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dufrescm's picture

The Space Bar

By dufrescm in Teleport Us

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Description

Janaya, the Eridani ambassador lives aboard a well-populated space station with her husband, a human, and her lover, an Eridani soldier. Betrayal and murder ensue. 

Comments

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. February 3, 2013 - 10:08am

A touch on the short side, but it doesn't need to be any longer than it is to get the story across.  You did a good job of revealing information as the story went along rather than just out and out telling the reader, and you did it in such a way that that it the little hints kept me interested in what was going on.  I wasn't quite sure if the main character was human or Eridani based on his descriptions of the Ambassador.  At least I assumed they were his observations.  Of course, the ambassador did refer to him as being Eridani so I guess he had to be.  Other than that, I think the opening could use a little editing.  I stumbled a little bit when the story first started out.

Good read though!

 

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep February 3, 2013 - 10:18am

Thanks!  :)

mattymillard's picture
mattymillard from Wolverhampton, England is reading Curse of the Wolf Girl - Martin Millar February 3, 2013 - 12:29pm

This was enjoyable, and got more intriguing as it went along as the history between the two was revealed and intensified. I had to re-read the last paragraph of page 7 a couple of times but I liked the way it flowed in general, especially in the dialogue between the two (I could hear the sarcasm and bitterness at times!). A good read, nice work!

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland February 3, 2013 - 4:08pm

I loved that the barkeep's name was "Sam" (shout out to "Cheers" or just a coincidence?")
I think you did a great job capturing a scene with the right amount of backstory to develop your characters. I liked the stargazers and the setting of the space bar.
 

Most of your dialogue is really good. You use it well to build your characters. One thing that bugged me a little is that I didn’t know the sex of your M.C. until the end of the story with the parallel of the Earth History story. I assumed then it was a man. Before I for some reason thought the Lieutenant was a woman. Good story. I enjoyed it. I have a few more notes in an lbl. Just some concerns of mine. Take what helps and please ignore the rest.
 

--Jonathan--
 

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep February 4, 2013 - 6:58am

Thanks for the feedback and the LBL.  I'm looking forward to doing a rewrite on this with all the good advice I'm getting. :D

Sound's picture
Sound from Azusa, CA is reading Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt February 3, 2013 - 4:09pm

I liked it. It was too short, in my opinion, and had a lot left to be explored. I'd like to know more about Janaya and Baro's relationship, their plot to kill her husband, etc. However, left how it was, I think it was good. 

 

Ethan Cooper's picture
Ethan Cooper from Longview, TX is reading The Kill Room, Heart-Shaped Box, Dr. Sleep February 3, 2013 - 9:31pm

Everybody loves a revenge story. We all understand it. There's something so satisfying about somebody getting what they deserve. Very noir-ish.

Everything you described was clear and concise. I noticed several misspellings, but nothing a good polishing pass won't fix. The dialogue felt very natural to me.

The technique of using the "old story" to illustrate the antagonist's crime is a fun one. I do get the sense that maybe the story needs to be more specific--include names, especially if this is a real story your reader might not be aware of.

I don't feel like you referenced any type of dystopia/utopia. Within the confines of this challenge, you have about 2,000 more words to work with, so I suspect you could get those elements in there without too much trouble. Really make the sci-fi elements integral, instead of being just a story set in space.

**SPOILER WARNING**

I think you have a few plot points to work out.

1. I understand the need to get all the patrons out of the bar, but I'd sort of assume more might be upset at having to leave when many of them were there specifically to watch the meteor shower.

2. Wouldn't the barkeep be upset about his bar being destroyed? I suppose we can assume he was paid handsomly ahead of time?

3. Given their previous conversation, I don't know why Janaya would let the soldier undo her tether. I think she would have stopped him.

4. I do have sort of a pet peeve about using first person when the main character dies. Especially with statements like "In the last few seconds before I died...", it feels sort of out of place, as if we're being told the story by the main character's ghost.

5. I'm also curious why the main character would be wondering about other bodies in the meteor shower. Unless this is a reference to something earlier in the story that I missed, I feel that ending sentence is confusing.

It's always challenging to pull off a story where there's nobody likable. We don't like her because she's a murderer, and we can't like the main character because he helped. Sure, he does redeem himself, but his "sacrifice" allows him to escape his true punishments.

I think you need some more details on what happened to the Admiral. We know he's dead, but we should really feel the main character's remorse for what happened. Why is he taking such a drastic step? I need to know why he thinks this is the only way to deal with the problem.

I hope this feedback helps. I think this needs some more work to really sell the story your trying to tell, but it definitely has potential.

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep February 4, 2013 - 6:54am

Thanks for the feedback :)  Some of your comments see so obvious now that I read them, lol.

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday February 5, 2013 - 7:36am

Good job.  I'm impressed that you were able to keep the story short but didn't seem to leave anything out.  You certainly could have added more, but if you don't need it, then why bother?  I'm curious; did you have an original draft that you trimmed down or was this version about the same as your first draft?  Either way it was to the point.

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep February 5, 2013 - 8:44am

This is more or less the same as my first draft.  I actually added a couple lines, and just changed a few things around, but I didn't end up cutting anything.  I'm thinking I'll probably expand some areas - give a little more backstory to the relationship, and maybe hint at the Earth-Eridani war.  I like things short and sweet, but I think sometimes I keep them a little too trim.

Liam Meilleur's picture
Liam Meilleur from New Orleans is reading The Fall of Kings by Ellen Kushner & Delia Sherman February 11, 2013 - 9:57pm

This was a nice shot of sci-fi with a noir chaser. Overall, I enjoyed this read. The pacing was good, and there was enough world-building to ground me in the setting without indulging in superfluous details.

I’ve attached an LBL with a few thoughts/gripes.
 

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep February 12, 2013 - 10:15am

Thanks for the kinds words and great LBL!  :)

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom February 18, 2013 - 7:49am

very enjoyable, it was very space noir, and flowed excellently. The dialogue was mostly brilliant and carried the story. 

I agree with what's mentioned above that it might have been better with more exploration of the background, motives -- it may make the main character's actions clearer and more rationalised.

one specific gripe was the Ambassador using the word "pussy" -- it seemed a bit vulgar for someone so refined, it was good to use in that it showed an abrasive side, but she seemed both abrasive *and* haughty, and the use of pussy might have been a bit crude for her character.

overall though a brilliant story, awesome flow and was genuinely interesting. no part of it was difficult to read and it sustained tension throughout.

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep February 20, 2013 - 7:30am

Thank you!

GG_Silverman's picture
GG_Silverman from Seattle February 19, 2013 - 8:13pm

Super fun, super enjoyable story. Strong voice and natural dialogue made this a pleasure to read. Loved the story within a story, and loved the end. Thuuuuuuuumbs up!

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep February 20, 2013 - 7:30am

Thank you for the read and the kind words :)

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Tana French! February 21, 2013 - 2:14am

Nice story, I liked the who weightless setting of the bar it was a refreshing change from gravity controlled spaceships/stations. The story with-in a story was also a good twist and it doesn't feel too short to me, just nicely balanced.

To disagree with a previous comment, I found the narrator likable and easily sided with him. Although I did think he was human to begin with, mostly because he describes all the ways Janaya is different, when really he'd be different too.

My nit-pick suggestion is to consider cutting the line "In the last few seconds before I died" and instead just describe the event ~ the look that passes between them, as they float further away from the ship, maybe give him some satisfaction or some peace. I would also edit the line she flew and then slammed into the window with a sound like "oomph"  to remove the "like"

Great work

~em

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep February 21, 2013 - 8:10am

Thanks, Em!  I wasn't sure about the "sound like 'oomph'" part.  Thanks for pointing it out  - I gotta learn to trust my gut on those kinds of things :)

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) February 22, 2013 - 6:46am

I loved the lines - “So I didn’t meet her eyes. I never liked swimming anyway.”


This is very sci-fi noir, and I like the tone.  Janaya is your typical femme fatale, which is certainly no bad thing.  Baro is an interesting lead, regretful and looking for a little redemption.  Perhaps it could do with just a little more tension in places.  It’s short, but I don’t necessarily think it needs to be much longer as you’d be in danger of padding it out.  It’s lean, and that’s what the story needs.  I thought it was well written, well-paced, and kept my attention well.  Great use of language as well.  Big thumbs up from me.

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep February 22, 2013 - 7:25am

Thank you!

SamaLamaWama's picture
SamaLamaWama from Dallas is reading Something Wicked This Way Comes February 28, 2013 - 9:39am

This was a really fun story. Very polished and well written. I have no complaints. Great job! ~Sam

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep February 28, 2013 - 10:21am

Thanks!

C Patrick Neagle's picture
C Patrick Neagle from Portland, Oregon is reading words, words, words March 2, 2013 - 8:29am

I like that last line. Nice. Although I also like the above suggestions to make it more about features than last thoughts.

Also, you might be better served by having this piece be in the present tense. It would add to the noir-feel that some of the above commentators have mentioned, and it would also solve the problem of "Er, isn't he dead? How's he talkin' to us, then?"

To me, Sam's behaviour seemed to be off (I associated him with the piano player from Casablanca rather than the bartender from Cheers. Heh.) Apparently, he's helping the protag kill the ambassador, and yet he still speaks to her with a "will you go to bed with me" tone?

Why does the protag chat with her so much there before pulling the plug? He knows they're both going to die. Does he tell the story just to try and get her to have some understanding there at the end? Or just because he doesn't want to die not talking? It was one of those instances where I was thinking, "Just do it already! If you keep monologuing, she's going to get away!"

And, yeah, I thought he was human, too, all the way up until she called him Eridani. That actually threw me off a bit.

Nice setting, though. No gravity, in addition to being important to the story, was a lot of fun to read.

--Patrick...

The Human Argument

 

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 3, 2013 - 3:35pm

Christa, I loved the imagery in this - it reminded me of the imagery in Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Your characters were really believable, and I particularly loved the seductive sultriness of the Ambassador's wife. Nice way to use an alien as the non-human.The story was tight and the tension was great. For the sake of this challenge, the dystopian element didn't come across very strongly, but I think when it comes to submitting this down the line, the only suggestion I have is to maybe make the relationship a bit stronger between Janaya and the soldier. Spoilers: He seems like a very by the book sort of man, so a transgression like sleeping with the Admiral's wife wouldn't have come very easily to him, and I'd like to see a little bit of how he got there.

Ian's picture
Ian from Texas is reading Low Down Death Right Easy by J. David Osborne March 5, 2013 - 12:20pm

So Ursula K. LeGuin and Jim Thompson walk into a bar... I love both sci-fi and noir so how could I not love this? Great premise, setting, and characters. I love that you introduce, and even highlight, the explosive bolts as early as you do in the story. Its a wonderful way to build tension and you did it deftly. And the Casablanca references made me smile - "Sam" and "Nine billion humans to choose from..."

There are some great lines here. I particularly liked, "So I didn't meet her eyes. I never liked swimming anyway." Also, "It could be the extra muscle groups on her arms and legs and stomach, but you’d never see those unless you shared gym time with her. Or a shower." And I thought the ending was wonderful.

Overall, it's a great story and right up my alley.

Here are the only issues I had while reading...

(1) I think a couple of sentences - like this one: "I needed a drink, and apprently, I wasn't the only one." - would work better if you lost the second half. Maybe it's just me but that last bit feels a hair expository. Another example would be: "But that’s life on a space station, I guess." Completely minor.

(2) I felt like the reveal was very abrupt. I don't think you need to necessarily sprinkle in the info or plot points earlier in the story, but maybe introduce the tone or the tension between these two characters as early as possible.

(3) Would it work better if Janya undoes her own tether and slides over to Lt. Barro? I think there might be an opportunity to illustrate her hubris there. Just a thought.

(4) As some other reviewers have pointed out the dead narrator issue can be a problem. I go back and forth on it. Some stories it bothers me and other it doesn't. For what it's worth, it didn't bother me here.

Thanks for writing!

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep March 5, 2013 - 12:38pm

Thanks for the review, Ian!  I'm glad you enjoyed it; it was fun to write. Now, to make it better!

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 11, 2013 - 3:49pm

This is well written, but it seems to lacks bite - it's a little too descriptive - more time is spent describing the mechanics of a zero-g bar than goes into describing Baro - I for one, (not the only one it appears) was very late catching on that he was an alien! And maybe I'm a cold hearted fiend, but i wanted MORE NOIR!

Also, while the style is indeed clean and easy to read, (credits for that!) some things don't ring true - Sam wanting to bed the ambassador, when he's part of Baro's plans. The fact there's nothing obvious that says Baro is indeed "exposing her". As suicide is the ultimate and final step  we also need his motives more strongly - if honour is the big thing, it isn't delivered strongly enough when he mentions it. This should be full on big scene maxing the emotion!

Queries :

Why are there explosive bolts on the windows? What emergency would require blowing them?

Not entirely sure what a meteorite shower looks like from space. Dangerous presumably!? I'd be hiding my spaceship on the opposite side of the earth...

The reference to the (earth) story - which story is this? If it is a well known one, name check it. And if it's Baro's inspiration, can you work it into his thoughs earlier? Otherwise, it runs the risk of feeling tacked on, and a way of having the characters not work out why they are doing what they are doing, more that they are following the lead of others...

What did she get out of bumping of her husband? Baro is right, isn't he? How could you expect to get away with it? And what - exactly - was his part in it? How complicit? How duped? Even if you don't answer all these questions, let them inform his thoughts and deeds, and the piece could and should sing.

For that matter, what do you actually gain, by having these two characters as aliens? They smoke, they drink, they presumably do that other thing, they can intermarry... they even use earth scientists when discussing the movement of objects in zero-g... ;)

For that reason, and because there's no utopia/dystopia, I do think - wish - you'd put some more depth into it! Because it's obvious you can write, and this has the ingredients, but something has been lost in the baking... (right down to the title... )

Damn. I was going to keep this feedback short. Oh well! I am edging to a thumbs up, must not quite be the cold hearted fiend I thought I was... 

Liam

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep March 11, 2013 - 4:34pm

Thanks for all the notes!  I will definitely use this info in my rewrites. And you're right - there isn't enough motivation to drive these characters. I'm working on that part of my writing, but it's slow going ;)

Michael.Eric.Snyder's picture
Michael.Eric.Snyder March 11, 2013 - 9:31pm

Hi Christa. I really enjoy the clarity in your writing. Even better, I love the noir feel in this particular story. It was the very first thing that jumped out at me (I'd already expected the clarity), and it's one aspect of the story that's stayed with me after the finish.

Some of the reveals appear a bit jarring. For example, when the narrator calls the femme fatale a whore, it was a bit too unexpected. Some foreshadowing, or a specific slant to her description or actions would be nice. For example, her skin glows. Does it have a knife-sharp gleam? Does a specific vein throb at her temple? I dunno. Does she have a gutteral or plosive accent? Does her jaw unhinge like a V alien? Making her a bit more exotic/alien/alluring wouldn't hurt, given the noirish feel here. Just don't give her three breasts. It's been done. 

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep March 12, 2013 - 5:27am

three breasts....lol :)

Wendy Hammer's picture
Wendy Hammer from Indiana is reading One Night in Sixes March 14, 2013 - 11:58am

I liked a lot about this story. In particular, I liked the melding of sci-fi and noir.  I loved the details in the bar.  The drink ordering and consuming, Sam, the meteor shower spectators vs. serious drinkers...it was all great.  It was clever, fun, and a very creative way to get all the details about lack of gravity, life on the space station and so on out there. 

I was hooked into the mystery and the interaction of the characters.  Every once in awhile I got a bit lost in the dialogue exchanges. In particular the one that begins with "Ma'am" and then explains its real meaning. Was that Sam? Or the narrator? 

There was some gender confusion in the piece as well.  I'm fine with that if it goes somewhere interesting, like making me question cultural assumptions, etc. I'm not sure what that gets you here. It could be something to play with. 

So, why did I give it a thumbs-down?  I hesitated, but I think that missing the Utopian/Dystopian element isn't a minor quibble; it should be a core theme.  Without that, I think the story doesn't hit the mark for the challenge. 

 Now, it could be that you could revise this to make Dytopia a big part of the piece, but honestly, this is a pretty promising and fun science-fiction story in its own right. I'm not sure if the extra themes/genre requirements are necessary for it. 

I enjoyed reading it!

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep March 14, 2013 - 12:45pm

Thanks for the feedback. Sad about the thumbs down, but I'm here for feedback, not ego-boosting, lol! I appreciate that the dystopian elements are weak (I was worried about that when I was writing it, but I didn't want to force an element into my story, so *shrug*)

Thanks again for the read and the review!

Wonder Woman's picture
Wonder Woman from RI is reading 20th Century Ghosts March 15, 2013 - 8:10pm

I really enjoyed your melding of noir and science fiction and I liked the length of the story as well. I'm a wordy person myself, but I find I like seeing how crafty people are when having to be economical with their words. I think you really kept the pace up and didn't waste any words at all. 

I found Baro to be a likeable character who is remorseful and seeking to redeem himself. Janaya,  on the other hand, seems sly and untrustworthy. I'd love to hear more about their connection and her ex. I didn't realize right away that Baro was an Eridani like Janaya, so maybe make that more apparent if you feel it's an important detail. 

I think it was a noir kind of move to have the dead man narrating, personally. Reminded me of Sunser Boulevard in a way. Maybe you don't need the "moments before I died" line, but I honestly don't have an issue with the deceased narrator. 

Nice work! Good luck with the revisions. 

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep March 16, 2013 - 3:46pm

Thanks :D

E.C. Myers's picture
E.C. Myers from Philadelphia is reading The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau May 1, 2013 - 2:09pm

Christa,

I was prepared to adore this story as soon as I saw the title, thinking it was a pun and I was in for a fun, campy story. Well, I was way off with that, but I did love this story.

I'm afraid this is one of those useless sorts of crits where I tell you that I had to struggle to find things to criticize. The voice is fantastic right off, with a wry, noirish tone that I really enjoy. You did a great job of making a familiar, almost cliched setting (the bar) interesting and new by putting it in space and showing us what that would be like in a zero-G environment; this is a far cry from Ten Forward on Star Trek: The Next Generation. I love the image of them drinking beer and cognacs through sippy straws like a Capri Sun juice pouch! (On the other hand, for some reason the e-cig thing didn't work for me as well, and you might benefit from cutting one or two of the "let's show it's the future" elements for the sake of moving things along as the first third risks getting bogged down in the setting before we get to the meat of the piece.)

But what works best for me are the reveals and surprises in the story. Just as you had me wondering if this was going in a predictable direction, with someone getting picked up in a bar, you surprised me. The moment we learn that Baro and Janaya have already had a relationship completely changes what we've read before, and you used foreshadowing well to set us up for these twists. The ending of the story took me was, frankly, amazing; I thought he might space her, but the fact that he killed himself too really makes it striking, and again, this diverts it from the predictable track. The last line is killer, and there are many other lovely descriptions and turns of phrase throughout.

While I think the characterization is excellent and their interactions work very well, I wouldn't mind a teensy bit more character background--that is, I'd like to sympathize with Baro more, or know a little more about him. Baro is obviously honorable, but given that we are basically in his head, he does a good job of misdirecting us. I suppose in that sense, he's an unreliable narrator. But I always like to know what the main character wants, and in this case, it seems all he wants is a drink, at least until he and Janaya get into it. (Understandably, you wouldn't want to try to cram too much into a short story of this length.)

I am not quite sure if he's somehow set up Janaya for this or not, given that Sam leaves them alone and his actions seem somewhat premeditated. (He's ready with the story, he knows exactly what to do to blow them into space.) I rather like the ambiguity, but if you'd like to tip things one way or the other, you could provide an additional clue for the reader. If it *wasn't* premeditated, we may want to see him struggle with the decision to kill them.

I am also not clear on whether people have noticed that the Admiral is gone yet or not, and how they'll trace it back to Baro if they realize he was murdered.

Is Baro Eridani too? His initial description of her makes me think he isn't, but she calls him Eridani and he mentions the homeworld and studying Earth's stories. What's the difference, really?

It's possible that some readers will be bothered by the question of how Baro is telling this story in the past tense if he dies at the end, but it doesn't bother me, unless I start thinking about it too much, and then I wonder if this should be in present tense, and... that way lies madness.

I'm a bit torn on whether you need the Earth story at the end. It's interesting--it isn't one I'm immediately familiar with--but it feels like maybe you're trying to tell us what your inspiration for the piece was. I think your story is strong enough to stand on its own, and the digression doesn't otherwise serve a purpose. Maybe if he is trying to stall her somehow, and manipulate her into being where he needs her to be? But hey, it could just be me, and it can really work either way.

Minor note on the next to last paragraph: I *think* the sensation might be more like being pushed than yanked into space. Airlocks blow, they don't suck you into space.

In any case, quibbles aside, I think this is great shape and I don't want you to fiddle with it too much and risk "breaking" it only tweak if you feel it's necessary. And then, if you haven't already, start sending it around to science fiction magazines! I would certainly pass this story up to an editor if I encountered it in a slush pile.

I hope some of my comments were helpful, and thank you for a great read. Good luck with this one and your continued writing.

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep May 2, 2013 - 8:25am

Thanks for the great review. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.  All the little issues you bring up are the same places that others have struggled with, and even I see their weaknesses, now that it's had time to stew in my head.  This was essentially a first draft, and some of the inconsistencies are just because I didn't plan anything out before I started writing it - the plot sort of "unfolded" as I typed. Since I don't typically write SF, I wasn't sure how I wanted to proceed with rewrites. Seeing all of the same issues come up over and over again help point me in the right direction, though. 

As for the Earth story that Baro tells - his intent is to teach Janaya a lesson. He wants her to understand the nature of her sins before he punishes her for them. He's trying to show her that Earth is their home and humans are "their people" now, even if they aren't the same race. Of course, she doesn't get it; she can't, because she's too selfish for empathy, but he has to try because, to him, this is "justice" not "revenge". I will need to make this more apparent in rewrites, because Baro's motivations are still in my head and not on the page.

Thanks again for the fantastic review. I couldn't have asked for a more thorough or helpful response :)

--Christa