Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Name That Genre: Critique Round #10


“There’s a funny thing about space,” Laura said, staring lazily over her red boots into the black, “and that’s that it’s big and black, until it’s not big and black, and then it kills you,”

“I’d argue, for those of us without metre thick steel hulls, that the big and black is more likely to be deadly than the… not big and black,” Fio replied, frowning across at her Captain. “I’d also argue that it’s not really that necessary to have so many others onboard. I mean, really, I thought this was going to be just you and me,”

Laura notched her glasses down, archaic things of plastic and glass that didn’t serve much purpose beyond ‘looking cool’ (though they served that purpose well) and raised an eyebrow at the Limb. “You thought that I, a starship Captain, would be carrying out this mission with naught but my ship at my side?”

Fio’s frown deepened and she looked down at her body, olive skin shining silvery in the dim light. “You know I have more than enough Limbs to accomplish the task,”

“I know, and they’re biomechanical wonders. But, to be honest, a Captain’s got to have people around to answer when she calls, and hearing your voice from every one would just get disconcerting,”

“I… I understand,” Fio replied, standing with a respectful nod and leaving the observation room. Laura watched the Limb go and saw another just like her walk by before turning back to the stars, knowing the ship was still watching.

“It’s not meant as an insult, you know,” Laura said, lifting a bottle to her lips and drinking deep.

“I know, Captain. I just… you know,” Fio’s voice filled the room from nowhere in particular, more artificial than when it had come come from her Limb.


  1. I might not be the best to comment on this because I have a hard time wrapping my head around science fiction. It is well written, maybe heavy on the dialog in the beginning. I would prefer more of a set up with description and not someone explaining it to me. Because of my science fiction illiteracy I don't know what a Limb is. Is it a person, a ship, a part of the body.

  2. By the time I reach the end of this, I am fascinated. I want to learn more about Flo and the Limb extensions of Flo. I might change the name, though, simply because many of us associate it with the gal on TV who sells insurance. I would continue reading.

  3. I like this a lot. I was confused at first when you said the captain looked across at the limb but I figured it out quickly. Might be good to stick with the name. You might want to avoid olive-skin as it's kind of a cliche and if she's an alien give her something else in my opinion. I like the living ship/limb thing though. Makes me want to read more. Good job.

  4. This entry was a little bit hard to understand, but fun to read. There are so many elements I do not understand like the Limb. I know this has something to do with artificial limbs or a race of humans made with artificial limbs? But it would be nice to be introduced first. Also, I am not sure what they are talking about when they mention the not big and black. And the comas are used strangely.
    This being said, I liked to voice. I pictured Captain Harlock and the sylphides because that's the way the cartoon characters talk. I would have liked more information about their appearance because the voices of Fio and Laura mixed in my head. But I enjoyed what they said and the atmosphere around the captain.
    I would continue reading. Goof luck.

  5. I like your voice and the setting, but I'm confused. What is the Limb? And would Fio really focus on the color of her skin? I know you're trying to use subtle ways to show us what she looks like, but it has to be done organically. This is just a personal preference, although I've read agents say the same thing, but it's difficult for readers to be introduced to characters and get comfortable in the scene if there's too much dialogue this soon. Use your unique voice to set the scene organically before the chatter.

  6. It's an interesting, amusing scene for the most part. Both Laura and Fio seem flippant (Fio actually petulant) for serious sci-fi (but maybe it's not supposed to be). I appreciate the concept of the extension of the ship's consciousness into another form. It reminds me of the TV show Andromeda or even Man of Steel. But I've gotten a little thrown off in the shift from "ship" to "Limb." I think it's mostly because you're using language that centers the entire conciousness in the Limb right off the bat—"frowning across at her captain," and "looked down at her body," for example. I think you need a short period of showing us this extension of the consciousness.

    There's actually an Adromeda tie-in novel, Paradise Drift, that shows something like this: "Rommie's digital persona appeared on a side screen," and later, "Rommie in the screen," to distinguish Rommie-ship from Rommie-extensions. It might not be the least cumbersome method to show it, but I think you need to do a little something here before you start talking about the Limb as though it were a discrete character.

  7. Reminds me of Anne McCaffrey's book, The Ship Who Sang. I love SF and read it so this was intriguing to me. I get that Flo is a clone or a droid and that there are hundreds of her roaming the ship. I like the idea of having limbs to run the ship too. Good job! I would read more.

  8. Ok, the Limb is an awesome idea. The captain seems like she's going to be fun (except why would someone who knows she's going to be in the middle of action and probably unstable flight conditions willingly wear glasses she didn't need, that get dirty and break and get in the way?) It's the dialogue I don't like. We know the captain is kinda a douche, and we know the ship's intelligence can take on a human form. But there's no conflict. There's banter, and that's it. It's cool to learn things about the characters too, but we don't even know why she's on the ship yet. And I think that's more important.

  9. I really like the premise, but I find myself re-reading sentence after sentence to get the meaning. I think a casual reader might give up. I think you may want to spell out a few thing (strange for me to write that because I think usually people do way too much spelling out!)

    I would keep reading.

  10. I like the voice, and it seems like a cool sci-fi concept with lots of interesting elements, but it feels like a lot of dialogue before we know any of the characters or where they are. It might help to mix in a few more setting/world details so the reader doesn't get confused. I also agree with the comment that it seems lacking in conflict. But the world intrigues me!

  11. The first sentence stopped me right off the bat. 'Staring over her red boots' had me wondering how she could do that and still see the black outside the window. I imagined her standing and staring down at her feet.

    I assumed Flo was an actual person, and when she mentioned meter thick hulls, it kind of implies Laura had one and she didn't. We find out later what the real situation is, but at this point, it didn't make a lot of sense to me.

    It would be nice to have a bit of setting so we know where they are. I can assume in a spaceship, but where? Are they standing, or is Laura stretched out in a chair with her feet up, (which would make the 'looking over her boots' line more plausible.)

    'With naught but my ship . . ." - I wondered if this was how they talked, or if Laura was being facetious. And I didn't get that Flo was the 'limb' until the third last parg. It's also where we learn where they are.

    And a bottle of what? Tell us what she' drinking. Juice says one thing about her. Vodka says another.

    Basically, I'd suggest a bit of setting before the dialogue. And will the dialogue matter? If not, perhaps let them talk about something that does matter. Something related to whatever the problem will be.

  12. I may be reading too much into this, but got a whiff of 'Hal' from 2001 A Space Odyssey in Flo's hurt feelings. Makes me wonder if technology will be going awry in this tale! I liked the voice but wanted more description of Flo/the Limb. Like, when she walks away, does she walk like a human (for that matter, does she look like a human?), does she glide, clunk or? The detail about the captain's glasses was nice, but I also wanted a bit more detail about this new world you're introducing -- so I could 'see' it.

  13. Have you considered adding action beats vice ellipses, in your dialogue? Good luck.

  14. Nice intro paragraph, not exactly sure what it means, keeps me curious.

    A small thought, I would prefer to see the dialogue tag in the second paragraph placed first. Then I’m more ready for the words. Not having to work so hard as a reader (and I’m lazy)

    My overall impression: An objective narrator, no internalization at all, yet the emotion comes through. It’s an interesting style and I would read more.

    Thanks for sharing your story

  15. I think this is an intriguing concept but it took me a while to understand. Just one quick thing re staring over her boots into the black: I immediately pictured her with feet propped up on a dashboard of sorts and a viewing screen above. OK, two quick things about that: "into the black" and three uses of "big and black" might be too much "black". (but, bright side, it reminded me of Firefly) - Sandy

  16. Hi there! You've got a good thing going here. As a sci-fi reader, I found it pretty straightforward tat a "Limb" is a human-ish extension of a space ship. If you haven't read it, check out Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie for something similar.

    Some observations. . .

    "for those of us without metre thick steel hulls" implies that Laura has metre-thick hulls.

    "I, a starship Captain. . ." this attempt to reveal information makes the dialogue clunky.

    How is Laura looking over her red boots into black? If she is sitting with her feet propped up, more information is needed to convey that.

    I love the archaic plastic-and-glass glasses!

    Olive skin on someone exotic has been done to death. Why not give her zebra stripes? The captain could be olive-skinned, or skin colors could be omitted from descriptions entirely. No need to emphasize that culturally we default to white skin.

    Thanks for putting your work up for critique!

  17. I agree with others that the 'not big and black' was confusing. I still can't figure that one.

    And it would definitely be helpful to know that Fio is a Limb right up front (along with some descriptive context to let us in on what that is right away).

    Finally, and this is probably just a matter of taste, but having a ship sound petulant really threw me. Even if a ship can have emotions, I still would *not* expect it to act like a teenager; teenagers have emotions + wacky hormones. Or is this a *very* young ship still figuring things out? If that's the case, it would be helpful to also have a hint about that early on.

  18. Thanks to everyone for the critiques! I'm going to let everything you have said turn over in my head for a while and then get to work on the next draft. I'm pretty sure more setup/description is going to be top of the list ;)