Science Fiction Microstory Contest discussion

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** MAY 2018 MICROSTORY CONTEST -- CRITIQUES ONLY

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message 1: by Marianne (new)

Marianne (mariannegpetrino) | 401 comments The following rules are from Jot Russell, moderator for this contest:

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 goodreads (GR) 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.

4) You have until midnight EST on the 22nd day of the month to post your story to the GR 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 send me a single private vote (via GR or to author.jotrussell@gmail.com) 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 GR and the LI Sci-Fi group.

8) For each month, there will be three discussion threads:
a) Stories - For the stories and the contest results only.
b) Comments - For discussions about the stories and contest. Constructive criticism is okay, but please avoid any spoilers about the stories or degrading comments directed towards any individuals. If you want to suggest a change to the contest, feel free to start a discussion about the idea before making a formal motion. If another member seconds a motion, a vote can be held. I will abstain from voting, but will require a strong two-thirds majority to override my veto.
c) Critiques - Each member can provide at most one critique per story, with a single rebuttal by the author to thank the critic and/or comment to offer the readers the mind set of the story to account for issues raised by the critique. Critiques should be of a professional and constructive manner. 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, I will post the new contest threads.

**********

Theme: Comedic Space Opera

Requires elements:

1) Pirates
2) A Beauty Pageant


message 2: by Chris (last edited May 21, 2018 05:52PM) (new)

Chris Nance | 456 comments Review of: The Decision Maker by Karl

Admiral Black is a man with a gift – the uncanny ability to predict the right outcome, against seemingly insurmountable odds. His men marvel at his ability, his intuition. Tasked with the honor of judging an alien beauty contest, the Admiral must make the difficult choice between three identical contestants. Low on options, he turns to the same criteria which had saved him countless times in other arenas, an algorithm which really relies more on luck than analytics.

What I loved: This is a very clever story with an amusing ending.

What I liked: I enjoyed how you set your character up as having some sort of supernatural intuition.

My Favorite Sentence:
‘But, just as he had done in the past when he picked out the pirate-bot command ship from a proverbial haystack, and when he chose the yellow wire that saved nine inhabited worlds, Admiral Black confidently initiated the long-forgotten human decision-making process that had served him so well over his lengthy career.’

What I didn’t connect with: I thought this was a finely written, clever story. There really wasn’t much I didn’t understand or couldn’t relate to.

Final Impression: This is a simple, nicely written story with an unexpected twist.


message 3: by Chris (last edited May 21, 2018 05:57PM) (new)

Chris Nance | 456 comments Review of: A Big Night Out by C.

A bit of fan-fiction, Dave is a human on the Klingon world of Kronos, there to negotiate a proposal on antimatter injectors. Settling his business honorably, he is treated to drinks and entertainment in a Klingon bar, when one of the performers catches his eye. As a special treat, his alien companions arrange for him to meet the woman for which he is so enraptured and he is amazed to discover her surprising talent, the ability to sexually service him, while at the same time reciting a Klingon opera. He becomes so enraptured, he returns for a second encounter and seemingly discovers her unexpected secret.

What I loved: I really liked your description of the bar and its setting.

What I liked: I enjoyed the fan-fiction element, which made the piece more relatable, given there is ample existing back-ground for the story.

My Favorite Sentence:
‘While Dave and his two boisterous hosts celebrated their large transaction, the club proprietor introduced a series of floor shows, waving a double bladed knife around for effect.’

What I didn’t connect with: I must have missed something, because I didn’t understand the ending. How did the handheld glass eyeball relate to the story and how did that explain her talent?

Final Impression: This is a colorfully written piece with relatable characters, though the ending left me a bit confused.


message 4: by Chris (new)

Chris Nance | 456 comments Review of: The Night of Drag by Jot

The crew of a remote tug has some fun with a gender swapping beauty contest. Their revelry is short lived however as an impending asteroid heads for their port, Ceres-1, and the tugs are forced into an emergency launch, evading a rock set loose by a pirated tug, commandeered by a terrorist. Clever piloting by the crew of Virginia-7, followed by support from sister ship Norway-4, averts certain disaster in the end and saves the day.

What I loved: I really liked the technical descriptions of the fight, including the countdown and speed of impact. It was a small detail that added believability. The climax of the work, blasting into space and saving the day, was a fun read.

What I liked: I enjoyed the dialogue, which I thought was very convincing and realistic. I also enjoyed the spin-off from the novel ‘Terra Forma’, which helped me connect with this piece.

My Favorite Sentence:
‘The packed crowd irked on the couple as they remove their clothes behind a screen that only displayed their shadowy silhouette to the on-watchers.’

What I didn’t connect with: I really enjoyed this story, but I suspect it may be just a bit confusing for the casual reader, without the background of the larger story upon which it’s based.

Final Impression: This is a fun adventure with enjoyable characters and a solid action sequence.


message 5: by Chris (new)

Chris Nance | 456 comments Review of: The Big Score by Tom

The Crooked Cutlass is a ship in a dry spell. With a tired captain and a worn out crew, they scour the spiral arm for bounty and booty. For better or worse, they discover both when they stumble upon an old freighter pocked with meteorite impacts and hauling an unusual cargo – enough fuel to retire and some of the most beautiful women they’d ever seen. In the end, however, it’s the pirates who become the victims, pawns of an elaborate scheme by the cargo-ship’s owner to allure the crew into planting their seeds in the daughters of her Earth-side clients.

What I loved: I really loved Captain Klaus’s portrayal and his stumbling interaction with his mechanical parrot.

What I liked: You were able to paint a colorful backdrop for your story and, despite the limited word count, I was really able to get a feel for your character and their surroundings. I also enjoyed your ironic twist in the end.

My Favorite Sentence:
‘Oh, how he missed the good old days, when the spiral arm was a wild, lawless frontier, inter-system ore and fuel transports easy pickings.’

What I didn’t connect with: I wasn’t quite clear about the conclusion of the story. How did the pirates’ impregnating of the daughters create anchor babies? I’m not sure if you were implying that the pirate crews were the rich son-in laws? If so, would they all so willingly give up their life of piracy and settle down? And would their wealth come from sale of the fuel? I’m not sure. The end was a little unclear.

Final Impression: This is a fun story with a colorful narrative, effectively capturing the ‘pirate’ element and adding a twist of irony to the end.


message 6: by Chris (new)

Chris Nance | 456 comments Review of: A Matter of Principle by Jack

The End of All Things has been cancelled, not an easy decision, but made nonetheless by a Universe unsure of itself. Our protagonist, disappointed at the cancellation, laments the continuation of All Things through contemplation on a quiet beach. Next, our story cuts to the ephemeral galactic characters of the Milky Way, star systems puzzling over why their galaxy was spared and recruiting interstellar reporters to get to the bottom of it. Then, we cut back to our main character, visited by the alien journalist who reveal the End of All Things was cancelled due a desire to spare the actress Phoebe Cates.

What I loved: I really enjoyed the style this piece, echoes of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ in its peculiarity.

What I liked: The narrative was very quirky and complex. Definitely a unique story.

My Favorite Sentence:
‘The Universe, she’d learned, with its morose sense of humor, had shrugged, rolled its eyes at the insignificant, blue-green detritus hanging on the edge of one of its ordinary galaxies, and decided it would be a waste of energy.’

What I didn’t connect with: For me, while the writing was strong, the utilization of the pirate element and beauty contest element was weak.

Final Impression: This is a quirky story with a very creative narrative.


message 7: by Chris (new)

Chris Nance | 456 comments Review of: Prates of the Malleteans by Justin

Captain Esperanto is the beleaguered captain of a garbage scow whom fate has forgotten, destined to haul toxic waste in a broken-down ship. Then, chance offers him an opportunity at redemption when his crew stumbles upon a distress call from a ship under attack by pirates. Knowing full-well their ship his under-gunned, he charges in anyways, using his wits to subdue the pirates and rescuing the damsels in distress.

What I loved: I really loved your opening paragraph. Very well written and it captures the reader.

What I liked: I enjoyed your adventure element and the unexpected, roundabout way Esperanto actually uses his ship to defeat the pirates.

My Favorite Sentence:
‘Once a promising graduate of the Fleet Academy, he had watched helplessly as opportunity deserted him like a faithless lover.’

What I didn’t connect with: A simple piece, I really didn’t have any elements I didn’t connect with.

Final Impression: This is a fun rescue adventure which leaves you rooting for the downtrodden captain and his crew.


message 8: by Chris (new)

Chris Nance | 456 comments Review of: Belorko by Kalifer

High Commissioner Belorko is a rabble-rouser who thinks himself a sovereign. Self-proclaimed, he is the joke of the galaxy and is called out by a GNN comentator, Tom Twitch, who reviles the man with disdain. Still, despite his rantings, the man holds some sway. So, Tom has the novel idea to stage a pirate beauty contest, and millions of applicants apply. Narrowed down to the final 100, he uses their notoriety to slander Berloko by every means available. In response, the High Commissioner rallies his own supporters and invites the “pirates” to the milieu, then proceeds to slaughter them without prejudice. Feeling himself responsible, Tom is remorsefully forced into retreat where he learns that Belorko has been assassinated, democracy ended, and their fate surrendered to Tom’s robotic assistant.

What I loved: I enjoyed Belorko as a character, a Nero-type antagonist ready to watch the galaxy burn.

What I liked: Your concept, a personal antagonism between a politician and a news commentator, was intriguing and particularly poignant given today’s political climate.

My Favorite Sentence:
‘High Commissioner Belorko of the High Council, in his silk pajamas, imprinted with his own once youthful likeness repeated throughout, tweeted, “I proclaim, I am The Master of the Universe!”’

What I didn’t connect with: I thought the ending was a little disjointed and a bit rushed. Belorko’s death was almost too sudden and generally unexplained. I also didn't quite relate to their trusting Cybele with the future of the galaxy. There just wasn't enough back-story there. Then again, there is that pesky word limit.

Final Impression: This is an entertaining though tragic tale, a colorful narrative reflective of real world themes.


message 9: by Chris (new)

Chris Nance | 456 comments Review of: Jolly by Marianne

The captain of an all-female crew, Fiona receives word of a beauty pageant. Bored of their regular drudgery, she means to enter, and sends word throughout the ship that any crew-member who is willing may also participate. Excited by the prospect, Captain Fiona is suddenly discouraged to learn the contest is closed to them because they're pirates. So, she lands the crew anyways and parades her crew in front of an unwilling though genuinely captive audience.

What I loved: I really like the eccentricity of the characters in this story. Very captivating.

What I liked: As usual, the writing is solid and very expressive, a flowing piece for an enjoyable read.

My Favorite Sentence:
‘Stirred by the phrase, First Mate Quacklestein put her plumed pirate hat over her flat chest, and launched into their anthem, her reedy soprano making the heating tiles above the Captain’s bed of rock vibrate. ’

What I didn’t connect with: I was a little unsure about the ending. I didn’t quite grasp the “feed and act on my desires” and the nature of the violet energy. For me, I understood the ending, but it was a little nebulous… a bit too vague.

Final Impression: This is creative tale, imaginatively written with a colorful narrative, though it leaves me with some questions in the end.


message 10: by Jack (new)

Jack McDaniel | 248 comments Chris wrote: "Review of: A Matter of Principle by Jack

The End of All Things has been cancelled, not an easy decision, but made nonetheless by a Universe unsure of itself. Our protagonist, disappointed at the c..."


Thanks, Chris! And yes, I purposely took an odd view of pirates and the beauty contest.


message 11: by Justin (new)

Justin Sewall | 1045 comments Chris wrote: "Review of: Prates of the Malleteans by Justin

Captain Esperanto is the beleaguered captain of a garbage scow whom fate has forgotten, destined to haul toxic waste in a broken-down ship. Then, chan..."


Thanks Chris, I really appreciate it!!


message 12: by C. (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 736 comments Chris wrote: "Review of: A Big Night Out by C.

A bit of fan-fiction, Dave is a human on the Klingon world of Kronos, there to negotiate a proposal on antimatter injectors. Settling his business honorably, he is..."


Hi Chris!

Thanks again for the robust yet insightful review. As to your confusion about the ending, all I can do is cite the key phrase in the story: "The next day, he couldn’t stop thinking about Kat’al somehow delivering two entirely incompatible services."

So if you missed that, there it is. If you didn't miss the clue, then all I can say is:
really?
seriously?
Really?
Seriously?
REALLY?
SERIOUSLY?

You really need to keep your eye on the ball with this story. Hah hah!

If you would like, please check with me or Jot off-line and we'll fill you in. Figuratively, that is. : )

-C


message 13: by Chris (new)

Chris Nance | 456 comments C. wrote: "Chris wrote: "Review of: A Big Night Out by C.

A bit of fan-fiction, Dave is a human on the Klingon world of Kronos, there to negotiate a proposal on antimatter injectors. Settling his business ho..."


Ha! I'll admit my ignorance to the subtleties of certain worldly/unspeakable things. Lol.


message 14: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1277 comments Mod
Chris, thank you so much for mine and the other critiques. Love that you, Tom and others provide their insight into others' stories.

Also, you mention "Terra Forma" as if you have read it? I feel honored if this is true, but self-conscience since their is so much I want to rework into novel after have another 10 years of writing under my belt :)


message 15: by Chris (new)

Chris Nance | 456 comments Yup. I read it and really enjoyed it. It was definitely a great read. :)


message 16: by C. (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 736 comments Chris,

Hilarious.

-C


message 17: by Chris (new)

Chris Nance | 456 comments Review of: Red Eye by Greg

Captain Quincy has a tale to tell and just 20 hours to get it right. For eighteen months he’d been premiering a space opera, a parody of the adventures of the notorious Captain Red Eye. It included one beauty queen as the main character, who was terrible by the way, and a series of method actors who, for some odd reason, never seemed to break character. So, for a year and a half, their crew, also actors, toured the galaxy, and the reviews were good, all except for their beauty queen, that is. Even so, Captain Quincy knew that if the real Captain Red Eye found out, there would be a reckoning. Then, on their tour of the outer rim, Red Eye’s ship, the Black Avatar ambushes Quincy and his crew. Expecting a brutal and untimely death, Quincy quickly discovers that the very same actors portraying Captain Red Eye his men were the actual crew and captain all along, leaving our protagonist with a nearly unbelievable tale to tell.

What I loved: I loved the description of the crew/actors. The small details about each of them made this piece very entertaining.

What I liked: I enjoyed the twist at the end and didn’t see it coming.

My Favorite Sentence:
‘Captain Red-Eye fired away until the power cell of his blaster was empty, laughing maniacally.’

What I didn’t connect with: The conclusion was just a bit shaky. It took me a couple of read-throughs to get where you were going.

Final Impression: Red Eye is a colorfully written story with entertaining characters and a surprising twist in the end.


message 18: by Chris (last edited May 23, 2018 10:25AM) (new)

Chris Nance | 456 comments Review of: The Pirates of Ceres by Jon

Excerpts of an opera set in space, “The Pirates of Ceres” is the tale of a man, Devin, tricked into piracy then regretting his decision. As a penance for rejecting the pirate way, the pirate king threatens to kill Devin and his love, described only as the ‘red headed woman.’ Sucked into an open airlock, she is rescued at the last minute by an interstellar police officer, who saves the day and offers Devin a place in law enforcement.
(Honestly, writing a review of such a silly opera in such a serious way seems ludicrous. – lol)

What I loved: I loved format – an actual space-opera.

What I liked: I liked the little blurbs at the beginning and the end. It added some depth and additional silliness to the piece.

My Favorite Sentence (stanza, in this case). This was so ridiculously over the top I actually laughed:
And save my seemingly lost
But voluptuous and heavy-breasted body
(Which hath in fact
Swine Pirate King
Already won many beauty contests
Quite fairly and justly
Throughout the Sol System
HaHa!)
From the vacuum of which I am pullst!

What I didn’t connect with: Some of the piece is more allegorical than literal, flowery and poetic, which took me a couple of read-throughs to get the gist of the story. Still a funny read, though.

Final Impression: This was a very funny, light hearted take on the space opera theme.


message 19: by Jon (new)

Jon Ricson (jonricson1) | 61 comments Thanks Chris! Glad it made you laugh out loud!

By the way “J.E. Cope” was the writer of the opera, I’m just plain old Jon Ricson.

I’ll make that change in the story to avoid confusion.


message 20: by Chris (new)

Chris Nance | 456 comments Duh! Should have caught that, Jon. That's why I'm not an editor, lol. ;)


message 21: by Marianne (new)

Marianne (mariannegpetrino) | 401 comments Thanks for the comments, Chris. Sorry the end did not work for you. Fiona provided the energy to revitalize Shivareen (a play on Kundalini with Fiona being a snake like being) to both teleport and time jump them all to the beauty contest on Rialto 20 (feed and act on the captain's desires). As something of a "sentient photon gas", Shivareen held the audience captive (bound by light) so the pirate beauty show could go on. I am sure she was exhausted after the effort ;)

I hoped that building on character, as this was primarily an exercise in character, readers could fit the puzzle pieces together of the ending, given the word limit :)


message 22: by Marianne (new)

Marianne (mariannegpetrino) | 401 comments What I liked and loved: I just have to say that everyone did a fabulous job with the challenge :) It was hard to select stories for my vote. We could make a whole anthology out of pirates and beauty pageants and blasters and arias based on the stories written.

What we all could improve on: Flow of storytelling, for sometimes the seas were choppy; and less telling, more showing, would be better. Readers don't need to know every last detail. Trust the reader to fill in the gaps, or not ;)


message 23: by C. (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 736 comments Marianne,

You are the speedboat, and we are merely the water skiers. : )

Interesting challenge posed. I love a good challenge, and it seems everyone else does too.

-C


message 24: by Marianne (new)

Marianne (mariannegpetrino) | 401 comments Thanks, C. Just thought having fun with the challenge might unleash a creative torrent and that has happened :)


message 25: by Chris (new)

Chris Nance | 456 comments Marianne wrote: "Thanks for the comments, Chris. Sorry the end did not work for you. Fiona provided the energy to revitalize Shivareen (a play on Kundalini with Fiona being a snake like being) to both teleport and ..."

Don't misunderstand. I totally got the ending. I just think, for me, it was a little too ephemeral, too loosely explained, though I know how tough it is to get everything down, the way you'd like, with a limited word count. Then again, it may just be me. And your writing is always solid and enjoyable, leaps and bounds above my own, in quality of prose. Something I can only continue to strive for. :)


message 26: by Marianne (new)

Marianne (mariannegpetrino) | 401 comments Chris: I am glad that you got the ending :) It is as I have suggested: I let the reader fill in the blanks, given the word count, as my approach for this story was one of developing character, and I preferred to use most of my words for that. The characters by their words and deeds hopefully tell the story, not the omniscient narrator :) There is always room for improvement :)


message 27: by Karl (new)

Karl Freitag | 69 comments Thank you Chris. Much appreciated. I always learn a lot from your insights.


message 28: by Kalifer (last edited May 26, 2018 01:44PM) (new)

Kalifer Deil | 353 comments Thanks for the review Chris and you're right I ran flat up against the word limit. And, yes, I was thinking of Trump as I wrote this. I was also thinking of Siri and Alexa where people think of the intelligence as being in the phone or some box whereas it's in the "cloud" which is a huge computer complex running a lot of AI software. Eventually AI will be running civilization and people will hardly realize it. Leaders will come and leaders will go and civilization will continue without interruption, essentially ignoring them.


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