Science Fiction Microstory Contest discussion

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OCTOBER 2016 MICROSTORY CONTEST - CRITIQUES ONLY

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message 1: by Greg (new)

Greg Krumrey (gkrumrey) | 173 comments ** CRITIQUES ONLY **
The theme* for the month follows this note from the competition's Creator/Director, Jot Russell:

To help polish our skills and present a flavour of our art to other members in the group, I am continuing this friendly contest for those who would like to participate. There is no money involved, but there is also no telling what a little recognition and respect might generate. The rules are simple:

1) The story needs to be your own work and should be posted on the Good Reads Discussion board, which is a public group. You maintain responsibility and ownership of your work to do with as you please. You may withdraw your story at any time.

2) The stories must be 750 words or less.

3) The stories have to be science fiction, follow a specific theme and potentially include reference to items as requested by the prior month's contest winner. The theme for this month is posted below.

4) You have until midnight EST on the 22nd day of the month to post your story to the Good Reads Science Fiction Microstory Contest discussion. One story per author per month.

5) After, anyone from the LI Sci-Fi group or the GR Science Fiction Microstory Discussion group has until midnight EST of the 25th day of the month to cast a single private vote to Jot Russell () for a story other than their own. This vote will be made public once voting is closed. Voting is required. If you do not vote, your story will be disqualified from the contest. You don't need a qualifying story to cast a vote, but must offer the reason for your vote if you don’t have an entry.

6) To win, a story needs at least half of the votes, or be the only one left after excluding those with the fewest votes. Runoffs will be run each day until a winner is declared. Stories with vote totals that add up to at least half, discarding those with the fewest votes, will be carried forward to the next runoff election. Prior votes will be carried forward to support runoff stories. If you voted for a story that did not make it into the runoff, you need to vote again before midnight EST of that day. Only people who voted in the initial round may vote in the runoffs.

7) Please have all posts abide by the rules of Good Reads and the LI Sci-Fi group.

8) Professional comments and constructive criticisms are appreciated by any member in either group and should be posted to the separate thread that will be posted at the end of the month and all voting is complete to avoid any influence on the voting. Feel free to describe elements that you do and don't like, as these help us gain a better perspective of our potential readers. Remarks deemed inflammatory or derogatory will be flagged and/ or removed by the moderator.

9) The winner has THREE days after the start of the new month to make a copy of these rules and post a new contest thread using the theme/items of their choosing. Otherwise, the originator of the contest, Jot Russell, will post a new contest thread.
______________________________
*Theme Requirements for the October 2016 contest:

Save the Girl (or Guy) and you save the World, Galaxy, or Universe. A Romance and Adventure in Deep Space concept.

Must include these elements:
• A Human and a Non-Human romantically involved.
• A cool spaceship.
• The fate of a planet (or larger realm) hanging in the balance.

Optional but fun: start with the first two paragraphs of the original “Tandem Story” that inspired this month’s theme. It can be found by Googling “Tandem Story Funny”.


message 2: by C. (last edited Oct 14, 2016 01:25PM) (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 735 comments Critique of No Damsel in Distress
A short story by Justin Sewall

This was an exciting story with a classic military SciFi ambiance.

A soldier/mercenary is hired to escort a Princess off planet for her own safety. Suddenly, the capital is attacked by an arriving horde of enemy ships, and the two just barely escape with their lives.

While enroute, the Princess enters an alien metamorphic state to change into some sort of enhanced male version of herself, apparently able to kick some major booty. She gets bigger and her voice gets deeper. The story ends with her telling the merc to sit down and shut up, (my interpretation). She then tells him to come over to her, a more than slightly unsettling story conclusion, leaving the true nature, gender, and intent of the changed Princess a complete mystery.

I liked the smoothly building action of the story. The pacing and brief descriptions of action around the protagonist were highly effective.

I liked the way the protagonist frequently addressed the reader directly. This was an interesting way to add some comic relief to what was a purely action drama.

I liked the unexpected conclusion where the attractive and sexy Princess suddenly turned into something else. This turn of events was a complete surprise.

My only suggestion to improve the structure of the story is to include more descriptive language. Big events were happening all around them, but the text was mostly dialog with only brief observations to describe the dramatic and potentially colorful action. More details would have added greatly to the drama.

This was an interesting read. As I put down the whiskey tumbler with a shaky hand, I had a sudden mental image of a beautiful alien girl turning into an affectionate version of the big green nasty Hulk. “Hulk kiss!!”, she thunders.

Yikes.


message 3: by C. (last edited Oct 13, 2016 12:15PM) (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 735 comments Critique of If Jesus Returns As A Robot: An Exploration In Essayistic Science Fiction.
A short story by Heather MacGillivray

The evolution of philosophical science is the subject of this intriguing story. This seeming treatise on the merits of philosophical problem solving based on probably (faith) vs. certainty (science) was an interesting read.

Presented as a conversation against a backdrop of a developing romance between an unmodified human and an evolved robotic entity, discussion ensues which presents both sides of this argument.

I liked the background activity of a trade show and the various technologies present in 2084, the period of the story.

I liked the slowly developing relationship presented between the two major characters. A slow-motion romance is always a thing of beauty.

I liked the philosophical concept of humanity coming to a new state where measuring truth takes a sudden, evolutionary turn.

This story was a bit cerebral for my taste, seeming to trade making a point for a satisfying entertainment indulgence. However, far from pedantic, this tale asserts philosophical introspection gently, not ham-handedly. This turned out to be an intriguing but slightly esoteric discussion and gentle tutorial on self-actualization.

In my experience, a far greater intellectual challenge than self-actualization is self-indulgence. Namely indulging in Canadian Whiskey over ice without losing any additional brain cells. It is upon this conundrum that I shall plant my personal development flag, in this case a colorful plastic swizzle stick.


message 4: by Heather (last edited Oct 13, 2016 08:55AM) (new)

Heather MacGillivray | 581 comments RESPONSE TO C's CRITIQUE of my story, "If Jesus Returns As A Robot: An Exploration In Essayistic Science Fiction."

I liked this critique very much, feeling that it picked out both my strong and weak points as a story teller.

It is a trade off, what I am trying to do: to write essays in story form ... and so I keep trying to get the balance just right, but of course haven't fully done that ... yet.

I tried very hard this time to stick to just one point to be made, which C stated well as "the philosophical concept of humanity coming to a new state where measuring truth takes a sudden, evolutionary turn." rather than complicating it with too many qualifications and digressions as I sometimes have done in other stories. I'm glad that the reviewer liked the slow-motion love story that was meant to carry that cerebral concept via emotions.

I will have to work harder ... at whatever it takes that will see me not letting the cerebral carry the day ... so much as letting the emotional carry (the message) through the night. When I manage to do that I will be getting closer to being a true story-matrixed essayist!

A very interesting point, C - whether made in jest or not - about how, according to you, C, ''a far greater intellectual challenge than self-actualization is self-indulgence. Namely Canadian Whiskey over ice. It is upon this conundrumthat I shall plant my personal development flag, in this case a colorful plasti c swizzle stick." It, i.e., Self Indulgence, is indeed a pathway to trusting probability over certainty! If only I had had a bottle of my favourite, Bailey's Irish Cream, on hand when I wrote this story I might have got the balance just that little bit closer to true! I'll give it a go next time ... to be sure!


message 5: by Heather (last edited Oct 13, 2016 10:46AM) (new)

Heather MacGillivray | 581 comments CRITIQUE Of "No Damsel In Distress" - a story by Justin Sewell.

An intriguing twist on a classic, timeless, spaceless Battle Of The Sexes tale ... and the only way it ever seems to end well - ie. when The Male accepts, indeed loves, likes, welcomes and is comforted by, the eventual metamorphosis of the once 'Damsel In Distress' Female stereotype he thinks he wants, into The Powerful - even scary to those who resist her power - Matriach, who becomes via her metamorphosis, The One able to control her 'brood'/her people with ease and natural power (including the, now self-accepting of his more lowly role, Male.) It's the story of most successful marriages! And more and more it's the story of a (promised) well-controlled wider World and Universe, as the balance of power turns to The Feminine in the political as well as the personal.

"She stood a head taller than me and her voice was slightly deeper. Serrated spines emerged along her forearms.
“Now…” she said powerfully.
“My people will see our hidden strength, enter the d’thrall they have forgotten for so long and crush the Horde! ...
She clapped my shoulder with a powerful hand.
"

The story is especially intriguing because of the larger than life mirror-battle of this very scenario now playing in a US presidential election campaign near you. And let's face it, that campaign - to save the world from the opposing force - is close to everybody's fears, no matter where they are in the world! As one Southern Hemisphere commentator recently noted "if He wins, the US will become just another of the rogue superpowers that emerge in the world from time to time.")

The role of The Voiceless Interviewer in the story is especially intriguing. He seems to represent the powerlessness of The Perpetually Immature Male, even the nastiness and unhappiness of such Males (and their supporters) who remain 'miffed' or threatened at the natural change in The Female of the species - no matter what species - that does occur whenever that natural metamorphosis is given room to occur ... as in the life and work of Commander Miles Trask "I hurried to comply. After that, the rest is history. You don’t believe me?
“Sweetheart, would you come over here for a minute?


​In all, another intuitively insightful and powerful tale from this author, even though he may even deny, as he sometimes does, being conscious of his insightfulness!​


message 6: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1007 comments Critique by Tom Olbert of --
"No Damsel in Distress" by Justin

This story was an enjoyable satire of a familiar military space hero-saves-princess sci-fi format in the tradition of Star Trek and Star Wars. The satirical aspect was effective because it wasn't overdone. The action and dialogue were delivered with a straight face, but the background narrative of the POV character talking to an apparently skeptical off-camera listener was very funny. This device was skillfully used in managing to amuse without detracting from the story or the action.

The twist comes when the princess transforms into a more powerful, more fearsome warrior entity. Enjoyable in vision and delivery. I just have a couple of minor misgivings.

The transformation would have been more effective if the princess had displayed her warrior prowess in battle. Also, the surprise aspect would have been more effective if the POV character's role of protector/superior had been stressed a bit more. I mean, it would have had more punch if he'd taken a more pronounced Chauvinistic attitude towards the princess prior to her empowerment. But, that's really just my personal preference. On the whole, I enjoyed it.


message 7: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1007 comments Critique by Tom Olbert of --
"Planetary Punishment" by C. Lloyd Preville

I found this story a wonderfully funny political satire. The protagonist is a trade negotiator with the ultimate fantasy girlfriend: A shape-shifting nano-swarm A.I. who can take the form of an Asian supermodel or a flying red coup complete with cup holders. She ends up saving the world for him through an exertion of irresistible power that forces a stubborn human race to capitulate. She's clearly the one with the power in the relationship.

The humor of the set-up was marvelous. I would have liked the POV character to be a bit more clearly defined, though. His job description was a bit murky, as was the identity and composition of the faction he served. This problem was exacerbated by the dialogue. It was sometimes difficult to tell who was speaking. The protagonist's personal motivation, personality and attitude were also a bit vague. He had a problem to solve, and his superhuman girlfriend solves it for him. He was more witness than participant, in my view. But, the humor and the idea of it all pretty much carried it, anyway.


message 8: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1007 comments Critique by Tom Olbert of --
"If Jesus Returns As A Robot: An Exploration In Essayistic Science Fiction" by Heather MacGillivray

An intriguing and well-written philosophical exploration of science vs. religion, probability vs. certainty, conveyed through a human/robot romance, and culminating in the idea that in a changing world, Christ might return in some form other than human.

Fascinating concept. Though, one obvious problem is that Christianity seems to be presented as the solitary representative of religion. I was also puzzled by the roles assigned to probability and certainty. Maybe I was interpreting incorrectly, but it seemed to me as though the author was using religion to represent probability and science to represent the mindset of certainty. This confused me, since the opposite is true. Science deals in probabilities, not certainties, and religion deals in the unshakeable certainty of faith. I also didn't see the point of giving the two interacting characters similar names.

The story was anti-climactic, a question rather than a statement. But, thought-provoking. The setting was artful and striking.


message 9: by Heather (last edited Oct 17, 2016 04:48AM) (new)

Heather MacGillivray | 581 comments CRITIQUE of "For Love of Babs" - a story by J.F. (critique word count 500 words.)

This was an exciting, intriguing and good fun story at many levels - not eleven though, unless I counted wrong!

Speaking of 'eleven,' Wagner was influenced by Shopenhauer's philosophy which was critical of Kant's schemata of 12 levels of Relationships between Everything. Shopenhauer accepted just one of those levels, 'causality,' and 12 -1 = eleven levels left!

So I wondered, "is this story satirizing a reader's search for pattern and order? Is it full of nonsensical pattern-clues, to be chased after down rabbit holes? Might "eleven levels up" (where "The Knowing" resided) be such a chase?" It was a fun game: looking for rabbit-hole traps!

There is a reference to another work, hiding in plain sight - so the author has stated elsewhere in this forum. Hmm, "The Knowing" is a film title ... and there's other possibilities besides, but I couldn't 'nail it down.'

And there were the Wagnerian references. 'Wagnerian' has several meanings; including pertaining to Richard Wagner's dramatic style, and, "relating to a big, powerful, or domineering woman: a Wagnerian maiden," according to Wikipedia.

And so I began to wonder, was the archetypal big, powerful, or domineering woman the very same archetype as in Justin's story? There she had said, "My people will see our hidden strength ... and crush the Horde!” as [s]he clapped [his] shoulder with a powerful hand." But where Commander Miles Trask was subsumed into this archetypically powerful Feminine by becoming her partner, the 'hero' in J.F.'s "For Love Of Babs" has a much more dramatic surrender-and-then-awakening into a state of 'higher' awareness/'knowingness' (of his role in some greater scheme of things!)

That the author has confirmed (elsewhere in this forum) this co-incidental similarity between the stories heartened me. It seemed to confirm the 'reality' of archetypes within human subconsciousness and our collective journey to embrace/engage/confront/know/learn-from them.

BUT, the author claimed his story to be (beyond satire, i.e.,) Absurdist - a post WWII, specific belief in the world's inherent chaos and meaninglessness. If it is Absurdist, does that render my belief in archetypal forces and characters meaningless? Are there only (hu)man-made, dogmatic stereotypes ... which stereotypes, once worn-out, become as-powerless-as-the-ROAR-of-dinosaurs?

If it's really just Absurdism? Fine. It's a good piece.

But I am a fan of the assigned-as-madman and Creative, Antonin Artaud. So I see the similarity between these two wonderful stories occurring because, as Artaud said, (in "The Theatre And It's Double" http://www.almaclassics.com/excerpts/... ) [and I see 'all story forms' as 'theatre forms',] "true theatre ... goes on stirring up shadows ... [Therefore,] An actor does not repeat the same gestures twice and, ... [so] is united with what lives on ... producing their continuation."

In other words, these two similar, but entirely coincidentally written stories, "for the Love Of Babs" and "No Damsel In Distress" are just different actings of the one archetypal 'play' "not repeat[ing] the same gesture twice ... [but in doing so] producing their continuation" (of a subconscious Knowing,) ... despite 'the hero' "[not] really understand[ing] 'it' [him]self."


message 10: by C. (last edited Oct 19, 2016 09:46AM) (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 735 comments Critique of The First Joining
A short story by Tom Olbert

Ah… here there be love. This was a short story, but also a grand tale. The imminent demise of the human race is described, along with their salvation through an act of love between completely different but compatible species. This is not your usual Sci-Fi fare.

Rohm, a Jovian miner, and his AI based ship named Argo discover an anomaly on Jupiter. It turns out to be a call for help from an immense floating life form who is about to be sucked into the death spiral of an atmospheric eddy in spite of the rescue efforts of numerous similar creatures.

Rohm mentally joins with the creature during his successful rescue attempt. The creature is grateful, demonstrating a mind which is expansive and complimentary to Rohm’s human intellect. The Jovians are all about philosophy and intellect. Humans are all about scientific and method-oriented thought. The two together quickly discover the truth of inter-dimensional travel and all are saved from an impending Sun gone supernova.

I liked the scope of the story, in which the entire human race is threatened and our salvation revealed, as we discover an amazing race of intelligent beings who, in joining with us, saves us all.

I liked the wordcraft of this tale; there wasn’t any more or less dialog than required, and it was beautifully complimented with soaring, colorful descriptions of events as they unfolded.

I liked the technical aspects of Tom’s description of Rohm’s relationship with his AI. The AI didn’t do just what it was told; it did what it thought was required, demonstrating true independent intellect rather than typical automaton behavior.

About the only thing I can suggest to make this marvelous tale even better: trade a bit of the language describing what Rohm was becoming during the merge for a description of what humans became after. That way the ending would be less sudden and abrupt, so as to not jar the critical hand holding the whiskey tumbler.

Such a structural “tweak” might deliver a more satisfying conclusion for the reader along with averting any catastrophic spillage.


message 11: by C. (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 735 comments Tom wrote: "Critique by Tom Olbert of --
"Planetary Punishment" by C. Lloyd Preville

I found this story a wonderfully funny political satire. The protagonist is a trade negotiator with the ultimate fantasy g..."


Thanks Tom! I appreciated your critique very much!

-C.


message 12: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 976 comments Heather wrote: "CRITIQUE Of "No Damsel In Distress" - a story by Justin Sewell.

An intriguing twist on a classic, timeless, spaceless Battle Of The Sexes tale ... and the only way it ever seems to end well - ie. ..."


Heather!

Thank you very much for the detailed and insightful analysis of my story. And as you predicted, I must deny consciously writing at any of the levels you have expounded on here.

The nameless/voiceless interviewer was a vehicle that I thought would allow me to inject some humor into the story without having to give any precious "space" to another character.

I appreciate how much thought went into your review and the comparison of my story to some aspects of "For Love of Babs." It is wonderful to see what other people read into and get out of anything I write.

Thanks again!


message 13: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 976 comments C. wrote: "Critique of No Damsel in Distress
A short story by Justin Sewall

This was an exciting story with a classic military SciFi ambiance.

A soldier/mercenary is hired to escort a Princess off planet fo..."


C,

Thanks for your thoughtful critique of my story! I'm not sure you may have caught the first line of the main character when he asks the "off-camera" person if he is recording. This is an interview we are listening in on.

The breaks in dialogue when the main character is seemingly interrupted is not him breaking the fourth wall to the reader, but responding to our "off-camera" interviewer. The more I worked that element into the story the more I liked it.

At the end, it is our storyteller asking the newly transformed and powerful female to come over to his table, as a way to prove to the "off-camera" interviewer the whole story is true. By calling her sweetheart, I was trying to show that their relationship had continued despite the transformation.

Your comment about more descriptive language is spot on and I agree with you 100 percent. This was of course a much longer story with a lot more background information.

I've decided I'm going to post the original longer edition in the comments section, just to show how much more I had to pare down. It is not up for judging of course, but simply for everyone to see what a broadsword and scalpel I had to take to this entry!

Thanks again for your insightful critique! I've decided to get you a Sippy cup for your whisky so as not to lose any of that precious elixir while reading!!


message 14: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 976 comments Tom wrote: "Critique by Tom Olbert of --
"No Damsel in Distress" by Justin

This story was an enjoyable satire of a familiar military space hero-saves-princess sci-fi format in the tradition of Star Trek and S..."


Tom,

I appreciate the great feedback! I agree the dichotomy between the two could have been highlighted more if my main character had been more chauvinistic. Indeed, his attitude was that prior to meeting the Princess Prime Minister, but her voice, demeanor, etc., won him over and won his heart.

What I would extrapolate from the females of this species, especially the leader, is that the vocal harmonics they use when speaking effect parts of the brain to induce a more favorable response. Which is why our good man Miles wanted nothing more than to carry out her orders. I did not really have space to include that, not even in my longer edition which I've posted for comparison.

Thanks again for taking the time to critique my work!


message 15: by J.F. (last edited Oct 20, 2016 03:49AM) (new)

J.F. Williams | 182 comments Heather wrote: "CRITIQUE of "For Love of Babs" - a story by J.F. (critique word count 500 words.)

This was an exciting, intriguing and good fun story at many levels - not eleven though, unless I counted wrong!

..."

Heather,
Thank you for the lovely, and lively, critique. I used "Wagnarian" to evoke the composer's name, but spelled it differently to avoid being too "on the nose", because I thought it an ironic name for a peace treaty, as Wagner's work is rather loud. I dd intend it as a story about the search for pattern and order in a crazy world. The narrator is befuddled by everything but he's sure about what he wants: to find love and bring other lives into existence, even if they are monsters, while the female characters simply know and abide without worrying about logic or order. Even the most absurdist paragraph has meaning though: in a crazy universe the hit game show is about finding your missing coat, as people focus on simpler things when more serious matters of diplomacy and physics stop making any sense. I had written a line that ties it all together but ran out of space for it. The narrator was supposed to say to Babs near the end that "the concerns of two genetically distinct humanoids don't amount to a pile of oranges in this crazy universe."


message 16: by Heather (last edited Oct 20, 2016 10:35PM) (new)

Heather MacGillivray | 581 comments RESPONSE to Tom's critique of my story "If Jesus Returns As A Robot: An Exploration In Eassayistic Science Fiction" (critique response word count 500 words.)

Thanks for critique, Tom. I appreciate that you found it thought provoking.

The reason for having the two characters with similar names is to symbolize that what they represent is two sides of the one coin, whatever that 'coin' may be. I was trying to hint that it's likely to be some sort of yearning: for truth; to satisfy curiosity, to persuade; to change; to learn; to teach ... but it will be some sort of movement, a liveliness, an impulse towards a non-static state. (But I don't actually name what I think that 'coin' is! I want the reader to - at least at some level of their consciousness - think/feel/intuit about it.)

But their (Dav and Davia's) attitudes are different, just like the way one side of the coin is always 'heads' and the other always 'tails' ... or the way probability is one thing and certainty another, even though they have a relationship. But which one is which? The longer anything - an idea, a scientific perspective, a religion, has been around - the more it flips into our brains as 'a certainty' ... and yet its genesis would likely have been much more probability-dependent!

Certainty is nice ... because it is associated with a building up of something, eg a body of knowledge that can be relied upon. But the more certain we feel the more statically we are thinking (and lifelessness is a static state and liveliness is not.) So we have to keep returning to knowing via Probability in order to not stagnate.

A good relationship between Certainty and Probability is in fact called Creativity! (So, Creativity is that {at very least two sided, but actually more likely to be} multi-dimensioned, 'coin'/treasure/thing-of-value! Certainty and Probability are {just} two sides of Creativity.)

Christ (or Jesus here) is not meant as a representative of Christianity (he wouldn't have heard of that word in his Earthly lifetime, though I 'don't mind' that the reader might go to that interpretation, because that might just stir in the reader's imagination, eventually, the question, "Am I too dogmatically associating all-things-religion with 'Certainty' ... rather than with the more lively 'Creativity of Spirituality', ie with 'Wonder'?") Rather Jesus, in this story, was chosen as being a strong personification (in more than one sense of 'person') of Creativity; that creative consciousness, that gnostically-known balancing of differences, that is inherent within us though that fact (or likelihood) is often lost in our subconsciousness, but that will eventually return to us, as (an advanced eg robot-influenced?/alien-influenced?/something-we-haven't-yet-thought-of-influenced?) consciousness.

My story is trying to be an essay in story form ... so as to be more lively and hence readable than a standard essay! It's probably 'not story enough' ... but if it's 'at all lively, and not static,' then that's heading, at least somewhat, where I want my writing to go, though I know it has a long way to go. But its just an idea I have in my head that I am still trying to find a good form for.


message 17: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1007 comments C. wrote: "Critique of The First Joining
A short story by Tom Olbert

Ah… here there be love. This was a short story, but also a grand tale. The imminent demise of the human race is described, along with the..."


Thank you so very much for this beautifully written and extremely detailed review. And, I apologize for any spilled whiskey. Speaking for myself, I like to keep a hands-on approach to description from the main character's POV while taking a more distant, summarized description of larger events. More interesting that way, I think. But, I guess that's a personal preference.


message 18: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1007 comments Critique by Tom Olbert of --
"Seeing Stars" by Greg

The story of a starship mechanic who falls in love with the abandoned mistress of a womanizing space pilot and ends up helping her save her doomed race from an impending nova.

This story reminded me very much of Star Trek, with elements of Star Wars thrown in. (Scotty getting Kirk's leftovers?) It started off rather slow, I thought, relying purely on recitation, but the POV character's colorful metaphors in describing the absent space man's cavalier sexual attitude carried it until the dialogue started. It was border-line erotic with strong, poetically descriptive language, culminating in lovemaking in weightlessness (PG-13). This was skillfully interwoven with a well-written science theory, the protagonist getting a scientific epiphany during zero-gee wooing. Overall, I found this story enjoyable. This kind of innocent romantic yarn isn't really my cup of tea, but if I can enjoy it, anyone can.


message 19: by Tom (last edited Oct 22, 2016 08:08AM) (new)

Tom Olbert | 1007 comments Critique by Tom Olbert of --
"Jack Belli and the Franelli" by Kalifer Deil

This one starts out as a touching, homespun Americana story about a farmer in mourning for his recently deceased wife and then turns into a timely political satire wrapped in a comical UFO story. A beautiful woman from the stars lands in a flying saucer and invites the grieving farmer to make love to her in order to pass on a virus which will kill off the vampires infesting her part of the universe.

I enjoyed this story very much. The satire was like America's answer to Monty Python, yet somehow delivered with a straight face. The political commentary was subtly interwoven with the comedy in such a way as not to be too heavy-handed, yet provides the twist that really nails it in the end. My compliments.


message 20: by Tom (last edited Oct 22, 2016 12:48PM) (new)

Tom Olbert | 1007 comments Critique by Tom Olbert of --
"Hunted" by Chris

This is a story in the golden-age tradition of sci-fi pulp action. A gutsy American space soldier of the future falls for a princess of an alien race with which Earth is at war. The circumstances aren't exactly clear, but apparently their Romeo and Juliet romance has led to a chance for peace between their two embattled races. En route to a galactic peace conference, their spaceship is shot down over a planet, apparently by a militant faction of the princess's people, and hero and damsel must fight to survive. The twist comes at the end when the real villain is revealed to be a Terran arms dealer and war profiteer. After being depicted as a very traditional damsel in distress, helpless and dependent on her gallant hero boyfriend, the princess reveals a surprisingly deadly evolutionary trait which saves the day. "I think it's kind of sexy," the hero remarks.

Either you like this kind of action, or you don't. Personally, I think the weak, frail girly-in-distress bit is outdated, though perhaps it was intended more as satire than retrospect. Whatever you may think of the content, there was certainly nothing wrong with the delivery. The narrative and dialogue were crisp and to the point and the flow of action strong. The ending came with a great twist which was quite effective.


message 21: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1007 comments A Critique by Tom Olbert of --
"For Love of Babs" by J.F.

An ambitiously wacky space comedy in the tradition of "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy." A newly developed means of space propulsion enables a spacecraft to get from here to there not by warping space but by destroying it. The system is powered not by ions or Dilithium crystals, but by oranges. The hero of the space mission falls for and impregnates a foreign dignitary, leading to an impending declaration of peace. The black comedy comes to a tragic end when the new space destroyer drive destroys the hero. He could avoid his fate, but chooses to sacrifice himself to the greater good. Only to discover he's not really dead, just passed on to a higher state of being. But, still harboring unanswered questions, most notably regarding the true meaning of love.

The story's nihilistic humor is delivered with Woody Allen-like charm, which works in spite of the fact the story is pretty much all narrative and almost no dialogue. It's more a joke than a vignette, but it works. One thing I had a problem with was all the made-up Dr. Seuss-type alien words which I guess were supposed to add to the humor, but which I personally found rather irritating, in that they distracted from the story. Also, I have to say, the delivery of the plot twist at the end lacked punch. Overall, the story worked.


message 22: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1007 comments A Critique by Tom Olbert of --
"Doctor Au" by Jot Russell

A cosmic cautionary tale of sorts. A new means of inter-dimensional manipulation seems like the key to a new golden age. But, an artificial intelligence known only as Doctor Au warns it will destroy the universe. The people and their leaders scoff, dismissing the AI's concerns as controlling and alarmist. But, of course, the dire prediction proves true and the new technology, once activated, begins destroying the universe. An apparent miracle saves the unworthy civilization at the last second. Doctor Au is really responsible for averting doomsday, but hides that secret, hoping fear will motivate society to be more careful in future. (This could be viewed as an allegorical representation of public denial of the dangers of pollution and climate change, though only the author knows if that was intended.)

This was a well thought-out and poetically delivered theory in physics, but it failed to hold my interest because it was pure narrative, with almost no emotionally relatable POV or character interaction. The title character was never clearly defined, seeming more like a representation of God than a protagonist. (Maybe that was the idea.)

I liked the set-up, an interstellar society of two races with organic and A.I. communities. I also liked the description when a tiny grain of sand is pulled into an artificially generated singularity, triggering a cosmic Armageddon. But, in my opinion, a story like this can't deliver its message without character appeal. Though, I think it would make a good illustrative fiction for a science article.


message 23: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1123 comments Mod
Thanks for the critique Tom, including the mention of poetry and thought. I do have to admit, my style of writing (as well as reading), tends to lean towards more towards the tech over that of the emotion. I remember when I first read Rendezvous with Rama, I was perplexed by thought of a dark star passing through our system and then later, when it was discovered to be a vessel, the details of its design. I am very happy with the story and the use of a less than direct title to represent the story. I liked how Minority Report alluded to something which, in this case, didn't exist. In my case, the use of Au was important, because it represents the name of a friend and business associate from Hong Kong who passed away. Every once in a while, I come up with a story concept (outlined in 750 words), that I really want to take the time to put into a complete novel. This is one of a dozen or so. If only I had the time...


message 24: by Heather (last edited Oct 24, 2016 06:39PM) (new)

Heather MacGillivray | 581 comments CRITIQUE of "Dr Au" by Jot Russell (critique word count 500)

The word 'haunting' came to mind. I'll list the reasons:

Firstly, the evocative name of the heroine, Dr. Au, seems other-worldly (from a Westerner's perspective) 'Au' consists of only vowels (two of them) and only one syllable. The title before it, 'Dr.', consists of only consonants (again two of them.) But 'doc-tor' sounds as two syllables. This creates a visual-auditory tension between title and name. It foretells of an intriguing counterbalance going on. The written words are thus an exact balance to each other, but the sounds 'doc-tor' and 'au' aren't. So the seen and the heard create a tension between each other. And this creates a haunting-ness, an impression rather than a known-fact, about something, even before we know what that something is! Adding to this, "AU" is also s/f writing slang for 'alternative universe' and apparently a common name in Asia. it all adds up to an impression of "expect something other-worldly."

Next, Dr. Au, the heroine in the story posseses two key (again counter-balancing) qualities: her superior ability combined with her possessing almost no ego! She does not elevate 'receiving recognition for saving the Universe' above the importance of 'doing that saving.' Rather she avoids that recognition because it would be of more value to others, in the long run, if she just quietly did what she had the ability to do. (And what she had the ability to do, it seems, was to deliberately send in 'the secret-vessel' in order to artificially construct an incidence of matter and anti-matter reacting together, which reaction stopped the prior destructive reaction from proceeding further.) With this, 'the hauntingness' rose to a whole new level; into the realm of being, in fact, 'a tribute': to The Under-Valued? or The Under-Acknowledged? or to The Humble and Selfless? (the Mother of the Child-who-is-her-Universe.)

Finally, this story is haunting because of the apparent lack of characterization. It's not really a lack of characterization but rather an impressionistic characterization that we are treated to. It's not characterization in the traditional sense, of providing dialogue or a distinctive POV (eg of the heroine.) Here The Narrator/Reporter?/Science Writer? 'becames' a Character whose POV it is! It's in the paragraph containing these words, "Doctor Au's artificial feelings ... knew the peoples of the worlds wished to know who and what saved them [but] she decided that ..." that this insertion into the story of the- narrator-as-a-player is shown. How would he know what she feels? Answer: because he loves and understands her!? He knows her. So in the end he tells his-and-her story in her way: silently, impressionistically, intriguingly. With that - act of love-expressed - it's not a mere counterbalancing act between them but an impression of a union; that 'agrees upon an unfolding of understanding' because in an unfolding lies a potential, that the world may save itself ... an act of love greater than domineering love-act types.

Some editing/proofreading/spellchecking could make this story great!


message 25: by Kalifer (last edited Oct 23, 2016 04:02PM) (new)

Kalifer Deil | 293 comments Tom wrote: "Critique by Tom Olbert of --
"Jack Belli and the Franelli" by Kalifer Deil

This one starts out as a touching, homespun Americana story about a farmer in mourning for his recently deceased wife and..."


Thanks for the kind critique. It took me a while to squeeze in everything I wanted to and still keep it at 750 words. I think I will later expand this into a short story with more character and scene development.


message 26: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 1007 comments Kalifer wrote: "Tom wrote: "Critique by Tom Olbert of --
"Jack Belli and the Franelli" by Kalifer Deil

This one starts out as a touching, homespun Americana story about a farmer in mourning for his recently decea..."


I'm sure it will be a terrific story.


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