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

Liam Hogan's picture

Xenophobe

By Liam Hogan in Teleport Us

How It Rates

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

Description

First contact, and everyone on earth welcomes its visitor from another world with open arms and great delight.

Well. Almost everyone...

(File removed for (Hopeful!) submission elsewhere)

Comments

Anthony M.'s picture
Anthony M. from Michigan is reading Girl With Curious Hair by DFW February 28, 2013 - 3:07pm

Hi, I really liked this story. Reminded me of that To Serve Man episode of the Twilight Zone (it's a cookbook!). Your prose is fluid, quite enjoyable to read. Henri makes a great antihero, but I would have liked to get a little more development to find out what really made him the way he was. Really great work!

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations February 28, 2013 - 3:23pm

Cheers Anthony! Nice to get such a quick feedback as well!

Liam

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things February 28, 2013 - 6:25pm

This story was very entertaining, and much more light-hearted than many of the other ones that have been posted. I enjoyed how the alien walked in and became a bit of a media messiah right off the bat.

I have a hard time figuring out the uptopian/dystopian theme in the story. You did establish that it was the future and there had been a war, but outside of an advance in technology, there really wasn't much there to tell us that the world was much different than our own.

I also feel that Henri could have benefited from some fleshing out. The way he reacts tells a lot about him, but since you're letting us so far into the character's head, it feels a little weird for us to be unaware of exactly why Henri felt the way he did. Did I miss something?

Anyway, overall I enjoyed it. Well done.

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations February 28, 2013 - 6:47pm

Thanks Nathan - very glad you liked it. It seems like everyone wants to get into Henri's head a bit more - could be dangerous, he IS a bit of pyschopath... :)

I had kind of hoped people would agree 150 years of peace after a war that threatened mankinds' existance, and the elimination of all genetic diverstity (and hence racism...) might be considered a Utopia... I may need to make the "benefits" a little more overt. But this is why any and all feedback is useful - so thanks also for spending time to comment!

Liam

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things March 1, 2013 - 6:40pm

Maybe. It looks like the beginning was the biggest mention of the utopian aspect of the civilization. Perhaps I just forgot when I got caught up in the rest of the story.

Though now that I read it again, I realize I was also wondering why a civilization that eliminated genetic diversity would so readily accept the different. Or why Henri was the only one who seemed to react the way I might expect such a civilization to react.

Hmm...

Matt Hebert's picture
Matt Hebert from Vermont, originally, now in Dublin March 6, 2013 - 5:28am

That was a really enjoyable read; a good story, well told. The language was clear and didn't get in the way for the most part.  This sentence took a few passes, and needs some commas to help with its structure:

The sudden burst of energy caused the super-conducting magnets in the street cleaner’s energy unit to fail and as they tore themselves apart the crude tripod that Henri had built collapsed.

I loved the tone you get, a bit like Good Omens. It's a serious event that you don't get too serious about. Very nicely done. :) This helps mitigate a lot of possible technical criticism, I think. It just encourages more suspension of disbelief, for me anyway.

I didn't have a problem identifying the Utopian element at all. I thought it might be a little tongue-in-cheek, with the mention of the media and celebrity, etc. rather than social improvements. You focused on the cultural changes/developments more than the technological ones.  TVs still plug into the wall, I guess, and we still have elevators with sliding doors, etc. That didn't bother me; I think there is a place for that view in the world of sci-fi.

Even though the reader knew what Henri [I love the jumbled names in this, BTW] was going to do pretty much from the start, I didn't mind the lack of character development in this type of story.  There were plenty of interesting detail to keep one going, like the giant metal arm falling on the last three survivors of the war. :)

There is room to reveal his character more gradually, though, which might be interesting.  Given that you start out tellin us he's a xenophobe, though, it might take a completely rewritten piece. That might be fun for you as an exercise, but I couldn't be sure it would make a better story. 

Anyway, really nice work, and thanks for posting it here.

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 6, 2013 - 9:39am

Thanks Matt, gratifying in the extreme to hear you say you got all the things I wanted people to get out of this story! You've nailed the basic conceit as well - an almost unavoidable one, that not that much has changed, but in order for my Utopia to have actually been arrived at, I needed a fairly serious passage of time. The fact it's (largely) still called a "TV" is not a problem, the addition of Holo shows you SOME progress has been made, but yes, we still have power sockets in the wall!  Glad you enjoyed it - it was always meant to be fun!

Flaminia Ferina's picture
Flaminia Ferina from Umbria is reading stuff March 6, 2013 - 9:34am

Hi Liam,

no much to say about the execution of this story, except for some inconsistencies in the use of dashes, plus other punctuation problems you can easily fix in the next rewrite. There's also a couple descriptive portions that you could eliminate for the benefit of readability, as you'll see in the LBL.

The rest reads pretty smooth.

Plotwise, we deal with a story that ends up justifying xenophobia in the face of external threat. It is a slippery ground. We really don't see how the protag becomes aware of the danger, he just magically happens to feel it. This is the weakness in this plot, in my opinion. If the symptoms of this 'personality disorder' were more thoroughly explored, we'd have a chance to see the character in his depth rather then just witness this loony perpetrate a terrorist attack that, just for a twist of fate, turns up being salvation for his community.

Secondly, we have the genetic flatness problem. It could be interesting to explore how a society would deal with this lack of differentiation, especially knowing that genetic variety normally makes a species strong. We would have a society of people much resembling one another, a fertile ground for fun and trouble, in my opinion. Or extreme boredom. Lots of room for literary conflict.

There, you have set the foundation of a rather interesting new world to explore. As it is, it's a fun read and that's awesome. It just can go more at the core of things. My comments in the LBL are not bible, take what you need.

Cheers,
C

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 7, 2013 - 9:07am

What does "LBL" stands for, by the way? Is it a LitReactor thing?

Thanks for the feedback, and attachment - I should get more creative with Word edit/reviews. Might save me time in the long run!

I don't view the mixing as a "flatness" - but as a jumbling up. Think of everyone, bred with everyone. No one person would be identifiable as a particular race, and even if this wasn't true in looks, it might be in body chemistry, the hope being that this prevents the use of selective genetic weapons.(As there's nothing to aim at) The REAL purpose of this (of course!) is to introduce a world where a xenophobe has nothing to be xenophobic about - all highly unlikely - thankfully it's fiction! I'll see if I can make that a little less open to interpretation.

I'll be taking all the feedback I get though, and seeing what I can or can't tweak, and - who knows? (he says, using a singular em-dash just for fun!) Slick and polished, perhaps it will find another home somewhere else!

Thanks,

Liam

Flaminia Ferina's picture
Flaminia Ferina from Umbria is reading stuff March 11, 2013 - 7:26am

Ah, okay, got it. 

LBL stands for Line By Line. It's not only a Litreactor thing -- I got it from another workshop too, at least.

Yeah, peer review must be taken with a grain of salt. It's always sort of useful, cause it's others point of view, but not always usable. Take it and digest it, then see what to do with it. And good luck finding a home for this story, I think you have good chances.

Wendy Hammer's picture
Wendy Hammer from Indiana is reading One Night in Sixes March 6, 2013 - 10:59am

Oh, that was a lot of fun! I had a great time reading it, and I laughed out loud a couple of times. 

I like the tone in this story very much.  It has a playful dryness to it that I can't resist.  My personal favorites were the opening bits about how he didn't know he was a xenophobe and the statue incident.  I like how you work little details in and then repeat them later (the figure eight). 

A little more fleshing out of Henri's character would help---just smoothing the transition from generally disgruntled xenophobe to the anger could do it. That shift from him with the cutter to showing up at the neighbor's is a little jarring.  

Adding a visual transition from the first "take me to" to the studio would help. 

This was a creative world and an excellent take on the challenge.

 Really, the only thing that didn't quite work for me were the last two paragraphs.  The voice changes and it gets a little awkward.  I love meta-fiction, but not so much when it is tacked on at the end.  I think you could get the same effects without the overt references to story, Utopia, etc. The narration got in the way of what was going on in the ending---and that is the part I really wanted to get to.  It's pretty awesome! 

 

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 7, 2013 - 7:30am

Thanks Wendy,

Everyone wants to get into the head of my Xenophobe! I've been slightly resistant, as if you consider him to be irrational, then there's little joy in trying to explain his irrationality, but obviously with this sort of feedback I need to do something!

I have to agree with toning down any attempts to remind people it's a utopia at the end. I think that was contest constrained rather than actually good for the story. A bigger challenge is finessing the end voice - it has to be a commentary as I seem to have accidentally (!) killed of my protagonist before the big reveal... tricky! :)

Liam

(Enjoyed your story, by the way!)

C Patrick Neagle's picture
C Patrick Neagle from Hood River, Oregon is reading words, words, words March 8, 2013 - 12:20am

An enjoyable read. Although the hints were there that things with the alien were not as they seemed, I was still surprised by the 'twist' ending. I had been expecting Henri's xenophobia to result in war, of course, but one against a species that would otherwise have been friendly--thus becoming a morality lesson in the dangers of non-acceptance.

I also liked positioning in the story in a true utopia--and showing the dangers of such a society.

Heh heh: "...marred only by the inexplicably dirty state of the road..." Heh.

The piece does need some heavy editing, but a few passes ought to fix that issue right up. My only larger concerns were:

On pg 2 we find out what Umbar is thinking of Henri's reaction. Nothing wrong with this, of course, but the rest of the story--at least until the end--is primarily in third-person limited omniscient, with the POV being Henri. Anyway, it jarred me when we left Henri's POV at that point and got Umbar's. It wasn't even particularly much, or particularly important to the story. I'd suggest eliminating Umbar's thoughts, or having Henri 'read' those thoughts in his friend's expression.

By the end, I realized that Henri had been fixing the lawn cutter when he was working on it on pg 1, but at the time, it seemed an odd addition and I wasn't quite clear what was going on with the dropping and the picking back up and such--I was having trouble visualizing the action and the events leading up to the action. Also, since it came directly out of "...threw himself into his work as a TV repairman," fixing the lawn cutter is displace-y. Even a line like, "Henri had always been clever with machinery. He was trying to fix his lawn cutter when Umbar came..." would clarify both issues and make a nice transition, too.

The only other largish thing that stood out to me was toward the end, when Haniwell's arm got cut off. I thought she was a living person when I first read it--one with a mechanical arm, for a moment. Then I got it. But "...the extended arm of Dr. Melissa Haniwell's statue, the..." or something like it would clear things up.

Oh, the only other question I have is, Why is a book repository a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Malaki Weather Center? What a strange combination.

I enjoyed reading the piece. It read quickly and was fun.

PS (post-reading the comments above): I thought of that "To Serve Man" episode, too (which is actually based on a short story, conveniently enough). As for getting inside Henri's head, I'm not sure that we need more than we get. I had no issue with the progression from General Anxiety to Me-Wanna-Kill, although you might make more clear the connection between there not being any clear 'races' and the inability of anyone to diagnose Henri's problem. ("LBL" btw, is Line-by-Line. I'd never heard it before I came here. I'd always used 'Line Edit', before).

--Patrick...

The Human Argument

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 8, 2013 - 6:20am

Thanks Partrick, will look at yours and other comments and do some "heavy editing" when the review period is over.

The book repository is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Malaki Weather Center, merely and for n other reason, than I thought it funny at the time... Originally it was simply an office of the Malaki Weather centre (who were being rendered obsolete by the Alien) but then I got to thinking of assasinations and windows... I may flip back, if it didn't work for you and others!

Gonna have to look up the "To Serve Man" - I know it not..

Liam

Sarah Cannon's picture
Sarah Cannon March 8, 2013 - 11:17am

I agree with most of Patrick's comments, though I didn't have any issues with POV. 

This is a very fun read. I particularly liked that the alien was healing when the second blast delivered the coup de grace. I had been wondering if the laser would accomplish anything or not, and had more than half-expected Henri would kill himself in the process. I think it's difficult in this day and age to keep someone guessing about the intentions of hostile aliens without being cliche, but you pulled it off. I'm feeling sort of sorry for the war vets, but the deed was done with great utlity.

I'm also very fond of the way you presented his xenophobia-- as a disorder that was annoyingly difficult to diagnose in the absence of any other species. 

At any rate, nice work!

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 8, 2013 - 11:58am

Thanks Sarah,

An earlier draft had him as a kid going off on one against "stinking grown ups" - but didn't make the edit. I think it also had a psychiatrist failing to diagnose him. I definitely prefer current slimmed down approach, (keep it simple!) but a few complaints that readers want to get inside his head a little more suggests I need to do a little to make sure the hatred grows organically.

Look forward to reading yours, in the very near future, I suspect!

Liam

mattymillard's picture
mattymillard from Wolverhampton, England is reading Curse of the Wolf Girl - Martin Millar March 12, 2013 - 4:42pm

Hey!

I think this is possibly my favourite read of the competition so far. It was light, smoothly written and funny. I liked the iron curtain and some of the tongue in cheek parallels which you can draw to history too.

In terms of how to make this even better- I did want a bit more on Henri. He's miserable and bitter, I'd exaggerate this even more. I thought towards the ending, his plans, everything was just a little too quick and it all happened too simply too. There is some leeway in here to bring henri and a bit more humour out here too.

Overall though, a cracking read. Nice one :-)

Matty

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 12, 2013 - 6:09pm

Thanks Matty - delighted you enjoyed! You're not alone on wanting more from Henri, he's definitely one of my favourite creations, a (anti)hero who gets killed and STILL people want more - I shall have to oblige, before I find it a new home!

Liam

SamaLamaWama's picture
SamaLamaWama from Dallas is reading Something Wicked This Way Comes March 13, 2013 - 9:18am

Hi There! I too got the "To Serve Man," Twilight Zone feel about it. I liked the story and the back story with the middle names. I think it was great the way you weaved in the story of the wars and the homogenization, but I have to agree with the other posters. Henri was a little too far removed. I know you say he's a psychopath, but even so, he can be interesting and complex. Readers love a good bad guy, just look at Hannibal Lector. We can stand being inside their heads. So my suggestion is to go back and see if you can find some spots where we can be in his head, experiencing life from his perspective. You tell us how Henri glowered and his anger grew, but you don't give us any true internal emotion. It's the classic telling vs. showing. You are telling us he's mad and slowly going insane, when you should be showing us that slow, spiral into insanity.
 

Other than that, you have a fun and believable story. I even like that the crazy dude was right in the end--that was great. Thanks for sharing your story. ~Sam 
 

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 13, 2013 - 11:58am

Thanks Sam, I obviously need to rummage in the depths of Henri's dark disturbed brain... ;)

Liam

Tim Needles's picture
Tim Needles from Port Jefferson, New York is reading Stories edited by Neil Gaiman March 17, 2013 - 6:00am

Hey Liam, Enjoyed the story and I liked the lighter-hearted approach which is something I haven't read much in the other stories.  I imagined it a bit like Archie Bunker's distant relative in the utopian future.  In reading through the comments it looks like all of the suggestions I have were already covered- I had the same problem as Patrick thinking the arm was from a person at first, had to re-read the action sequence like Matt, and I'm interested in getting more depth from Henri.  I'd take it as a compliment that people want more from your character because in lesser stories no one cares. The world you created is pretty interesting and has a good deal of potential, well done!

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 17, 2013 - 6:21am

Thanks Tim, over here we'd probably relate him to Alf Garnet, but in both cases we may be showing our age... :) Alf - or Archie, didn't inspire Henri, but I'm very much liking that he and this story remind others of other stories/characters. Even if I may have to sue the Twilight Zone for stealing my ideas and time travelling back to 1962 to film them...

Arm-action-depth. These will be worked on, thanks for your time!

Liam

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon March 17, 2013 - 8:48am

Really enjoyed this, especially the whimsical tone of voice of the storyteller. 

If anything, you might have, with that same light tone, emphasised the cataclysmic war that led to the curtain and wiped out all but three of the worlds asians. It could, overall, have used a pinch more of dystopia. 

Or the mental breakdown that transforms the mild-mannered Henri to Lee Harvey Oswald. 

I really liked it, though, and a solid thumbs up it'll have to be. 

Mess_Jess's picture
Mess_Jess from Sydney, Australia, living in Toronto, Canada is reading Perfect by Rachael Joyce March 17, 2013 - 2:13pm

Hi Liam,

Thanks for sharing your story with us It was a really nice change to read a story that had a much more light hearted tone to it -- it's very tricky to tackle the subject of a dystopia without sounding bleak (something I struggle with myself!). Youv'e got quite a few comments and an LBL, so I'll try not to double up too much on what's been said already.

I found the first section reads almost as a prologue and packs an awful lot of information and backstory into only a few paragraphs. I get the feeling you want to focus on Henry as the man, rather than on how we've come to the dystopian or utopian world, but I think it might benefit us learning just a bit more about the War and what it did to society. I think Nathan touched on the idea above that it's a bit hard to decipher whether it's a dystopian or utopian world. This might be an easy fix tied in with the above explaining a bit more about the Fourth and FInal War and what the effects of the Gene Warfare were.

Your story and your characters are lots of fun, so these are more general recommendations for your next draft:

* Focus on trying to show the story through actions and dialogue, rather than telling the reader what is happening (an exmaple is "Henri’s first reaction was disbelief." - with sentences like this, try and show us through describing his facial expressions and stance.)

* Try and cut "ly" adverbs from description, because it can bog your reader down and tells them how to interpet your text, rather than letting them come to conclusions themselves. 

* Try and replace cliches with your own words (eg, "Umbar hopped from foot to foot." Maybe given the character something more unique he does when excited.)

* Dialogue tags -- lots of writers recommend just sticking with asked and said. I still use the occasional shouted or whispered, but it's good practice and forces you to again show the reader what's happening through your dialogue or the actions of your characters.

If you're going to send stories out to publications, it's worth formatting them in line with the industry standard. Have a look at http://www.shunn.net/format/story.html to learn how to do this. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature for your story formatting.

If you get the chance, do you mind reading and rating my story? It's at http://litreactor.com/events/teleport-us/gravidism

Thanks,

Jess

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 17, 2013 - 5:09pm

Hi Jess, thanks for the detailed comments. Gravidism is on my list, so I'll definitely get to it - hopefully sooner rather than later!

I've tended to format my stuff for one particular market, which of course has it's own little idiosyncratic rules (like no names, so they can judge them anonymously) - I'll normally reformat if I think they don't match for somewhere else, but always good to have a few guidelines to hand, and a reminder for what is considered the norm.

Liam

 

Fhhakansson's picture
Fhhakansson from Sweden is reading Odd Interlude - Dean Koontz March 19, 2013 - 6:50am

I enjoyed the introduction. I got to know Henri and it to be equally informative and funny. It manages to set the tone for the piece perfectly. The whole thing reminded me of any Simpsons episode featuring Kang and Kodos.
The only real complaint I have is that I would have liked to know more about the back story, more about the war and the curtain, and so on. You introduce all the terms slowly and I don't get confused by them but I would have liked to know more details of the war, the curtain, and the Asian Virus. I know these things are of relatively little importance in a comic piece, but it's a good thing you managed to make me want to know more.
I wish I could give you more feedback, since the feedback you gave me on my piece really helped me improve my draft.
But, as they say, don't change anything that doesn't need changing.

Regards, Fredrik.

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 19, 2013 - 4:17pm

Thanks Fredrik, going to have to look into Kang and Kudos, like "To Serve Man" it's not something I know about. I do hope they haven't been stealing my ideas as well!

There's always a problem with explaining everything, in that it will slow things down, and also it kind of assumes everything can be explained - which won't always be true, especially for a fantastical piece like this. What I do need to do is make sure each of those asides packs the right weight - which hopefully will improve on an edit.

Liam

Mbella's picture
Mbella March 19, 2013 - 2:32pm

Really like your concept but in terms of character there's more telling than showing.  It's also difficult to understand how someone can be xenophobic without being exposed to anything different.  I think the story has a good deal of potential but I'd suggest delving deeper into the characters and developing them more.

Mbella's picture
Mbella March 19, 2013 - 2:50pm

.

Ross Brooks's picture
Ross Brooks March 20, 2013 - 8:59am

Hey,

Really enjoyed the story.

Personally it would have been great to get into Henri's head a little bit more, a common request based on what I can see in the comments. 

I'm not in a position to offer much more advice, all I can say is that was an enjoyable read, keep up the good work!

Ross

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 20, 2013 - 10:16am

Thanks Ross, don't forget to give me a thumbs up if you haven't already ;)  . Now (or rather, in 10 days time at the end of this comment period) begins the hard work!

Liam

Maria Stanislav's picture
Maria Stanislav from the UK is reading ALL the submissions! March 20, 2013 - 4:13pm

Interestingly enough, unlike most of the commenters, I didn't feel the urge to delve deeper into Henri's brain - maybe because I didn't like him? I don't think I was supposed to, either. Xenophobia is often deeply irrational, and by explaining too much of Henri's motives and background, you risk making him a more sympathetic character - which, I think, isn't what you were aiming for. The way you have him now, getting more progressively annoyed at the Alien for, well, just about everything, feels like a very realistic representation of many people living in our world today. I was quite upset when the Alien died, actually - and didn't see the end twist coming. Does this paint me an idealist?

From the technical point of view, most of the issues have been covered. The one thing that tripped me up for a moment was the Alien's TV appearances. You transition to direct speech from direct speech, and it took me a second and a glance down the page to realise what was going on. Maybe italicising those paragraphs, or adding a section break, would clear that up.

It's definitely thumbs-up from me. I enjoyed your style, your world-building, and the narrator's voice. As Flaminia mentioned above, there is still some moral ambiguity to the plot. It's clear you're not making a case for xenophobia, but I feel that the irony of xenophobe-turned-saviour-of-mankind could be highlighted more prominently. Your narrator sounds like the kind of person who would pull that off well.

Thank you for posting!

Cheers,
Maria

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 20, 2013 - 4:01pm

Thanks Maria,

I'm certainly never going to do a full on treatment of Henri, but I need to make sure the bits I do give count - your reaction is rather more what I am aiming at, and if quite the majority want more it's because I haven't quite done my job! But I'll get there.

Liam

 

 

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) March 23, 2013 - 2:27am

I had to restart this one because I just didn't get the tone, then it clicked. I don't know why, but I just wasn't expecting the humour that runs through this. I really enjoyed that playful side.

Henri was pitched perfectly for me (on a side note, I love the names you use). I don't want to know any more about him, as I think it would actually lessen the impact. The utopia you describe is very good (I didn't see it as dystopia personally), and you fill this with clever references (the curtain, the book depository etc) which I enjoyed. I love that society has changed very little other than the general homogenisation of the population.

After a wonderful build up and (literally) execution, I was disappointed by the ending. That's not to say for a moment that it doesn't work - I get the irony of Henri doing the right thing for all the wrong reasons. I just would have preferred his xenophobia to be ill-founded. That is purely personal preference though, and this certainly gets a thumbs up from me.

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 23, 2013 - 3:35am

Thanks Adam, interesting you found it slightly tough to start. Yes, it's definitely meant to be a utopia - a world in which xenophobia doesn't - can't exist - has got to be a wonderful thing (right?!)

I'm definitely going to try pulling this story in a number of diffferent directions at the end - there's not one overriding criticism, many people want more from Henri, others think there's enough. I need to  work on the ending, but whether I change it radically or just hone it, I'm not sure yet - it does what I want to do, but not quite in the way I want to do it!

Liam

dufrescm's picture
dufrescm from Wisconsin is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep March 25, 2013 - 8:42am

Liam - 

I like the concept behind this story, and the "grumpy old man" feel of the main character was pretty amusing!  The dialogue was a little wooden, though, and most of the secondary characters were flat compared to Henri.  I'm not sure I cared for the "racist guy inadvertantly saves the day" message at the end, but that's just a personal preference.

If this were in the workshops, I'd rate concept at 4 stars, format at 3 stars (straightforward linear storytelling is good, in my book, but here were more than a few grammar errors), characters at 3 stars and dialogue at 2 stars.

Some of the "craft" issues that could be addressed in further revisions: 

  • too many adverbs
  • dialogue tags missing (there's a section of Henri's dialogue on page 2 that is 5 or 6 lines long with no breaks, no body language, and no tag to let us know who's talking until the next paragraph when Umbar makes note of Henri's grumpiness)
  • There is also a fair bit of telling about feelings rather than letting actions show them, and some use of passive vs active voice. An example of both, with suggested changes: Henri followed him inside, silently seething. As Umbar settled into his easy chair, Henri started pacing paced back and forth, his untouched beer frothing over the top.

None of these issues are insurmountable, though, and I think you've got a bit of a diamond in the rough here. A few revisions and this will really shine!

Good work, and happy editing!

--Christa

ArlaneEnalra's picture
ArlaneEnalra from Texas is reading Right now I'm editing . . .. March 27, 2013 - 6:31pm

There's something about this that reminds me of Tolkien's writing style, but not quite.  A very enjoyable read!  It was refreshing to read something almost comedic instead of the nightmares that seem to be popping up all over the place. ;)

About the only thing I can add is that the ending felt a little rushed.  We find out a large amount of informationt that should be surprising but somehow isn't.  Reading it, the reveal felt like a matter of fact statement about the alien's true intentions rather than something shocking.  (I do like the result.)  To me it might have worked a little better to cut to the other aliens arriving and having them discover what Earth had accomplished in those few years ...

Excellent Work!

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations March 28, 2013 - 5:29am

Thanks A-E. Try I write Like if you're ever in doubt who someone - perhaps even yourself - writes like! I normally get a different result each time, not yet hit Tolkien! As a golden-age of SciFi fan, I aspire towards Asimov...

Interesting idea about the ending. It might be a bit too long to add that but I do like the potential for surprise. I may have to give it a try!

Liam

Aaron Martin's picture
Aaron Martin from the Pacific Northwest is reading The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson April 1, 2013 - 12:11pm

Hey there, what a refreshingly comedic take in comparison to all those gloomier submissions (like mine)! I appreciated the tongue-in-cheek humour of your narrator, right down to <SPOILER> some very unexpected consequences involving a certain misunderstood anti-hero and his homemade laser. I wanted to mention that "Fourth and Final World War" comment you snuck in, a nod to any history buffs left on this planet - the war to end all wars indeed! And it's a bit of foreshadowing, perhaps?

The first two paragraphs were difficult to follow and I was a tad disoriented to the setting until around page two. There's a lot of info about dates and places and stuff early on, but not a clear picture where Henri was in a physical sense, except some references to Osaka Place. Overall it doesn't hinder the story much. I only note it in the hopes that my humble opinion will aid you. Things really took off after that, and all the plot pieces fell into place nicely. The twist ending was especially satisfying... glad to see you veer away from the obvious ending I had anticipated. All in all, a great read. And bravo making everything work without dragging the plot out to the max word count... not an easy task it would appear!

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations April 1, 2013 - 2:48pm

Thanks Aaron! Glad you appreciated the humour, Henri is my favourite anti-hero. It's pretty difficult to do a proper first paragraph that sets the whole scene, without being HG Wells... (No-one would have believed in the last years of the 19th century...) but I'll be doing some tweaking in light of all the comments. As for location - well there is no location, not really, part of the homogenesis nature of this world, though obviously there can only be one hope square, so I guess he lives not far from whatever counts as the center of this world!

 

Kat Howard's picture
Kat Howard May 1, 2013 - 8:05am

The first thing I'm going to do is address how well your story fit with the contest prompts:

Explore a utopian/ dystopian theme:

This was not present. On the last page, you say the story begins in a "Utopian state," yet I see no evidence that the society is that. If anything, "genetic homogenization laws" and the implications for reproduction inherent in that phrase suggest dystopia, but that is not something the story engages with. You have a couple of brief references to the end of a war and its consequences, but references are not enough to prove Utopia, or to rise to the level of a theme.

Feature a technology that is scientifically plausible:

Again, I don't see this. You have a couple of references to genetic engineering, which of course happens now, but you imply - "the historic clause on genetic mixing" - that they have risen to nonplausible levels. Your alien lives "400 light years, there and back," which is a equal to 2351450149273443 miles - I'm not sure how V managed to get to Earth in the first place, much less that it would be able to return in "a couple of years." And the "sonic wire cutter" is unexplained. This works for Doctor Who, but not for the rest of us.

Feature a nonhuman character:

Yes. You have V. Though V seems remarkably able to function here - "where I come from we don't actually communicate using sound" - so how has V. been able to adapt to be able to do so?

When you are writing to a prompt, it's important to make sure that you actually engage with that prompt. Otherwise, it's outside of what the editors are looking for, and will be rejected on that basis.

As to what did and didn't work in the story as a whole - first, you need to curtail your use of exclamation points. If your prose on its own doesn't carry the emphasis you want it to have, putting an exclamation point on the end of the sentence will not do this for you.

Your sentence level prose is good, and the plot certainly moves, but it was very difficult for me to engage with the story.

I find Henri to be extremely problematic. He has no reason to hate V, and then decides to murder the alien. Which, fine. People have irrational hatreds that lead to violence all the time. Yet, by the end, a statue has been raised in his honor. So the story seems to be saying, yes, have irrational hatreds and prejudice, and act with violence as a result, and this makes you a hero. It doesn't matter that V. actually had nefarious plans - Henri had no reason to suspect them, and they made no difference to his actions. The fact that his racially motivated assassination "worked out" is irrelevant.

It would be a different story if what you had was a person who actually had information that V was acting as a spy, and, for whatever reason, society at large did not believe them. But that isn't the story you've written.

klahol's picture
klahol from Stockholm, Sweden is reading Black Moon May 2, 2013 - 5:29am

It would be a different story if what you had was a person who actually had information that V was acting as a spy, and, for whatever reason, society at large did not believe them. But that isn't the story you've written.

Yeah, but you're putting your finger on a point that actually sold this story on me - the tale of a bumbling bigot who's xenophobia should by all rights doom the world but then saves it instead. 

I really liked that part. It kept the story together for me. 

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations May 3, 2013 - 11:41am

Kat, thank you very much for your review. It seems though that you didn't like the story, which is always disappointing, but I guess you can't win over everyone.

If I may, though, I'd like to tackle a few of your comments. It's unlikely, I'm sure, to convince you to change your opinion, but it will make me feel better about it!

Utopia/Dystopia. It's a Utopia. The effect of the genetic mixing is to eliminate the ability to distinguish one race from another, and therefore racism, and this is done so completely that before the arrival of the alien, there is nothing left to be xenophobic about, leading to 150 years of peaceful existance. If this is not your (or my) utopia, that's understandable, but then we haven't been through the third and fourth world wars, and had to live with the "solution" to that war which involved genocide of a billion-plus chinese... There's probably been some other changes along the same lines - there's not a lot of religion left, if any, so perhaps that has been banned or perhaps it has simply withered - it's a short story, so you're not going to get a full routemap from a to z.

Technology. The prompt was that it feature "a technology" that's scientifically plausible - not "only technology". Otherwise there might be a fair few stories in trouble on that count. As my tech that is plausible, I offer lawn mowers that fit comfortably into the palm of your hand, holographic/3d TV, and viruses tailored to particular genetic makeups. Naturally faster than light speed travel is NOT plausible, but then I'm not writing "hard" sci-fi here, and hard sci-fi rules would make this particular souffle collapse. As for "genetic mixing" this is in breeding, and could be achieved right now by enforced random fertilisation; we're talking about making race very uncertain, rather than eliminating all genetic diversity (these people are not clones, they just can't be pigeonholed as one race or another...). There's also some technology alluded to that exists because of the curtain - (and the curtain idea is not a new one, and was in the news only recently (after this competition ended), but I guess that's background, and doesn't count as featuring. The parts that go into Henri's laser weapon certainly do feature though. As for "sonic wire cutter" - on reflection, guilty as charged, not that it needs to be explained, but more to the point, it doesn't need to be sonic.

I'm not sure why there is a quibble about V communicating by sound. I don't communicate by waving my hands about, but I could learn to, and there are those who (assuming I learnt well enough) would then be able to understand me.

On exclamation marks, I can't say I agree. There is one such exclamation mark only that is outside of speech, and that, I'll certainly trim. (It's the one that ends the story). But when they are used in speech, they carry the emphasis that is in speech, and though there are a lot of them, mainly from Umbar, this is because an alien has just made first contact. He's excited, and "“Out there! Space!” conveys an entirely different mesage (to my mind) to "Out there. Space."

I'm hoping, that a large part of your negative reaction comes down to your final comments, the problems you have with Henri as a character. This, I have no intention of defending - he was never meant to be entirely likeable - he's a xenophobe, after all, a point I deliberately state at the start of the story. If he had had a rational reason for his actions, he probably wouldn't be a xenophobe. (could still be, but that would be a bit weird, the conceit here pretty much is he's the only xenophobe on the whole planet... which then drives his actions.)

Ultimately, what I had attempted - and missed in your case by at least a few of those 2351450149273443 miles, is a humorous piece. That reward comes to those undeserving of it, is a part of that humour, though hopefully not the only part. Those people who enjoyed the read, mention the light hearted nature of it, and aren't hung up on the unsavourary nature of either Henri or the genetic mixing. I guess there's different tolerances for dark humour - very much "Come to the dark side. We have cookies."

I'm certainly not saying this is a completed piece - far from it. I'll be tackling it with regard to all feedback, including of course yours, but I won't be changing it's basic dark heart, because that is what the story is. If that makes it harder to place, so be it.

So thank you once again for your comments, and I hope it wasn't too much of a chore to critique, or (and for this I can only apologise even more) to read this lengthy reply, assuming you do!

Liam

 

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations May 2, 2013 - 5:43am

Thanks Klahol,

Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty - Andrew Stanton (Pixar) - A very good TED speech if you go looking on Youtube!

In which case Comedy is anticipation thwarted - what you expect isn't always what you get. Even if your expectation is that it's not going to be as obvious as it appears (the shape of the alien) or something you have to work out (the figure of eight drawn by the laser). Read as a straight scifi piece no, I don't suppose Xenophobe works on a few levels, certainly not if you're a purist who doesn't allow faster than light travel, but it was never going to, it was always meant to be comedic - dark, sure, but comedic, and as long as that aspect of it works, then other issues should fade into the background, because you enjoyed the ride.

But anyway, I'll tackle some of the other criticisms of this piece, (from both Author review and all you good folks) then wrap it up with a comment about where I'll be tweaking it, when I'm not quite so insanely busy!

Liam