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Fhhakansson's picture

Our Masters

By Fhhakansson in Teleport Us

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Description

A robot wakes up with two goals - to obey his master and learn all about him - which proves difficult when even the master has masters.
This is a story of obedience and authority where we get a glimpse into the secret life of a man going against the world to become a father.

Comments

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 2, 2013 - 1:30pm

Hi,

Good story, simple but all the more powerful for it.

Try to be consistant - "Master" should (presumably) always be capitalised, and while to not do so certainly doesn't spoil the story, it distracts the (some!) readers. Similarly, "To the right" is used twice in the photo - one presumably should be on the left? Probably things you might catch on an edit - like "nozzle" a neck, for instance! :)

It's difficult to imagine from the perspective of an artificial construct, but you have done a good job! But I don't know if the edict against human nakedness actually helps. It is alien, but not fully explained, and I can't help but imagine the story without it, and the clashing thoughts it produces.

You could probably flesh this story out quite a bit - it's unclear when the "boy" becomes conscious. Should it be told from that moment? What happens before the start of the story? It's also unclear why from 100m away the boy is evidence of a crime (are there no children on the planet?) nor what the crime is other than being loved (which you definitely can't tell from 100m!) - it is difficult therefore to work out the details of the dystopia, nor even if it is a dystopia!

Liam

Fhhakansson's picture
Fhhakansson from Sweden is reading Odd Interlude - Dean Koontz March 4, 2013 - 3:51am

Hello Liam!


Thank you for your comment. The “nozzle” error was quite bad on my part – haha. Yes, I probably should have revised it one last time before submitting (though I might as well have missed some of the errors again).


I’m glad you pointed out the issue of the story’s opening because I never pondered. When I pictured the scene in my head it started when the boy examining himself in the mirror – but starting from the moment the boy awakens, or powers up, could have been even stronger and perhaps shed light on certain issues with the story.  It could, for example, explain why the boy has knowledge of authority and how his mind works. I added his edict against human nakedness, and his other thoughts on authority, to help the reader know what is “right and wrong” in the world I created. The boy’s link to child pornography when seeing the photo is the best clue to understand what happened to Master before the boy awakened, without explicitly stating it.


Master’s wife was pregnant with their second child, but the Master suspected something was wrong with the fetus, and performed an ultrasound despite knowing it went against the law (it produces a picture of a naked child and is thus child pornography). This much is quite easy to figure out reading the text – but what happened afterwards? Something obviously happened to Master’s family (and this is where I could have elaborated). Master would have been sentenced to death for his crime, but he is an important figure of society and a good scientist (hinted in the picture where he wears a lab-coat) and was spared – but lost his family. In his grief he used his knowledge to create an artificial copy of the unborn child he never met.


The reason the unnamed observed reacts is, in my mind, because he knew there was not supposed to be a child in Master’s apartment. As mentioned before – this future world is very protective of their children and especially hard on pedophiles. Even though all buildings look the same I figured those close by would know their immediate premise, which means the unnamed observer would know that Master did not have a child and that no child was supposed to be there. The “law enforcers” breaking into the apartment at the end are not there because Master created artificial life (which also is a crime) but rather for being in the possession of a child.


I hope this makes things easier. I am at fault for not making it easier to decipher in the novel – but that’s why we discuss it so I can improve. Thank you so much for you comment, Liam!

 

Regards, Fredrik

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee March 2, 2013 - 3:33pm

I liked this piece. I feel a bit unclear what crime the protagonist committed. Creating artificial life? Loving artificial life? How does the unnamed observer know that the protagonist is artificial? A few more details here and there would really establish your ending more conclusively.

Overall your writing is clear, concise, and well done. An enjoyable read.

Fhhakansson's picture
Fhhakansson from Sweden is reading Odd Interlude - Dean Koontz March 4, 2013 - 3:49am

Hello! I am glad you liked it. Yes, I certainly could have added a few more details without taking away the mystery or making the novel too wordy. The reason the unnamed observed reacts is, in my mind, because he knew there was not supposed to be a child in Master’s apartment. The future world I created is very protective of their children, and especially hard on pedophiles, evident when the narrator marks the ultrasound as pornography. Even though all buildings look the same I figured those close by would know their immediate premise, which means the unnamed observer would know that Master did not have a child and that no child was supposed to be there. The “law enforcers” breaking into the apartment at the end are not there because Master created artificial life (which also is a crime) but rather for being in the possession of a child.
It could have been made clearer through a longer dialogue with Master, more clues found by the boy in Master’s absence, as well as a different opening where the reader gets a chance to know the world better. I hope it’s not all too confusing. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

Regards, Fredrik

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee March 4, 2013 - 6:31am

I didn't assume the society was hard on pedophiles, only that a newly created entity misinterpretted the data. If the society itself is very hard on them, you need more (at least for me) to establish that. I see what you mean from your description, but it's not presently in the piece as strong as it could be for clarity's sake.

Otherwise, as I said, a very nice piece.

Natalie Fifield's picture
Natalie Fifield March 4, 2013 - 8:56am

I like it! I want to know more though as everyone above has said. I want to know what crime the Master has commited and what the society is like (why ultrasounds are illegal etc). But it's a good criticism because it means we all care enough to want to know more and are intrigued by the world you have quickly created.

Fhhakansson's picture
Fhhakansson from Sweden is reading Odd Interlude - Dean Koontz March 5, 2013 - 1:39am

I'm so glad you like it! I'm glad the story envokes a sense of wanting more. One thing I never planned was how society got to where it is. As for the master: his original crime was performing the ultrasound (as you might have guessed) and then harboring a child when he was not supposed to (though he broke the law by creating the boy as well).

Thanks yet again Nat! Maybe some day I'll turn it into a greater piece of work to fleshen out all the details :)

Rebecca Knowlson's picture
Rebecca Knowlson March 14, 2013 - 4:07am

I like this story. I think the nature of your writing reveals enough but also leaves the reader wanting to find out more. I really liked the way you created the robot's character through his thoughts and 'emotions'. It was written in a way that revealed quite clearly that he is a robot but it also had child-like elements that fitted together very well indeed.

As others have said, at the end we want to know what crime the Master has committed and more about society. Perhaps a flashback to the unravelling of society would have been good, however, as this is a short story and the narrative is in the robot's voice, this may have been difficult to achieve.

If you choose to flesh it out, I would love to read it again!

 

Fhhakansson's picture
Fhhakansson from Sweden is reading Odd Interlude - Dean Koontz March 18, 2013 - 11:12am

Thank you so much Rebecca! I'm glad the story, and the world, managed to hook you :) Yes, it certinly seems I could fleshen out the story a bit. However, I don't want to make anything too obvious. I wanted a story where the reader has figure out what is going on by finding hints dropped in the narrative by me, though some are certainly obscure. 

I'm going to think about how to improve the story and will let you know if there's a radically improved draft! :)

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon March 17, 2013 - 10:38am

Oh very nice indeed! 

Loved how you built the relationship between the 'boy' and the Master, and I must say I found your non-human character a joy to read. It really flowed off the page. 

Might have elaborated a bit on the logic behind the world we find ourselves in, why the love of a child is such a serious crime. 

But overall, liked it a lot! Well done. Eller bra gjort på ren svenska. 

Fhhakansson's picture
Fhhakansson from Sweden is reading Odd Interlude - Dean Koontz March 18, 2013 - 11:17am

Thank you so much! It is always nice to hear good feedback from a pleased reader :)

Yes, many of my readers said they wanted mroe details. I tried to write it as a puzzle where the answer is only found through subtle hints in the narrative - but I'm thinking of ways to fleshen out the background story without including some form of narrative catalogue. 

Tack för att du läste den! :)

Eliza Bourgault's picture
Eliza Bourgault from Somewhere. March 19, 2013 - 8:38pm

Hey!

I don't know if my vote was actually saved or taken into account ... :/

Anyway, cool story. The tense and ominous atmosphere was well established and captivated me until the last word. Although this was a short story you managed to develop the robot and Master in great detail. At the end I didn't know whether to feel sorry for Master or be afraid of him. (That's supposed to be a compliment because it shows the complexity of his character ;) ). The story had a good pace, it wasn't too long or filled with too many descriptions, but it wasn't too short and action-packed either.

This was a very different read from what I'm usually used to, but I quite liked it.

Fhhakansson's picture
Fhhakansson from Sweden is reading Odd Interlude - Dean Koontz March 21, 2013 - 8:56am

Don't worry, your feedback's the important thing :) I'm very glad that you enjoyed it even though it was a bit unusual from waht I usually do. Hopefully it only goes to show that I am varied in my writing (which I truly hope). Thank you for taking the time to read and comment :D

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 20, 2013 - 7:21am

Hi there,

Enjoyable story you've written! I liked the chorus of "more data needed", I thought it was quite clever. I thought you used the first person point of view skillfully and I felt as if I was watching the action happen through the eyes of the protagonist. 

If you have membership to the workshop here, there is an essay you might find relevant to first person POV writing by Chuck Palahniuk called something like "Submerging the I". That could help spruce up thtis story a little.

Thanks for sharing this with us. Big thums up from me.

Jess (http://litreactor.com/events/teleport-us/gravidism)

Fhhakansson's picture
Fhhakansson from Sweden is reading Odd Interlude - Dean Koontz March 21, 2013 - 9:31am

Hello Jess!

Thank you! I'm glad that you enjoyed it and I appreciate the feedback (and comment)! I'm not a member (yet) but will bookmark the essay for when I do get a membership. This seems like a great community and recieving/giving feedback is truly what makes a writer. I've been enjoying having my short story here. 

Kind regards, Fredrik.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) March 23, 2013 - 4:00am

My first response to this was the same as the boys - more data needed. On second read through though I'm not sure that is the case. This is very enigmatic writing and requires a bit of filling in the gaps by the reader, but that is not bad thing. I got that possession of a ultrasound was illegal, but not that the ultrasound itself is illegal. I didn't get that he was punished for doing the ultrasound and hence lost his family. I'm not convinced that my understanding of those two points would necessarily improve my reading of the story though. The salient point is that he creates this child AI to replace a hole in his soul, and ultimately pays the price for this very human need. You could add to this and flesh it out more, and I'm sure that might improve it for some, but I like it as it is.

Fhhakansson's picture
Fhhakansson from Sweden is reading Odd Interlude - Dean Koontz March 24, 2013 - 2:04am

Hello Adam!

Thank you so much for commenting! I'm glad you took the time for a second read and found many clues of the clues. The story, as I mention in previous comments, does not spell itself out loud. There are clues the readers needs to find, small details in the narrative, which forms the background story. It is as you observed - the possession of the ultrasound is not in itself illegal. It is what it portrays.

I tried to explore, and flesh out, the background of the Master in an earlier draft without being too explicit. I ended up removing much of the "too obvious" stuff and probably made the reader feel the need for more information in a negative way. I will try to develop their relationship a bit further, and add a new level to Master's background, at some point when I feel I can do it with grace.

I'm glad you enjoyed the story. Receiving positive feedback means a lot to me!

 

Regards, Fredrik 

ender.che.13's picture
ender.che.13 from Northwestern U.S. living in the southeast peach. is reading Ken Follett March 25, 2013 - 6:11pm

I enjoyed this. I found the distopia powerful, as well as the relationship, and you did a good job of creating a "snapshot" - just enough of the story to get the picture while keeping it within the restrictions of the contest.

I did find the prose a little detached, though, which I might attribute to the pace. Some of the phrasing was a little peculiar as well.

Overall, well done!

Fhhakansson's picture
Fhhakansson from Sweden is reading Odd Interlude - Dean Koontz March 26, 2013 - 6:53am

Thank you! I would have liked to see some examples of where the prose was a bit detached and where the phrasing was peculiar (so I can take them to note and improve).

Othwerise I'm glad you liked the story. It always makes me happy to receive positive feedback!

 

Regards, Fredrik

Rob Pearce's picture
Rob Pearce from Cambridge, England is reading Lots of unpublished stuff and short story collections March 27, 2013 - 9:16am

I struggled a bit to get into this. The opening line felt unnatural, and it set the tone wrong for me. The second paragraph then has description that didn't quite feel like a robot's thoughts, ending with an actual error. Had the master spoken naturally, saying "that's you" or "that's your reflection" then it would have been more obviously an error rather than causing confusion a few lines on when the robot mentions mirrors, because reflections are not "two-dimensional".

Okay, so I was off on the wrong foot, and that's always a problem for my enjoyment of a story. Let's see if it recovers.

There's a persistent tendency for the robot's inner-monologue to feel a bit forced to my mind. This is, as I commented to somebody else, a really hard thing to get right - non-humans are hard and doing them first-person is even harder. In this case the mentions of technology ("Microphones register ... servos beneath my shell", "eternal memory", "shift my lenses" etc.) feel more like the author trying not to be human than the thoughts I'd expect a robot to actually have. It's a fine line, and you probably only need a light tweaking (albeit probably in many places) to make it work well. That said, the robot's apparent reaction to the "revelation" that he's "not real" doesn't seem to fit, especially with the paragraph of claims of omniscience shortly afterward.

There are a few unclear phrases that made me stumble. For example, "I find joy in his voice" could mean the robot is programmed to feel joy on hearing the voice, or it perceives the tone of voice to indicate joy felt by Master. If the latter then "I sense joy" or "I detect joy" would avoid the ambiguity. Similarly "All walls are shaded black" seems to refer to wallpaper, but the Master's next words are about windows.

The leap from "an ultrasound ... in the womb" to child pornography seems tenuous in the extreme. Even allowing for the (rather later) reveal of the absolute ban, a pre-natal ultrasound isn't the same thing.

And then everything goes horribly pear-shaped for the Master... and I went "huh?" The society is certainly extreme, to the point of dystopia, but it doesn't make any sense to me. It's been declared a crime against humanity to... what? Have a child-substitute? Want to love and care for children? I mean, tenuous leaps aside, there's not really any evidence of this guy being a paedophile at all. So is this a society that shoots parents on sight for daring to have children? Because unless the stranger across the block knew something we don't, the implication seems to be that nobody is allowed any contact with minors in any form. Which surely would be pretty dystopian but doesn't ring true.

I wanted to like this (especially after your helpful comments on mine) but at the end of the day it didn't work for me. Sorry.

Fhhakansson's picture
Fhhakansson from Sweden is reading Odd Interlude - Dean Koontz March 27, 2013 - 12:53pm

I agree with your first statement – you are absolutely right about it. I should have made myself clearer regarding the reflection. I pictured the flat reflection of a mirror instead of a holographic reflection when writing. It came out wrong and I can see your confusion.


I cannot defend myself, or the writing, against your opinion on the narrating voice being unnatural for a robot. When reading your example of changing “I find joy” to “I detect joy” I know I could have done a better job at times to make the Boy’s wording more objective and, what I imagine, more machine like. With that said most other readers praised the narration – especially the voice of the robot – and I’d rather not change it too much since the robot’s voice is what the majority of the readers found particularly alluring.


What I wanted to show was a society following the extremes. The Boy sees the ultrasound as child pornography through the “eyes of the law” because it is still – in effect – a naked child. Of course it is extreme by our standards, but that is the point. You ask questions which are answered in the text through subtle hints and clues. 


As an example I will quote Adam Jenkins’s comment on this piece “My first response to this was the same as the boys - more data needed. On second read through though I'm not sure that is the case. This is very enigmatic writing and requires a bit of filling in the gaps by the reader, but that is not bad thing. “


This was my intention exactly. An inattentive reader will not understand at first glance, finding the writing confusing and incoherent, which can be a weakness to my writing, yes, but I feel that a piece of fiction that can be read over again, adding new layers and meanings, giving new discoveries and insights for the reader for every re-read, is more powerful and better fiction that something that spells itself out loud and is then forgotten.


But to answer most of your questions in one swoop – yes – there is evidence, at least from the society’s point of view, of the Master being a pedophile. If one combines what the Boy learned from the ultrasound with the dialogue he has with Master afterwards, where he speaks of his family and the lost opportunity for more life because he failed them by disbelieving, it becomes clear Master lost his family because of the ultrasound, which he got despite being against the law, for he knew there was something wrong with the development of his second child. Thus them refers to the government he went against – and in the process lost everything.


I am also sorry it was not to your enjoyment, but I still appreciate you reading it and leaving feedback.

Rob Pearce's picture
Rob Pearce from Cambridge, England is reading Lots of unpublished stuff and short story collections March 28, 2013 - 1:44am

Okay, I can see that with careful re-analysis and in light of your responses the evidence is there. And I agree that good stories bear a second, third or fourth reading. However...

This context is a little odd, since we know we are reading relatively early drafts for the purpose of giving feedback to the author. In a more "real" fiction context - that of a published work - the reader needs to enjoy and at least partly understand the story on first reading, because if that first reading fails then a second reading will not follow. Indeed, if the opening page doesn't grab such a reader the rest of the story may not even get a first reading.

Like I said, I wanted to like it. The theme of a dystopia arising from excessively absolute adherence to laws created for a good purpose is one that I like to see explored, and you've chosen a purpose that is very topical, and indeed has been over-applied in reality. I just wanted it less muddled.

Fhhakansson's picture
Fhhakansson from Sweden is reading Odd Interlude - Dean Koontz March 28, 2013 - 3:36am

I wouldn’t say these are early drafts. The event is almost over and we had lots of time to polish our work. It should be in very good shape by now. Mine could use one more revision as you stated earlier, hence I will upload a new draft later today, but it shouldn’t be too hard to appreciate the piece on a first read. Your first comment would have made more sense to me if it applied to my first draft, where the fate of the Master and his background was less apparent than it is now, but even the first draft readers managed to, at least partially, understand the story and find it a good read.


I know you didn’t and that’s fine. I tried my best to make the story very enjoyable on a first read – and awesome on a second and third read. Obviously I failed to satisfy the whole targeted audience otherwise I would have received a thumb’s up from you too.


In a “real” fiction context, as you phrased it, I am confident this piece would do very well. The fact that many of my readers were hooked enough to read Our Masters a second time and experience an “aha-moment” gives me that confidence. But if I fail to get it published after the event I will come back to you and say “you were right.”

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. March 27, 2013 - 7:11pm

A very smooth and enjoyable read!  Other than suggesting a proof reading run, I came acorss one or two missing words here and there, I don't have much to add.

Excellent Work!

Fhhakansson's picture
Fhhakansson from Sweden is reading Odd Interlude - Dean Koontz March 28, 2013 - 12:06am

Thank you so much! I will do a minor revision later today and hopefully find the last errors. I would have liked examples of where you found the missing words - but I'll hopefully find them.

Regards, Fredrik.

Linda's picture
Linda from Sweden is reading Fearful Symmetries March 28, 2013 - 12:39pm

This is subtle and beautifully written story. You do a good job balancing the AI's complete lack of emotions with the old man's abundance. Also, the Frankenstein theme is never wrong. That said, this story is too short in my opinion. I believe you could amplify the effect many times over by developing it further, especially increasing the actual time span of the story, maybe to a couple of days or weeks, and include a bit of summary. As it is, I suspect that you're sometimes forced to give away a little too much a little to quickly, and it leaves little time to create the proper atmosphere.

I have question, one landet lagom citizen to another, were you at all inspired by the “Manga case” when writing certain passages of this text?

Either way, this was enjoyable to read in its current form, and it has much potential, should you decide to revise/expand.  

Thumbs up, thanks for sharing!

Fhhakansson's picture
Fhhakansson from Sweden is reading Odd Interlude - Dean Koontz March 29, 2013 - 12:42am

Thank you so much Linda! I completely agree with you here. It would have been an even more powerful story if I slowed down the pace a bit and extended it. I was pressed for time when writing and only wanted subtle changes once the story was uploaded, but I will return to this story after the event and extend it as best as I can without letting quality suffer.


Yes, that was my direct inspiration! I’m really amazed that you managed to figure that out. I read the comments of an article reporting on the “Manga case” and saw someone say “It wouldn’t surprise me if they made ultrasounds illegal. It is technically a picture of a naked child.”
I remembered that comment ever since and thought I would one day write something related to it.

Thank for your wonderful comment!
Regards, Fredrik.

Linda's picture
Linda from Sweden is reading Fearful Symmetries March 30, 2013 - 4:07am

It was the absurdity of it all that seemed familiar, though I'm not sure I've come across the ultrasound comment. Either way, and without getting into the actual debate, it seems like a good thing to write about.

Jens Josefsson's picture
Jens Josefsson March 31, 2013 - 11:55am

Overall I like the story and i think it was well written. There is not much I can add after reading through the comments. I felt the narrative was a bit disjointed but suited the artifical protagonist. I wish I could provide more feedback but the story was good in itself!

Jens.

Fhhakansson's picture
Fhhakansson from Sweden is reading Odd Interlude - Dean Koontz April 3, 2013 - 12:35am

Hello Jens!

 

I'm glad you liked it! I would have liked to see some examples of sentences where you thought the flow was disrupted. Even though the event is over I want to revise my story afterwards so it would really help if you could be more specific.

 

Regards, Fredrik.

E.C. Myers's picture
E.C. Myers from Philadelphia is reading The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau May 1, 2013 - 3:18am

Fredrik,

Thank you for an engaging and thought-provoking read. I appreciated the fact that you began the story “in media res” and trusted the reader to piece together the background of the father and the world; one of the many challenges of writing a short story is deciding where to start it, and this feels like the right place to me — during the one hour or so of our main character’s life. Overall, I enjoyed his voice and you did an excellent job of maintaining a tight viewpoint, which also can be difficult because everything else must be filtered though his eyes, or lenses as it were. The theme and style seem like a fusion of Philip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut, two of my favorite science fiction writers.

The most exciting part of this story for me was the world building, the clues you give us at the oppressive dystopian future they live in. It’s all the more impressive that you fit so much into a story of only 2500 words, hinting at a much larger universe and a truly dark history that has brought society to this place. As much as I enjoyed trying to figure out the rules of their world from the bits you’ve given us, I admit that I don’t completely get it. It seems to me that they’re on an alien world, which leads me to assume that the humans are subjugated by alien masters; and yet, humanity is “sacred” and so children can’t be seen naked…

The point of this seems to push things to shocking, almost absurd extremes: An ultrasound of a fetus is considered child pornography, medical interventions are not allowed because of the nudity rule, and even love itself seems to be outlawed. These are fascinating, disturbing concepts, but they are not yet fully developed. I imagine you have the rules worked out and you understand what has happened before this story to make this future? Even if those details don’t make it into the story, it’s important that you know them, because they will help it all seem plausible as you sprinkle hints throughout. However, I am intrigued, and I want to know more.

I understand it’s tricky to deliver more information about the world when you have one POV character who is limited to a single room and only talks to one other person. What you end up with in a situation like this is an introspective character who spends all his time looking at things and thinking about them, who also inexplicably is both programmed with incredible amounts of facts, yet also has gaps in his knowledge and understanding. It’s not quite a childlike naivete — for instance, he intuits that his Master is a pedophile because he’s hiding an ultrasound — but it’s more like he is constantly misinterpreting things because he lacks the proper context. Why does he know that nudity isn’t allowed, but not why this is so? Moreover, if the Master wanted to keep him “innocent,” why is he programmed with any of this information at all? Whatever the rules of your world, they should be consistent and logical, or the story may feel forced.

All that said, no matter how great the setting, the things that personally interests me most in most stories are the characters and their relationship, and that’s one of the things I wanted to see more of in this. The father is a deeply sad person who has a seemingly tragic past and is both struggling with a sense of despair and guilt and trying to change the society he lives in. I think so, anyway. The glimpses we see of his life Before are heartbreaking, and of course one must be very motivated to break the law and build an android (presumably a duplicate of his son, or what his son might have looked like had he lived to that age, whatever age he is). His crime is not entirely clear to me, again, because I’m not sure we understand enough about the other masters and humanity’s purpose here, but his motivations are: Love.

That’s powerful, but it’s diminished somewhat by the ending. I actually love that the boy self-destructs, a startling twist, but it contradicts his father’s wish that he “escape” and “show our people things are not black and white” — what was his father’s plan? How does he think they can change the world? If he intended this “suicide” all along, even for a good cause, then I think this undermines his supposed love for the boy. I also think the ending should be much more moving than it is, but we have not been given enough of a chance to care about these characters and their bond.

The main recommendation I have for you is to keep the father and son together for the whole story. You send the father away because a) you want the boy to have the chance to explore on his own and b) you need him to open the window and be spotted and lie about it. You can probably still accomplish the first even with the father around, and the story would be improved by more dialogue and interactions between the two of them, avoiding too much of the internal exposition of the main character and the father’s tendency to monologue to explain himself in vague sentences rather than have a conversation. As for the necessary plot point with the window, the boy could do this with the father there — in another room if necessary — but he could also allow his curiosity to overpower him and openly disobey his father’s command not to touch it. Or he can touch it by accident. (On a side note, I thought it might be interesting if the father also was trying to keep information from the boy. Does the main character think he’s on Earth, for instance?)

Two other little quibbles, one big one and one minor one: Having a character look at himself in a mirror, particularly at the beginning of a story, is one of the most clichéd openings ever. Some stories require it, but I think you’ll be putting your story at an immediate disadvantage in most magazine slush piles. I think you can better work this in when he’s looking at the photograph, especially if there’s a resemblance to someone in the photo, on which I wasn’t entirely clear. Just by shifting the focus of his eyes he can see his reflection in the glass of the framed picture. Perhaps this is the only reflective surface in the apartment (aside from the window) and maybe this adds even more significance to the broken glass, and a stronger imperative for him to open the window shade.

This could be a personal peeve, but the androidisms became a little tiresome, eg. Lenses instead of eyes. Is he that self-aware that he is a machine? Would his programming not still have him think about lenses as eyes? Perhaps something to consider.

Despite my suggestions for improvement, I did enjoy this and see enormous potential in the story. The basic plot of a man building a robot child has been done before, of course, but you can distinguish your story from the rest by developing a unique world and subverting readers’ expectations, as well as focusing on making the relationship between your two characters interesting, believable, and moving.

Thank you for the fun read and best of luck in revising the story and placing it with a publisher.

Fhhakansson's picture
Fhhakansson from Sweden is reading Odd Interlude - Dean Koontz May 3, 2013 - 8:01am

Thank you so much for the detailed feedback! It means a lot to me to hear so many positive things from an established author.


You were not the only one who did not completely get it. I did add a few more details after the first draft, such as saying the fetus is considered child pornography through the eyes of “the law” instead of simply stating it is illegal, but it was probably not enough. It was difficult to add just the right amount of information without diluting the narrative. I will do my best to clarify certain details, such as what happened to create the future we see, why the child knows certain things are the way they are, what the father wanted to show the world with the robot, and so on.


I never considered keeping the two characters together for the whole story but it could solve quite a number of problems, so thank you for that advice. I’ll give it a try! I also liked the idea of the father keeping information from the boy. You are extremely observant. The boy is not on Earth but the pictures he sees are taken there. He is on a different planet (the master was moved after he was found guilty of possessing the illegal picture).


You might be right about removed the “mirror” opening. I thought I could get away with it since the narrator does not describe his appearance. He simply looks into it and sees his image (whatever that image may be). Another reader also complained about the androidisms (while some loved it) so I will tone it down a bit for some sort of middle ground.


I’m not sure if you read the other comments but one of the readers actually realized what had inspired me to write the piece, which was a recent event here in Sweden. It is referred to as the “Manga case.” A Japanese-Swedish man who worked with translating manga was charged with possession of child pornography because five pages, out of all the millions of manga pages he had in his possession because of his work, portrayed naked children. They were simple drawings that he needed for his work. That did not stop the Swedish authorities to hold a trial.


During this time I read an article summarizing the case. A man had left a comment, saying something like: “it wouldn’t surprise me if they made ultrasounds illegal. It is technically a picture of a naked child.”

All I did in my story was imagining a more radical Sweden in a futuristic environment.


I will revise the story in a week or so (working on something else at the moment) and hopefully make it good enough for publishing.


Thank you yet again for a fantastic review! It’s great that you take the time to help unpublished authors such as myself. I truly appreciate it.


Regards, Fredrik.