Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Secret Agent Contest #20

TITLE: 2020
GENRE: Young adult, futuristic fantasy

The last thing I want to do is get into a fight with the security patrol and be taken down by a stun gun. So, why am I standing in the hallway of District Thirteen High School, the second week of my junior year, watching the forbidden?

They built this huge stone fortress surrounded by a high chain-link fence and topped off with barbed wire last year in 2019. It's supposed to keep us safe from domestic terrorist attacks involving murder and explosives. The riots of 2015 destroyed most schools in my district. For four years, we met in churches and juvenile detention centers.

Daily power brownouts dim the lights in the hall here in Virgo, the last remaining city on the Northern Peninsula after the tsunami. I have excellent eyesight and make out four armed security guards in black full body armor with silver badges on their chests. They wear black helmets with plastic face covers. They remind me of giant killer insects.

The guards stand by the metal turnstiles, scanning students in. Boys and girls in school uniform of baggy blue pants and long-sleeved blue shirts plod along. By decree, we all wear blue sneakers, carry blue backpacks, and keep our hair cut no longer than one inch below our ears.
Students present their right arm and show the guard the spot where implanted ID numbers and personal information resides under the skin. Some kids rip the microchips out. Those poor creatures get sent off to be reconditioned and reprogrammed.


  1. Almost hooked. There's a lot of information being presented here and some of it feels forced. I would've liked to have seen some action first, and detailed world-building later.

    After the first paragraph, which is interesting and makes me think action is coming, I would rather learn about the impending fight, and what the forbidden are, rather than the history of the world.

    I love dystopian, so I'd probably read on, but if action didn't come soon, I'd probably stop.

  2. Not quite hooked. The first paragraph was promising, but instead of telling us what he/she's doing that's so forbidden, our narrator launches into a history lesson.

    You might try relocating these world-building details to another place in the manuscript or, even better, sprinkling them back into the action of this opening scene.

    Good luck with this. It sounds like the sort of thing I'd read.

  3. Interesting, but I have to agree, there’s too much world building going on. I wondered if he’d really be thinking all these things while walking up to the school.

  4. I adore futuristic dystopian tales. I'd call this SF so far. No fantasy elements have presented themselves.
    I like the opening para especially "watching the forbidden". But then I couldn't locate "the forbidden" anywhere in the next few sentences. Hopefully the 250 limit just cut them off.
    SF is difficult because whole new worlds have to be presented with each story. It's different to writing an epic fantasy or contemporary tale where readers know the basic world. I like the idea of a riot and terrorism and tsunami ravaged land but it's really breaking the point of view the way it is explained now. SF is about how the future affects individuals so refocussing on the viewpoint character and exactly what she might be thinking would make this a much nicer read rather than trying to divulge great lumps of info.
    I like the killer insects comparison. Like that the students seem more like prisoners. Like the mood of a society that has completely over-reacted to the terrorist/riot threat and seems to have removed basic human rights. I think this might be a novel with a message, and that's what SF is all about. Well done.

  5. Interesting story, but a bit too much telling instead of showing. But I'd read more.

  6. The opening parg. doesn't go anywhere. It feels almost like a tease. What follows is all telling.

    Perhaps show him in the line as the kids ahead of him are being scanned, as another kid is pulled out of line for cutting out his implant. Show the world you've created. Don't tell us about it. And definitely say what the forbidden is.

    There's a lot of great stuff here. The presentation could be better though.

  7. My first suggestion is to change the years this occurs in to even further into the future. Before you know it, 2019 will be here, and your story will sound out of date.

    How could advanced technology, as the underskin ID, would continue if the world has lost its reliable electrical source? And if our current society comes unglued, what services will go with it?

    For an apocalyptic world, you need to make it believable. Gasoline won't get refined or delivered. Cars and other vehicles will become useless shells. People will revert to horses, old-time energy sources (waterwheels, windmills, etc.).

    Sorry. This is one of my pet peeves about SF writing and movies.

    I'm not feeling any sympathy for this character. A lot of the descriptions seem like listing, with little emotional sense (what does it mean to the MC?).

    Try to vary the length and form of sentences as this sample seems to be made of simple noun-verb-subject sentences.

    Keep writing.

  8. Not loving it, I'm afraid. Too much exposition.

    I'd keep reading, but with trepidation.