wild and got my attention, which is exactly what makes a great hook, but I think it set me up for a different kind of story, as I was trying to figure out where the story was going after that, and having to work hard to do so. It started high energy, then felt like it sagged. I bet another pass at this would tighten it up.

Keep writing though, you've got some really fun ideas. 

-g

Matt Hebert's picture
Matt Hebert from Vermont, originally, now in Dublin February 21, 2013 - 5:41am

Thanks for reading and voting. It's funny how the same opening can grab some people and turn others off.  I'm not sure what other story I led you to expect. I'll have to spend some time with it again to see why you felt it needed more [consistent?] pace.  It's a new thought for me to expect a story to keep going at the same speed all the way through.  :)  Thanks for that.

I was thinking it was a little dreary sort of story pretty much all the way, and here you thought some ideas might be fun.  Go figure. :)

Thanks again for taking the time to read, vote, and especially comment.

-Matt

C Patrick Neagle's picture
C Patrick Neagle from Portland, Oregon is reading words, words, words February 21, 2013 - 5:55am

I like this protagonist. I also like that Dallas 413 doesn't assume human shape because he/she wants to be human, but rather because it makes the people around him/her feel better. All Dallas (and might I suggest going with "413" after the first mention in order to make his/her position in society more dehumanized, more prisoner-like?) wants to do is learn and expand a field that is of interest to him/her.

I did have some problems with the narrative flow. I lost track of what was happening about the time Dallas heads to work in the algae fields. Thinking back on it, I suspect that this was just part of the daily activities, but at the time I wasn't sure if we'd hopped forward to the next semester or what. That same disjunction happens when Dallas talks to Doctor Barnes and then goes to the aquaculture classes.

The dispassionate human/slug sex scene at the beginning is a clever way into the writing--it shows that it's just expected of Dallas. However, to keep the storyline tight, connecting it to Dallas' larger motivations would be useful.

Again, I like this protag. Great character--especially when Dallas puts his/her eyestalk back on in the tub. There's some very funny stuff right in there.

PS (post-reading the comments above): The ending does seem out of character, even though the once-upon-a-time fear of devils is mentioned earlier for foreshadowing. I, too, would think that Dallas would want to do something...dunno...different.

As for pronouns: yes, those become difficult to work with there at the beginning. However, I like the idea that Dallas is willing to take on whatever pronoun works at the moment. But use that: when she is a she, use 'she'; when a he, use 'he.' A good transition from the she back to he would be at the bathrooms. Have Dallas choose "MEN" and then start using the male pronoun again.

Matt Hebert's picture
Matt Hebert from Vermont, originally, now in Dublin February 21, 2013 - 8:33am

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.  Lots of people have trouble keeping up with the story.  I will certainly go through it and try to see why people have to work so hard through it.  It might be too thinly spread for 4000 words and is suffering from the missing transitions.  I really didn't see that coming.

In earlier drafts, I had more of Dallas' reflections on things and more about the slug/human relationship, but I was fighting to keep in under the word count.

I thought about the reaction Dallas might have had at the end, but by putting him in a cell in the security building and not having access to much else, it seemed like a long stretch to me.  He could have introduced something more fatal to humans, but having set his character as trying to please, not really questioning his postion [which was an angle on distopia I was interested in pursuing when I started], it feels like a long way to make the reader travel. You and others feel the opposite, though, and I'll have to look at that.  Perhaps it's another indication that this was the wrong story to squeeze into 4000 words.

I would do the pronouns differently at the beginning if I were to do this again.  It can be more tight than this, certainly. It seemed like it was working back in January. :/

Thanks again for the time you spent on this.

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon February 21, 2013 - 8:09am

Lovely story. I had difficulty keeping my eyestalks contained reading it.

i agree with the comment that you should keep a sex throughout. Rape is rape, homosexuality doesnt enter into it. 

Overall, i found your story a bit confusing at times. But the way you write it makes you get away with it. Giving you a thumbs up, but would love an edit clearing up the narrative just a bit. 

Matt Hebert's picture
Matt Hebert from Vermont, originally, now in Dublin February 21, 2013 - 8:43am

Thanks for reading, voting, and especially making comments.  Yes, I expected the pronouns to be an issue, and the simplest solution would be not to shift.  I don't know if all readers would gloss over the common gender element if the opening used "he" instead [apparently I even failed to convey that this was a rape to some readers], but maybe that doesn't matter.

A lot of people had trouble following the story, which took me off guard. I didn't anticipate that one.  I'm grateful that you still found enough in the piece to enjoy [it was a fatal error for some], but of all the comments I've had, that's the one I feel I need to explore the most.

Thanks again for your time, and I'm looking forward to reading your story.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) February 26, 2013 - 12:57am

Dallas was a really well written character, and an excellent protagonist.  The story itself fits a lot into the word count, and it took me a couple of reads to get my head round some of it.  There is no real fluff or padding out here, it's pretty lean and nothing seems unimportant to the story.  It would almost certainly have benefitted from a higher word count, which I think would have led to a cleaner story.  Dallas is probably one of the better non-human characters I've read on here. 

Matt Hebert's picture
Matt Hebert from Vermont, originally, now in Dublin February 26, 2013 - 5:43am

Thanks for reading and commenting, Adam. I don't take the time you spent lightly; I had great hopes of reading a lot on here, but reading and commenting really do take me ages. :)  Very much appreciated.

I believe I had too much to fit in the word count here, and probably should have seen that coming in the first drafts. It seems to suffer from the lack of transitions. Glad you liked the character, though.

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 7, 2013 - 6:22am

Matt,

Go easy on us! (Please!) This is harder to read than it needs to be, and obscures a couple of great ideas, and the potential for a good story.

Within the first page I'm already struggling, firstly to know that Dallas is "the slug" you refer to - this is easily changed by saying "but reproduction for Dallas didn't follow the
same mechanics as his human professors." - and within the second page, you've flipped to "her" rather than "him" which you start with. Since he self identifies as a he, that just confuses, you've covered the gender uncertainity, you don't need that drummed in? Besides, while Dallas and school mates can refer to him as a slug, the narrator shouldn't. You describe Dallas in detail shortly after, and later on "Dallas didn't mind being thought of as a slug" - this covers that fact that Dallas ISN'T a slug, but is slug-like!

After the prof, there's a long section of exposition, do you need to reveal it all? Use carefully, to avoid slowing the pace too much.

For that matter, what does the opening sex scene actually bring to the story? Work it in, or drop it, I think! It's a strong contrast to the rest of the story, and fails the "rollsroyce in the swimming pool test" - yes it's a strong, disturbing image, but does it help the story?

The group scene is confusing, and I think we want Dallas more obviously part of it from the start. Too many "young man said" type leads to follow. We want, I think to see it ALL through Dallas's eyes(stalks).

The marine environment for a salt adverse alien is a bit obvious in a way, and you never fully explain it. Seems like an accident - or is it sabotage? It's a nice big shock when he falls in, and survives, but still, this contributes also to the feeling of a somewhat jumbled story. Again, you need to link the elements a bit more.

The gas that dissolves him does not have to be mentioned as the same used in an earlier transport, and probably shouldn't be - why didn't it kill him then? Enough to say that a gas was released... ?

I think we need to know the conditions he has triggered to leave to his termination. And why he is at the university in the first place, if being monitored in this fashion? Seems to me it would work best if the forbidden fruit is simply human genetics, and he finds out what he does by class rumour and circumventing glassbook safeguards... He can see the chicken/dinosaur on a classmates glassbook, perhaps.

Ultimately the ending is clever but also a little distant from the story - we don't know if the mutations got out because Dallas's experiments were ended prematurely. Or, if - having read about termination - he was trying for revenge, or simply to impress Branson and so be favoured/saved. So this too needs some work. Some sciencey-type comments, about how a chicken and a dinosaur share ancestry, but so to do a human and a slug (What percentage?) - but not an alien slug, presumably!. Perhaps if Dallas still had his pet slug when he was in his cell, it would connect the two? he could sacrifice the pet slug as he preps his mutation?

Typos (only this one leapt out at me - there may be more, I'm no copy-editor!) :

differed lab assignments - deferred?

Vote :

If there was a "neutral" vote, I'd give it - as it is, (Unhappy face! I wanted to like it more!) I'm going to weigh down ever so slightly on the minus side - in the hope that you take this and revamp it in the aftermath of all the comments. I LIKE the idea, but I think you might have rushed the execution, and I'm sure you'll rewrite it much better!

Liam

 

Matt Hebert's picture
Matt Hebert from Vermont, originally, now in Dublin March 7, 2013 - 11:48am

Thanks very much for the time and attention [and effort] you took with the story, Liam. You seem to have struggled a lot with it, and sorry to make you go through that.  I won't go into the thoughts behind my choices, here.  They didn't work, and I can take it on the chin. :)  And thanks for catching the typo, too. There may be more, as you say, despite trying hard to weed my garden well.

I hope that some of the fallout was due to losing you right from the start, but after the colossal failure here, I may have to go back over this one again. Before this point, I had just decided to move on, but I honestly didn't expect that I missed the mark so completely.