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Suzanne van Rooyen's picture

The Machinery of Xmas

By Suzanne van Rooyen in Teleport Us

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Description

A dystopian short story about a man who has to live with the dire consequences of his choices.

Set in a post-apocalyptic future where the world is rusted and tarnished by diabolical wars, where robots have replaced the government and most humans live in orbit on spaceships except for the unfortunate few like Tomas and his family. 

Comments

Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep February 2, 2013 - 7:45pm

Wow.

I love me a good robots-rule-the-world tale. And, though it's depressing as hell, I love what you wrote.

This is imaginative and wondrous, polished and well-written. Your prose is beautiful and poetic.

Your world is great, and I really enjoyed the concept. Storywise, I'd compare what the machines are doing to the band that kept playing while the Titanic was sinking. Calming, sure, but the end is inevitable.

Thanks for sharing your story with us.

(The only real thing I noticed was one time, you refer to it as X-mas instead of Xmas. That may have been intentional since it was a machine talking.)

Suzanne van Rooyen's picture
Suzanne van Rooyen from South Africa is reading Silver Dream World by Neil Gaiman February 3, 2013 - 4:34am

Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment.

Haha, I love the comparison of the machines to the Titanic band - great analogy! :)

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. February 2, 2013 - 8:33pm

I hate repetitious beginnings but: Wow.

That is a dark future to say the least. I could easily see almost everything you were describing. It would have been interesting to learn a bit more about what being processed into a cyborg meant, but it wasn't necessary.

Very well done!

Suzanne van Rooyen's picture
Suzanne van Rooyen from South Africa is reading Silver Dream World by Neil Gaiman February 3, 2013 - 4:35am

Thank you for reading and commenting - really appreciate it :)

Ivan Smith's picture
Ivan Smith from Melbourne, Australia is reading The back of a packet of potato chips February 3, 2013 - 11:50pm

Wow. (Couldn't resist)

But yes, wow. A beautiful snapshot of a dying planet, a real tear-jerker (tear-snailer?). Though there's very little action in the story, it tells a vivid story.

Suzanne van Rooyen's picture
Suzanne van Rooyen from South Africa is reading Silver Dream World by Neil Gaiman February 4, 2013 - 12:13pm

Hehehe ;) Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it - thank you for reading and commenting.

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday February 4, 2013 - 6:00am

I must say that unless it's Xmas, I don't typically care to read holiday stories, but I must say I'm glad I did.  This one is incredibly dark but satisfying.  Well done.

Suzanne van Rooyen's picture
Suzanne van Rooyen from South Africa is reading Silver Dream World by Neil Gaiman February 4, 2013 - 12:13pm

:) Thank you so much!

Alehydra's picture
Alehydra February 4, 2013 - 11:59pm

I gave you a thumbs up because I loved the message behind the story and it was a pleasure to read.

I love love love the idea of an artificial starry night sky. What a great detail for a futuristic story. However, I don't see how it works in a robot-dominated world. Like Tomas said, robots don't appreciate the things humans do. So why would they bother? Why would they bother spending resources preparing Xmas at all? I think it'd be worth taking some time to explain that. Or maybe changing it entirely. Maybe the humans disobeyed Robot orders and concocted this plan illegaly just for a few minutes of joy, just to preserve their humanity. Tomas would know that he would be punished for this small rebellion, he would know that he would lose money/funding for Aria's meds, but giving his doomed daughter a few moments of fun could be worth it to him.

Like someone else said, I wish you had explained what reprocessing Aria as a cyborg meant. Again, I don't see why that would make sense in the world you created. Is it done to preserve the slave work force? That doesn't sound cost effective. Would she resume life with her family but as a personality-void machine? Would she be taken away from her family and made a slave elsewhere? So much importance is placed on the fact that Aria is doomed. I think you really should take the time to explain what exactly is going to happen to her.

Suzanne van Rooyen's picture
Suzanne van Rooyen from South Africa is reading Silver Dream World by Neil Gaiman February 5, 2013 - 1:26pm

Thanks for reading and liking my story. Your comments are thought provoking so thank you for that as well. I didn't want to spell out what would happen to Aria because I thought readers would come up with their own, and possibly worse, ideas about what being 'reprocessed' might entail ;)

SamaLamaWama's picture
SamaLamaWama from Dallas is reading Something Wicked This Way Comes February 14, 2013 - 10:45am

What a great story on so many levels. It's original. Moving. Fast paced. I could feel the father's pain and his longing desire to find a cure for Aria's ailment. I could also feel the love he has for his wife and his need to do everything perfect so the Automatons don't dock his pay. 
 

Great job~ Sam
 

Suzanne van Rooyen's picture
Suzanne van Rooyen from South Africa is reading Silver Dream World by Neil Gaiman February 15, 2013 - 3:50am

Thank you so much! So glad you enjoyed it :)

jewishprincess's picture
jewishprincess February 15, 2013 - 7:07am

Great sotry, but the thought of bringing christmas into this made it hard for me to stay focused.  To me, the christmas aspect strayed too far from the theme.  But that is just my opinion, the most important thing is that you made everyone above me happy.

Suzanne van Rooyen's picture
Suzanne van Rooyen from South Africa is reading Silver Dream World by Neil Gaiman February 16, 2013 - 2:43am

Hehe, fair enough :)

Vernillat's picture
Vernillat from Reykjavik. is reading Stephen Baxter. February 18, 2013 - 4:51am

What an amazing story.  Excellently done.
I really admire your ability to create this dismal world in so few words, without going into over-exposition.
I also liked the way you handled the sorrow and heartbreak, it was very touching but without honeyed sentimentality.  No cute little waif staring up with big sad eyes, just a sick little girl, faceless in a bulky protective suit.

Because I’m the type of person I am I will point out three things.  None of these instances listed below have anything to do with flow, narrative or characterization.  All that is excellent.
These are just tiny little insignificant thing that caught my eye, and if anything they just go to illustrate my own nerdyness.

1.  I would not use the “TM”.  I think I know why they’re there, its to make a point about the artificiality of all things in this world, the snow, the trees etc.
However I feel in such a dismal acid-scoured dystopia trademarks would be kind of redundant, and there’s even a question whether the patent office still exists, and for what purpose.
It also comes of as a bit “cute”.

2. I would not use the word “gasmask”.  The air is caustic, acid drips from the sky, and gas is the least of these people’s worries.
I would use: air-mask, oxygen-mask, breathing-mask, filter-mask, face-mask, or some such thing.

3. I would not use the word “meds”.  Again there’s nothing basically wrong with it, other than it sounds American and a bit too much 20th century.
When you look at slang words (or abbreviations) through history you’ll see that they can often change quite rapidly, they can also change their meaning.  Such words from a century ago, or two or three, are usually not used in the present.  And if they are they often have a different meaning.


OK, I’m done with my nitpicking, and as I said above it has no bearing on the story whatsoever. 
I’s a great story.  Thank you for writing it.

Suzanne van Rooyen's picture
Suzanne van Rooyen from South Africa is reading Silver Dream World by Neil Gaiman February 18, 2013 - 1:27pm

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment - I really appreciate it. Thanks for the suggestions above, you've given me some things to think about. Glad you enjoyed my story :)

C Patrick Neagle's picture
C Patrick Neagle from Portland, Oregon is reading words, words, words February 22, 2013 - 2:23am

Haven't even read the rest of it yet, but I love the first sentence.

[a bit later]

Wow. Tragic. Good work.

I love the lyricism of the first paragraph and the disjunction that follows when Tomas shouts at his men. It sets up that, although for a moment everything seems like it might be a steampunk clockwork wonderland, it isn't.

Btw, has this Earth speeded up? 472 nights in a year? Or am I missing the clue? Also, you might consider flipping the dialogue on the first page, putting "The robot voice hissed..." in front of what it says. Sets up the alien voice that is to come. And maybe again on Pg 2 when Tomas is speaking--have him look at the scene and THEN say that the work is complete. Those are, of course, mere preferences on my part. The only other things like that I spotted were copy-edit bits.

Anyway, I like the direction, pacing, and implementation of this piece. Again, good work.

PS (Post-reading the comments, above): Heh, I guess I also got to add my 'wow.' I like the Titanic analagy too, and that answers the questions of why the robots are doing it this way: maintaining, no matter what. Poorly, but muddling on through anyway. After reading Alehydra's comment, I would partially agree with the reprocessing thing. A quick sentence putting one of the drones into the Xmas scene would go a long way--it could even highlight the Titanic-band aspect: when people get broken, they get replaced by poor replicas of themselves, too. That's what I _assumed_ happened, but puttiing one into the scene would concretize the idea.

I'm with Vernillat on the "TM" (this coming from someone who likes to use the TM ironically in his own stories--the theme isn't about how the commercialization of the world led to its downfall. It's a very human story about things gone wrong. Things broken that can't be fixed. The End(tm). ;-)

 

 

 

Suzanne van Rooyen's picture
Suzanne van Rooyen from South Africa is reading Silver Dream World by Neil Gaiman February 23, 2013 - 10:49am

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I really appreciate your suggestions here and putting a drone into the scene is a great idea so thanks for that! Glad you enjoyed reading :)

Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures February 22, 2013 - 9:24am

This was a great read. Depressing, dystopic and it describes a future no one wants to see. The world you created was described quite well and I could practically see the toxic air around them. I didnt care one way or another about your use of TM, I can see both sides of it and I think its a matter of preference whether you keep it in or not. I personally didnt need it spelled out for me what being "reprossed" meant (I have a vivid imagination) but I can see why people would want that descrbed a bit more, again, I see that as a preference thing rather than a needed edit.

Really great job creating a truly horrible world. Thanks for sharing and Good luck!

Suzanne van Rooyen's picture
Suzanne van Rooyen from South Africa is reading Silver Dream World by Neil Gaiman February 23, 2013 - 10:51am

Thank you so much for reading and commenting. So interesting to hear differing opinions on the same potential edits :)

Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures February 25, 2013 - 7:44am

It has to be fascinating and a bit frustrating for you since there are so many different opinions and you have to stay true to what YOU think is the right path for your story. I think no matter what you do, its a great story and I dont think you can harm it by adding a little more. The only thing that could harm it would be to take any of this away - you created such a richly moving story and world with some really inventive ideas. 

Suzanne van Rooyen's picture
Suzanne van Rooyen from South Africa is reading Silver Dream World by Neil Gaiman February 28, 2013 - 11:37am

Thank you! I'm reading and noting all of the comments here but I haven't actually edited anything yet. Waiting to see all the comments and put them into perspective before making any changes. Thanks for the comment!

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) February 27, 2013 - 8:53am

This is a really good tragic tale, with the melancholy perfectly done.  I like the use of Christmas to counterpoint the misery with just a small touch of hope.  It’s a dark tale and it needs just that little glimmer of light that Christmas provides.  I also like the way you throw in little details here and there to give a more complete sense of place.  You have a great flow to this too, with a lyrical quality to your writing.  The trademarks and the reference to Edison and Newton are a little out of place in that they feel a touch clumsy compared to the rest.  You end it very well too, again with just enough hope to balance it out.  Very good.

Suzanne van Rooyen's picture
Suzanne van Rooyen from South Africa is reading Silver Dream World by Neil Gaiman February 28, 2013 - 11:38am

Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. Really appreciate it. I might rethink the TM bit. Thanks again!