Friday, November 29, 2013

(10) Science Fiction: SECOND SUN

TITLE: Second Sun
GENRE: Science Fiction

Universe-crosser Audra Merritt would risk her own life to rescue her niece and nephew from the government organization that wants to exploit their abilities, and so "fix" the holes leading to the secondworld. The problem: Audra is part of the organization--and sacrificing the children’s lives may be the only way to save her universe from the explosion of the secondworld’s sun.

The ocher rays of sunset flooded the sky, and the light of the alien second sun ate that of our native star. If I were the type of person to believe in omens, I would have considered it a bad one. Good thing I wasn’t superstitious.

“Merritt,” Donovan said. “You all right?”

It was the question you asked when you didn’t know what to ask, because you already knew the answer was no. I lied anyway. “I’m fine.”

Sunlight refracted off the waiting armored van. At just the right angle, the reflections blinded. Same case with my partner’s Steelex armor, which provided a convenient excuse to avoid looking at him.

As we neared our transport, Donovan said, “You don’t have to go. The others and I can take care of it.”

“It’d be worse if it were only strangers coming.”

He didn’t mention that all-strangers-but-one might be no better, considering I hadn’t spoken with my sister for several years. I appreciated his omission.

We piled into the van along with two warden-only pairs, all of us arranging ourselves on the parallel benches to face our respective partners. The vehicle set off down the tunnel. Donovan and I each had copies of Quinn’s registration file. I didn’t need it, but kept toying with the idea that if I could treat this like any other collection, I’d forget that the conscript was my niece.


  1. I'm afraid I had a very hard time following what was going on in this one. Alien sun / native star in the first line was puzzling: is Merritt on an alien planet or did a second sun spontaneously appear above her home planet?

    In the conversation that follows, we don't learn what Merritt is anxious about until the last line. This seemed to me like a case of the author deliberately withholding information to create false suspense. The conversation would have had more meaning if we learned right away that Merritt is going to collect her niece.

  2. I liked this. I thought the give and take between the MC and her partner was good.

    I will say I was pulled out right away because I've only ever seen ocher spelled as ochre, but that's neither here nor there.

    I did, also, have to read the first paragraph twice. I think what confused me was the use of "ate". Because this is sci-fi, at first I thought you meant it literally.

    But otherwise, nice building tension.

    Good luck!

  3. I enjoyed your sample and am curious. This is a pretty interesting premise. I had no trouble picking up what was going on in the first sentence (I've read a lot of sci fi though, so maybe it's background, IDK what Rebecca is into).

    It might be nice to know why her niece specifically, what special power does she have? and what secret organization goes around sacrificing people to an alien sun in the hopes of closing the portal? At this point we need some details that we aren't getting because of the way you present your logline (for shock, and it's using precious space for a twist which then repeats what's already been said. Skip the twist and give us more information). If I were to pick this up off the shelf, I'm not that intrigued by the logline (ergo, I might not even flip to the first page which was really good) Try to make it more apparent why these children, why this woman, etc. I know it sounds cold, but why not some other people as sacrifices? (and for that matter, why sacrifices in the first place, how does that close portals? We have to know this otherwise it's just a plot device).

    And one last little nitpick: refract is when light bends as it passes through something, like the distortion on fish tank glass, or how your arm looks bent when viewed half above and half below water. That means the light would have to be bending through the vans to refract (does this mean they are some special material, but then in the next line you say reflect, they are not synonymous words). I know most people aren't going to know that, but the majority of your target audience is.

  4. This read smoothly enough to me, though nothing really grabbed me to go on for some reason. Maybe both characters just seemed kind of flat or something. Also not crazy about the description of a sunset as the opening. Maybe just not my type of book!

  5. I am not a heavy reader of scifi, so take this with a grain of salt . . . but I was thrown both by the initial description and then the lack of any other setting. I had an alien sun, and then I kept seeing an old van, regular police armor, etc. in my head. It was disconcerting. I know this is a first-250 contest and there's a pressure to hook a reader with plot right away, but I do think there's more leeway in SFF for worldbuilding. It would help this reader to feel a connection to both place and character.

    Also, even after reading your logline I thought the protag was male. My own lousy bias? I wonder if others had this . . .

    I think the suggestion about moving up the info re: the niece is worth considering. It's hard to say without having read the novel as a whole, but as it stands I'm not sure what you gain by having that come at the end.

    Otherwise, though, I am quite intrigued by the plot--I'm a sucker for big sacrifice dilemmas--and I am always down for a female MC. Good luck on Tuesday!

  6. I think you have created a bit of tension and a sense of suspense, and I'd read more.

    I didn't think the first parg. worked as an opening because it doesn't seem to make sense to me. She knows the alien sun is eating her own, and she knows her own niece and nephew are not in a good position, so she already knows the situation is bad. The omen is irrelevant, whether she believes in them or not. Perhaps give us a first parg that lays out the situation as it is?

    You might also add something to give us a sense of place.

    Good luck!

  7. There are elements of this story that definitely captivate me ("fixing holes", "secondworld", the fact that the MC is part of the organization). All very cool. I'm confused, however, in the logline as to whether we're dealing with something at a "universe" level or at a "solar system" level (i.e., since the focus seems to be on a secondworld and sun, yet somehow this threatens the entire universe?).

    In terms of the entry itself, there's some very evocative imagery in here (personally I especially liked the opening sentence). I did have a little trouble following the flow of the narrative though. For one thing, we're introduced to five people in 250 words (Merritt, Donovan, sister, niece, Quinn). That's a lot (for me, anyway :-). I think maybe a little reworking to ease us into the story and the characters might be good.

    Best of luck with it!

  8. Hi

    Although I would keep reading, the first paragraph does need work. The first sentence especially.

    Sunset implies the second sun is down already. Correct? I'd rather she sees the energy being syphoned off, and we see both suns. I assume the alien sun is larger but farther away (or at least partially out of phase) so it's gravitational effects on the planet are limited.

    And a red (or orange-brown) sky at night would imply a good day follows. Wouldn't it. I'd leave out the omen bit. Sci-fi is dragged down by unwarranted superstition.

    You probably need to articulate the core story better in your logline too. Something like..

    Audra Merrit thinks anything that stops an alien sun from going nova in Earth's orbit is worth it--until the organization she works for decides to sacrifice her family.

    I do like the rest of it (apart from the refracted bit commented on earlier).

  9. We get a strong feeling of dread in this opening, and the kind of tension that makes people want to keep reading. Good use of dialogue to convey plot without being too exposition-ish.

    My feeling is that, with the first graph, you should either drop it or expand it. But as is, it doesn't quite flow into the scene to come. I'm intrigued by the idea of an alien second sun, and SF readers will be too so perhaps it should be expanded to make clear that this is science fiction before the action kicks in.

    Nancy Bilyeau

  10. Why would her niece and nephew be so important? I think the logline could explain what risk/role they pose in this world.

    I really like your voice, however I think you could go deeper into her POV—to really examine the stakes in the opening moments. The dialogue is engaging, but you could show more of her internal thoughts/perceptions. So readers can engage with the emotion we’re told she’s feeling, and to have more insight into the world itself. To be brought into the tension and anticipation/anxiety that the characters you introduce quickly bring forth with their mentions. Otherwise, we’re getting a lot of details, but not a whole lot of context for their significance.

    I love this premise--good luck!