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FreakyLemon's picture

The Viral Awakening

By FreakyLemon in Teleport Us

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A sentient weapon of uknown origins hunts a legendary enemy but finds much more than expected.


This is a second edit, benefitting from some useful critism and the application of a little tweaking.  Updated 28th Feb, 2357h (GMT).


slartibard's picture
slartibard February 26, 2013 - 3:00pm

I enjoyed the story but found some of the phrases redunded based on the rule that if you love it remove it. They sometimes blocked the flow.

However I want to know more.....

FreakyLemon's picture
FreakyLemon from East Anglia, UK is reading Your Deceptive Mind - A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking February 27, 2013 - 12:57am

Thank you - I agree, in fact I tried to follow the advice that second draft = first draft minus 10%, but found I ended up reshaping and adding.  In the end, I decided to submit and see what other people thought!  Plus, of course, it's SO hard to remove it when you love it :).

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee February 27, 2013 - 7:13am


Nicely done. You (unlike many contributors) have written a story that meets all criteria for the Teleport Us event! That itself is awesome.

A few comments on style:
1) Your word choice gets pretty repetitive:  process, hack, spool, expansive, data, code, etc…
2) You have a plethora of run-on sentences broken up by comas. I think it weakens the writing. I would suggest using some shorter sentences to break up the flow.
3) Also work to vary sentence length—you to this to good affect at certain points in the story, but then you have whole other paragraphs that contain numerous long, sentences and no shorter ones.

A few other comments:

I think this story is too long. Because you have a disembodied protagonist largely disconnected to human affairs (those of this world at least), it’s tough to create rapport with your reader—the protagonist is just so other. You have to rely on non-concrete descriptions and use mainly concepts to help us understand the virus. That tires me out as a reader.

That said, the story has verve and I love the concept, so my suggestion would be to put the story over a flame and simmer it down to around 1,000 – 1,200 words. I think you can safely lose a third of the prose and actually improve the story overall.

I would work to make a very clear story arc that sets up your final reveal from the first sentence of the story. Something like “I haven’t always known my purpose,” etc… That way we can wonder with the protagonist it tells us its stages of development from unthinking to possessing reason (and even wisdom).

I enjoyed your story and have posted some comments / suggested edits in the form of a word documents. Use them as you will.


FreakyLemon's picture
FreakyLemon from East Anglia, UK is reading Your Deceptive Mind - A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking February 27, 2013 - 2:47pm

Wow.  Nathan I canot begin to thank you enough - I will take your comments and edits and muse accordingly.  Your feedback is better than I could have hoped for; much appreciated.  Is this the sort of feedback that the writers workshop might offer? if so, I'll sign right up!

Edit: I've read your document now - and I'm kicking myself.  You nailed it and some of those changes I should have caught myself.  Thanks again for taking the time - I'm looking at the clock and wondering if I have time for a swift re-submit :).

Ian (still bitter, still twisted, still smiling)

scifiwriterguy's picture
scifiwriterguy from Chicago, IL is reading Iscariot by Tosca Lee February 28, 2013 - 2:30pm

Glad to be of service. I don't know if this is the sort of feedback you will get from writer's workshop or not--I don't know anything about that. What is it?

I'd love to read a second draft of this even if its completed outside the contest. You can private message me and I'll provide you my e-mail if you're interested.


Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures February 27, 2013 - 11:43am

I think the above fellow got all the techincal things that need editing on this story so I'll make it easy on myself and say that I totally loved this. Your voice in this story just flows so smoothly and articulately I honestly didnt notice anything else about the story (critique-wise). I finished this with one of those, "wow" moments where you realize you got to read a great little story and your life is a little bit more enriched because of it. Great job and good luck with the contest!

FreakyLemon's picture
FreakyLemon from East Anglia, UK is reading Your Deceptive Mind - A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking February 27, 2013 - 2:55pm

Thank you for taking the time to read my submission and for your kind words.  I struggled with not being able to 'show' and having to effectively 'tell' only to be honest, but I think it came good (enough) in the end.  I'm glad you enjoyed it.

FreakyLemon's picture
FreakyLemon from East Anglia, UK is reading Your Deceptive Mind - A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking February 28, 2013 - 4:03pm

I have uploaded a slightly adjusted version of the story based on feedback, critique and a little extra time.  My hope is that it is improved, not merely changed.


Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) March 11, 2013 - 7:55am

I enjoyed this.  The concept is interesting, the idea of a virus gaining self-awareness, and it kept my attention all the way.  You could probably make this a lot shorter and tighter and improve it slightly, but it doesn't necessarily read as too long.  The journey from wondering to understanding to reasoning is all done very well.  I liked that while the character is very non-human, you didn't fall into the trap of making it too human-sounding.  The only problem is that it doesn't have a defined story arc, but given that it is an enjoyable read, that hasn't damaged it much at all.  Good story.

FreakyLemon's picture
FreakyLemon from East Anglia, UK is reading Your Deceptive Mind - A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking March 17, 2013 - 1:27am

Thank you for the takign the time to read my piece Adam.  I agree it could do with truncating, though of course it needed to be >1500 words to comply with the competition criteria - my problem was knowing which areas on which I could safely a word-ectomy (the numerous comments here hae assisted me in this).  Evoking an emotional response from the reader was a challenge for me (hence there is almost none), however I've learned much since I wrote this! (such is the beauty of a new craft).

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. March 11, 2013 - 10:12am

This is another wow! Have you ever read/listened to Spherical Tomi?  The virus in your story reminds me of the creature that Tomi encounters.  Although, yours is a good deal more self constructing.  I'm not sure what the earlier versions of this story looked like, but I'd have to say you've worked out most of the kinks!  A very smooth read from start to finish!

As to possible improvements, I think there were only two things that bugged me:

  • "Finally the process of converting the essence of life into data, in silico synthesis, was used to recreate the world as data."  That sentence feels a little awkward.  I had to re-read the middle of it two or three times to get past "in silico synthesis"
  • The "#" divisions that you added at various points in the story are largely unnecessary.  There isn't enough of a shift to warrant them so I'd pull them entirely.

Excellent Work!

FreakyLemon's picture
FreakyLemon from East Anglia, UK is reading Your Deceptive Mind - A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking March 17, 2013 - 1:33am

Thank you for your kind words and valued critique.  You know, re-reading the story now I have to say there's a few places that grind - I now understand why editing is a process that can really only start a couple of weeks after writing!

In silico synthesis - I loved this real-world expression, hence it's jammed rather awkardly in there, this would be the first victim of my editors knife!  The '#'s were added by Scrivener (the writing software I use), so I left them - I admit the seem a little over-the-top in a re-read.

I got my main idea across though and I'm happy you enjoyed it.

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 16, 2013 - 5:11pm

We can't really imagine this world of information taken over by the conscious virus, so there may not be many ways to tell this story other than the rather overbearing explanation (not a lot of show, here!) Not that it perhaps needs overexplaining, though, the idea of a silicon awareness is not new, so you don't need to linger too long on the process.

So you can simplify, I think, otherwise it does come across as a rather long lecture. What is it that you want to convey? Focus in in that. Does that need the "Other route" - to the stars?

The bit I like most, is that the virus payload has never been delivered, but at the point it is all Virus, it realises it can only deliver to itself...

But the whole "rise of civilisations etc" within this information world, rings odd. Yes, the virus corrupts and destroys countless things - silcone versions of human brains, of memories, but also scientific data, and representations of art. What does it get from these, when it learns to pay attention to them? And by reading - and duplicating, does it not take the step to absorb them, rather than corrupt?

Also, you run the ever present problem, of as soon as you have an  intellect this big - a brain the size of a planet - it can't come across as human, or weak, or unknowing. It's too powerful. It must be able to solve problems in a blink, it would probably spread much faster than it says it did.

I like the fact it consumed it's creators first. Hubris, or self sacrifice..

Overall, I liked it, so thumbs up. 

FreakyLemon's picture
FreakyLemon from East Anglia, UK is reading Your Deceptive Mind - A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking March 17, 2013 - 2:33am

Thanks for taking the time to comment Liam - I agree with most of what you've said here and I kind of wish I'd gone with my instinct and concentrated less on the 'Matrix' universe being consumed by the virus and more on the impact to the popoulation.  I'd also adjust the story so that the whole process, from birth to desolation, took less than a second in real-time - I think this would overcome the 'greater intelligence' issues, as would highlighting the fragmented nature of the consiousness.  Still, the first-person single POV was very restrictive (probably too restrictive for me).

I learned a lot by submitting this story, not only from the creation and comments but also from reading about solutions to unexpected problems I encountered (like invoking emotion from a non-human main character).

I'm glad to have shared and look forward to the outcome of the compeition.

Wendy Hammer's picture
Wendy Hammer from Indiana is reading One Night in Sixes March 28, 2013 - 5:40am

This is an excellent concept. I loved the ideas and how you made your non-human the focal character.  So much of the language contributed to enriching this world--little touches like Hypervisor and the use of familiar terminology (forking, the virius, corruption, coding)--were seamlessly integrated.

The first person gives us access to a unique entity. That is very cool.  I wonder if it contributes to the thing I found most difficult about the story.  There is a lack of immediacy. It feels like a whole lot of telling. That kept me one step removed from the story.  

On the one hand that can work.  It is interesting in an intellectual sense.  I enjoyed a lot of the telling. You built a very interesting history. My favorite passages begin "To circumvent the dynamic, mutating security . . . " and "Conformity is the price of utopia.". I like those parts.  Some of the other exposition was a touch too dry for my taste.  Now, that could be certainly be a matter of taste.  I don't read much hard sci-fi for this reason.  Your story didn't feel too challenging in terms of the tech; it was just right. The flavor, however, was there.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this. Thumbs up!


Linda's picture
Linda from Sweden is reading Fearful Symmetries March 28, 2013 - 10:57am

Overall, I probably understood 2/3 of the story, but I still love your mindfuck of a concept. And considering that you have no dialogue and no scenes, it's quite feat to keep me interested through 2000 words. I can't tell if this is a case of 'if you can't convince them, confuse them' or if it's all as clever as it sounds, but either way I enjoyed the philosophical elements that I picked up on. 

It's still a little too wordy in places for my taste, but you string it together in a coherent fashion so it doesn't bother me as much as it could have.

Thanks for sharing, thumbs up!

Edit. To answer your question at the top: yes, LBLs and comments on theme, structure, dialogue and concept is the sort of feedback you'll get in the workshop, most of it very constructive and helpful. I hope to see you there.